A method actor is consumed by their role; they meticulously research their character to gain incite into what it feels like to be them and why they make the decisions they do throughout the course of the play, series or film concerned.
Method Acting is an expansion of Russian theatre practitioner Konstantin Stanislavski’s ‘system’. Many have contributed to the Method, but three teachers with different focuses have come to be associated with its inception; Stella Adler (sociological aspects), Stanford Meisner (behavioural aspects) and Lee Strasberg (psychological aspects). Method Acting strives for sincerity in performances by actors who work to empathise with their characters’ emotions.
1. Marlon Brando
Many believe that screen acting can be divided as before and after Marlon Brando; the way he immersed himself in his roles was massively influential on his contemporaries and acting as a discipline going forward.
His Broadway debut in 1946 saw Brando playing a murderous psychopath in Truckline Cafe. For a scene in which his character had emerged from a cold lake he would run up and down behind the scenes before a stage hand threw a bucket of ice water on his head.
2. Robert De Niro
For Taxi Driver (1976) Robert DeNiro worked as a taxi driver pulling 12 hour shifts in New York and for Raging Bull (1980) he fought in three genuine boxing matches. He of course conducts thorough research prior to his performances but DeNiro is a great believer in following his instincts on the day. He has also been quoted as saying “it is important not to indicate. People don’t try to show their feelings, they try to hide them.” By this he means that a subtler performance with greater depth is sometimes the most effective.
3. Daniel Day-Lewis
When he moved to Greenwich from Kensington as a child Daniel Day-Lewis was teased by local children for being posh. He quickly began mimicking their accents and mannerisms as a means of fitting in; he credits as his first acting experience.
Day-Lewis is often referenced in conversations about Method Acting because of his extreme devotion to roles. For the 2006 film The Ballad of Jack and Rose he lived separate from his wife (his co-star and the film’s director) in order to experience the character’s sense of isolation. For My Left Foot (1989) in which he played a young man with cerebral palsy he insisted on the crew carrying him around the set and spoon feeding him his meals.
4. Al Pacino
Al Pacino’s name is synonymous with Method Acting; he has been the co-president (with Harvey Keitel and Ellen Burstyn) of the Actors Studio since 1994.
It is rumoured that during preparation for his role as an anti-corruption undercover cop in Serpico (1973) he attempted to perform a citizens arrest on a lorry driver with a broken exhaust. On the Scent of A Woman (1992) set in common with his blind character Pacino claimed to not be able to see. Once the film was completed he sent a note to co-star Chris O’Donnell which read “Although I didn’t see you, I know you were great.”
5. Angelina Jolie
Perhaps not an actor you would immediately associate with Method Acting, Angelina Jolie stayed in character for months keeping herself isolated from the outside world for her role in Gia (1998), a HBO biopic about the world’s first supermodel Gia Marie Carangi.
6. Christian Bale
Christian Bale is well known for conducting interviews surrounding film releases using the accent of the film’s character. He put his health at risk by consuming an apple and a can of tuna a day to slim down for his role in The Machinist (2005) before piling the pounds back on again and hitting the gym hard for Batman Begins (2005).
7. Jim Carey
Usually regarded as a plastic faced funnyman, Jim Carey took to Method Acting for his role as Andy Kaufman in Man On The Moon (2000). His friends and family were avoiding him as he spent his time off set in character.
8. Hilary Swank
For her roles as transgender man Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry (1999) Hilary Swank began pretending to be the character a whole month prior to her audition. When it came to the big day she arrived to the casting in character blowing the casting team away with her understanding of the Teena.
9. Forest Whitaker
In The Last King of Scotland (2006) Forest Whitaker played deposed Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. To prepare for the role he learned Swahili, ate nothing but bananas and beans and remained in character off-set.
10. Charlize Theron
For her career defining role as serial killer Aileen Wuornos, Charlize Theron gained 30 pounds, shaved her eyebrows and donned false teeth. Unrecognisble, she perfected Aileen’s facial expressions, accent and mannerisms.