“Through Lee, I learned how… to complicate a character, how to find a character, how to use yourself, how to walk away from yourself and how to harness yourself.” – Sally Field
Two-time Academy Award-winning and three-time Emmy Award-winning actress Sally Field can count dozens of memorable roles in her career, including in films like Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Steel Magnolias (1989), and Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), just to name a few. Though she began her career as a teenage actress, Field later developed immense respect from her peers for her roles, eventually being honored with the SAG Life Achievement Award in 2023. She spoke to Variety about the honor and what she learned from working with the Actors Studio.
In the mid-1970s, Field worked with Actors Studio co-founder Lee Strasberg, who taught her techniques that allowed her to move beyond the early roles that launched her career. Working with Strasberg, she once again felt the original spark that ignited her interest in drama:
“When I was 12, there was a drama department in school, and it was vitally important to my life.
I never left it. I had a very hard time — and had to go to night and summer school to take the classes that I didn’t go to. I wasn’t cutting class, but I was always in drama. But I had a love for something, and that was drama.
“Years later, during the first season of The Flying Nun, my dear friend Madeleine Sherwood, told me [about Strasberg] and to get [to his class] on a Wednesday night, and that was the beginning of the Actors Studio, and I didn’t leave for a long time working, and I was studying with Lee, ultimately. It totally changed it, because it was finally getting to a place where I could learn the craft that I so wanted to learn.”
More specifically, her work with Strasberg helped her “disassociate” her feelings from the emotions of the character she was portraying:
“He was one of the best acting teachers. By the time I performed my first scene for Lee, I had learned early on in my life how to disassociate from that kind of adrenaline of nerves into focus. I’m sure I was terrified, but I didn’t feel it, all it was to me was this unit of tremendous focus.
“Through Lee, I learned how to use that focus on how to complicate a character, how to find a character, how to use yourself, how to walk away from yourself and how to harness yourself.”