Why writer and director Mike Leigh has no patience for “profoundly stupid” actors

Writer and director Mike Leigh gets honest on “Salon Talks” about the intellectual commitment he demands of his actors. The seven-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker revealed to Salon that his films have no room for actors who are “profoundly studid,” as he puts it. Leigh explained to SalonTV’s Andrew O’Hehir that his characters are more like “real people out there on the street.”

Leigh was specifically talking about the cast for his latest historical epic, “Peterloo.” The film follows the events of the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, where British soldiers charged into a peaceful pro-democracy rally injuring hundreds. And with 160 actors depicting one of the bloodiest moments in British history, Leigh knew they all had to be “intelligent” at what they do.

Leigh explained, “They are all immaculate, and they're all real, and they're all proper actors, and they've all got massive experience. Not all of them are famous, and some are well-known. Some are quite famous. But they all did the business, they all got into the research, and it's there on the screen.”

Watch the video above to hear Leigh call out how Hollywood uses the term “character actors.” And watch the full episode with Mike Leigh to hear his take on Brexit, depicting history on the big screen and the things that make his films interesting “people talking, fighting and f**king.”

About “Salon Talks”

Hosted by Salon journalists, “Salon Talks” episodes offer a fresh take on the long-form interview format, and a much-needed break from the partisan political talking heads that have come to dominate the genre. “Salon Talks” is a destination for information through conversation. Viewers can expect discussions with A-list actors, artists, authors, thinkers, and newsmakers as we explore the full range of the human condition. The show streams live on Facebook and Twitter and each episode is published in full on Salon.com.

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