'The Perfect Idiot's Profession': When Famous Actors Ridicule Their Craft

Jennifer Lawrence was quoted called acting "stupid" last week, but she's far from the first to roll her eyes at her chosen line of work.

AP / Evan Agostini

If you needed one more reason to love Jennifer Lawrence (and frankly, between her candid interviews and terrific performances in Winter's Bone, The Hunger Games, and Silver Linings Playbook, I've been sold for a while), get a load of this quote from her recent Vanity Fair interview: "Not to sound rude, but [acting] is stupid... Everybody's like, 'How can you remain with a level head?' And I'm like, 'Why would I ever get cocky? I'm not saving anybody's life. There are doctors who save lives and firemen who run into burning buildings. I'm making movies. It's stupid.'"

That's the kind of sound byte that helps cultivate an always-sensible "down to earth" image, but there's more to it than that. Lawrence's comments fall within the grand tradition of no-nonsense actors not only refusing to romanticize what they do, but often coming right out and disparaging it.

Below, quotes from 25 famed actors who, like Lawrence, refused to buy into their own hype.

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Katharine Hepburn
"Acting is the most minor of gifts and not a very high-class way to earn a living. After all, Shirley Temple could do it at the age of four."
"Acting is the perfect idiot's profession."
"It's a business you go into because you're an egocentric. It's a very embarrassing profession."

Marlon Brando
"Acting is the expression of a neurotic impulse. It's a bum's life. ... The principal benefit acting has afforded me is the money to pay for my psychoanalysis."
"An actor's a guy, who if you ain't talking about him, ain't listening."

Dean Martin
"I can't stand an actor or actress who tells me acting is hard work. It's easy work. Anyone who says it isn't never had to stand on his feet all day dealing blackjack."

Robert Mitchum
"This is not a tough job. You read a script. If you like the part and the money is OK, you do it. Then you remember your lines. You show up on time. You do what the director tells you to do. When you finish, you rest and then go on to the next part. That's it."

George Clooney
"I cut tobacco for a living in Kentucky. That was hard work. I sold insurance door-to-door. That's hard work. Acting is not hard work. If you're lucky enough to be sitting at a table like this, you've been very lucky in your life. You caught the brass ring somewhere along the way."


Sir Laurence Olivier
"Acting is a masochistic form of exhibitionism. It is not quite the occupation of an adult."

John Hurt
"I remember once, when I told Lindsay Anderson at a party that acting was just a sophisticated way of playing cowboys and Indians, he almost had a fit."

Sir Ralph Richardson
"Acting is merely the art of keeping a large group of people from coughing."

Noël Coward
"You ask my advice about acting? Speak clearly, don't bump into the furniture and if you must have motivation, think of your pay packet on Friday."

Spencer Tracy
"Show up on time, know your lines, and don't bump into the furniture."


Johnny Depp
"I despise those prick actors who say, 'I was in character,' and 'I became the character,' and all that stuff. It's hideous. It's just masturbation at the highest level."

Presented by

Jason Bailey is the film editor at Flavorwire. He is the author of The Ultimate Woody Allen Film Companion.

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