Where are the tears?

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If you just found out your husband was murdered and his body burned beyond recognition, would you

  • be thanking the police?
  • be thanking the media?
  • be thanking the public for using social media outlets?
  • be able to do a press conference? Without shedding a tear? Without a box of kleenex?

Lots of wailing, whining, sniffing, but no tears. Faking tears is apparently very difficult. Other dry eye events for your consideration

Here’s some tips for future actors from the wicked book of knowledge


More on the problem with crying:


4: Crying
In his excellent bio/tute I’ll Be In My TrailerWargames and The Shield director John Badham discusses the thorny subject of being able to produce tears on demand:

0;If you want to be an actor and you don’t have your emotions right at the surface, you may as well hang it up right now…I am not saying that if you cry at the drop of a hat or shriek at the sight of a bug you are a talented actor. It just means that you have some of the basic tools to become a good actor… if you see a crazy emotional sort of person come into an audition, don’t assume that a great actor is in your presence. They may just be neurotic.”

Yet being unable to cry on demand can prove a face-losing shame akin to impotence for actors, with glycerine or CGI tears the ‘cop out’ no ‘real’ actor should need to resort to. At least, many actors seem to feel this, based on their anecdotes.

Another director seeking web-advice over at dvxuser.com got – amongst others – these replies from peers when asking about the problem of getting an actor to cry:

“In soaps, they use what in Brazil we call ‘Chinese crystals’.”

“Slap Her/Him really hard.” (well it worked for Billy Friedkin on ‘The Exorcist’)

“Insulting an actor, or trying to hurt them emotionally to get the result of crying is a bad idea in most cases because that isn’t how actors are trained to work. Most times, that sort of approach will totally shut an actor down, if not cause them to leave the set entirely…You could still resort to using fake tears, but the problem with fake tears is that it’s usually just icing on a fake face. If your actor can’t get close to the emotion needed, having fake tears on their face won’t do much to bridge the gap.”

As far as I can tell, whether or not an actor’s approach into that painful emotional zone will work when the cameras roll is something of a crap-shoot. Usually, the director hasn’t got all day to wait for you to crumble.

On the other hand, you can get lucky. Though Jane Fonda’s excellent performance in Alan J. Pakula’s Klute (1971) deserved its Academy Award for more than one scene, her genuine (and rather snotty) crying jag in front of killer Charles Cioffi in the finale couldn’t have hurt her chances at the Oscars. Fonda was intending to play the part ‘scared’ – which is apposite for the scene set-up – but on listening to the tape of her on-screen friend being murdered, she reacted with waterworks instead…

Glen Beck uses “vicks” to cry.

(h/t Jan Erik for last video)

One of my favorite Hollywood cryers (advance to 1:20)

More tips for actors:



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