It's become fashionable for actors not to learn their lines, Bill Nighy laments

Christopher Hooton
Getty

Bill Nighy has outlined what he sees as a widespread problem of actors increasingly thinking it is better not to learn their lines, falsely believing that it will improve the spontaneity of their performances.

The Golden Globe-winning actor segued into the criticism after being asked by the Telegraph what his advice is for young actors.

"If you’re doing anything, whether it’s a play or a film, learn every single word that you have to say backwards forwards and sideways before you go into a rehearsal room and before you go on a film set," he said.

"That might sound like an obvious thing, but it’s not currently: there is a fashion for not knowing your lines.

"It’s been invented by people who don’t want to do their homework, even as a creative choice.

"You will not become imprisoned by intonations, and therefore it’s a discourtesy to your fellow professionals. "That’s a piece of bull---t from people who don’t do their homework.

"That’s an important thing to know. That’s as important a thing I could possibly say."

He continued: "You can’t rehearse with a book in your hand. And you can’t go and be on the sides of a film set and not know your lines until someone turns the camera.

"Rehearsal is not the enemy of spontaneity. The idea is the process is you say the lines over and over and over and over and over again until you can give the impression that you’ve never said them before and it’s just occurred to you. That’s the gig.

"It’s entered the language in a very deep way. Professionals will advise young actors not to learn. It’s got that bad."

It isn't immediately clear what has caused the shift that Nighy outlines, if indeed it exists, though perhaps it owes something to the increasingly successful roles delivered by non-actors in films, this breaking down the idea of traditional training as a necessity.

You can read a piece on how to tell good acting from bad here, and Adam Driver discusses his own process in a recent episode of our film podcast, Kernels, here.

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