How One Movie Star Manages Stage Fright

Actor standing at a podium on stage

Movie star Ethan Hawke co-stars with  Johnny Simmons and Paul Giamatti in an upcoming movie called “The Phenom,” about a young baseball player, a thoughtful mentor and a troubled father. In discussing the movie, Hawke admitted to suffering at times in his career from near-dibhlitating stage fright. To push his way through it, Hawke says he turned to a concert pianist Seymour Bernstein for advice.  In an interview in the Huffington Post, Hawke says the big thing he learned from Bernstein was stage fright taught him to prepare more.

“If you can say, this anxiety, I’m up all night and I’m going to work on my lines and I’ll be better prepared, or, I’m going to take that voice class and I’ll study this extra thing and I’m going to be prepared because then I’ve taken responsibility for myself. And if it doesn’t go well, that’s up to fate. I’m not in charge of the size of my gift, and I’m not in charge of my talent. I’m in charge of my effort. And then you can relax.”


There’s a few powerful take-aways for anyone who suffers from stage fright:

  • Use it as a prompt to do more homework, more practice, more preparation.
  • Agree with yourself that once you’ve done everything you can to get ready, you have to let go of everything you can’t control.
  • Each time you get through a situation of stage fright becomes proof that you can get through it.

Hawke touches on something of vital importance on the topic of stage fright: Some times it comes from us trying to control what we can’t control. And you don’t have to be a movie star to reap the benefits of Hawke’s experience:

  • You can’t control the audience.
  • You can’t control how much talent we have.
  • You can’t control anything that happened in the past.

You have total  can control how much effort you put into preparation and practice—whether you’re preparing for a presentation, a speech, a media interview, or even a job interview. And the more you do that combined with letting go of the things you can’t control, the more you can learn to use stage fright as a healthy reminder to get ready—even if you aren’t preparing for the role of a movie star. Then it’s a matter of ready, set, let go.

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