Miranda Harcourt – Acting Coach to the Stars
Miranda Harcourt – Acting Coach to the Stars
|StarNow:||What made you decide to become an acting coach? Val Bocking, London|
|Miranda:||I love teaching, I love directing and I love helping other actors to do their best work. Many of the productions I have directed have won best actor/actress nominations and awards. So when I decided to stop being the head of the acting department at the national drama school in New Zealand and return to working in the actual industry, I wanted to keep developing those skills helping other actors.|
My first job as an acting coach was with AnnaSophia Robb on "Bridge to Terabithia" (for that role AnnaSophia won Best Actress at the US Young Artist Awards this year, and was one of only 4 finalists for the prestigious Critics’ Choice Awards, along with Nikki Blonsky, Dakota Blue Richards and Saoirse Ronan).
I absolutely loved working as a crew-member rather than as an actress — working alongside the key creative team and seeing the performances blossom. So I started looking out for other work in the same realm. It is only 2 years later and I am about to start coaching on my fifth feature, working in NZ and internationally.
Now that I think about it I realise that I worked as a coach years ago – I coached Melanie Lynskey to win the role of Pauline Parker for Peter’ Jackson in "Heavenly Creatures". But it was not until "Bridge to Terabithia" that I decided to make this a career path.
I still work as an actress. In fact, as I write I am in 33 degree heat on the Pacific Island of Rarotonga playing a lead in the BBC/TVNZ TV series "Paradise Café". But as a mother of 3 young children I cannot work as an actress fulltime, it is too demanding on my family. So I am mixing it up between these two passions. Mind you, on my last coaching job I was away from home for 3 months working 14 hour days in another city. I guess there are no cushy jobs in the TV and film industries, you have to be able to work very hard.
|StarNow:||What has been the biggest highlight of your career? Ryan Bean, Tasmania|
|Miranda:||Hmm, in anyone’s life or career there should be lots of varied highlights but I will tell you about a couple. One was a show I did called "Verbatim" (devised by myself and William Brandt, written by William Brandt). This was a solo show based on interviews with dozens of violent offenders and their families around NZ. I played 6 characters and performed the play in all NZ’s prisons, in prisons in the U.K and in Australia and at festivals in the U.S, Hong Kong and the UK. I performed it hundreds of times and loved every single show. There is a really great doco about the NZ prisons’ tour called "Act of Murder" by Shirley Horrocks. You can order it on DVD off her website, it is worth a watch. (www.pointofview.co.nz)|
And I played one of 5 leads in a feature directed by my husband Stuart McKenzie called "For Good" That, too, is based on our research in prisons into violent crime. It was incredibly intense. I transformed physically for it and it was a very emotional role. It was very rewarding to do but it took a while to recover from. It was invited to festivals around the world. You can see a trailer for it at this website: www.mapfilms.co.nz
I have won awards for acting and I have played to audiences of hundreds of people. But performing solo in a prison kitchen to 8 inmates is pretty amazing. And then hearing years later that your work had a big impact on helping to get someone through their sentence or to change their way of thinking – that is a great feeling.
|StarNow:||Who have you found to be the most inspirational actor/actress you have worked with and why? Kim Reilly, Dunedin|
|Miranda:||Often it has been directors I have been inspired by rather than actors. The director has to hold a vision for the work and then find a pathway for each different actor to get to where he or she needs to be. My favourite directors are Colin McColl (on stage) and Stuart McKenzie (on screen). Maybe I am biased about Stuart as I am married to him, but he will never take my first offer. He has the balls to always challenge me to go deeper and to think more widely.|
I have worked on a set with Susan Sarandon, she is one of my all-time favourite actresses with a great range of work under her belt. Meryl Streep and Anna Deavere-Smith are others. These actresses are older than I am so they have always been inspirational to me. Amongst younger actors I admire are NZers Brooke Williams, Madeleine Sami, Gareth Reeves and Gareth Williams.
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