“Study, find all the good teachers and study with them, get involved in acting to act, not to be famous or for the money. Do plays. It’s not worth it of you are just in it for the money. You have to love it.” -Philip Seymour Hoffman
Movie stars are some of the most famous people on the planet. A couple hit movies make the biggest stars a household name, and suddenly the tabloids meet the demands of the people to know every detail about the lives of these famous actors.
However, it is important to note that the majority of actors have stayed in the entertainment business for the love of acting.
While successful actors draw in multi-million-pound salaries, the sheer pleasure that is experienced when performers dive into a character and tell their story makes all the inconveniences of being famous worth the effort.
The best actors are not those who demand ludicrous paychecks to star in blockbuster hits. Instead, they are the ones who have studied different acting techniques and honed their craft to become a revelation on all mediums; big screen, small screen or stage.
Since there are many different types of acting techniques, thespians can choose which one best suits them. Nonetheless, due to the abundance of information required to grasp a single practice, we will only consider one in our article today, and that is method acting.
Superprof is delighted to share with curious ones the origin or method acting, the characteristics of method acting, the drawbacks of method acting, where to study method acting and, last but not least, who are famous method actors working today. So, without further ado, let’s analyse the deep, dark and twisted details of method acting!
Strasberg was impressed by Stanislavski’s use of the nuances of human nature to create realistic performances. (Source: pixabay)
“In method acting, you can’t have preconceived ideas. You have to live in the moment. You have to keep yourself open.” -Dennis Hopper
Method acting is one of the most known acting techniques but also one of the most controversial. Nevertheless, even though many people would argue that the effectiveness of method acting is debatable, an opinion cannot be formed without attaining a further understanding of its context, history and nature.
The origins of method acting are mainly credited to Polish-born actor, and director Lee Strasberg who’s vision has shaped generations of actors. He co-founded the Group Theatre and was the first artistic director of the Actors Studio in New York City.
Notable actors who studied with Strasberg or attended the Actors Studio include Oscar winners Marlon Brandon, Jane Fonda, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino.
Strasberg’s life changed when Konstantin Stanislavski’s Moscow Art Theatre toured the United States in the 1920s. The display of authentic acting and the nuances of human nature that brought characters to life were something very different for Strasberg and fascinated him since the majority of acting in the United States at the time was superficial and over the top.
The classical acting methods of the System, pioneered by Stanislavski, was investigated by curious actors such as Strasberg who was convinced that the System would revolutionise the acting world and cause actors to become more connected with the character they were portraying.
Lee Strasberg became obsessed and began studying more about the System acting techniques with acting teachers who were previously trained by Konstantin Stanislavski. Through his constant study of the System, Strasberg developed his techniques that became known as the Method.
The primary distinction between Strasberg’s Method and Stanislavski’s System is that Stanislavski encourages the raw reliving of experienced emotional events onstage to create emotion whereas Strasberg promotes training to consistently replicate the stimuli that could induce a similar rush of feeling.
Nevertheless, without complicating the definition of Strasberg’s Method any further, it can be understood as an internal and psychological technique where the actor trains himself vigorously to behave realistically under hypothetical situations.
Every type of acting technique has its characteristics, and the same is accurate with the Method. After becoming familiar with the elements of method acting, viewers can quickly identify the actors who use this technique on the big screen.
The following are the fundamental elements of Method acting that were primarily executed by Lee Strasberg:
All thespians do not necessarily appreciate method acting. Nonetheless, it is highly recommended for actors who are having trouble connecting to their character’s actions and emotional past.
The technique inspires all performers to think in a more detailed way, and it is an essential right of passage for younger actors to help them understand the ongoing mystery of performance.
Method actors are known as being some of the most difficult people to work with on movie sets and stage plays. (Source: pixabay)
Let’s start by saying that since we live in an imperfect world, no perfect acting technique leaves all the others in their dust. There are pitfalls to all of the acting methods. Hence, it is important to have a balanced view as a performer, take many classes and adopt specific characteristics of all techniques.
With that being said, while the elements of the Method contribute to a layered, transformative and awe-inspiring performance, it does have its drawbacks:
Even though there are certain pitfalls to the Method, it is a highly recommended tool for actors who wish to pursue a television or film career due to the intimacy that a camera’s lens can effectively pick up.
Since the Method is a world-renowned acting technique, it can be learnt by aspiring actors in schools across the United Kingdom and all around the world.
Strasberg’s influence has left a lasting impacting at the following institutes located in the UK:
If you are a budding British thespian looking to make it big internationally, here are a couple of acclaimed acting schools outside the UK that teach the Method and boast an impressive list of past alumni:
The previously mentioned institutions are just a few of the recommended places in the United Kingdom and internationally to study method acting.
Charlize Theron’s performance in the film Monster is a spectacular example of method acting. (Source: Visual Hunt)
Since Lee Strasberg has developed the Method, it has been studied everywhere, and there have been plenty of performers who have applied the critical elements of method acting to immerse themselves into a role completely.
One of the best modern day examples of an actor using the Method is Daniel Day-Lewis. He completely disappears into his roles, and the results often end in Oscar gold. He is a three-time recipient of the Academy Award for Best Actor, more than anyone else. Day-Lewis’ commitment to his roles in The Last of the Mohicans, There Will Be Blood, My Left Foot and Lincoln have paid off.
Nevertheless, Day-Lewis is not the only successful method actor. Other talented performers executing method acting include Christian Bale, Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Sean Penn, Hilary Swank and Forest Whitaker.
We will now examine some of the best method acting performances of all time:
The previously mentioned examples show us that the gruelling efforts actors go through to apply method acting are entirely worth it.
Method acting is a robust commitment for actors but viewers at home, in the cinema or the theatre greatly favour the performances of method actors than other performers who regularly play different versions of themselves. You heard me, George Clooney, Tom Cruise and Nicolas Cage!
While the Method is highly praised by a majority of thespians, there are many other effective acting techniques such as classical acting and its devices, Stanislavski’s System that has influenced most of the modern-day acting methods, the practices implemented by theatre practitioner Sanford Meisner, Brechtian acting methods, and, last but not least, the practical aesthetics technique implemented by famous actors such as Rose Byrne and William H. Macy.