Part 1

A. Watch Part 1 of an interview with Simon Callow. Mark the sentences T (true) or F (false).

1   His first job was as an actor at The Old Vic theater.

2   When he watched rehearsals he was fascinated by how the actors and the directors worked together.

3   Acting attracted him because it involved problem solving.

4   Playing the part of Mozart in Amadeus was a challenge because he wasn’t a fictional character.

5   Mozart was the most exciting role he has had because it was his first.

B. Now watch again and say why the F sentences are false.


1 F   2 T   3 T   4 T   5 F


1   His first job was in the box office of the Old Vic theater.

5   It was the most exciting role he has had because it made him famous.


I = interviewer, S = Simon Callow

Part 1

  How did you get into acting?

S   I was about eighteen; it was my first real job, and it was a very unusual job because I was working in the box office of the Old Vic theater. Then, not only did I get to see an awful lot of plays, but I also met the actors and I was able to sneak into rehearsals, in the theater – quite illegally – and I became fascinated by the work of the theater.

  What in particular fascinated you?

S   The thing that fascinated me, as I said, was when I was in rehearsals, there was this…the work of the theater, the sort of work it was. So, I’d stand at the back of the Old Vic theater when the actors were rehearsing, but mostly it consisted of people sitting rather glumly about saying, “Well, I don’t know how to do this, I don’t know how to do this, I don’t know how to make this scene work, I don’t understand my character,” and the director would try to help them to understand the character or suggest a move here or a move there, or maybe they’d try walking in a different way or putting on a different hat, and bit by bit it started to fall into place. And I thought, “What a wonderful job, what a fantastically interesting job to wrestle with these kinds of problems, try to understand the characters, trying to find out how best to express them and show them off.” So I…I came to acting very much from that point of view.

I    The role that first made you famous as a young actor was playing Mozart in the original theater production of Amadeus, which later went on to become a film. What was the most challenging thing about playing the part of Mozart?

S   What was a challenge was that Mozart was a person who’d actually lived and was indeed one of the greatest artistic geniuses of the whole of Western civilization, and I was a great lover and admirer of Mozart’s music, so there was a tremendous…uh… challenge to bridge the character that Peter Shaffer had written. Peter Shaffer knows all about Mozart; he could so that Mozart was…was…uh…uh…sort of a smutty…uh…hysterical child, really…uh…in a lot of the play. My job was to reconcile that with the fact that he wrote The Marriage of Figaro, and that was tremendously hard.

  Was Mozart one of your most satisfying roles?

S   No, I wouldn’t say that…that it was the most satisfying. It was the most exciting because its…its fame…uh…almost from the moment it was announced was overwhelmingly greater than anything I had ever done, and to be honest, ever have done since. The fact that the play was very, very controversial when it opened proved to be…uh…very, um, um, shocking for many people, only increased the excitement around it, and it was… uh…uh…astonishing to look out into the auditorium every night and to see Paul Red…Newman, or, or, or, or Robert Redford, or, or, or Ava Gardner, or Margaret Thatcher sitting out there, because everybody had to see that play.

Part 2

A. Now watch Part 2. Answer the questions.

 Which does he prefer, acting in the theater or in movies?

 Complete the two crucial differences he mentions about acting in the theater:

      There’s an __________.

      Every single performance is utterly __________.

 Who does he say are the most important people in the making of a movie, the director, the editor, or the actors? Why?

 Does he think acting in movies is more natural and realistic than theater acting? Why (not)?

B. Watch again. What is he referring to when he says…?

1   “It’s important because you have to reach out to them, make sure that everybody can hear and see what you’re doing.”

2   “… I mean you never do, you never can.”

3   “So, in that sense, the actor is rather powerless.”

4   “…there are some, you know, little metal objects right in front of you, sort of, staring at you as you’re doing your love scene…”



1   He loves them both.

2   There’s an audience.

     Every single performance is utterly different.

3   The director and editor because they can change the way the scene or the characters appear by the way they edit it (e.g., they can make a sad scene funny or an actor appear to be stupid).

