Mandy Patinkin on Acting: “Don’t do it unless you have too”

Mandy Patinkin could star in a hundred more movies before calling it a career and his best-known film role will still be Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride. Of course, when it comes to other media it’s another story — he’s spent nearly a decade as Saul Berenson on TV’s Homeland, and on Broadway he’s a Tony Award-winner for his performance in Evita. On top of that, he’s also recorded several albums. In other words, even if you only know Patinkin for his Princess Bride‘s character catchphrase (and do I really have to repeat it here?), he’s been a monumental success in just about form of entertainment media.

While speaking about how to “make it” in acting to Vanity Fair, Patinkin explains why it’s important to make sure you really want to before pursuing acting — and, if you get that far, how to handle representation.

He credits the “best thing” he’s ever heard about acting to his wife, actress Kathryn Grody:  “Here’s my best thing I’d ever heard about acting that my wife said, ‘Don’t do it unless you have too.'” In other words, it has to be something that you really want to do. On the other hand, he doesn’t mean to sound too discouraging — he later says that acting is something worth exploring, adding, “I would add to that, if you are thinking about it, or dreaming about it, don’t not try it. Because time is short, life is short, give it a shot, see what happens.”

Patinkin continues down that train of thought to give those who “have” to do and those just willing to try some comforting ideas: “If I could leave you with some advice, what would it be? Take a walk by yourself, with yourself, ask yourself who am I? What do I want? What do I dream about? Can I try? And tell yourself, ‘Yes, I can.’ Don’t give up. Try for as long as you have the energy to try. Then be gracious to yourself whether you succeed or whether you don’t. And be glad you are alive to try. That’s the gift of being alive, trying.”

So if you manage to reach the next step — not only become an actor, but become successful enough that you need representation — Patinkin points out that it’s still in your best interests to handle as much of the work as you can as you concentrate on your craft. He explains:

“When I started out there were no managers, it was just you got an agent, and an agent would help you get work. Although my first work I got on my own, not through an agent. I knocked on doors, I went to auditions. Don’t hire a manager, and an agent, and a business manager, and an accountant, and a publicist, and pud-um pud-um pud-um. Just get a job, act, do your damnedest to do your best. Don’t think about all the rest. If you’re doing your work, and you’ve studied. Learn a craft. Some people have great luck, and they just land in it, you have it. Good for you. I think it’s a craft. I think you really need to learn what to do on the days you don’t have it.”

More: Mandy Patinkin: “I love doing research for any part that I do. That’s one of the most fun parts of being an actor to me”

About Author

In college, overachiever Christopher McKittrick double-majored in Film and English because he loves to read, write, and watch movies. Since then Chris – who was born and raised on Long Island, New York and currently lives in Queens – has become a published author of fiction and non-fiction, a contributor to entertainment websites, and has spoken about literature, film, and comic books at various conferences across the country when he’s not getting into trouble in New York City (apparently it’s illegal to sleep on street corners...) For more information about Chris, visit his website here!

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