There are several qualities that make an actor great; their personality and likeability, their determination, their sociable nature and their dedication. One uncommon thing that makes an actor great is their means to embody the character they are portraying. There is a name for this style of acting; it is called method. Method acting allows actors to focus on techniques that can be used to develop their characters and deliver a life-like performance. However, method acting can sometimes come off as sketchy, weird behavior that an actor is portraying while trying to keep in character. A great example of this is Joaquin Phoenix; not only did he walk around for almost a year pretending to be an actor transitioning into a rapper; he also made accusations of changing his name, doing interviews where he did not want to talk about his acting career (only his music career), and he filmed a documentary that focused on all of this weird behavior, which then turned out to be a huge trick he was playing on his fans with the help of Casey Affleck. There have been extreme cases of method acting that have helped actors deliver award winning performances, like Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry, or Daniel Day-Lewis who continuously wins Oscars for his many portrayals of the characters that he becomes. Although hard at times, method acting can bring out the best in someone who wants to own their craft and be successful. Unfortunately, it can also bring out some dubious behavior, bad habits and piss off the people closest to them. Here are 12 incidents of method acting at its best.
12. Jim Carrey
This actor is normally not known for his methodic approach to acting; but when he was offered the role to play quirky actor Andy Kaufman for the biographical film Man on the Moon, Jim took it very seriously. He reportedly stayed in character 24 hours a day, similar to how Kaufman would never break character when his alter ego Tony Clifton, would come out. Jim told EW, “I was in character 24 hrs a day as either Andy Kaufman or Andy’s alter-ego Tony Clifton, luckily, all of it was captured on video.” There was reportedly over 200 hours of Jim in character to search through when it came time to edit the film.
11. Robert De Niro
Actor Robert De Niro took his role in Taxi Driver very seriously; how seriously you ask? Well, he actually became a licensed taxi driver. He would pick up fares and operate around New York City. Taking his job to heart, he continued his method acting technique for Raging Bull. He gained almost 60 pounds of muscle and learned how to box like his character Jake LaMotta. What does this translate to? That was actually Robert in the ring throwing punches like a real professional. He even managed to convince Martin Scorsese to direct the film because of how passionate he was about being Jake LaMotta, and also because of their previous working relationship and success of Taxi Driver.
10. Anne Hathaway
Many people assumed that when Anne Hathaway accepted the role of Fantine in Les Miserables, that it was a requirement for her to lose all that weight and cut her hair off; apparently, it was a choice. Anne told Vogue that it was her choice to be obsessive about the physical aspect of Fantine. “I had to be obsessive about it; the idea was to look near death. Looking back on the whole experience, and I don’t judge it in any way it was definitely a little nuts”. She went on to say that she had to have that break from reality to understand who Fantine was in order to play her.
9. Choi Min Sik
The name may not sound that familiar, hell the face may not even look familiar, but for any of those that have seen Old Boy (not the re-make) then you know exactly who this is. Choi Min Sik played a man who was held captive for several long, torturous, painful years; he is then let out into the “real world” where he must deal with some deranged and questionable situations. Choi had an interesting method when he prepared for this film; he allowed himself to be tortured; literally burned with live, hot wires all over his body and he willingly bit into a live octopus and consumed it on camera without flinching. He also lost and gained a lot of weight for the role; however, this was the least of his problems.
8. Hilary Swank
Actress Hilary Swank is not someone that one would normally associate with method acting; in fact, she has slightly fallen off the map after finding her footing again. When she eyed the role of Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry, she stayed in character starting from the audition. Hilary reportedly auditioned incognito as a young new actress from Nebraska; this is how she initially won over the casting directors. However, they eventually found out that it was her (obviously) and she then transformed into Brandon. She focused on being him every day and even lived as much like him as she could for a month, which means getting up everyday dressing like him, going out in public and trying to blend in seamlessly in society. Clearly this dedication paid off and she was rewarded with an Oscar.
7. Shia LaBeouf
Actor Shia LaBeouf more recently has become known for his crazy antics rather than his acting skills, but truth be told, he is quite an exceptional actor when he puts his mind to it. His style of acting (like everyone else on this list) is method; he wants to be as close to the character as possible. While filming The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, Shia dropped acid to understand the effect that it would have had on his character. He also admitted to having sex on screen while filming the controversial film Nymphomaniac. Some of this may sound crazy but if you look past his personal life, you can see that he is one of the small percentage of actors who value their on-screen personas.
6. Forest Whitaker
Forest Whitaker is kind of a hidden gem to most people; he is a very private person and when was the last time we heard something negative about him in the press? He is a great actor and works on his craft to the best of his ability. While preparing for his role as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, in the film The Last King of Scotland, Forest found himself in Uganda, living with Amin’s family. He would literally spend days and nights with them trying to figure out who their father, friend and brother was. He even went above and beyond to learn Swahili quite fluently, so everything in the film would be as authentic as possible. It paid off because the people of Uganda praised his portrayal as authentic.
5. Rooney Mara
Actress Rooney Mara looked virtually unrecognizable playing Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She did everything she could to embody the much loved character, including physically altering her body; she pierced her nipples, bleached her eyebrows, and cut and dyed her hair black. The actress told Vogue that she wanted so much to embody Lisbeth that even to this day, some of the character’s traits have stuck with her, like her style of dress. Rooney has signed on to play Lisbeth for the trilogy and it was announced recently that the second book The Girl Who Played With Fire, is currently in the works.
4. Joaquin Phoenix
When Joaquin Phoenix was tapped to play the late, great Johnny Cash, he went into full blown character mode. On set he would only respond to Cash’s real name JR; recently, Joaquin admitted to feeling a little bit embarrassed, as he looked back at his method acting techniques. He also admitted to becoming attached to physical objects when he is preparing for a role. During an interview with EW Joaquin said; “When I did Gladiator, I thought that I would carry a sword with me everywhere. When I did Ladder 49, I didn’t want to let go of my turnout gear, and I didn’t believe that I could go through life without smelling smoke.”
3. Heath Ledger
The late actor was said to have gone into “hiding” when he secured the role as The Joker in The Dark Knight. He reportedly locked himself in his apartment for a month and slept a mere two hours per night for a straight week because he was obsessively thinking about the role. Some of the crew stated their worry for him because he refused to communicate with others as himself. He embodied the role of The Joker and ended up giving a great performance. It is believed that this role lead to Heath’s death, as he quickly became addicted to prescription drugs during this time.
2. Leonardo DiCaprio
Leo DiCaprio is an intense actor, as he does not just act, he takes acting to an extreme. While working on the film Django Unchained, Leo was so into playing slave owner Calvin Candy, that he physically injured himself. Leo slammed his hand so hard on a table that he broke a glass and bled heavily; however, he kept acting and gave such a great performance that the scene made it into the final edit. Producer Stacey Sher stated; “Blood was dripping down his hand, he never broke character. He kept going. He was in such a zone. It was very intense. He required stitches.”
1. Daniel Day-Lewis
Arguably one of the best actors of our time, Daniel Day-Lewis is notorious for never breaking character. His normal routine is to do extensive research of the characters he plays, and that research includes living his day-to-day life as that character. He sat in a wheelchair everyday when he played Christy Brown, a boy with cerebral palsy in My Left Foot. Daniel did not stop there though, when he was cast in The Last of the Mohicans, he lived in the wild for six months, built his own canoe and trapped and skinned animals. It was reported that Daniel even texted as if he was Abraham Lincoln when he played the former President in the film Lincoln.