Orson Welles Quotes Collection

I may not agree with everything Orson Welles had to say but I’ve always found his views on the art of cinema to be akin to mine.

This is a collection of quotations I selected while reading the book This is Orson Welles” with Peter Bogdonovich & Orson Welles“.

I recommend it to anyone interested in his life and work. You may purchase it by clicking here.

“The only thing that keeps people alive in their old age is power.” (p. xvi)

“It is only in your twenties and in your seventies and eighties that you do the greatest work.” (p. xvi)

“Gentlemen went into art for its own sake not for money.” (p. xviii)

“I’m more like Celine – writing away at books no one ever reads.” (p. xxix)

“The French believe there are no works, only authors. I disagree, I believe there are only works.” (p. xxxi)

“I want to use the motion picture camera as an instrument of poetry.” (p. xxxviii)

“The famous difference between stage acting and acting for the camera? It’s all nonsense, you know. There’s just good acting and bad.” (p.14)

“The public’s pleasure and approval are incidental rewards.” (p. 14)

“You can actually judge acting better if you don’t understand the language.” (p. 16)

“You can hear a phony feeling before you can see it.” (p. 18)

“I have never really hated Hollywood except for its treatment of D. W. Griffith. No town, no industry, no profession, no art form owes so much to a single man.” (p. 21)

“I don’t fancy the idea of collaborating with prejudice.” (p. 43)

“The only way I could avoid being educated was to get myself some kind of job.” (p. 44)

“I began right at the top. I’ve been working my way down ever since.” (p. 45)

“I don’t watch my pictures once they have been completed, it makes me nervous not to be able to change anything.” (p. 48)

“Depth of focus: in life you see everything in focus at the same time so why not in movies.” (p. 60)

“Directors shouldn’t look at too many pictures.” (p. 88)

“Too much research can only cripple the fine spirit of invention.” (p. 134)

“I don’t know anything about art but I know what I like.” (p. 140)

“Writers should have the first and last word in moviemaking, the only better alternative being the writer-director, with stress on the first word.” (p. 142)

“Movie directing is a perfect refuge for the mediocre. But when a good director makes a bad film, the entire universe knows who’s responsible.” (p. 142)

“There simply isn’t such a thing as “movie acting.” There’s just acting – good, bad, adequate, and great. All this talk about the special technique required for playing to camera is sheer bollocks.” (p. 143)

“Who needs cool reviews? What does another cool review add to the sum of human knowledge?” (p. 144)

“Consistency is the refuge of small minds.” (p. 146)

“I don’t know any more fun than making a movie, and the most fun of all comes in the cutting room when the shooting is over.” (p. 149)

“I began a pattern of trying to finish pictures which has plagued me ever since.”

“I write myself quite a good deal of disposable prose.” (p. 184)

“In life I tend to forget the worst of the bad moments. But in your own movies the bad moments are unforgettable.” (p. 194)

“When you do a play, you make it for an audience; when you do a movie, you make it for yourself.” (p. 213)

“…victims of ambition are all in one way or another, weaklings.” (p. 217)

“Nothing depresses me more than rigidity in movies.” (p. 236)

“It’s impossible for a man to be great without admitting that there’s something greater than himslef, whether it’s the law, or God, or art…” (p. 241)

“An actor never plays anything but himself.” (p. 241)

“Psychoanalysis? About as valuable as – but considerably more expensive than – consulting your local astrologer.” (p. 242)

“I hate to be held down by what exists. I like to manufacture what I want.” (p. 248)

“Color is a great friend to the cameraman but it’s an enemy of the actor.” (p. 250)

“The true shape of a film is musical.” (p. 255)

“I make the damnedest, more elaborately detailed plans you ever saw, and then I throw them all away. The plans aren’t made in order to be realized, they’re made in order to prepare me for improvisation.” (p. 255)

“I think that people should be taught just about everything except movies.” (p. 257)

“A director should hold a mirror up to nature.” (p. 259)

“A movie is a reflection of the entire culture of the man who makes it – his education, human knowledge, his breadth of understanding – all this is what informs a picture.” (p. 259)

“The movie director must always remain a slightly ambiguous figure.” (p. 259)

“…all great directors and author-directors are actors.” (p. 263)

“The director hasn’t made a picture if it’s badly acted.” (p. 263)

“It never crossed my mind whether a picture’s entertaining or not. I didn’t intend it to be entertaining – I intended it to be an experience of some kind for the audience.” (p. 283)

“TV, after all, is a branch of the advertising business, and Hollywood behaves increasingly like an annex of Madison Avenue.” (p. 293)

“Drugs? I’m against the principle of it, but not the adventure and experience of it… I like involvement in society but I think people have a right to cop out if they want to – though I think it is basically copping out.” (p. 317)

(From “This is Orson Welles” with Peter Bogdonovich & Orson Welles 1997 Edition by Da Capo Press)