“This sounds like a weird thing to say, but I remember thinking Robert Redford wasn’t that great an actor, but that he’d had an unbelievable career because he knew how to use himself well. He has incredible taste, a literary development. Is he one of the greatest actors of his generation? No. But he’s certainly one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation. Butch Cassidy, The Sting, The Candidate, Downhill Racer, Ordinary People, The Natural, Out of Africa. He had a great ability to use whatever modicum of talent he had to its absolute uttermost.” — Boyhood‘s Ethan Hawke speaking to Indiewire’s Nigel M. Smith during a just-posted SXSW interview.

Isn’t this what all successful actors do? Or all successful people for that matter? It’s not how gifted or brainy you are as much as how you use what you have. The trick is to find your voice and your style, then work it within the range that you’ve been given or have been able to develop to its utmost, or the realm in which you feel the most planted and comfortable.

Obviously some actors have a greater range than others. Some are able to reach more ecstatic highs and hit deeper, sadder lows. But within his range and on his own turf (i.e., not playing Hamlet or Elmer Gantry or James Tyrone but Bill McKay, John Dortmunder, Johnny Hooker and especially “Our Man” in All Is Lost), Redford is one of the most brilliant and on-target screen actors of all time. Same thing for Steve McQueen, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, James Cagney, Walter Matthau, John Wayne…all great movie stars understood what their comfort zones and home turfs were basically about, and worked outward from there.’ But they never strayed too far from “home.”

“Uttermost”? I think Hawke meant “utmost.”