Acting Up


REVIEW by Willard Manus

There are almost as many books on acting as there are actors.

Here are four worthy ones that have come my way recently:

ACTORS WORKING--THE ACTOR'S GUIDE TO MARKETING SUCCESS by Clair Sinnett is a practical guide to the business side of the profession. Sinnett, a veteran actress, casting agent and acting teacher, wrote the book to provide actors "with the necessary skills needed to as a performer." It's not enough, she feels, for actors to learn how to act. They must also learn how to plan and structure their careers, advertise and market themselves, get the maximum results out of auditions and interviews. As she says, an actor is part of "show BUSINESS, not show ART."

Sinnett's book is broken down into acts and scenes, all of which are packed with information aimed at helping an actor cope with the difficult side of the business--getting an agent, sending out mailings and stills, putting together a demo reel, and so on. This is a no-nonsense handbook, one that will surely benefit any actor, whether young or old, who reads it. Visit

Delia Salvi in FRIENDLY ENEMIES--MAXIMIZING THE DIRECTOR-ACTOR RELATIONSHIP confronts the best-kept secret in the industry: "how much actors, including award-winning performers, distrust directors, and how directors often fear and dislike actors."

As an example, Salvi brings up Marlon Brando's battle with director Frank Oz during the shooting of the movie The Score. The two had so many disagreements "that Brando refused to shoot any more scenes if Oz was even on the set. To keep the production going, Robert DeNiro, Brando's co-star, had to direct the scenes."

Salvi lays out specific ways, means and vocabulary with which actors and directors can communicate harmoniously and successfully with each other. Her book also lists the steps actors and directors can take to better prepare themselves; her chapters on "Talent, Technique and Organic Acting" and "Common Directorial Mistakes and Traps" are especially precise and helpful.

A methodical script analysis of On the Waterfront plus interviews with such actors and directors as Alexander Payne, Geena Davis, Mark Rydell and Anthony Franciosca also help make FRIENDLY ENEMIES the valuable and important book that it is. (Billboard Books,

BEING AN ACTOR and SHOOTING THE ACTOR are by Simon Callow, who came to stardom playing the gay guy Gareth in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Callow had not only been acting for two decades before that, but writing books and articles about his life in theatre and films. BEING AN ACTOR came out in 1983 and was hailed for the fresh and irreverent way the 30-year-old performer talked about himself and such peers as Laurence Olivier, Paul Scofield and David Hare. Now the book has been reissued in a new edition with added supplementary material, but it has lost none of its youthful verve and bite.

Callow, who won international kudos for his solo shows on Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde, turns to the film world in SHOOTING THE ACTOR, which was first published in 1990 and has also been revised. This one is less successful, if only because it concerns itself too much with the Yugoslav director Dusan Makavejev, who cast Callow in his 1987 film For a Night of Love. The film was a flop and took Makavejev down with it, but Callow writes about it in such endless, excruciating detail that it becomes impossible to read. Makavejev, who is not half as witty and wise as Callow makes him out to be, has been encouraged by the author to comment here and there on the text. His annoying and banal remarks make this one of the most boring showbiz books ever written.

Callow's 2003 additions deal with his involvement in such films as Mrs. Bridge, The Good Father (with Anthony Hopkins) and Four Weddings. They are not substantial or interesting enough to save the ship from sinking. (Picador Books)