The good actor will always be dedicated to the role he is going to play, he will try to learn about the background, mannerism and thinking style of the character. However, a great actor will do everything to get inside the character, to feel every emotion his character is supposed to experience and it doesn’t matter if by doing so, actor’s personal life is turned into a mess.
This style of acting in which actor embodies the character is known as method acting. Such style of acting allows actor to use various techniques that help them to develop the character and deliver a life-like performance. Some actors are well-known for going to extremes to get the character right.
And, sometimes in the search of this perfection, the actors have to deal with myriads of personal and psychological problems. The death of Heath Ledger is a perfect example of acting taking a heavy toll on actor. It is widely known that Ledger had gone so deep into Joker’s character that he couldn’t talk of anything else other than things related to Joker. And, it ended in his death from prescription drug abuse.
However, method acting doesn’t always has a sad and tragic end. The method acting has helped many actors discover their true potential, which in turn helped them win accolades and multiple awards. So, here are some of the finest method actors in the industry.
Though, Jim Carrey’s predominant acting style is slapstick comedy, but while shooting for Andy Kaufman’s biographical film ‘Man on the Moon,’ Carrey went to extreme lengths to ensure that he got the character of Kaufman and his alter-ego Tony Clifton absolutely right. And, right, he got it. For his brilliant acting in this 1999 hit movie, Carrey won a Golden Globe. Reportedly, Carrey used to stay in his character 24 hours and even when the camera had stopped rolling, he would still behave like Kaufman. His antics as the iconic and eccentric American entertainer, annoyed his coworkers, friends and girlfriend. Luckily, his antics and staying in character was caught on video. The 200 hours long video also has moments when Carrey scared tourists on Universal studio tours and played pranks on Danny DeVito.
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro is arguably one of the greatest exponents of the method acting. For his role of boxer Jake LaMotta in ‘Raging Bull,’ he went onto gain 60 lbs (27 kg) and learned how to box from the professionals to get it absolutely right. While preparing for his role as Max Cady in ‘Cape Fear,’ De Niro realized that his character’s appearance should reflect the fact that he had spent a long time in prison. You know what he did to show that? He paid a dentist roughly $20,000 to tweak the appearance of his teeth and make them look utterly disgusting. Then, to prepare for the role of Italian gangster in ‘The Godfather Part II,’ he lived in Sicily. Also, he became a real taxi driver for few weeks to get the mannerism of cabby right in his psychological thriller ‘Taxi Driver.’ His obsessive preparation for his characters has landed him two Academy Awards and one Golden Globe.
Anne Hathaway received widespread acclaim and accolades including the Golden Globe Award, the Screen Actors Guild Award, the BAFTA Award and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her brilliant portrayal of Fantine in Tom Hooper’s ‘Les Misérables.’ And, when you consider what she went through to get the character perfect, you realize all the praise, she got was deserved. In preparation for her role, Hathaway went on to lose 25 pounds. At one period of time, during the shooting of the movie, she used to eat just two thin squares of dried oatmeal paste per day. She felt that in order to be true to her character, she had to look near death, she had to reach an extreme state of deprivation, both physical and emotional. After completion of the shooting, it took her weeks to feel like herself.
Choi Min Sik
Choi Min Sik’s most well-known movie amongst the western audiences is ‘Old Boy,’ which has been also called Sik’s best movie in his glittering career. The movie on release became a cult hit for the dark and tortured theme. In the movie, Sik’s character was held captive for several long, torturous and painful years. The character kept track of the years by using a piece of hot wire to notch marks on his hot body. And, Sik to get this particular aspect absolutely right, performed the act on himself multiple times. Yes, you read it right, he actually burned his flesh to get the pain and anguish perfect. For another scene of the same movie, he ate several live Octopods because his character had to do so. Though, it might not seem to be a big deal for others, but for Sik it was. Due to the fact that he was a devout Buddhist, Sik had to pray and ask for forgiveness after every take.
Though, she has gone off the map for some time now, but there is no denying that Hilary Swank is one of the finest actresses of her generation. She has won two Academy Awards for Best Actress and has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In fact, her portrayal of Brandon Teena in the 1999 biographical independent film ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ is considered one of the finest acting performances. In the movie, she played the role of an anguished trans man who is beaten, raped and murdered by his male acquaintances after they discover he is transgender. To bag the role, Swank auditioned as a young new actress from Nebraska. Reportedly, she lived like Brandon for a month, which included dressing up like him every day, trying to blend seamlessly in the society and trying to think like him.
