Bernard Hiller©TailiSongRoth GETTY

Lindsay Lohan’s acting coach Bernard Hiller shares advice for making it in Hollywood

‘Acting is something that chooses you’

Acting is one of the hardest professions a person can decide to pursue. It’s full of rejection, and uncertainty, and you can never be guaranteed success. Still, millions of actors are training, auditioning, and dreaming. When an actor does succeed, they still have coaches, and they strive to get better. Like Lindsay Lohan, who just announced her pregnancy! The actress was recently in Ireland filming her second film for Netflix, ‘Irish Wish,’ and she had world-renowned acting and life coach Bernard Hiller by her side. Who was actually her first-ever acting coach.

Hiller has taught stars like Cameron Diaz, Jeff Goldblum, Emma Roberts, and Vanessa Hudgens and has the support of Hollywood legends like Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson. HOLA! USA had the opportunity to talk to Hiller, the author of The Revolutionary Guide to Acting, ahead of his International Masterclasses in Madrid, London, and Los Angeles. The Argentina born actor, author, and coach shared his advice for those trying to make it in Hollywood, giving us a glimpse into what his sought classes offer.

Bernard Hiller©TailiSongRoth

This interview has been edited for length and clarity
How to know if you’re meant to be an actor

I have been doing this for a very long time, and for people who are really for the acting profession, it’s something that chooses you. I believe that everyone is born with something that they need to do, which they actually know, it could be a million different things than acting. But the real actors don’t really have a choice, they have to do it. And if you don’t have a choice, you will succeed.

The first 3 things actors should do when they decide to move to LA 

I would say the first thing you need to do is you have to come to LA with enough money to have a nice life. Not struggling. Because then you can’t really do the things you need to do. Because it’s called show business. It’s not just called show up, it’s not called show off. It’s a business. So you need to come with enough funds. Then find a good class that has a lot of support. You need support. That’s why I loved doing my international Masterclass for the first time. We got 50 actors altogether, all supporting each other. Bringing in the biggest casting directors, giving them opportunities that I never had. It’s so exciting when people have that opportunity. It just makes me so happy. The second thing is that you need to find your tribe. You have to find your artistic family. And third, you need to find someone else to help you and help you figure out what it is that’s special about you. Why would someone want to hire you? Agents are willing to take you if they’re going to make money. Really discovering what it is that is so unique about you. And usually, you need help with that. You shouldn’t go out there too quickly because you never get a second chance to leave a first impression. I made that mistake in New York where I came way too soon to meet people.

How your acting reflects your living problems

I need you to have a full life. I need you to be happy, I need you to have relationships, and I need you to travel and see things. Because acting is a copy of life. So if you don’t have much of a life, you don’t have much of an actor. I meet a lot of great stars, and they’re traveling and meeting, and they’re curious about people and museums and going to ballets and operas. They just have a full life. So they have something to talk about, something to bring. I like to talk about the fact that acting is a living problem. If you have trouble communicating in life, you have a problem communicating on a scene because you’re copying life. So whatever you’re doing, usually it’s a living problem.

You’re like a doctor for the soul. You need to understand what life is really about. That’s what the classes are about. First, we’re going to make you discover who you are, and what is it that your life is about. Because to understand a character, first you need to understand yourself. You can’t understand a character more than you.

Learning the rules of show business 

95% of the people who come to LA are talented, but they’ve never learned the rules. When I first came to LA, I didn’t really understand how LA worked. I figured out the rules, and now I’m teaching other people, and then they become successful. I would say the number one rule that I didn’t know - I had it but I didn’t know- it’s all about energy. If you’ve got great energy people will want to talk to you. Once I understood that I was able to give them the energy. Then they give you one chance, one chance to work with them or coach them. And if you’re not great, you’re out forever, you only get one chance you never get a second chance.

