Meryl Streep, Robert de Niro, Susan Sarandon, Keanu Reeves, Bill Nighy on Rejection and Not Giving Up


I watched a group of American actors talk last night about auditions.  It was a real eye opener.  They had all achieved great success, and they all said auditions were a nightmare, and that for every role they did get they had often had anything from 30-50 rejections.  Year after year after year.  Hard to imagine now, isn’t it?  Imagine not recognizing the talent of any of these great actors.

Susan Sarandon said  you’re acting with somebody who’s just reading a part and can’t act, into a vacuum, and nobody gives you any feedback, it’s hideous.  And all the rejections were very hard to take.  For Bill Nighy, they were torturous and traumatic.  He said he was very pleased to be older now and to be able to pick his roles, not to have to do auditions any more.

I loved Meryl Streep’s response – that you can’t make people love you.  All you can do is do your best.  And if don’t get the part you know that they’ve lost out on your great interpretation of the role.  But you can’t take it – any of it – personally.

Robert de Niro said just be yourself.  Don’t try to impress anybody, because you’ll either get the role or you won’t, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.  If you’re just yourself you have the best chance, because nothing is getting in the way of what you can really do.  I liked that.  No pretense.

Keanu Reeves – looking quite delicious I have to say – said it’s daunting and demoralizing.  You go to an audition prepared, vulnerable, full of hope.  You often get nothing back in return, and it’s terribly painful.   But, he said, it’s also an opportunity.  He didn’t elaborate, but somebody else had said you come away from these painful experiences and you’re really forced to decide how passionate you are about acting, whether you’re willing to go through the pain.  I imagined  that’s what Keanu Reeves had in mind.  The painful experience helps you make your choice.

All of these unpretentious people have done great things, played amazing roles, directed wonderful films.  I don’t get to see them just being real too often, I suppose because interviewers usually ask such dumb questions.  There’s so much media crap about celebrities, most of it utterly untrue.  The reality of their lives, what they have to go through to achieve, how long it’s taken them, passes us by.

In the mass portrayal of a wildly over-permissive world of seductive glitz and glamor, it’s easy to forget that that world is actually inhabited by ordinary, real people, some of them with huge courage who have been through hell to get to where they are.  One thing the actors and actresses  I saw last night all had in common.  They didn’t want to do anything else.  Well, two things.  They didn’t give up, in the face of tons and tons and tons of rejection.

It gave me courage.   You can’t take on other people’s ideas of what’s the right thing to do, can’t take on their rejection or their criticism.  You have to chart your course, keep revisiting it to make sure it feels right, that it is actually where your heart and soul are pulling you.  And you just can’t give up.  You’ll have plenty of people saying you’re not being sensible, it can’t happen for you, you should do it this way, you should do it that way.  How do they know?  Truth is, they don’t.  You’re the one who knows.  You’re the one with the mission.

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6 thoughts on “Meryl Streep, Robert de Niro, Susan Sarandon, Keanu Reeves, Bill Nighy on Rejection and Not Giving Up

  1. Great Jennifer! I couldn’t agree more on “And you just can’t give up!” It is interesting to me that in the light of performances, these actors also create. That’s the truth about all genius; it creates. Great volumes! We only get to know about the successful ones. It is really inspiring to think about it that way and then to just keep auditioning LIFE!

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