If you notice, I am refusing to ever give you a chart. I’m refusing to ever go in a certain order. I’m refusing to say, “First you do this, then you do that.” Because that’s just not the way it works. The way it works, I believe, is that you take all this stuff in and then you forget about it and it will start to come out, and it will start to come out in different ways for different people with different projects…who the heck knows. There are many in this business who love to make it about one way of doing, and the last time I looked, every single one of you is different. How could there possibly be only one way of working for this bizarre wild variety of unique events in the universe, which is what each one of you are.
The other day I was told a story about two six year old girls that sheds tremendous light on two issues for actors. One is the identification of talent and the other is the Russian prescription for actors: Take it personally.
There is a young man, Reno, who worked with me for a long time and then he went to LA, and he’s done an awful lot of work since then. So I was asking him about his daughter Denny. I said, “Is she an actress?” and he said, “Well, you know, Denny is really a dancer. She lights up when she dances. She’s a dancer.” Then he said to me, “but her cousin, she’s an actress.” And I said, “Well, wait a second, Denny’s six. How old is the cousin?” “Six.”
And I said, (because this fascinates me: I audition and I’m always trying to identify talent. It is very difficult to define. Much easier to define is the absence of talent. But the presence of talent is much harder to define.) I said to Reno, “How did you happen to define Denny’s cousin as being an actress?” Reno said, “They were doing their homework together, they are in the same school, and it was homework about punctuation. They had a series of sentences, and they would have to decide, at the age of six years old, what should be the punctuation at the end? A period, an exclamation point, a question mark? And the sentence was: My house is burning down." Reno asked his daughter Denny, “Denny, what do you think should be the punctuation?” Denny said “I don’t know, a period?” Reno responded “Maybe.” Reno turned to the cousin, also six years old and asked “What do you think the punctuation mark should be?” This little tiny six year old said “An exclamation point.” Just like that. Reno said “Why?”
She screamed: “MY HOUSE IS BURNING DOWN!!!!!!!!”
I think it's clear. Six years old. That is both an identification of talent and an identification with the situation. She took it personally at that moment. It was totally imaginary, but she got agitated by it, connected to it. And I will go to my grave saying: “Yeah, that’s a pretty good indicator.”