Today I’ll round out my recent run of Aaron Sorkin related posts with a little bit of a twist of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The twist being an oh so loose connection I have to Aaron Sorkin that I just discovered.
Over the weekend I flipping through an old notebook gathered from my L.A. days and discovered some notes from an acting workshop I attended given by actor/director Lou Antonio.
What a career 82-year-old Mr. Antonio has had. He was born in Oklahoma City and began studying acting at the University of Oklahoma. He performed in theaters throughout the Midwest before landing in New York City where he became part of the The Actors Studio studying with Lee Strasberg.
He performed in off-Broadway plays and on Broadway before moving to California in the ’60s where be acted in classic TV shows including Gunsmoke, Mission Impossible, Star Trek and The Fugitive. He also racked up an impressive list of directing projects over five decades; everything from The Flying Nun, The Rockford Files, and The Partridge Family in the 60s & 70s to Chicago Hope, Dawson Creek, and Boston Legal in the 90s & 2000s.
He also was cast in Elia Kazan‘s America, America. (Kazan was a co-founder of The Actors Studio and won an Oscar for directing On the Waterfront.) And Antonio also happened to have a role in the Cool Hand Luke. What a career, right?
So what’s all this have to do with Aaron Sorkin? Well, Antonio also directed a episode of The West Wing which Sorkin created. And since Sorkin wrote A Few Good Men—there’s the quick connection between both Antonio and Kevin Bacon.
The acting workshop I was a part of was at Tracy Roberts Acting Studio back in the 80s. (My acting career peaked somewhere between playing Tom in The Glass Menagerie and doing a Domino’s Pizza commercial.) Roberts was also a part of The Actors Studio in its early heyday with Clifford Odets and Stella Adler. (She was an encouragement to me in my L.A. years.)
She was sometime credited as Tracey Roberts and when I put that in The Oracle of Kevin Bacon it says that she was in the movie Actor’s & Sin (1952) with Eddie Albert, and that Albert was in The Big Picture which starred Kevin Bacon. (The Big Picture, by the way, was co-written by Gary Kroeger who I got to know when I lived in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Never forget that it is a small, small world.)
Here’s a couple of quotes from my workshop with Antonio:
“Actors get me out of trouble more than they get me into it.”
“If you know where you are going you’re okay. There are lots of ways to get there.”
“Shape the performance you want, don’t try to change the actor. Work with their training, not against it.”
“Kazan once told me to bring 100 ideas and he may use one. It keeps the actor alive and thinking.”
And lastly, one bit of advice I was actually given at Tracy Roberts Acting Studio after I was disappointed with a scene I did, was from a teacher I can’t remember who told me, “Just because you can’t be Babe Ruth doesn’t mean you you can’t play baseball.”
Not every actor or actress is going to Paul Newman or Meryl Streep, not every writer is going to be Aaron Sorkin, or director Steven Spielberg, but there are many actors, writers, and directors who are less than household names who have had solid careers in the entertainment business.
In fact, tomorrow I’ll begin a series of posts on a screenwriter you may not know much about, but he optioned his first script while still in film school, developed a project with Steven Spielberg, had one film debut number one at the box office, and had a seven digit spec sale. And for most of his career he’s been based outside of Hollywood. Come back tomorrow to learn from his career journey.
Update: Found this Gunsmoke clip that features Lou Antonio (who along with Bruce Dern) torture a town drunk. (For what it’s worth, Bruce’s daughter Laura Dern studied acting with Tracy Roberts.)
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