Be happy! – Breakfast with Andy Nyman

  Michael Krisch
vor 9 Monaten in Gespräche

Andy Nyman (IMDB) is an award-winning actor, director, writer and magician who has earned acclaim from both critics and audiences for his theatre, film and television work. As an accomplished magician and mentalist, Nyman has collaborated with Derren Brown for over 15 years, having co-written much of Derren’s television and theatre work.

His most recent stage work as an actor includes Martin McDonagh’s “Hangmen” in London’s West End and Jamie Lloyd’s revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins” at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

On television he was most recently seen playing Winston Churchill in the BBC drama “Peaky Blinders” and starred in the BBC drama “The Eichmann Show.” His film credits include “The Brother’s Bloom” and the hugely popular “Death at a Funeral.”

This year he will be seen in cinemas in the new Liam Neeson thriller “The Commuter.” Andy has also just co-written and co-directed “Ghost Stories”, which will be in cinemas in 2018 and star Martin Freeman alongside Andy himself. It is the movie version of the synonymous hit play written by Andy and Jeremy Dyson.

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SOHO House, 76 Dean St., London

Michael Krisch sat down with Andy for an inspirational breakfast conversation on creativity, taking risks and believing in yourself at SOHO House, London.

Michael Krisch:
Andy, you had the dream of becoming an actor since the early age of 12. While many people literally lock their dreams into boxes and store them away, you are actually living it. That takes more, than sheer luck, I guess...?

Andy Nyman:
The first thing is being blessed with a happy childhood and supportive parents. That is just good fortune of life. I have been a little, stocky, Jewish kid from Leicester, you know. What are my chances of becoming an actor, who is in films? – But that is just what I always wanted to do. And I always very much believed in myself.

MK:
So one day you made that decision?

AN:
I made a very active choice years ago. I mean, I am out of drama school for 30 years. So I really actively decided to become a professional about 20 years ago.

MK:
A lot of people are afraid of making that kind of decision. What has been your main driver?

AN:
One of the big problems, that seems to be even more of a challenge now, is that we get more and more materialistic. The main focus of success is about financial success. As opposed to the greatest success of all: what makes you happy. I am not religious at all, but there is truth in a lot of religious teachings and one of the great things is not to believe in false prophets and not believe into false idols and gods. – And money is a terrible false god. It is a distraction to getting to the heart of what you really want.

MK:
I totally agree with you on that. But unfortunately you have to pay your bills as well…

AN:
Of course, it is easy to listen to that thing, if you make a lot of money, which some years I do, some years I do not. And it was also easy for me, because I had a safe middle-class upbringing. We were never starving. But even so, I had hard times in my adult life. I am married, we have two kids and earning a living is really, really massive pressure.

The work, that I have done to earn money was driving lorries, working in a call-center or doing other work, that was not my primary love, so I would be able to pay our bills, but not to sacrifice the thing that I loved. I did so many other jobs, so that I could be an actor. Because I love acting so much, the other stuff never ever felt like a failure. Even though I have to admit: I fucking hated some of the jobs!

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MK:
What other challenges did you face during your career?

AN:
As an artist, and I do not mean that in a way, that I am a great artist, but trying to make a living within the arts, you’ve got to be able to wrestle with your demons and your lack of self-belief. And of course, to constantly be dealing with rejection and failure of not getting the job. That is a challenge, that I think will never stop, but at least I try to be aware of it and deal with it. Because that is part of being an actor. You have to learn to love being out of work. And you have to learn to love your contemporaries doing better than you.

MK:
So how do you try to stand out amongst the others?

AN:
I love disappearing into a character. And I think, that is one of the things within the industry, that I am acknowledged for. I rarely get recognized, both publicly and industry wise, you know. But the flip of that, and I think that is fantastic, is, that I will get people telling me about my performance in a film, like a character they liked, and have no idea it is me. I sort of have to persuade them, that was me. I love that. – And that was always the sort of actor I wanted to be. Because to me, that is, what acting is.

MK:
Very often you play some “extreme” roles. How do you get into those characters?

