How to Get Ray Winstone's Self-Belief

(Image credit: unknown)

Ray Winstone has starred in dozens of films including Sexy BeastThe Departed and Scum. But before he made his name on screen he was more at home in the boxing ring with a record of 80 wins out of 88 amateur fights. Winstone tells MF how the lessons he learned in the ring shaped his life and career.
Boxing gave me self-belief
I was a good amateur club fighter. I boxed at the Repton Boxing Club in Bethnal Green, east London. Boxing gave me pride and made me feel I could take on anything. It’s important to have the sense of self-belief at a young age.
To me, boxers are the last of the gladiators: they are an honest bunch of people who will come together with the utmost respect for one another. That’s what has always stayed with me – respect, discipline and support. It’s important to surround yourself with the right people that will be behind you whatever you’re doing. It is those people that can make you better at what you do. I knew that I didn’t want to be a professional fighter, but I was still boxing when I enrolled in drama college.

Both my careers require discipline
I think the years of boxing and training stood me in good stead. Boxing helped me to deal with the physicality some of my roles have required. More than that it helped me mentally. I’ve brought that discipline and determination to acting. It also gave me confidence. Without that you’ll never set foot in the ring. And you need to believe in yourself to stand in front of a camera and crew and put in a performance that everyone believes in.
When I first had a little bit of success in Hollywood I had to get over the initial shock and nerves that come with suddenly playing in the big league. To succeed you have to overcome your fear, so I took some deep breaths and kept on going, just like I’d always done in the ring.
Take advantage of good fortune
I got into acting by accident. My first experience was a play at school and the only reason I got involved was because I girl I liked had already got a part. My parents were happy that I wanted to go to college because they saw it as a means of keeping me off the streets.
My first proper role was in a British drama called Scum in 1979. From there it sort of snowballed. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve worked bloody hard, but I’ve had my fair share of luck along the way. I guess life is about taking advantage of being in the right place at the right time. For me that meant being lucky enough to get a decent part then deliver a spot-on performance. That said, I never thought I’d get to where I am today. I’m just a kid from Plaistow. I’m a film actor, not a film star like Jude Law or Matt Damon. I’m a jobbing actor like thousands of others.

Focus on the things you can control
Hollywood is hard because so many young, hardworking, ambitious kids get their hearts broken when they miss out on a role. But you can’t let rejection get you down. Always crack on with the next project. Learn from the experience and keep moving forward. You need to realise that you never stop learning in this business and in life.
You should only ever worry about what you have direct control over. I’ve developed a mentality that means a film’s budget doesn’t put pressure on me. I don’t think about what being in a $150 million movie like Beowulf means – it’s the studio’s job to worry about that. My concern is the job at hand and doing the very best that I can. That mentality relaxes me, so I can focus on the work. The only way to do that is to put your foot in the pool, dive in and have a go.
And how badly can it really ever go in front of the camera? At least no one is trying to knock me out.

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