The 5 Performances That Shaped You

If you’re an actor, think about the five performances that have shaped you.

These are the performances, maybe even moments, in which time stood still and you were a different person after witnessing them. The dial on your artist clock turned. I’m NOT talking your favorite movie. I’m talking specific performances by an actor or actress.

Why do I think this is important? Because I think it is useful to know who and what inspires you and why.

I sat down and wrote down five performances that have influenced me most. These are the ones that stopped me in my tracks. They took my breath away. I think of these moments over and over again as moments I aspire to. After looking at my list I can add them all up and see who I am as an actor. Truly. I look at the list below and think, “Yup. That makes sense.” So, I want you to make your list. Of which parts are you the sum? I even made a handy worksheet for you to use:

These performances have helped me become the artist I am today. And they are:

5. Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge
4. Evan Rachel Wood, Mildred Pierce
3. Claire Daines, Temple Grandin
2. Helen Mirren, Elizabeth I
1. Jennifer Garner, Alias

The specific moments that have stuck with me:

Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge
When Christian is trying to pitch Spectacular, Spectacular! to Satine and she thinks his poetry is just an odd method of foreplay, Nicole Kidman wraps herself in a rug and rolls around in it, thinking that’s what he wants. Every time I see that moment I feel the commitment and how present she was, and it reminds me to play.

Moulin Rouge

Evan Rachel Wood in Mildred Pierce
When Mildred finally pieces things together and discovers her daughter in bed with her husband, there is a stand off, a fight, and then a chase. Evan Rachel Wood is so powerful in these moments. From owning her sexuality to raging like a wounded animal, this moment is emblazoned in my mind.

Mildred Pierce

Claire Daines in Temple Grandin
I watch this movie any time I need to feel some hope. In the first few moments of the film, Temple gets off the plane in Arizona, and says “I can see the heat!”. So simple, but it was so honest and emanating from a completely different person than Claire Daines.

Temple Grandin

Helen Mirren in Elizabeth I
Helen, my queen. This is my favorite performance of all Helen Mirren performances and that is saying a lot. The series is sweeping in scope, but the moment that breaks my heart is when she has courted (and fell in love with) the French prince, and then her counsel tells her not to marry him. This queen never has the chance to be a woman.

Elizabeth I

Jennifer Garner in Alias pilot
This show was a huge imfluence on me when I was growing up. In the pilot, Sydney comes home to find her fiancé murdered in the bathtub. The moment she sees him is absolutely heartbreaking. Her horrified expression has never left me: you can see her just wanting to fix the thing that can never be fixed.


Honorable mention to Lon Cheney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. When he rings the bell tower for himself at the end? Ugh. Kills me every time.

Are you ready to do your homework? Grab a sheet of paper, or download this easy worksheet and get cracking.


PS. I also recommend having all of your performances on DVD or BluRay (to watch them on a non-laptop/mobile screen) so you can rewatch them periodically. If it’s on your list, it will inspire you every time and hopefully reignite your passion for your craft.





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    1. Liam Chun

      Does it just have to be an actor/actress or can it be just anyone in general? Also, can you do a for each separately or do they have to be just one individual list?


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