As a teen, I spent some time involved in youth theater, and auditions weren’t always the most pleasant experience. I was a skinny youth, and one director — deciding to mess with me — requested that I act, in open audition, as if I were the strongest man in the world. I thought about that for a moment and realized the futility of puffing my chest up and posing, so I took a slow steady walk across the room, grabbed the director violently by the collar, and snarled into his face, “How’s this?”
Needless to say, I didn’t get the part. But I still think to this day I was on the mark. Real strength lies in confidence. I was reminded of this while watching Ben Kingsley in “Elegy”; his director, Isabel Coixet (“My Life Without Me,” 2003), was the equivalent of my childhood head-messer, asking him — a 65-year-old man — to climb into bed, naked, with Penelope Cruz (!), and to forget all of an aging body’s imperfections and embarrassments, and to act virile, assured and totally unselfconcious. Kingsley must be literally brimming with confidence because he pulls it off entirely.