For those that somehow don’t know, method acting is where an actor or actress takes on the role of their performance fully. They live, breathe and sleep in this character. To fully attach themselves to a part if can be very useful. But it’s difficult to never break character when trying to be a method actor. So can it really be a viable source of acting? Surely it has some limitations and dangers alongside the positives it can bring. That’s what this article is all about, is method acting really worth it?
What is method acting
Method acting is the idea that an actor should personify the emotions of the role they are in. For a true method actor, they literally need to be the character they play. Honestly, the majority of the time it definitely adds to the performance of the actor, there’s no question about that. Hell there are even films that will go out of their way to mock the acting style itself. Anyone remember Tropic Thunder (2009) and Robert Downey Jr’s character? Yeah, that was a mockery of method acting.
But when it comes down to it, method acting can add a lot to a movie. However on the other hand it can also take away from other parts of the movie, or have personal impacts to the actor. That’s really what this article will be focusing on, the pros and cons of method acting is what I want to look at. My opinion? Method acting is great. If it helps an actor get into a role and gives them the ability to proceed with a better performance then I have no problem with it.
However, as we will be discussing later in this article, I don’t agree with taking method acting so far as to cause harm to yourself and others. You already know who I’m going to be talking about so I may as well just jump in to the role that has carried some prestige with method acting.
The Dark Knight’s Joker
Remember Heath Ledger? The man was very talented, not just for his role in The Dark Knight (2008) but also in 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). Still, long story short Ledger ended up passing away just before the films release. Why? Because his method acting had taken him too far, it took him beyond what anyone expected. If you have the chance I’d recommend I Am Heath Ledger (2017), it seems like a very good documentary. It also goes into the details of just how rigorous his method acting was.
Compare this methodical, albeit tragic approach of method acting with the man who took over as The Joker, Jared Leto. Not going to lie, I’m really not a big Jared Leto fan. When I look at the films I’ve seen him in, there’s nothing he could have added to the films he was in. These include Fight Club (1999) and of course, Suicide Squad (2016). Now Jared Leto’s cock up of The Joker deserves an article in of itself, so now is not the time or place to discuss it. However, his approach to method acting is very different.
That’s not a problem, of course it’s not. What I’m trying to present is that different actors can approach the same role in different ways. Whereas Heath Ledger locked himself in a hotel room for six weeks, Jared Leto sent a dead pig to the cast. Whatever helps an actor get into the role I suppose, but like I said, it’s dangerous.
Method acting can be a danger
Look, from the example of Heath Ledger given above you can probably already tell that method acting is fairly dangerous. Not always though, obviously The Joker was a very difficult role and he played it perfectly. Method acting as a whole isn’t dangerous, it can be if things begin to go wrong. So really it’s not the concept that is dangerous but merely how an actor will approach the role.
Take Michael Caine for example, it would surprise many to think that he is a method actor for some roles. Obviously his more recent work such as Going in Style (2017) is much more relaxed, but still. His earlier works seem to suggest at least a hint of method acting. Apparently Michael Caine can make himself cry on command, that’s nothing to do with method acting it’s just impressive.
So as long as an actor doesn’t take it too far then they’re all good, right? Well, it’s an odd criticism but what happens exactly when they’re too good. Again Heath Ledger for example, he stole the show in The Dark Knight. When someone says The Dark Knight to you, you’d think of The Joker straight away. He embodies the film because of his acting ability, not many other films can do that. What’s interesting to me is that such a high budget and thrilling film can be summed up in two words. It has a high prestige to it.
In my opinion, there’s no problem with method acting. I think if it adds to a film in any way, shape or form then the actor should be pushed to go for it. However as I’ve mentioned throughout there are very real dangers to this practice and it’s sad to see the impact.
A lot of lacking performances could have been made so much better with method acting. None really pop to mind, but you know exactly what I mean. A performance that just doesn’t click because the actor behind the facade isn’t fully committed. Method acting shows a commitment.
There’s a lot more to talk about in regard to method acting that I’d absolutely love to write about. But to answer my question, should we condone method acting? Yes, absolutely we should. We should not only condone method acting but we should be cautious. Method acting can add a whole new level to a film but the impacts it can have on the person are astronomical. Just something to keep in mind, isn’t it?