Can writers become actors?
Maybe you are a novelist with an aspiration to act or a screenwriter who envisions a future playing multiple roles on a movie set. No matter the reason, this article is going to cover every aspect of your question.
But first, here’s a clear and direct answer:
Can writers become actors? Yes. There are many examples of writers making the leap to acting or of writing accelerating an acting career – Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Emma Thompson, and Sylvester Stallone, to name a few. Even though any writer can become an actor, there are certain characteristics that boost a writer’s potential of becoming an actor.
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How closely do acting and writing relate? Is it easy for a writer to transition into an actor?
Let’s take a look!
Then, we’ll dive into the essential characteristics that give a writer the edge in becoming an actor.
Writing Vs. Acting
Writing in acting are two different skill sets. Sure, they have similarities with elements that crossover from one craft to the other, but they are still two separate mediums of expression in storytelling.
A writer creates the characters and the dialogue that the actors then breathe to life with emotion and physical expression.
It’s been said that writing is very cerebral, which is true, although it’s also very emotional for many novelists. Acting, on the other hand, is very physical. So, while the two crafts, acting and writing, share certain similarities, they still require mastery of separate and specific skills.
That is to say, being a great writer does not automatically make one a great actor. Neither does exceptional acting guarantee anyone will write a bestseller or a blockbuster movie script.
An actor has to burn inside with an outer ease.
– Michael Chekhov
What Gives a Writer More Potential to be an Actor?
Not every writer is a skilled actor. Excellence in writing does not guarantee a person can automatically act. There are, however, crossover characteristics that can help any writer become an actor.
Well-versed with Words
A writer who is well-versed with words can showcase his or her talents during auditions, screen tests, and actual movie filming. Having an excellent grasp of tone, pauses, emphasis, and inflection can make a writer an incredible actor.
Most creative people have “Imaginativeness”. This imaginativeness from creating stories can be applied to the screen. Writers can leverage this imaginativeness in adding flavor and subtext to their characters and to individual scenes in a movie. There is always a need to mold ideas into something tangible and then to effectively and powerfully transfer those ideas to others.
Deep Appreciation of Character
Writers and actors both create art out of words. They have a deep correlation with each other. A writer always lives his/her imagination and gives it existence.
Similarly, an actor plays the role of an imaginary character created by the writer. So, if an actor can play a role written by a writer, the opposite is also possible. A writer may even have a deeper appreciation of the character knowing the raw material from which it was raised to life on the page
Both actors and writers understand the framework and inner mechanisms of character and characterization. The more a writer abounds in this skill, the better odds that he or she can make the leap to acting
Emotional Range & Capacity
A writer with more emotional range is better equipped to express those emotions on the screen. Actors require a broad emotional range from scene to scene. Writers know this well as they prompt and trigger emotions in characters and readers throughout their stories.
Familiarity with the Industry
A writer is usually familiar with the norms of the industry as they may have some level of involvement with the directors, actors, and other staff during the making of any movie. Therefore, he/she might have an opportunity to showcase their other talents, too, such as acting.
A screenwriter who is multifaceted has a better chance of being an actor. Acting typically requires the mastery of a few different skill sets. Writers experienced in studying multiple areas of craft have an advantage over writers who focus solely on one aspect of their art.
Understanding the Human Psyche
A good writer has a practical grasp of human psychology. Similarly, a good actor will shape him or herself to the particular demands of the character. Developing an understanding of human behavior is very essential since this enables actors to understand the psyche of the character to be played, evaluate the role’s perceptions, characteristics, motives, and the factors which influence the character’s behavior.
The actor has to develop his body. The actor has to work on his voice. But the most important thing the actor has to work on is his mind.
– Stella Adler
A writer who can flexibly shift between genres, writing styles, tone, and various nuances of voice has an advantage when attempting to become an actor. Actors need the flexibility to be able to play very different roles.
Strong Memory and Sharp Senses
Can a writer become an actor? Another characteristic that can make a writer more likely to become an actor is a strong memory and sharp senses. An experienced and quality writer often has a keen eye for detail, a strong memory to maintain consistency of character and story details throughout the narrative, and experience exploring and expressing sensory information. An actor must memorize his or her lines in a script and express internal thoughts and feelings in a way that is both visible and compelling to a film audience.
A writer with authenticity has better odds of becoming an actor. Both writing and acting require a raw openness of oneself to an audience of readers or viewers. The depth of authenticity is often obvious in the content and emotional integrity of the story.
