In Pieces: Life Lessons from Sally Field

Everyone has a story to tell, but not everyone has the talent for it. Sally Field does. Not just that, but she peels off every layer of intimate feelings in doing so, and if with most autobiographies, regardless of how honest they are, you sense that some things remain hidden (and I completely agree with that), Sally Field seems to not hold anything back, and that’s one more reason to admire her and her book for. It’s a courageous act on her part, because she has not had a perfect life. I know, nobody does, but not everyone has the guts to lay it bare, from her lonely and challenging childhood and her on-going loneliness and struggles as a young actress and young mother (and being torn between the two), to the only thing and place that helped her finally find herself, the craft of acting, her lifeline.

I am a voracious reader of memoirs, exactly because, as I’ve said, there is something to learn from every single person. But Sally Field’s words (revelatory, haunting, candid) and life story truly make you dig deep into your own vulnerabilities, your own insecurities, your own mistakes, your own compromises, your own determination to finding your voice, and, most importantly, into your own fight to keep doing what you love and giving your all to do it well and be respected for it – because only that gives you the freedom to be yourself and the force to face your biggest fears and face everything life may throw your way.

“You can’t dance on the edge, whether emotionally or otherwise;
you had to drown in the character until it was without thought.
No longer acting. That to be excellent at anything,
it must cost you something.”

I have admired Sally’s acting for years, her naturalness, the way she fiercely yet effortlessly inhabits her roles, from Sybil, (1976), where Sally plays a woman with multiple personality disorder, to Norma Rae (1979) of which she confessed that it called on “skills I didn’t know I owned because I’d never had the opportunity to use them”, to the much-maligned, mentally challenged Mary Todd Lincoln in Lincoln (2012). And reading her book In Pieces made me aware that that does not come easy. I am not talking about talent, because every single person may have one talent or another but if you don’t work hard towards it, if you don’t foster it, all that talent is in vain. And there’s something else that another great actor I revere, Sissy Spacek, said in her own autobiography that fully applies to Sally as well – “To be an actor, you have to live a life. If you want your work to be real, you have to be a real person yourself.” One might have great achievements, but life comes in pieces, that’s what makes it real.

”There had been moments in my life when someone believed in me
enough to extend a hand: Madeline Sherwood, Lee Strasberg, and now
these three people. Joanne Woodward, Stewart Stern, and Jackie Babbin.”

Other stories from the world of film: Lubitsch Can’t Wait, so what are we waiting for? / For His Eyes Only: The Women of James Bond / Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words

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