Actors & Drug Use - A Confusion Between Character & Reality?
Today one of my favorite actors died - Philip Seymour Hoffman. What an absolute tragedy for such a talented kind man to pass from something as tragic as a drug overdose. It does not seem that long ago either that one of my other favorite actors, Health Ledger, died in much the same way too. There have been many before, and so sadly, probably more to follow in the future too. Often I think about this. What is it about actors that makes them to turn to drugs, and worst still for some, suicide? What is actually going on within their mind?
To answer this, we really have to look inside the mind of an actor. The role of an actor (especially the elite ones) often walks a very fine line between reality and illusion. Take Heath Ledger for example. He died whilst filming The Dark Knight. By all reports Heath just completely absorbed himself in this role, taking on as much of the character in his own self off the screen as he did on the screen. Philip Seymour Hoffman played many equally demanding roles throughout his career too, including his current unfinished role in the final Hunger Games film. The quote below from Australian Oscar-winning director Adam Elliot sums Philip up perfectly:
"He was like Meryl Streep, he was a real chameleon and could just get the character so quickly and he was so authentic too."
It must be very hard as an actor to draw the line between 'who they are' and 'who their character is'. Constantly switching roles from movie to movie, and spending more time impersonating other people than they spend being themselves must leave such a significant impact on one's mental wellbeing. I believe this has to have something to do why many actors seek drugs as an escape or way of 'switching off'.
Often when I take people into hypnosis I get them to imagine that they are the main character in a movie. Doing this helps the client become an observer of whatever it is they are doing and trying to fix. The reason for this is that it separates them from emotional attachment and allows a different perspective of their actions they would not usually see. This is very effective to help people break free of negative behaviors. Sometimes I think actors (especially those that cannot 'switch off') are constantly stuck in a similar type of pattern - only it becomes their reality. Here I believe they are constantly an observer of their 'true self' and actually playing out their 'character self' in real life depending on what role they are currently participating in. This must be so hard and confusing to deal with. Their perspective of self must become so construed that it is only once they can switch off their conscious processes, that they can come back to their real self. Unfortunately many actors (and other creative people) end up turning to drugs as a way of facilitating this. All in all it is such a tragedy and a hidden price to pay for what are often the best performances.