My job is usually to express emotion as freely as possible. – Meryl Streep
Explorer of Relationship Dynamics
A practiced writer loves to explore people and their relationships – what makes them tick, what drives them, their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. A writer thrills to the discovery of the different dynamics between people. Similarly, an actor leverages the writer’s imagination and opinions to create characters with real identity, dysfunction, and idiosyncrasy. Therefore, a writer with a deeper understanding of relationship dynamics is in a better position to express those dynamics through acting.
Watch the video below to learn the secrets of making it in Hollywood from even more famous actors themselves!
Trust me, you’ll not only enjoy the video, but you’ll also take away a few nuggets of actorly wisdom.
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Real Case Studies: Writers who Became Actors
If you are wondering, “Can writers become actors?”, then case studies prove that, yes, they can. Sometimes the most meaningful expression of an idea is a concrete example. So, let’s look at some examples of writers who became actors, or writers who used their wordsmithing as a vehicle to advance their acting careers.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon
Do you remember this amazing duo who won two Oscars for the
movie Goodwill Hunting in the year 1997? The A-list movie stars wrote the script! The story is about a mathematician named Will Hunting. Damon played Hunting, and Affleck starred as his best friend, Chuckie Sullivan. These two didn’t stop there. Matt Damon also wrote the screenplay for Gerry and
Promised Land, while Affleck wrote the scripts for Gone Baby Gone and The Town.
Emma Thompson gave many substantial performances, but she found true success writing the screenplays for several TV series and movies, some of which she also starred in, including Sense and Sensibility, Nanny McPhee, and Nanny McPhee Returns.
Stallone is well-known for his roles in Rocky movies. He not only played the role of a boxer but wrote the script for Rocky, which came out in 1976.
Danny Strong: Danny strong is known for playing the character named McMaster on Gilmore Girls and Jonathan Levinson on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but his true stardom came into existence when he started to
write movie scripts. He became more successful as an actor after writing the screenplay for The Hunger Games.
Theroux played a few parts in I Shot Andy Warhol, American Psycho, Sex and the City, and Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. But Theroux excelled when he wrote the scripts of many popular Hollywood hits such as Tropic Thunder, Iron Man 2, Documental, and Rock of Ages.
Billy Bob Thornton
His first filmed screenplay was for the movie One False Move. He
then went on to write the screenplays for A Family Thing and Don’t Look Back. In 1996, he displayed his acting talent when he won an Oscar for his role in the movie Sling Blade.
The above examples show that a writer can be a good actor, given the right characteristics, resourcefulness, and perseverance.
Top Tips to Writers Who Aspire to Become Actors
Here are my top tips for writers who want to try their hand at acting. Consider these tips as you plot your path from the page to the screen:
- One of the greatest assets you have is that you’re a screenwriter or novelist and that writing is your passion. You can accelerate your opportunity to become an actor by writing something in which you star in a leading role. Great actors are nothing without great screenplays. And great actors are often launched into stardom by great scenes and monologues.
- As a writer, you can create these scenes in these epic monologues that send chills down 1000 spines all over the world. You make hundreds of millions of dollars for studios and help employ hundreds of thousands of people. You create worlds that exist in our minds and our fantasies. If you can do that for other actors, you can do that for yourself. You can create low budget versions of memorable scenes and unforgettable dialogue. Then, you can record yourself playing the part of the lead character and upload these videos to YouTube. You can also use those videos as introductions or auditions to possible agents and movie executives.
- By writing for yourself, you enable yourself to get a lot of potential screen time and film for demo reels. If you manage to get your work distributed, then it may be seen by someone involved with representing or hiring actors.
- One of the best ways to show off your acting chops to potential directors is to have a portfolio of movie clips in which you demonstrate your range of emotions, characters and scenes.
- You can write screenplays that you shop around to different studios. you can also use the screenplays to get an agent who might be able to connect you with producers and directors and other people connected to making movies.
- Another thing you can do is connect with local filmmakers and even film students. The filmmakers can manage all of the filming, directing and editing. It’s win-win because they get the experience of making a movie and you get your movie clips for your portfolio.
- Sign up for acting classes in your city or take acting classes online to prepare yourself for auditions.
- Follow up-and-coming actors on social media. They are more likely to respond to your support and remember you later when you reach out for contacts and networking.
- Success can rarely be achieved overnight. It requires focus and determination to get into a stride and turn your passions into a profession. It may not happen overnight, but it can happen if you stick with it, apply all of your resourcefulness as a writer, and network your way into the right rooms.
Your skills as a writer set you up to be a high-caliber actor. However, tenacity, preparedness and conostant improvement of your acting craft will only serve to catapault you ahead of hte competition.
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