4   No, because when you act in a movie, you have the cameras right in front of you.


 He is referring to the audience in a theater.

 He is saying that you can never give the perfect performance as a theater actor.

 The movie actor can’t do anything because the editor has all the power.

 He is referring to the cameras.


Part 2

I    Over your career, you have acted in the theater and you have also acted in many films. Which do you prefer?

S   They’re absolutely different media: they require different things from you as an actor – I love them both. But they are each of them completely different; you bring completely different things to them. Obviously, the crucial difference with the theater is that there’s an audience there, and that’s such an important aspect of it in every way. It’s important because you have to reach out to them – make sure that everybody can hear and see what you’re doing. The beauty of the theater is that every single performance is utterly different from every other one.

I    How do you motivate yourself to play the same character again night after night?

S   I think as you get older, you realize that, um, you never get it right. I…I mean, I’ve…I’ve probably about half a dozen times in my forty years of acting have thought, “Well that was a really good performance”… uh…but it can always be better. And so, one goes to the theater every day hoping that it’ll be in some way better. Uh…uh…you know, there is always the possibility you might get it right. I mean, you never do; you never can.

  So what for you is the main difference with film acting?

S   Uh…in movies or…or television film – which is what almost all television is nowadays – um, a lot of those responsibilities are… lie with the director and the editor. And having directed a film myself, I know perfectly well that you can make a sad scene funny; you can make a slow scene fast…uh…uh…in the editing suite. It’s…it’s an astonishing…uh…power that a director and editor have. Um…uh…you can make a character seem stupid just by editing them a certain way, or make them seem brilliant by editing them in a different way. So in that sense, the actor is rather powerless.

  Anything else?

S   The other thing that’s very hard about acting on film is that, hilariously, it’s regarded as a sort of naturalistic medium, but in no sense is it that for the actor, because you’re…you’re, you know, first of all, there are some, you know, little metal objects right in front of you, sort of, staring at you as you’re doing your love scene or whatever else it might be.

Part 3

Now watch Part 3. What does he say about…?

 watching other actors acting

2   the first great actors he saw

 Daniel Day-Lewis

 wearing makeup

 the first night of a play


 When they are good, he loves it. When they aren’t good, it is painful.

 He was very lucky to see them. Most people nowadays have forgotten them. They were wonderful onstage.

 He is the only modern actor who approaches his roles as the great actors used to.

 He hates wearing it. It’s uncomfortable and sticky.

 He doesn’t get stage fright, but he becomes very self-conscious.


Part 3

  Do you enjoy watching other actors acting?

S   I love watching other actors acting. I’ve been obsessed by acting since I was a child, and I’m a great connoisseur of it, and I think I’m quite a good judge of it, and so I adore watching other actors work when it’s good. When it’s not, it’s a great pain to me.

  Who were the first great actors you saw?

S   As a young man, and a boy, I was extraordinarily lucky to see that fabled generation of actors of…of Gielgud and Richardson, Olivier, Edith Evans, Peggy Ashcroft. People now almost all completely forgotten. Uh…uh…uh…even if they made movies, it’s unlikely that people of a younger generation know who they are, but…but…uh…when…when they were alive and kicking, and…uh…doing their extraordinary work onstage, it…it…it was something quite…quite remarkable. I mean, it was…it was the sort of thing that nobody attempts any more.

  Do any modern actors come close to that golden generation?

S   In movies, not always, but…but sometimes Daniel Day-Lewis does…uh…I think probably approach a role in the way that a lot of them might have approached it.

  Is there anything you don’t like about acting?

S   I don’t much like wearing makeup. I sweat a lot, it comes off, it’s uncomfortable, it’s sticky, and I do everything I can to avoid wearing makeup.

  Do you still get stage fright?

S   I don’t get stage fright, but I do get self-conscious, and I hate that and I wish I didn’t, particularly at events like first nights – because I don’t know how it’s impossible to ignore the fact that there are at least 100 people sitting out there, judging you. You know, I think almost all actors feel tremendous longing for the first night to be over, but it has to happen. It’s like a sort of operation – it’s, you know, it’s got to happen, it’s going to hurt, but you will feel better afterwards.


