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The Oscar Coach

Can Susan Batson teach you how to win an academy award? Acting coach to the stars (Tom, Nicole, Diddy) reveals her secrets in a new book.

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Nicole Kidman thanked Susan Batson when she won her Academy Award for The Hours; Tom Cruise did the same when he won a Golden Globe for Magnolia. She’s also taught Oscar winners Juliette Binoche, Jamie Foxx, and Jennifer Connelly. For those who can’t get into her acting school, Black Nexxus, she’s just published a how-to book, Truth: Personas, Needs, and Flaws in the Art of Building Actors and Creating Characters (Kidman wrote the forward). She spoke to William Georgiades.

What usually wins at the Oscars—great acting or big buzz?
There is so much schlock out there and so many claiming to do it who aren’t really actors. So it’s a pleasure when someone like Philip Seymour Hoffman wins. You hope that maybe he will inject the concept that the actor is creating a walking, talking human being. It is so abused, this art form. You do not see many people out there doing the work. For a while there, I had even given up. You know, even John Wayne won an Oscar for True Grit just by putting a patch over his eye, by making an effort to make a new character.

Whom are you rooting for?
Helen Mirren, Forest Whitaker, Eddie Murphy, and Judi Dench. They’re all doing the work, creating characters. With depth and dimension and everything. It’s an exciting period. I always wanted a resurgence of the seventies films with Al [Pacino] and [Robert] De Niro; there was a powerful resurgence at that point, and I feel that happening again right now.

Do you have any students among this year’s nominees?
I wish I had worked with Forest. I didn’t work with any of the Oscar nominees this year.

You trained P. Diddy for A Raisin in the Sun, after his inert performance in Monster’s Ball. Can you teach anyone to act?
If you know who I said “Don’t bother sending” to agents … Sean I could teach because the man has integrity, is very, very gifted, and is very smart. You have to have talent. Otherwise I really can’t work with you.

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