For twenty-five years Andy Nyman has worked in theatre, film and television. As an 11-year-old boy, he sat in a Leicester cinema watching Jaws, "There I was, a stocky little curly haired Jew seeing a stocky little curly haired Jew playing the lead in a film, I released this isn't fantasy. I could actually do that." And he did, and he did it bloody well, now he's sharing all he's learnt in his first book, "The Golden Rules Of Acting That Nobody Ever Tells You."
Andy Nyman is one of those people that even if you don't think you know who he is... you know who he is. He co-wrote, co-directed and starred in the West End hit Ghost Stories, won an Olivier Award for his work co-writing and directing Derren Brown's Something Wicked This Way Comes, you'll have seen him steal the show in Campus and Dead Set on the TV, on the big screen in Severance and Frank Oz's Death at a Funeral and he is currently treading the boards to much acclaim in Abigail's Party in the West End. He is well positioned to share his advice in this wonderful book, which offers sage advice and wisdom for actors, and non-actors alike.
The book won't tell you how to act, but will tell you how to be an actor, how to stay sane and succeed in any creative position, if you have a dream and want to make it a reality it'll offer you properly useful advice. It's one of those books that helps you know yourself, ask the right questions, and reminds you to be happy. It is truthful, eye- opening and insightful, reading it feels like getting tips and advice from a friend down the pub; it is a goldmine of information. I'm no actor, but's one of those books that I'll carry with me, return to time and time again because remembering this advice will help me become a better and happier person.
So it's not just a book for actors?
"So much of this stuff isn't just about acting, although there are some which are specific, but it's applicable to anyone, particularly freelancers. For examples there's a bit that says, 'When you go into an audition remember they want to give you the job.' Now that's not just about actors it's about everyone, an audition is just a job interview."
The key message I picked up from the book is to be happy and find happiness more. There's a lovely section where you write , 'Teach yourself to enjoy and replay positive memories' and quote Morcombe & Wise saying, 'Don't wear a frown, try positive thinking, laugh at your troubles instead' it's a really lovely message to give to people.
"Yes, the message I want people to get more than anything is stop moaning, be happy! I really think we can change what we focus on and change what we look at."
"I always try find the good in any situation, I nearly ruined my finger last week. I broke the bone, took the end off, popped the nail out, ruptured the tissues had plastic surgery and genuinely I thought well if I'm going to loose a finger the little fingers the best one to go. Then I thought I wondered if I could get a fake end for it and do the take the end of your finger off gag, but for real. I really think positively otherwise you'll just go mad."
"One of the things I believe is that if you've chosen to do something, do it, just get on with it and do it, see it through to the end and if it didn't work out it didn't work out. It's not the end of the world."
With all your incredible work with Derren Brown, obviously many magicians will buy the book. What do you think they'll get out of it?
"A little bit of me thinks the magic world tends to be very blinkered so they'll look through it and go well there's no script for tricks so I'm not going to get anything from that. If I'm honest a percentage will think that. However the ones that are doing it for a living or semi living will find the book is as applicable to them as it is to an actor; change the word actor to magician and everything is valid, almost more so because a magician is out there, never relying on anyone else. You have to generate your own work you have to do everything the lack of thinking and professionalism in magicians sort of staggers me sometimes. I think there is a huge amount for them to get in terms of the affirmation, simply remembering how brilliant it is that you've got something you're passionate about and spending everyday thinking about it. I know it's a job but you're doing something that you love, what a blessing."
What bits of advice in the book stand out to you?
"Well the whole look of the book stands out, it looks different to anything else and it gives it some wit but also gives a weight and importance to stuff; anchoring the ideas and helping you to remember them. There is a washing machine analogy which occurred to me quite late that I really like that, as sometimes when you're freelance esp in the arts it's easy to pretend it's not a proper job.'
"Also there's a thing I called the screw you fund which I think is really useful for anyone, actor or not. The aim of my career has always been that the acting is number one and everything else gives me creative freedom. By have lots of other income streams and saving it in this fund, it has allowed me to only ever say yes to things I've really wanted to do."
"I do so many different things, I'm always amazed at how little some people do. That's a gift that doing magic gave me, the minute I invented my first trick through necessity, I suddenly thought oh my god, I could invent anything, I could do anything I wanted. It felt like an opening up of the world, I thought god, you could just do anything."
So the books out, people are buying it, what's next?
"Well people can submit their own tips for a possible future edition on the website. Then Ghost Stories is going to Moscow. I'm in Abigails Party till September, then a week after that closes it looks like I'm doing a hugely exciting movie. I'm also working on a film script with Jeremy Dyson and in early 2013 I'll be working with Derren Brown again, writing his new stage show with him and directing it. Then, well we'll see. It's all really exciting"
Spending time with Andy is a joy. His happiness is infectious, he manages to help you find the best bits of your life and make the most of them and The Golden Rules Of Acting is the same; it reassures you that you're on the right path, it gives you new ideas and helps you find your own happiness. It'll also help you as an actor. Obviously.
Before breakfast was over Andy reminded me that acting and life is all about enjoying the moment while you're having it, because it can soon be over in this world of highs and lows.
"In the film King Of Comedy there's a line that says, 'better to be king for a day then schmuck for a lifetime.' Here's a true story that shows that madness of acting how one minute you're the star and next you're doing nothing. I did a thing called Uprising for NBC and I got to go to a big premier in LA, it's the only time I've been to anything like that. I do the red carpet thing with David Schwimmer who was in the film; he let me walk down it with him as no one knows who I am. John Voight was also in the film, he is a huge hero for me, I had no scenes with him but we'd spent some time together on set, but that was 4 months earlier. Anyway we get into the theatre, and I see John and think I'll go over see if he remembers me, he turns round and says, 'Andy!' He gives me a hug and tells me how proud I should be and how good what I did in the movie was and I'm thinking I wish my dad was here to see this."
"So we head to the seats which are numbered, I get to mine and some lady is sat there, I ask her if she'll move and she says, 'No, I'm sitting here.' Now it's becoming a bit of a bun fight for seats, so I find some empty ones and go sit there. Quickly an usher comes over and says, 'These aren't your seats you have to move,' I say that, 'I know they're not but a woman over there is mine, if you move her I'll sit there.' The usher say that's not her problem and I have to move, I say, 'Look I've come from London, this if my first premier, I really don't want to move and sit at the back, I really want to see the film I'm in.' At which point a voice behind me says, 'Are you in the movie?' I go, 'Yeah, this is my first time at a big premier, I'm really excited' and he says, 'It's okay, me and my girlfriend will move you have my seats.' So I turn round to say thank you so much to him, I look and it's Kevin Costner!"
"Two days later after this amazing moment. I'm at a house in Barnes blowing up balloons doing a kids party for £180 because it'll help pay the mortgage. That's the life you lead. But what you need to take from it is, wow how amazing was that incredible experience and remember that by doing the party it means I can then do the things I want, say no to what I don't want to do and have more incredible experiences."
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