When the actor Timothy Olyphant appeared on Conan, he comically opined that his profession was one of the easiest outside of being a lifeguard at the Olympics. “They tell me what to say, they tell me what to wear, it’s a piece of cake.” He then continues the skit by commenting on how Jim Carrey stayed in character 24/7 for his role as Andy Kauffman, joking that he watched the documentary of it in character himself and “my character hated it—my character just thought it was narcissistic and pretentious.”
While the results of certain method acting performances over the years have been undoubtedly brilliant, it is a practice that often has laymen asking, ‘Can’t you just pretend?’ The answer seemingly comes from all the other brilliant performances that don’t utilise the practice: yes, yes you can just pretend.
While the flipside is that if you’re in the pursuit of some sort of artistic perfection then why not turn over every stone, the answer to that endeavour comes from Robert Pattinson who put his finger on exactly why method acting proves problematic. “I always say people who do method acting, you only ever see people do the method when they’re playing assholes,” the recent The Batman star opined.
Continuing: “You never see someone being lovely to everyone while they’re really deep in character.” As anyone who has ever worked in the film industry will tell you, there is an unerring ring of truth to that. Sometimes method acting might simply seem pretentious and mildly amusing, but there is a darker side to it too.
As it happens, this dark side also came to the fore in the same universe that Pattinson inhabits in The Batman. Viola Davis worked alongside Jared Leto stayed in character as The Joker during the filming of Suicide Squad and told Vanity Fair that it resulted in some troubling experiences. “He did some bad things, Jared Let did,” she said.
Continuing: “He gave some horrific gifts. He had a henchman who would come into the rehearsal room, and the henchman came in with a dead pig and plopped it on the table, and then he walked out. And that was our introduction into Jared Leto.” Then the actor made the nettlesome statement to Entertainment Weekly that “I’m an artist at the end of the day. If I do something risky and you don’t like it, basically, you can kiss my ass.”
In short, as Pattinson opines, putting the effort in is one thing, but all too often ‘method’ has become a shorthand for an inane excuse for ignorant behaviour.