I never understand when people say, 'Do you do comedy or tragedy?' I don't think they're very much different. They both have to be true, and there isn't a great play in the world that doesn't have funny parts to it - as 'Salesman' does, as 'King Lear' does. The whole idea is to reflect life in some way, which means surely you have to have both.
As a director, my job is, and always has been, divided into a number of things: dealing with the crew, the money and the studio, and the marketing and publicity. These are all different jobs that have to be learned and done as well as possible. The celebrity part rarely touches a director.
I'm in the theater because of two plays: 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and 'Death of a Salesman.'
I think that to make something alive, instead of on a page, is an honorable task. And it turns me on.
Directing is mystifying. It's a long, long, skid on an icy road, and you do the best you can trying to stay on the road... If you're still here when you come out of the spin, it's a relief. But you've got to have the terror if you're going to do anything worthwhile.
My first memory in the world is my gym teacher ripping my mother's necklace off her neck and throwing it out the window and her running downstairs to go after it. I have no memory before that. I was 4. My father had a lot of girlfriends and my mother had a lot of boyfriends.
That seems to me the great American danger we're all in, that we'll bargain away the experience of being alive for the appearance of it.
I think a director can make a play happen before your eyes so that you are part of it and it is part of you. If you can get it right, there's no mystery. It's not about mystery. It's not even mysterious. It's about our lives.
If you're fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939 and you're a Jew, you don't think so much about relationships. People didn't have a lot of divorces during the Holocaust, for instance.
It's very weird about movies: you never know which ones are going to stay alive and which one are going to be meaningless. When you're there, you couldn't possibly predict it. Some things slowly die, and others slowly stay a while.
Nerves provide me with energy... It's when I don't have them, when I feel at ease, that's when I get worried.
We are being entertained all the time - in the bathroom, on the train, in our beds. Sure, there is a smaller audience for theater. But we know from radio that entertainment never goes away, it just changes. And more power to it.
There's nothing better than discovering, to your own astonishment, what you're meant to do. It's like falling in love.
It's not a film-maker's job to explain his technique, but to tell his story the best way he can.
I don't know that a political climate - as long as it's still a free country - makes much difference in the film world.
It's the hardest thing on earth to like yourself, and then when you do, it's a catastrophe. I mean, the people I know who like themselves - I don't want to see them!
The reason that most British actors are better than most American actors in the end is that they don't make any money. At the very end of their lives, they get into a space movie and they make a lot of money, but until that happens, basically, they don't have bank accounts. They live from day to day.
I love to take actors to a place where they open a vein. That's the job. The key is that I make it safe for them to open the vein.
There's nothing in the American dream about character. It's a serious flaw.
I think the main thing about comedy and humor is that it's impossible and always was impossible to define.
Never let people see what you want, because they will not let you have it. Never let anybody see what you feel, because it gives them too much power. You're probably better off not showing weakness whenever you can avoid it, because they'll go for you.
Things come in waves, and I'm always more interested in places like, for instance, Chicago, where people don't follow fashion. They're not galloping past your window on the way to the latest anything. They're living their lives. You do a play, they come and see it and say, 'That's nice', and then they go home.
The thing about being an outsider... is that it teaches you to hear what people are thinking because you're constantly looking for the people who just don't give a damn.
The things that you saw earlier in your life generally have more power than the things you saw last week.
I still think that luck is what a lot of the good things come from. It's simply the luck of where you are, when.
Plays, especially great plays, yield their secrets over a long period of time. You can't read it three times and say, 'OK, I got it. I know what's happening.'
The greatest thrill is that moment when a thousand people are sitting in the dark, looking at the same scene, and they are all apprehending something that has not been spoken. That's the thrill of it, the miracle - that's what holds us to movies forever. It's what we wish we could do in real life.
You can always tell gifted and highly intelligent people as they always turn to the past. Any young person who knows anything that happened before 1980, or 1990, or 2000 for that matter, is immediately someone who is intelligent, probably creative, maybe a writer. Nobody who is drawn to the past and learning about the past is not gifted.
'Streetcar' is no longer about the moment at all. There is no Blanche DuBois anywhere; south, north, east or west. We don't have Blanche DuBois at the moment. But we have Willy Loman; everywhere we look we see Willy Loman. We are Willy Loman. We're on Facebook; we need to be known; we're selling all the time.
Whether something is a success or not has never had much to do with what you do next.
It took me forever, learning improvisation, because I had studied with Lee Strasberg - I dropped out of Chicago and went to his classes in New York for a couple of years, once or twice a week. What I didn't realize was I was learning directing because he wasn't all that good about acting, not for me.
I've learned that many of the worst things lead to the best things, that no great thing is achieved without a couple of bad, bad things on the way to them, and that the bad things that happen to you bring, in some cases, the good things.
As a little kid in a sometimes hard place, I went to the movies as often as I could. Movies - making them, seeing them - is not something that could ever lose its pleasure for me. That puts them on a short list of things that eternally give me joy - love, family, food, movies.
The whole point about laughter is it's like mercury: you can't catch it, you can't catch what motivates it - that's why it's funny.
The producers want us to sell, sell, sell. That's my little joke. That's what we do by day; by night, we're artists.
The degree to which you're peculiar and different is the degree to which you must learn to hear people thinking. Just in self-defense you have to learn, where is their kindness? Where is their danger? Where is their generosity?
I don't expect anything from reviews. Sometimes I am bemused by them.
I came to love silence, because it's so rare, and it's now my favorite aural condition.
The reason you do this stuff - comedy, plays, movies - is to be seized by something, to disappear in the service of an idea.
American society to me and my brother was thrilling because, first of all, the food made noise. We were so excited about Rice Krispies and Coca-Cola. We had only silent food in our country, and we loved listening to our lunch and breakfast.
I was standing right behind Marilyn, completely invisible, when she sang 'Happy birthday, Mr. President.' And indeed, the corny thing happened: Her dress split for my benefit, and there was Marilyn, and yes, indeed, she didn't wear any underwear.
Here's the most mysterious thing to me. I look back at those first plays I did and the first movies I did, and I only have one question, which is, 'What was I so confident about? Where did I get that?
You could say that it's in talking movies that inner life begins to appear. You can see things happen to the faces of people that were neither planned nor rehearsed.
Limitations are inspiring: they lead to thinking, so I don't mind them.