Chapter 16 of 28 from Helen Mirren

Human Behavior


Learn the essential human behaviors and aspects of the human experience you’ll need in your toolbox throughout your acting career.

Topics include: Surprises • Physical Pain • Nudity • Sex • Sleep • Being Drunk • Dying

Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren Teaches Acting

In 28 lessons, the Oscar, Golden Globe, Tony, and Emmy winner teaches her process for acting on the stage and screen.

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Class Info


Being surprised in close-up or this kind of shot over and over again-- oh! Cut. Action. [GASPS] Oh! Cut. Action. [GASPS] Oh! You start feeling like an absolute tit, actually. But you know, there you go. You just have to do your best. And incidentally, if you're finding yourself running out of steam, I don't think there's anything wrong with getting the help of someone to go [CLAPS],, you know, do something that will get a reaction from you. And incidentally, also sometimes when you're off camera and you're realizing, like the actor has to act surprised at your entrance, but he's on camera, you're off camera, it's great to help the actor on camera out by doing something that literally surprises them. And then you get a real reaction on camera, which you off camera have made happen. But that's an act of generosity that you can give another actor. And I think you should. I think it's part of your job, really, to do that as much as you can. I did a fight scene in The Debt. We called it the geriatric fight scene. But it was a fight scene that we had to-- and we worked with a stunt man to do this scene, a wonderful stunt man. He did the naked fight in-- was it Eastern Promises, the film with Viggo Mortensen-- in a wonderful, wonderful naked fight sequence. And fight sequences, which men in general have to do more than women, but women do occasionally. And you work with a stunt person. Listen to the stunt person. Just do what they tell you to do, because they know what they're talking about. Well actually, I say that, but actually, sometimes stunt people, because they are stunt people, you know, they know how to sell a punch. You know, boom. But because they're not actors, sometimes they oversell it. And you have to pull it back, pull-- you know, it's not uh, you know, it's like uh. Do you know what I mean? A stunt person sometimes oversells, and it becomes too physicalized. And you have to bring it back to reality a little bit. But this stunt guy was brilliant. And he taught me-- because so often you see in fight sequences, you know, people get punched, and then they come back and they're, like, perfectly normal. And that always annoys me when I see that. And he said, you know, this hurts. I think it was-- it was a stab in the shoulder. And he said, everything in your body goes into paralysis from the pain. And so often, you see people stabbed and stabbed, and they go, oh, oh, I'm stabbed, but they sort of carry on. He said, everything stops. So I've really played that-- just your whole body has gone into paralysis from the pain of this thing in your shoulder. So I think it's quite important to be as realistic as you can. I mean, certain movies there's not the time or the inclination to be realistic about this kind of stuff. You know, in action type movies. But if there is the space ...

Find freedom in your roles

Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy, and Tony winner Helen Mirren is one of the greatest actresses of our time. In her first online class, she discusses the dualism that is core to her method: the necessity for mastering technique (craft) and then letting go so that your imagination can take over (art). Learn how to break down a script, research characters, and master techniques so you can transcend them to find freedom in every role.

Helen brings you behind the scenes to show you the secrets of her acting technique.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Helen will also critique select student work.


Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren Teaches Acting