The ‘Spring Breakers’ star returned to education in 2006 when he enrolled in UCLA in California as an English major and has subsequently studied and taught a number of other courses, and admits one of the reasons he went back to school was to branch out creatively.
He said: “One of the reasons that I went back to school — and then many schools — was that when I only had acting, I felt trapped.
“I think that’s how a lot of people feel in a lot of professions. “When I went to Yale for my Ph.D. in literature, I had fellow students — great students, writing incredible papers — come up to me and say, “I’m so jealous of you. I’m writing this paper. If I get it published, 50 people will read it.”
And the 37-year-old star – who admits to having “more than four” degrees – thinks studying, as well as his ventures into art and filmmaking, have made him a better actor because he understands what is required of him in front of the camera a lot more.
He explained to New York magazine: “Doing these other things was a release, and I think it made me a better actor.
“Because when I was only acting, I was trying to do all of these things as an actor. I was on my own mission. I was acting for myself — to do a great performance for me, not for the movie. But that’s not my job as an actor.
“My job as an actor is to help the director achieve his or her vision.
“As soon as I got to direct my own films or escape the film world and into these other realms, when I came back to the film world, I could be pure about it.
“I don’t think my performance in ‘Spring Breakers’ could’ve happened if I didn’t do all this other stuff. I couldn’t have lent myself to that if I didn’t have the release in these other areas.
“Because if I was only an actor, then all I have are my performances, and so I’m going to be so much more protective and defensive of my performances.
“But when I have my own movies, my own work that I get to control, then I can say, ‘Oh, you want me to go crazy in that room? You want me to have cornrows and gold teeth and look like a freak? All right. It’s your movie. I’m game.'”