When it comes to acting, there are several different approaches. Some go to work, become their character for a day, and then go home. Others don’t even bother becoming a character, they just play versions of themselves in every role (yes, I’m looking at you Ricky Gervais). And then there are the Method Actors. For them, simply playing a role is not enough – they must absorb themselves in it and become that character. They adopt the accent day and night, they lose weight…anything to perfect that performance. Discover the madness behind the camera in our Top 10 Most Intense Method Actors.
10. Natalie Portman
Anyone who’s seen Natalie Portman’s movie “Black Swan” will not be surprised that the actress found it hard to shake the character off during filming. It’s a relentless film, full of tension and jagged music that puts your nerves on edge and Portman’s character is a psychotically stressed dancer in the world of classical ballet – one of the only careers that rivals Hollywood for ferocity and pressure. So, for the role she not only resumed her ballet dancing (she studied for 9 years as a child), she also lost 20 pounds and looked almost child-size in the film. The method paid off, as she gained a Best Actress Oscar for the role. Ever dedicated, Portman also shaved her head on camera for her role in “V for Vendetta”, even though it led to months of people staring at her in the street. Movie stars get that anyway, right?
9. Jim Carrey
Zany Jim Carrey, star of “The Mask” may not seem like the most obvious Method Actor. You’d imagine that, off-screen, he was an easy-going buffoon, like his “Dumb and Dumber” character. But give him a straight movie and he takes it very seriously. The movie in question was 1999’s “Man on the Moon”, a study of troubled comic Andy Kaufman, and Carrey admits that he never left the character. He says “I was in character 24 hrs a day as either Andy Kaufman or Andy’s alter-ego Tony Clifton” and behind the scenes footage testifies to that – not only did Carrey stay in Clifton’s sunglasses at all times, he also interacted with other cast members in character, using Clifton’s voice and aggressive manner. Intense indeed!
8. Christian Bale
Someone else who never comes out of character while shooting, Bale famously had a massive rant at a lighting tech on the set of “Terminator:Salvation”, talking all the time in an American accent instead of his native Welsh. But this was no isolated incident – Bale, who insists he is “not a Method Actor” loses and gains weight for every role, losing a massive 5 stone for 2004’s “The Machinist” before bulking up again for his Batman films, through the tried and tested method of ice cream and pizza. 2009’s “The Fighter” saw him losing that same 5 stone again, and he has since returned to a more normal weight. He also distanced himself from cast and crew during the filming of “American Psycho”, in order to keep a sense of mystique around his psychopathic character Patrick Bateman. And yet, he says he’s not a Method Actor. We beg to differ. But we’ve seen what a temper he has, so maybe we should just agree with him…
7. Dustin Hoffman
One of the legendary Method Actors of the 70s, a golden age for intense acting, Hoffman was famously rebuked by Laurence Olivier, a well-known critic of “The Method”. The story varies, but it always goes a little like this: In the mid-70s, Hoffman was filming “Marathon Man” with the veteran actor. The role called for the character to be severely sleep-deprived, having been up for three days continuously. As a Method Actor, Hoffman decided to take this on board and stayed up for three days in preparation. Arriving exhausted on set, Olivier is reputed to have said “Try acting, dear boy…it’s much easier”. Sadly, it seems this story is part-apocryphal – Hoffman’s partying was more to do with the break-up of his marriage and less to do with the role. But it’s still a great story!
6. Renée Zellweger
Like her former partner Jim Carrey, Zellweger is associated with the lighter side of the entertainment business. But that doesn’t mean she can’t still employ The Method. And she famously did so, in preparation for her role as iconic singleton Bridget Jones. When she was cast, Bridget fans were outraged, protesting about the American actress’ lack of both curves and Britishness. So, she worked on both, downing pints of Guinness to flesh out her slender frame, and receiving voice coaching to perfect her London accent. She even went undercover for three weeks, working at a London publishing house in order to really connect with her inner Bridget. When the film came out, even die-hard fans had to admit that Zellweger had nailed the character, and both that film and the sequel were hugely successful.