Thesps across the pond hope to act more American

HOLLYWOOD — When it comes to acting lessons, the path between Europe and the U.S. has traditionally been one-way only.

It was European masters like Stanislavski, after all, who inspired many of America’s modern acting gurus and icons like Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler and Marlon Brando.

But the educational inspiration is now starting to flow the other way.

More and more acting coaches from the U.S. are spending time in cities from Paris to Rome to Moscow to London teaching aspiring European film actors to act more, well, American.

Bernard Hiller, who has been an acting coach in L.A. since 1990, led his first one-week seminar in Paris three years ago and now teaches regularly across the Continent, generating about 50% of his income there.

“They want to learn how to act like Pacino and De Niro,” he says of his European students.

Larry Moss, Bob McAndrew and Jack Waltzer are just some of the other prominent acting coaches from L.A. and New York who have found a big demand in Europe for their style of coaching.

Amy Werba, who trained with Lee Strasberg and now directs her own acting studio in Paris, says European students want to emulate the more naturalistic style of acting taught in America not only to increase their skills but to boost the international appeal of their films.

“They tend to be performing for the audience and don’t know as much how to be vulnerable,” she observes. “But with the growing number of international co-productions, they need a style that translates. In the global market, it’s the American style that has proven successful.”

Several of the coaches also find they are the first instructors to work with their students on career motivation.

“I’ve noticed a suffocation of hope about going as far as they’re able to,” observes Moss, who is teaching his first class in Paris. “Part of my job seems to be helping them gain the confidence to move into the international world of acting.”

The very concept of professional coaching for a role is, in fact, new to many European students, who are typically more used to one stint of state-sponsored training at university than paying for private lessons throughout their careers.

“Coaching is a newer thing there,” says McAndrew. “But because oftentimes American actors do films in Europe and have a coach, it’s starting to catch on.”

The phenomenon is still new enough that there’s not yet a direct impact on the films being made, but American coaches are working with some rising young European actors. Hiller, for instance, recently accompanied his student Cesare Cremonini to Cannes, where his film “Il Cuore Altrove” was in competition.

More than 50 years after groups like the Actors Studio and the Group Theater first brought Stanislavski’s style into prominence Stateside, it seems the students have become the teachers.

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