One of the recurring ideas in Elia Kazan's memoirs is that success requires passion and passion requires selfishness. Below are a few extracts:
When I hear the phrase "master class," I want to vomit. Today when I'm consulted by an eager newcomer about whom to "go to for help," I generally answer that I can't offer advice unless and until I know more about him — which I make damned sure I don't have time to do. … Yes, the experience of other actors and directors can be communicated and does help, but on the whole it's better for a young actor, driven by a strong desire, to stumble, fall, pick up, come on again, to find his way. (p. 142)
I remembered an old saying, "Anyone who cannot feel passionate love for women, flowers, or wine or for the work he is doing, anyone who is not in some way unreasonable and unbalanced, will never, never have any talent for literature. (p. 215)
I believe every artist is, as he has to be, arrogant. You may not go along with that; the word has unfortunate connotations. But whatever else an artist may be saying in his work, he is certainly saying "I'm important!"
Arrogance, when it's depicted on the screen or stage, is usually projected by boisterous behavior. Not so in life. The most arrogant people I've known — people whom I admire for this quality as well as for the work they do — are often quiet with the special ease that comes from being sure of themselves.
Artists are different from other people, and they do behave differently. I've already expressed my opinion that vanity — one of the seven deadly sins — is often a spur to creation in a filmmaker. Now consider the seven deadly virtues for the artist. Here are seven: Agreeable. Accommodating. Fair-minded. Well balanced. Obliging. Generous. Democratic. You don't agree with my choices? How about these: Controlled. Kind. Unprejudiced. Yielding. Unassertive. Faithful. Self-effacing. And for good measure: Cooperative. They are all deadly — for the artist. They add up to what is suggested by "nice guy," "sweet," "pleasant," "lovable," "on the side of the angels." None of which any artist is, should be, or ever has been. If he seems that way, he is concealing his true nature. He should better be a disrupter, on the side of the devil. (p. 299)
[Three qualities] necessary for a man working in the arts: vain, arrogant, and unyielding. (p. 301)
The great theatre works I'd heard tell about and read about were finally the product of a single artist, an individual who was his own man, a visionary with a special vision and a dominating ego. It has always been thus and always would be. I knew that very well now. I knew that dependence on, or collaboration with, even a man I respected as much as I did [Director] Harold [Clurman] was not good. (p. 322)
[Quoting John Steinbeck:]
Get mean. Get selfish. Be yourself. Find out who you are — it's the only creative source you have. Determine what you want and don't stand still for anything else. Find out what your place in the world is and claim it for your own and don't let anyone take it away. (p. 594)
[Composer Manos Hadjidakis] had the most overwhelming joy in working and in his work; it was easy for him, and once he started, he was like all the other geniuses I've known, a compulsive hard worker. He'd earned his success the hard way. The old saying that genius is ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration underestimates the importance of relentless effort. But work doesn't describe what these men do. There is a blacking out of everything else in their lives; it's all secondary — love, greed, pleasure, family. The work experience is what they want from life. They don't know how to "unwind," nor do they want to. (p. 658)
From Elia Kazan, A Life, [N.p.: Da Capo Press, 1997].