Mistakes people make 

I would say that one of the biggest mistakes people make is they don’t have a mentor. They don’t have a coach. I would say the biggest problem is for people who don’t have a mentor who’s not guiding them, and you’re kind of doing it on your own. Einstein said something, which is a person that creates a problem can never solve the problem because they are the problem. I’m acting in two TV shows right now, and I like when someone else sees me and can say, ‘Oh, you need to do this.’ Because you can’t watch your own performance while you’re doing it, and you can’t see your own mistakes. DiCaprio and other actors that I know, all have a team. I know, some of the best agents in Hollywood, and they’re helping, guiding, you need help. And I would say that where I am today, if it wasn’t for all the helpers, and the people, I would never be here. It’s all the people that helped me, the generosity. It’s asking for help and having mentors around. Because you need help. Successful people always ask for help. Average people don’t.

Why great actors keep training even after success

The thing about Lindsay Lohan is that she’s a very great actress. What I tried to do is bring her acting to a higher level. It’s not like acting is acting. I mean, acting keeps changing. The audience wants something more. We demand more from actors, we want to see something deeper, something richer, and she wanted that she wanted to become even better. So she’s a great actress already. The people that I coach are great already, they just want to be this much better.


@lindsaylohan Bernard is always giving me inspirational gems! 🙏💗@Bernard Hiller @studio71official #TheLohdown #LindsayLohan♬ original sound - lindsaylohan

I use my example of Al Pacino, who sees his acting coach once a week, every week, for the last 30 years. Why? It’s because he just wants to get better. It’s all for himself. It’s not for you, all the great actors, they just want to be the best. And I do too, I really want to be the best. So if anyone can give me a piece of advice that I respect, I want to hear about it. It’s something that they want, the people who are coached or not people who don’t know. They just want to get better. And there are so many actors in Hollywood, they all have mentors, and they all have people on sets.

Wouldn’t you feel better? If you have somebody you connect with watching saying, ‘hey, try this, try that.’ And then you’re like, becoming a real artist. Artists are different than an actor. There are artists, and there are actors. Actors give you exactly the performance you expect. Nice, good, like a hamburger, no problem. And artists, there’s something that you could never expect and is iconic. You can’t think of anyone else in that role. And that’s what I’m teaching people. How can you give a performance that is so iconic, and so unforgettable that people never think another person could have played that role? Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro, those guys every time they play a role, you can’t think of anybody else playing it. But, they’re always thinking about how to be artists, and artists are different than actors.

A piece of advice for all actors

You have to dream bigger. You have to recognize that the only thing holding you back is you. And if you wanted to be an actor then you can act right now, you’re right here you don’t need to be on a stage you can do it anywhere. Al Pacino said he could do it right here, he’d get up. You have to fall in love with acting, not working. You have to fall in love with the acting profession of learning it and find the best coaches and teachers wherever they may be. And now you can find them online, take your career seriously. The truth is that the real actors already, take that advice. They take it seriously because they have no other choice. The other people who are sort of in the middle, then it’s not going to go because it’s gonna be tough. But you have to find the fun of enjoying it and being challenged, and you have to trust your instincts. Stop listening to your head, your head is the problem. Don’t think so much. Feel more, think less. But as I said, the real actors, they don’t need motivation. They just need transformation. I don’t want to motivate anyone. I want to transform them from a caterpillar to a butterfly.

Acting-wise, my advice is never to play the scene that’s written. Always play the scene that is not written. What’s really going on in the scene? Don’t play what’s there. If they’re arguing, it’s really about love, isn’t it?

Self-tape advice for actors 

I would say that the slate tells me everything about you. Because when you say your name, I already know how you feel about yourself, how you think about yourself. If you don’t feel that great, you’re obviously not that great, boom, next. The idea is that I want you to do something unusual. I want you to fall in love with yourself and your talent. If your slate is, ‘Hi, my name is 6743.’ If you say it with love, we actually don’t care what the name is, we care what person you are. We care about their soul, and being an actor is making your soul visible to the world. We’re judging people. I think that self-tape is actually great because it gives you an opportunity. I mean, I’ve coached people on self-tapes, and sometimes I watched their performance as the recording and say, ‘Try this, try that.’ Get someone to help you. You’ll never do the greatest performance on your own. I just don’t know anybody that does it. But if you could, that’s great, too. But I know I couldn’t.

The film every actor should see

A film that any serious actor or anyone must-see is “On The Waterfront” with Marlon Brando. That’s the most perfect film.

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