Being an Actor, Revised and Expanded Edition

Simon Callow




Trade Paperback

368 Pages


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Now newly reissued with fresh material, Being an Actor remains the classic book for actors starting their careers.

Few actors have ever been more eloquent, more honest, or more entertaining about their life and their profession than Simon Callow, one of the finest actors of his time and increasingly one of the most admired writers about the theater.

Beginning with the letter to Laurence Olivier that produced his first theatrical job to his triumph as Mozart in the original production of Amadeus, Callow takes us with him on his progress through England's rich and demanding theater: his training at London’s famed Drama Centre, his grim and glorious apprenticeship in the provincial theater, his breakthrough at the Joint Stock Company, and then success at Olivier's National Theatre are among the way stations.

Callow provides a guide not only to the actor's profession but also to the intricacies of his art, from unemployment—"the primeval slime from which all actors emerge and to which, inevitably, they return"—to the last night of a long run.


Praise for Being an Actor, Revised and Expanded Edition

"The most honest book ever written about us all."—Sir Ian McKellen

"The best picture of theatre life since MacLiammóir's classic All for Hecuba."—Ulick O’Connor, The Sunday Independent

"Impassioned, intelligent, informative, and, quite simply, one of the best theatre books I have read."—Michael Coveney, Financial Times

"Pugnaciously candid . . . A unique account of an actor's life in mid-career."—Michael Billington, The Guardian

"Actors and non-actors alike will find this witty, knowledgeable book delightful."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

When I was eighteen, I wrote Laurence Olivier a letter. He replied, by return of post, inviting me to join the National Theatre company – in the box office. I accepted immediately, and as I crossed the foyer to be interviewed by the box office manager, I thought, crystal clear and without any sense of destiny about it: ‘One day I shall run this place.’
Which was rather strange. I was a hopelessly lost adolescent working in a library wholesaler’s, sending crateloads of Mills and Boon romances to the corners of the British Isles, sure of only one thing: that I didn’t
Read the full excerpt


  • Simon Callow

  • In addition to his distinguished career in the theater, Simon Callow has appeared in the films Amadeus, A Room with A View, and Four Weddings and a Funeral. He directed the film The Ballad of the Sad Café starring Vanessa Redgrave and Rod Steiger, and is also the author of Charles Laughton: A Difficult Actor, Being an Actor, and Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu. He lives in London.