Despite, his wild antics and penchant for creating needless controversy, there is no denying that Shia LaBeouf is an exceptional actor. When he is in mood for serious work, he can deliver great performances and going by his interviews, it seems he is passionate about his art. He is reported to have dropped acid to understand the effect that it would have had on his character during shooting for ‘The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman.’ Recently, it was reported that to look like his character, World War II soldier Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan in American war movie ‘Fury,’ he cut himself. Apparently, he was not happy with the artificial cuts put on his face by the make-up artists. So, he kept opening cuts in this movie during the filming, so that he would look like a soldier who had endured war. Also, he hired a dentist to extract one of his teeth for the role.
Forest Whitaker belongs to the rare breed of actors, who are in the industry for their passion for the art and don’t care about other distracting aspects of the industry. Whitaker is one of the few in Hollywood who understands what private life means. And, the icing on the cake is that he is one fine actor. He is known to indulge in intensive character study work to get the character right. To prepare for the role of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, in the film ‘The Last King of Scotland,’ he went on to live with his family in Uganda. It is reported that he spent days and nights interacting with Idi’s family and friends to figure out every aspect of his personality. To make everything as authentic as possible, he learned Swahili quite fluently. And, for his masterful preparation and acting, he was awarded an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA.
Rooney Mara went to extreme length to ensure that she could perfectly play the role of Lisbeth Salander, the title character in David Fincher’s ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,’ which is based on Stieg Larsson’s Millennium book series. She underwent a grueling regime to physically prepare for the role. Yes, many actors have undergone physical training to prepare for the role. So, what’s the big deal? She actually got her nipples pierced to resemble the book character. Also, she bleached her eyebrows, her long brown hair were cut short and dyed black, in a style similar to that of 1970s punk and 1980s goth fashions and had each of her ears pierced four times. In her interviews, she has claimed that some of Lisbeth’s mannerism has struck with her, it has even influenced her dressing style.
Adrien Brody was awarded Academy Award for Best Actor for his masterful portrayal of Jewish pianist living in the ghetto during the second World War in Roman Polanski’s ‘The Pianist.’ Brody is the only actor under 30 to win an Academy Award. To prepare for his role of Holocaust victim Wladyslaw Szpilman and concert pianist, Brody took professional piano classes and used to practice it four hours a day in the run-up to shooting the film. He eventually learned to play passages by Frédéric Chopin. His eccentric preparation didn’t stop here, it was just the beginning. He sold his car and apartment, moved to Europe with just two bags and a keyboard and even stopped using phones. To look like his starving character, he dropped his weight to 130 pounds and intentionally starved himself so as to experience the emptiness that comes with going hungry.
Heath Ledger garnered a cult following with his stunning portrayal of Joker in ‘The Dark Knight.’ It is reported that Ledger went into hiding after securing the role. He locked himself in his apartment for a month in preparation for the iconic role. He was so obsessively thinking about his character that he was able to sleep just two hours per night for a straight week. He had become so obsessed with his character that some of the crew were worried about his health. But, they were unable to talk to him about it as Ledger used to ignore anyone talking to him. He refused to break the character during the shooting and would only communicate to those who wanted to talk to his character. It is generally believed that his role lead to Heath’s death as he got addicted to prescription drugs that were initially given to help him sleep and deal with psychological stress.
Christian Bale is another famous actor, who is known to take extreme steps to get into his character. He dropped frightening 63 pounds to play Trevor Reznik in ‘The Machinist.’ He then, went on to gain 100 pounds in space of a year to prepare for the role of Bruce Wayne / Batman in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins.’ Also, Bale, who calls acting dreaming in a wake state gained 42 pounds to play New York con man, Irving Rosenfeld in David O. Russell’s ‘American Hustle.’ He even shaved part of his head to replicate Rosenfeld’s baldness. Also, he herniated a disc in his back by adopting a slouched posture for his role, which dropped Bale’s real-life height by three inches.
Daniel Day-Lewis is arguably one of most talented and accomplished actors of his generation. Over the years, he has won three Academy Awards for Best Actor, four BAFTA Awards for Best Actor, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, three Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, and two Golden Globe Awards. And, his preparation for his roles practically defines the term method acting. While preparing for his role in ‘Last of the Mohicans,’ he lived in wild for six months, built his own canoe and hunted animals for his food. Also, while filming for ‘My Left Foot,’ Lewis who was portraying paralytic Christie Brown refused to leave his wheelchair even between the scenes, so that he could truly experience the shortcomings associated with the problem. He has received knighthood for his services to drama.