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50 Great Acting Quotes to Inspire You

I've collected lots of acting quotes over the years, but these are the best. Every time I read them I become inspired and focused, and I fall in love with my art all over again. I hope they can do the same for you.

What is Acting?

Acting quotes that define the art.

  • 1. Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances.
    ~ Sanford Meisner

  • 2. An actor is a fool for God.
    ~ Gerardine Clark

  • 3. Without wonder and insight, acting is just a business. With it, it becomes creation.
    ~ Bette Davis

  • 4. The best acting is instinctive. It's not intellectual, it's not mechanical, it's instinctive.
    ~ Craig MacDonald

  • 5. That's what makes acting so attractive. You get to break all your own rules.
    Gerardine Clark

  • 6. Acting should be bigger than life. Scripts should be bigger than life. It should all be bigger than life.
    ~ Bette Davis

  • 7. Acting is standing up naked and turning around very slowly.
    ~ Rosalind Russell

  • Acting Quotes
  • 8. Acting is not about being someone different. It's finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.
    ~ Meryl Streep

  • 9. Good acting -- real acting is impossible to spot. Do you ever catch talents like Robert Duvall or Kathy Bates acting? No. I defy you to show me where.
    ~ William Esper

  • 10. Stop explaining yourself. Shut up and act!
    ~ Craig MacDonald


Practical Acting Quotes

Acting quotes to remember when you're working.

  • 11. Find in yourself those human things which are universal.
    ~ Sanford Meisner

  • 12. The more personal, the more universal.
    ~ Gary Ballinger

  • 13. An actor has to burn inside with an outer ease.
    ~ Michael Chekhov

  • 14. Use what you know. Don't worry about what you don't know.
    ~ Michael Shurtleff

  • 15. 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

  • 16. An ounce of behavior is worth a pound of words.
    ~ Sanford Meisner

  • 17. Conflict is what creates drama. The more conflict actors find, the more interesting the performance.
    ~ Michael Shurtleff

  • 18. If you really do want to be an actor who can satisfy himself and his audience, you need to be vulnerable.
    ~ Jack Lemmon

  • 19. Creating relationship is the heart of acting. It is basic. It is essential.
    ~ Michael Shurtleff

  • 20. Listening is not merely hearing. Listening is reacting. Listening is being affected by what you hear. Listening is active.
    ~ Michael Shurtleff

  • 21. Whatever you decide is your motivation in the scene, the opposite of that is also true and should be in it.
    ~ Michael Shurtleff

  • 22. Humor [in a scene] is not jokes. It is that attitude toward being alive without which you would long ago have jumped off the 59th Street Bridge.
    ~ Michael Shurtleff

  • 23. Every scene you will ever act begins in the middle, and it is up to you, the actor, to provide what comes before.
    ~ Michael Shurtleff

  • 24. The first step to a better audition is to give up character and use yourself.
    ~ Michael Shurtleff

  • 25. Competition [in a scene] is healthy. Competition is life. Yet most actors refuse to acknowledge this. They don't want to compete. They want to get along. And they are therefore not first-rate actors.
    ~ Michael Shurtleff

  • 26. Honesty isn't enough for me. That becomes very boring. If you can convince people what you're doing is real and it's also bigger than life -- that's exciting.
    ~ Gene Hackman

  • 27. Take nothing for granted. Make an emotional discovery as often as you can find one in every scene. Ask yourself: What is new?
    ~ Michael Shurtleff

  • 28. There's only one reason why a character drinks: to seek confrontation. To fight for what they want in ways normally denied them.
    ~ Michael Shurtleff

  • 29. My job is usually to express emotion as freely as possible.
    ~ Meryl Streep

  • 30. I'm curious about other people. That's the essence of my acting. I'm interested in what it would be like to be you.
    ~ Meryl Streep

  • 31. I think the most liberating thing I did early on was to free myself from any concern with my looks as they pertained to my work.
    ~ Meryl Streep

  • 32. I believe in imagination. I did Kramer vs. Kramer before I had children. But the mother I would be was already inside me.
    ~ Meryl Streep

  • 33. All an actor has is their blind faith that they are who they say they are today, in any scene.
    ~ Meryl Streep

  • 34. The most difficult character in comedy is that of the fool, and he must be no simpleton that plays that part.
    ~ Miguel de Cervantes

  • 35. Actors think more with their hearts than with their heads.
    ~ William Esper


Funny Acting Quotes

Acting quotes to make you laugh.

  • 36. Show me a great actor and I'll show you a lousy husband. Show me a great actress, and you've seen the devil.
    ~ W. C. Fields

  • 37. Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you've got it made.
    ~ George Burns

  • 38. The theater has never been any good since the actors became gentlemen.
    ~ W.H. Auden

  • 39. Actors die so loud.
    ~ Henry Miller

  • 40. I love acting. It is so much more real than life.
    ~ Oscar Wilde

  • 41. If I wasn't an actor, I'd be a secret agent.
    ~ Thornton Wilder


Even More Acting Quotes

  • 42. The word theatre comes from the Greeks. It means the seeing place. It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation.
    ~ Stella Adler

  • 43. I'm a skilled professional actor. Whether or not I've any talent is beside the point.
    ~ Michael Caine

  • 44. Acting in theatre or television or screen is only for the irrecoverably diseased, those so smitten with the need that there is no choice.
    ~ Michael Shurtleff

  • 45. Why, except as a means of livelihood, a man should desire to act on the stage when he has the whole world to act in, is not clear to me.
    ~ George Bernard Shaw

  • 46. There's nothing more boring than unintelligent actors, because all they have to talk about is themselves and acting. There have to be other things.
    ~ Tim Robbins

  • 47. Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.
    ~ Stella Adler

  • 48. I think your self emerges more clearly over time.
    ~ Meryl Streep

  • 49. I need to go where people are serious about acting.
    ~ Meryl Streep

  • 50. The work will stand, no matter what.
    ~ Meryl Streep


There you have it: the acting quotes nearest and dearest to my heart. Use them well.

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