Longtime bicoastal acting coach David Legrant — whose generations of students included Tobey Maguire, Steve Martin, Danny Glover, Bernadette Peters, Alyson Hannigan and Sarah Gilbert, to name just a few – has died in Los Angeles. He was 87. According to news reports about him, Legrant had a knack for distilling his years’ worth of knowledge into memorable phrases like, ”If you’re going to paint a picture, are you going to paint it with your own eye or someone’s else’s?” that encouraged actors to take charge of their scene and their craft. Maguire, who was 18 when he met Legrant, often said the teacher helped him both as an actor and as a person. Born in 1923 in Los Angeles, Legrant came into contact with showbiz because his father was a carpenter in the film industry. A flight engineer in World War II, Legrant used the G.I. Bill to study acting. He performed on a local television show and appeared in small movie roles, but he opted to move to New York in the late 1940s to pursue stage work. He studied at the Actor’s Studio with Lee Strasberg during a golden age of the institute and was in the same class with Marilyn Monroe. Legrant taught in New York until 1978, when he moved back to Los Angeles. He emphasized the need for naturalness and believability and relaxation. He also repeatedly instructed his students: ”Never copy anyone. There is only one of you in the world. The best thing you have to offer is your originality. If they already have a Robert De Niro or Meryl Streep, why would they need another one?”
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