“I never really studied acting so I kind of kiddingly talk about ‘building your circle’ and ‘mooding up,’ because I really didn’t learn any technique.” – Susan Sarandon
Susan Sarandon is an acting legend and is well-known for her confidence and grace, both on and off screen. While watching her perform, her talent shines through and many wonder what types of techniques she uses to own such skills. She dominates the screen whenever she is on it and she is known for producing strong characters that many feel a connection to.
So, what is her secret? As it turns out, she often feels that simply going with it and letting yourself be open to whatever your character is doing is key for producing a good film, she said in a conversation with Interview,
She talks about letting the character guide the way, rather than getting too far into her own head. She states, “Whenever you’re in a project where the money is really small and the time is very short, people have joined in because they believe in it. So even though we really didn’t have dressing rooms, everybody was working fast and furiously. There wasn’t space to mood-up. I think Rose Byrne was just extraordinary. Talk about a character that could be really unsympathetic at times. She just jumped in these scenes that go from anger to hysteria to crying to laughing and back to anger. I just marveled. And we didn’t have a lot of time to do a number of takes, so I was lucky to have so many great people all around me. You just feel free to do anything, because you know you’re safe.”
When asked about the term “mood-up,” she replies, “I never really studied acting so I kind of kiddingly talk about ‘building your circle’ and ‘mooding up,’ because I really didn’t learn any technique. But sometimes when you have to go into something, unless you’re gifted and can just turn it on and off like a jukebox, you find someplace where there’s nothing going on to get yourself into whatever state your character is entering into. But in this instance, we were in the director’s old house that she’d sold to a friend, so there was no place to go, except a room that was filled with all kinds of equipment. So it’s just trying to focus and get yourself in a place where you’re not planning what you’re going to do but just being open to whatever the state is that your character enters with.”
Sarandon sees her personal acting ability as less of a strategical talent and more of a natural event that she allows herself to feel. She was never the type to dig too deeply into her character’s past in hopes of embodying them on a deeper level. She wanted to ensure that the character’s story was told by connecting with the moment that she was currently in. She states, “I can’t speak for other people, but for me, it never really worked to think something like, ‘What Beatle did she like in high school?’ or those kinds of elaborate backstories. It never really worked for me to have long arguments about motivation. I think looking at your own life, on- and offscreen, you can motivate anything, or you can delude yourself into anything. Really, for me, it’s important to know who’s pitching and who’s catching—just what that scene is supposed to accomplish in terms of storytelling. That being said, on the day, basically what you’re trying to get yourself into an open place. And if the character is in a state of anxiety or vulnerability, you try to find some touchstone. I don’t think you can plan. I don’t like to plan. Very often, for me, acting is like loving; it’s using the muscle that you use in loving, in that your heart feels open. Physically, you feel open. And so therefore your job is to enter, open, and listen. And see what happens.”
She also notes the importance of teamwork and how others can offer guidance and different options as for where to take a scene. She notes, “You have to take away the idea that something you do is right or wrong. I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong; I think there’s an ‘it works’ or ‘it doesn’t work’ for the whole. And that’s why you need a director you trust, so you can just keep throwing out suggestions. And somebody can be the captain of the ship, which allows you to make big mistakes. That’s how you figure out what works and doesn’t work. If you always have to be watching yourself and judging, I don’t think you’re as free.”
Written by Emily Romero