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Lady Gaga, be warned – method acting may bag you an Oscar, but where does it end? | Rebecca Root

There’s an outdated showbiz anecdote that sums up the variations between two distinct acting methods, which I’ll name merely “method” and “not method”.

In 1976, on the set of the spy thriller Marathon Man, Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman, the movie’s two stars, are apparently not getting alongside. Hoffman hasn’t slept for 72 hours to be able to convey verisimilitude to his portrayal of a person being interrogated below sleep deprivation. Seeing his colleague flip up ragged earlier than the cameras roll, Olivier drily remarks: “My expensive boy, why don’t you simply attempt acting?”

There was an ocean between these method and not-method actors. Olivier, steeped within the worlds of the theatre and Shakespeare and classical poise; and Hoffman, no much less a craftsman, but together with his coaching grounded in realism and the “method”, as propounded by his academics on the Actors Studio in New York.

Lady Gaga, whose new movie Home of Gucci opens within the UK subsequent week, seems to be from the Hoffman college. She not too long ago revealed that enjoying Patrizia Reggiani, the Italian socialite convicted of hiring a hitman to assassinate her ex-husband, Maurizio Gucci, was a strategy of “changing into” somewhat than an “imitation”. She advised Vogue that she stayed in character for 18 months, talking with an accent for 9 months of that. “Off digicam,” she mentioned. “I by no means broke. I stayed together with her.”

Jeremy Robust, too, has talked concerning the excessive toll that enjoying Kendall Roy has had on him in Succession. He says acting is “not simply an imaginary expertise” but “you undergo one thing and […] it prices you”. His co-star Brian Cox has said it is torturous to observe. “Generally you say: ‘Jeremy, for [expletive] sake. Cease it now.’”

The distinction between these two approaches – the Hoffman and the Olivier – lies in what goes right into a efficiency to make it plausible. Olivier would work from the skin in, utilizing exterior influences to simulate emotion (he as soon as supposedly mentioned, “I simply flip upstage and pull a nostril hair out” when requested the way to cry on stage). Method actors work from the within out in a relentless seek for the “fact” of the character, studying the whole lot they will about them and making an attempt to embody that info with each fibre. The observe of “staying in character”, throughout rehearsals, between takes and on and off set brings, they really feel, authenticity to the efficiency – but it can be excessive.

Movie and tv historical past is full of tales of actors taking the method to extremes: Sylvester Stallone ending up in intensive look after eight days after eager to be knocked unconscious by a co-star in Rocky IV. Nicolas Cage spending 5 complete weeks together with his face lined in bandages and having his enamel pulled out for Birdy. Daniel Day-Lewis – one of many fashionable masters of the method – catching pneumonia whereas strolling round New York with out a correct coat when getting ready for his function in Gangs of New York, or spending the complete filming interval for My Left Foot in a wheelchair, being fed by crew members. Halle Berry not showering for eight weeks whereas filming Jungle Fever. And Jamie Foxx having his eyelids glued shut to play blind musician Ray Charles.

Joaquin Phoenix, left, in the western The Sisters Brothers
Joaquin Phoenix, left, within the western The Sisters Brothers: ‘The second the cameras began rolling, he turned brooding, taciturn even, disappearing into the function of Charlie Sisters.’ {Photograph}: Shanna Besson/Annapurna/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

The closest I’ve witnessed such transformative behaviour was in working with Joaquin Phoenix on the 2018 western The Sisters Brothers. In pre-production, our relationship was cordial. The second the cameras began rolling, nonetheless, he turned brooding, taciturn even, disappearing into the function of Charlie Sisters – we spoke little aside from when performing scenes collectively (although he was a beneficiant and accommodating scene companion, no Hollywood diva). A 12 months later, after we had been on the Toronto worldwide movie competition to advertise the movie, Joaquin was already in prep for his function as Arthur Fleck in Joker, and his weight reduction and haphazard behaviour was disturbing – sitting in a crowded room with headphones on, solely answering questions in monosyllables.

Authenticity delights audiences. But where does it finish? If you’re enjoying Macbeth, should you commit regicide? If you’re performing Romeo do you must fall in love with the actor enjoying Juliet (and do you even must fancy her)? Nicely, no. But whereas all acting is a type of pretence, you ought to have a way of what that particular person might be like “in actual life”. For me, and most actors I do know, doing background analysis is an important a part of “discovering a personality”. We research the character’s schooling and social expertise, their likes, dislikes and locations they’ve lived. How they converse, and so forth. What we are able to’t uncover, we merely invent: the creativeness is as highly effective a muscle as biceps, glutes or abdominals for an actor.

But clearly the method works. For a lot of who adhere to it, glory on the Oscars appears inevitable; Joaquin’s efficiency in Joker received him an Academy Award. Possibly that’s why it stays probably the most esoteric and mysterious of acting methods: it produces such endlessly startling, award-winning outcomes, I’m tempted to attempt it myself.

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