The movie icon donned cap and gown to deliver the commencement speech at Madison Square Garden and he wasn't holding back as he told the audience made up of students and their families what to expect, post-college.

He said, "You discovered a talent, developed an ambition and recognised your passion. When you feel that, you can't fight it; you just go with it. When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense. You aren't just following dreams, you're reaching for your destiny... You're an artist, yeah, you're f**ked. The good news is that's not a bad place to start.

"Now that you've made your choice - or, rather, succumbed to it - your path is clear. Not easy, but clear. You have to keep working, it's that simple. You got through Tisch, that's a big deal.

"A new door is opening for you - a door to a lifetime of rejection. It's inevitable."

He then joked, "How do you cope? I hear that Valium and Vicodin work... But you don't want to block the pain too much. Without the pain, what would we talk about?

"Rejection might sting, but my feeling is that often, it has very little to do with you. When you're auditioning or pitching, the director or producer or investor may have someone different in mind, that's just how it is.

"That happened recently when I was auditioning for the role of Martin Luther King in Selma, which was too bad because I could've played the hell out of that part; I felt it was written for me! But the director had something different in mind, and she was right. It seems the director is always right."