Method acting is an acting style, usually having a connection with movies, where the actor tries to deliver a performance extremely close to reality. It entails meticulously analyzing a character’s motivations, identifying with the character personally, and also resorting to “substitution” method, where the actor tries understanding the character’s emotions by applying his/her own personal experiences or memories to the role. In other words, method acting is an attempt to transform as the character, to deliver perfection in performance. Thanks to such passion and commitment to the role, a method actor is invariably among the bests in the business.

Preparation

Robert De Niro, for his award-winning performance in Raging Bull, amassed 60 pounds to look the part of a boxer out of his prime. Image credit: Flickr
Robert De Niro, for his award-winning performance in Raging Bull, increased his weight by 60 pounds to look the part of a boxer out of his prime. Image credit: Flickr

In the process of preparing for the role, a method actor may research the character’s past, and/or temporarily adopt a lifestyle that is synonymous with the character. This entails losing or gaining weight, using extensive make-up, insisting on realism such as getting hit or injured for real, learning new talents, and/or staying in character in reality for longer time periods. Physical transformation is considered synonymous with method acting, but that’s not true always. This form of acting majorly deals with a role’s psychological and not physiological nature. Some actors try putting on the characters exactly and there are a few other actors who present their own version of the character.

History

Method acting reportedly came into being during the 1930s. Lee Strasberg, actor and director, is considered the father of method acting. Lee, with his many colleagues, adapted teachings of Konstantin Stanislavsky (a Russian theatre director and actor) that entailed stirring real-life incidences and events and drawing those emotions for use during performance. This performance technique was called sense memory, with Strasberg developing multiple exercises for students, which were based on sense memory cultivation. Method acting gained popularity during the ‘40s and ‘50s, thanks to actors such as Marlon Brando. Thereafter, the acting style was adopted by several other actors, which included Paul Newman, Al Pacino, and the likes. 

Criticism

Heath Ledger's sudden death at the age of 28 years has been often linked to his mad portrayal of the Joker in the 2008 movie, The Dark Knight. Image credit: Flickr
Heath Ledger’s sudden death at the young age of 28 years has been often linked to his mad portrayal of the Joker in the 2008 movie, The Dark Knight. Image credit: Flickr

Method acting has been constantly under the fire for the excessive involvement an actor shows toward a movie character. These actors are the ones to have frequent confrontation with the filming crew, particularly over the character’s direction. Most of these actors stay in character even off cameras, which makes it difficult for the director to communicate with them, thus causing friction between the production crew and the actor. As far as the detriments for the actors are concerned, method acting can take a serious toll on their mental and physical self.

Polarising Opinions

Though method actors resort to the style to keep their performance as real as possible, those against the notion of method acting believe the acting style is an attempt by an actor to make the character look far more strenuous and tough than it actually is. Some of the world’s most renowned actors are method actors, and there are legendary actors who don’t employ method acting techniques into their performances. Ultimately, method acting isn’t the most superior style of acting; it’s simply an actor’s way of interpreting and performing a role.

According to us, at Explainz, the talent of an actor lies in his/her ability to portray a role on screen with perfection and being able to switch to normal life when off camera. If an actor turns into the character for real and lives the part for a definite time period when off sets or when at home or with family, then one ceases to be an actor technically.