AN:
I always try to find the things about them, I relate to. It does not matter how fucked up a character is, how good or how bad they are, I always try to make them feel human and real. In foreign roles I am obsessed with accents. So if I am playing an Israeli, I always want people to think: “He must be an Israeli actor.” When I see actors and their accents are bad, that kills it for me. So I really care very much about what the performance is.

MK:
There is this myth of actors, who have problems getting out of a character…

AN:
No, I never had that. – Acting can be consuming, but it is also work. Sometimes you are working on a piece, that is depressing and you do all that reading and researching, that the whole thing can grind you down, but then you have to find your balance, you know. But actually that is one of the myths that really bother me. Because part of the lie is, that you cannot have a normal life, because the work stays with you. Or you are damaged in some way.

I think, that is not a healthy myth. I think it is much better to portray the story, that you can have a nice life and act responsively and kindly. We just finished “Ghost Stories”, which had a couple of stars in it. Nobody raised their voice, everybody had a wonderful time, everyone was treated nicely and it was just a reminder that it absolutely can be like this. There is no reason why for art to be art, it has to be a torture.

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The Creative Process according to @MarcusRomer

MK:
Being "creative" on the other hand can be like torture sometimes. There is this “circle of creativity”. In the first place you might think “This is awesome!”, just to dismiss the same idea moments later, because you think it is stupid.

AN:
What you just said is so right. – But there are a couple of things I have learned from my work with Jeremy Dyson. First: You’ve got to trust the process and keep doing what you do, because it will work. I tend to be very optimistic and try to reserve my fear. Because, the other thing, I have seen proven to me again and again, is that everything comes from you. Especially with directing. Everyone’s enthusiasm, everyone’s grace, everyone’s passions, is 100 percent driven by you and your belief. – If you’re worrying all the time, it is so infectious, you know. So instead of putting out the fire, you have to bring the flames back again. It is so obvious.

MK:
And instead of theorising all day long, thinking about what might go wrong, at a certain point, you have to do the things you believe in and make them happen.

AN:
That is true. The darker stuff, the “won’t work stuff”, is the easiest route. Because on the other hand, you’re setting yourself up for public failure, I mean public by your friends and your family, not “the public”. You’re setting yourself up to be ridiculed, you’re setting yourself up for inner demons and for people to say: “I knew it wouldn’t work. – Everything you touch fails, you are a fucking idiot. Just stop, because your dreams will never come true.”

You have to be full of love and enthusiasm about your thing and not listening to other people, telling you, “it won’t work”, or “you are an idiot.” Instead, you should take massive pride in yourself and go for it.

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MK:
Nevertheless, we all get stuck from time to time. – Where do you get fresh inspirations from?

AN:
As a family we are pretty obsessed with the live arts, with the theatre. We go there all the time. That is our biggest expense. And then film, obviously. Very often, working with Derren or Jeremy, our heads start spinning and you need to go out for a walk after a while. It is just amazing, what can happen, if a bus goes by, with a sign on it. Or you see a bird do a thing. It can come from absolutely everywhere. I love that about the creative process.

MK:
I think collaborations are quite important.

AN:
They are. But you have to choose the people you are with carefully, because you have to trust each other and build that relationship. I have been collaborating with Derren for 17 years and with Jeremy for 7 years. People are crazy about collaborating, because they think about it like halving your money and halving your credits. But it fucking doubles it, if not more!

My analogy is always like a Ouija board: No one feels like they are pushing, but the thing is moving. You do not know where you end up, because the whole thing is so much more than you both put together. You do not remember who did think of this, because you said that, and I said that and we both thought of this. Good collaborations are just amazing.

MK:
Andy, do you have a special “ritual” or so, to get your creative juices flowing, that you would like to share?

AN:
Here is a little creative thing that I do: there is a shop here called “John Lewis”, a department store. The front of this shop has green letters on a white background. And there is an article in the shop about why it was in green color. John Lewis, who started the shop in the mid-1800s, was writing in green ink, because whenever one got his letters, they knew it was him. And I thought to myself: “Oh my god, all I ever do is black or blue. It is all I ever write in.” – So I went there and bought some green ink. It feels like a little tiny rule for me and it makes me feel so creative. Just writing in green!

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Actor, director, writer and magician Andy Nyman