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Jeremy Irons

Award-winning Stage and Screen Actor

I remember particularly when the principal -- a great man called Nat Brenner who is sadly now dead, a great man of the theater -- he was talking to us, and he was asking people why they wanted to become an actor and what they had been doing. And there were people, they had done -- they'd sold ice cream in Mongolia, they'd made ballet shoes in Brisbane, they had done extraordinary things. He said, "What have you done?" I said, "Well, I haven't done anything really. I sing a bit." He said, "Why do you want to be an actor?" I said, "I don't know. I just think it's quite nice." Anyway, he talked to me. I think he saw the window that I was and took me on. But as I say, in the two years I learned various skills. I learned a little bit about the theater, about styles, about how to speak, how to stand, how to sing -- not using my nose like Bob Dylan, but actually sing -- using my diaphragm. And at the end of the two years, five of us were chosen to go down into the theater, into the Bristol Old Vic company itself.
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John Irving

National Book Award

There's no reason you should write any novel quickly. There's no reason you shouldn't, as a writer, not be aware of the necessity to revise yourself constantly. More than a half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn't say I have a talent that's special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina. I can rewrite sentences over and over again, and I do. And the reshaping of something -- the restructuring of a story, the building of the architecture of a novel -- the craft of it is something I never tire of. And maybe that comes from what homework always was to me, which was redoing, redoing, redoing. Because I always made mistakes, and I always assumed I would. And that meant that my grades weren't very good, and that meant that school was hard for me. But when I got out of school and my focus could go to the one thing I wanted to do, the novel, the screenplay of the moment, I knew how to work. I knew how to concentrate, because I had to.
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John Irving

National Book Award

I don't begin a novel or a screenplay until I know the ending. And I don't mean only that I have to know what happens. I mean that I have to hear the actual sentences. I have to know what atmosphere the words convey. Or is it a melancholic story? Is there something uplifting or not about it? Is it soulful? Is it mournful? Is it exuberant? What is the language that describes the end of the story? And I don't want to begin something, I don't want to write that first sentence until all the important connections in the novel are known to me. As if the story has already taken place, and it's my responsibility to put it in the right order to tell it to you. Do I begin at the beginning chronologically? Sometimes. Or is it the kind of story that's better to jump into in the middle and go backwards and forwards at the same time? I am a person who just can't make those judgments -- I can't come to those decisions -- unless I know what's waiting for me at the end. What makes this story worth the five years it's going to take me to write it? What is emotionally compelling enough at the end of this novel? What's waiting for you that's going to move you at the end of this story? That makes a reader tolerate how long and complicated and at times difficult it's going to be? And so I always go there. I write those end notes as if they were two pieces of music, so I know what I'm going to hear at the end of the story. I know what the sentences themselves, what they're going to sound like, and I put them in a log. You know? And they're waiting for me, and I know I'm not going to get to that part of the story for four, five -- in the case of this most recent novel, seven years, but it's important to me that I hear it.
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John Irving

National Book Award

John Irving: You've got to be disciplined. I think the sport of wrestling, which I became involved with at the age of 14 I competed until I was 34, kind of old for a contact sport. I coached the sport until I was 47. I think the discipline of wrestling has given me the discipline I have to write. There's a kind of repetition that's required. In any of the martial arts, and in some other sports as well, but especially in the martial arts sports, you repeat and repeat over and over again the dumbest things, the simplest moves, the simplest defenses, until they become like second nature. But they don't start out that way. They don't start out that way. And I think what I've always recognized about writing is that I don't put much value in so-called inspiration. The value is in how many times you can redo something. The value is in the importance of the refrain. The third time you repeat something, it has more resonance than the second time you repeat something, if it's good enough to begin with. Right?
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Sir Peter Jackson

Oscar for Best Director

We had to basically rewrite the scripts again. We had to now write three movie scripts. So each of the scripts had to have a beginning, middle and end, and be structured as a satisfying script, so (we) had to tear everything apart and start all over again, carry on to developing, and then finally, we got to that day -- did casting -- and got to the day of shooting which was the 11th of November 1999. That first day of shoot was -- it was three years since I had made that phone call, the first phone call asking about Lord of the Rings. It was three years to get us to that place. Three years spent doing a little design work, a lot of conceptual work, location scouting. We were pretty well prepared. Even though it was three movies being shot back to back, the three years of preparation was fantastic, 'cause we knew what we were doing. We knew how we were going to do it, and we were a very, very well organized group of people.
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Sir Peter Jackson

Oscar for Best Director

So I stayed at home with Mum and Dad, who didn't charge me anything to stay at home, and was able to save this money. Got my 16-mil camera eventually, after a couple of years. And at that point I started working on a film that started out as a short movie, because I wanted to try the camera out. It was a Bolex camera, a 16-mil spring-wound camera, but quite complicated, more sophisticated than what I'd ever done. I had to set my own exposures, develop with a light meter, and had to learn how to do that, because all the Super 8 cameras were just auto point-and-shoot things. So I suddenly had to figure things out. And I didn't want to waste any money at all, because I realized with 16 millimeter that three minutes of film was basically $100 -- by the time you've bought the roll of negative, you again have to process the negative, and then you have to get a print made off the negative. By the time you'd gone through that, back in those days, it was $100 to get those three minutes done. So this was serious now.
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