A. Watch the conversation. Check (✓) the correct option to sum up their conclusion.

They agree that…

1   a live performance is always better because of the atmosphere.

2   a recorded performance is usually better because there are no distractions.

3   it’s impossible to generalize because it depends on the event.

B. Watch again. What do Devika and Mark say about the following things? Are they positive or negative?

1   Devika   a big flashy superhero film

2   Devika   some Shakespeare or any modern plays

3   Mark   factors that could sway your enjoyment

4   Mark   a major rugby match recently

5   Devika   a crowd of other people enjoying the music



3   it’s impossible to generalize because it depends on the event.


1   Positive. She loves watching big flashy superhero films in the cinema on a Saturday night. She likes the sound effects and music and visuals.

2   Positive. She likes seeing Shakespeare and modern plays in the theater. They are magical, a very different experience from the cinema.

3   Negative. Sitting too high up or having a bad view at the theater, uncomfortable seats or not enough legroom.

4   Negative. He noticed that the crowd were watching the big screen because they had a better view rather than looking straight at the pitch.

5   Negative. They can be noisy, so she can’t hear the music and would be better listening to a CD at home.


I = interviewer, D = Devika, J = John, M = Mark

  Do you think it’s always true that a live performance is better than a recorded one?

D   That’s a really difficult question. I love going to the cinema. I will happily go to the cinema on a Saturday night and watch a big flashy superhero film where there’s really good sound effects and music and visuals that obviously have already been made by you know, computer graphics and it’s really fun, but I also have a really big soft spot in my heart for going to the theater. Going to the theater to watch some Shakespeare or any modern plays − um, live, onstage, maybe with a, a band or an orchestra underneath the stage you can see or you definitely hear. I think that has a certain magic to it that you can’t replicate on, in the cinema. It’s a very different experience.

J    And is it true then that it is better for the, the audience to actually enjoy it more if it’s a live performance rather than a pre-recorded or a, a film?

D   That’s the thing − for me personally as an audience member, I, it’s really hard − I think it’s difficult to say it’s better or worse or which is the ultimate best experience because they’re just very different.

J    But if you go to a live one though you, then you participate don’t you because you’re part of it − there’s the actors and everything that’s happening…

D   True.

  …and then you are part of it because they’re bouncing off you and it’s, so it is true.

M   A lot will, a lot will depend on, on factors other than just what’s happening in front of you on the stage or the pitch or whatever type of event it is. If you’re sitting, let’s say, high up or with a slightly obstructed view or the seats are uncomfortable or you don’t have enough leg room − you know, there are other factors that could sway your enjoyment such that seeing a recorded version of the, the live event that you’ve been at would actually have been preferable. Um, I think a good example would be going to a major sporting event now because they’re nearly always oversubscribed, you know, crowds of people everywhere.

I was at a major rugby match recently and we were sitting way, way up in the gods at the very back of the stadium and they had giant screens which were kind of showing the match simultaneously and in fact, all around me I could see a whole sea of heads sort of turned to the screen because you got, you got a better view and you could better understand what was happening on the pitch by looking at the TV screen rather than peering down at what was going on several hundred meters down below you.

D   True. Yeah. It’d say it’s similar…

  As a live performance − excuse me, yeah – as a live performance though, you are involved if you are in the audience, obviously, because you’re watching and seeing what happens and you’re looking at the nuances and whatever, so I suppose it is true that it’s um, that it is more − it’s better, I suppose.

D   I think it also really heavily depends on what the audience is like that you’re with. So I’ve been − I love live music, and I’ve been to plenty of live music events − concerts and festivals and things, you know, around the country, and I love them. However, sometimes you’ll be in a crowd of other people enjoying the music and they’re talking and it’s noisy and actually I couldn’t hear anything in the first place − I couldn’t actually hear the band or the singer or the musician I wanted to hear, so I could have just gone home and listened to a CD.

J    That’s intriguing isn’t it, the difference between the two.

M   At the end of the day, it’s very subjective. So much depends on the person, the event, the arena, and so on.

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