Saturday, 5 September 2015
There are so many acting techniques out there it can feel a little overwhelming sometimes - let me try and make things a little clearer for you easily and quickly...
Method Acting is often talked about in hushed terms as if people were in church. People talk as if actors physically and literally “become the character...." through some bizarre mystical process. What is odd is that Lee Strasberg
“What all actors have always done whenever they acted well.”
Method-acting is a method of acquiring truth in character. Used well it is total immersion in a role "Getting under the skin of someone else." Becoming so convincing that the "Willing suspension of disbelief" follows for the audience and they and the other actors are able to accept the performance "as if" it were truth itself.
Hollywood is full of stories about method actors who have gone too far, the truth is that method-acting is a vital acting technique that will bring life to your performance. Method-acting examines the psychology and history of character, and teaches the actor to harness his or her own past experience in order to play the part. Sensory exercises play a huge role in stimulating the actors’ imagination. It is vital to learn how to expand your imagination so it assists you, that way you continue to develop as an actor.
Most actors use elements of method-acting in order to create a convincing performance and it is one of the most widely used acting techniques. Creating a back-story for the life of your character up to the point where the play or film begins, enables the role to be based on a distillation of truth. Ask yourself compelling questions? Where was I born? How did I get on with my parents? Where did I learn my major lessons in life? How? What happened at college? Did I go to college...etc.....The purpose is to stimulate your actors mind to give focal points of history to deepen your knowledge of character.
Lee Strasberg, the founder of method-acting felt that the performance should be the climax of the character’s life and had to be seen in context with everything that had gone before.
This close association with the portrayal of a character can cause problems for an actor, especially when playing an evil role. Inhabiting the mind of a monster can have an effect on day-to-day life. Kate Winslet for example struggled for months to get back to normal after playing a concentration camp guard in the award winning film The Reader, and many actors report the same sort of experiences.
The reason for this is that the inner mind cannot tell the difference between a real and an imagined event. It is very important for actors to learn how to associate themselves into a role and dissociate themselves from it when they are not performing.
Some extreme method actors risk their health by going to great lengths to look like their characters, undergoing drastic eating regimes in order to fatten up or slim down for their role. Daniel Day Lewis famously stays in character all through a film and on the set of "Lincoln" asked director Steven Spielberg and others to address him as "Mr President"
The death of Heath Ledger has been attributed to his excessive use of method acting. Playing the Joker in the blockbuster Batman Returns, Ledger apparently remained in character over the months throughout filming and became obsessed by it. He could not snap out of the character he described as a “psychotic mass murdering clown”, perhaps this led to his depression and death through an accidental overdose of sleeping pills.
Personally I believe it is vital to understand the depths of a characters mind - but there are limits and you need to know your own boundaries, so do take care guys.
Method acting can be taken to excess but excellent actors use it all the time - all good acting requires a depiction of reality and this vital acting technique gives you insight into your role and leads towards a peak performance every time.
Learning to relax is a key ingredient to being able to stay out of the darker aspects of your character.
Nick Recommends - To my mind the most extraordinary book on acting I have ever read and still refer to is "Respect for acting" by Uta Hagen. In my opinion this is an absolute must read for any serious actor. You can check it out here. The exercises contained in here will make you a better actor. Guaranteed.