"Punch me as hard as you can in the chest." Next thing I know, I was in intensive care at St. Johnís Hospital for four days. Itís stupid!Method Acting: (noun): An acting technique in which actors try to replicate the real-life emotional conditions under which the character operates, in an effort to create a life-like, realistic performance. Enforced Method Acting: (noun): An acting technique in which actors give a life-like, realistic performance because no one warned them what was going to happen. Enforced Method Acting is a cinematic concept in which the actors and actresses of a work give reactions that are unplanned and unscripted. This can occur for several reasons:
- The director is trying to make a performance more realistic — the primary form of this trope. The applications of this range from not telling your actor that their love interest is returning to not warning them when the chainsaw-wielding maniac bursts through the door.
- Another actor does or says something that causes the actors he's working with to react in an unplanned way — usually by trying not to burst out laughing. The directors decide to Throw It In.
- Real Life Writes the Plot and an unforeseen accident results in a scene that is appropriate to the plot.
Examples from Real Life:
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- In the third Rebuild of Evangelion movie, Shinji has no lines after Kaworu's Heroic Sacrifice. This was not the case in the original script, but after the crew finished recording the death scene, Megumi Ogata became so upset that she couldn't finish her lines. The writers hastily rewrote the ending so that Shinji spends the remainder of the movie in a Heroic B.S.O.D. state.
- Fullmetal Alchemist 2003:
- Vic Mignogna was not informed of what lay on the other side of the Gate prior to dubbing the scene in which Edward Elric passes through it. The surprise in Edward's voice upon seeing zeppelins, therefore, is quite real. Vic wasn't given any more of the script than his own lines in chunks (which were recorded in chronological order) for the last three episodes. Now that's what you call enforced.
- In a (somewhat) more lighthearted example, according to the commentary on episode 19, they really threw (or pretended to throw) a teacup at Aaron Dismuke's face in order to get his reaction (as Edward throws a teacup and it hits Al in the show). Not sure how much they were kidding, but when asked, Aaron said it bothered him, but it was also "really inspirational, though."
- During the dubbing of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Kira's voice actor Matt Hill actually asked the vocal director to kick him in the crotch to make his crying sound authentic. Fans more than appreciate his dedication, especially since it worked (and was head and shoulders above Soichiro Hoshi's "dying horse" crying).
- Code Geass: Yukana was never told her character (C.C.) was gonna die in the first episode. In fact, nobody knew how long their character was going to last throughout the first season, so much of their death cries were probably real (don't fire me!).
- The casting of the actors for the lead roles of Lelouch and Suzaku was a deliberate case of Playing Against Type with Jun Fukuyama, an actor known for playing more straightforward heroes like Touga Tenkuji and Takahiro Sakurai, known for playing Anti Heroes like Cloud Strife, respectively. Director/co-creator Goro Taniguchi has said that he did this so that both characters would sound strained due to the actors being used to the opposite type of roles in order to show that both characters were trying to be something they're not. He also had a hand in the English version casting Johnny Yong Bosch, best known for being a former Power Ranger and Yuri Lowenthal, best known for playing Sasuke Uchiha, for the same reasons.
- Writer Gen Urobuchi and director Akiyuki Shinbo went right for the jugular with their cast in Magical Girl Deconstruction Puella Magi Madoka Magica, not telling them beforehand how harsh things would get. It was especially hard for Emiri Katou, who ended up playing the alleged main villain.
- Caitlin Glass once told a story about her experience dubbing the Girl of the Week for a Lupin III movie. She couldn't act properly angry in one scene, so right before she was supposed to speak, the director called her fat to anger her.
- According to Gundam Sousei, Toru Furuya was having trouble with the iconic "You hit me! You hit me twice! Even my father never hit me!" line. So Yoshiyuki Tomino hit him. Twice. It's unclear if anything of the sort actually happened, but we are talking about a man who got the nickname "Kill 'em All" while making cartoons for a toy company.
- The original Japanese voice recording of Setsuko in Grave of the Fireflies was heavily enforced since the voice actor, Ayano Shiraishi, was only five years old during the recording.note This meant that they had to record her lines before animating the scenes and since they were unused with this they tried to avoid angles where her mouth could be seen to avoid Mouth Flaps.
- Jordan Nagai, the kid who voiced Russell in Up, was "tricked" by the voice director many times in order to get him away from sounding too much like he was acting and give a more genuine response. For example, he was told to run around before giving lines or forced to memorize his lines on the spot. Likewise, in the scene where Russel, giggling, is being tossed playfully in the air by Kevin, the voice director tickled him. This is actually a pretty common practice (the same technique was used for the French actress who played the young Marjane in Persepolis).
- When Jonathon Taylor Thomas voiced Young Simba for The Lion King, they tapped his back for the scene where Simba is yelling while sliding down the back of an elephant's skeleton.
- For Marge's message to Homer in The Simpsons Movie, Julie Kavner was put through around 100 takes to get the exhausted-sounding delivery they wanted.
- During the recording session for The Iron Giant, Brad Bird shook Eli Marienthal (the voice of Hogarth) with his permission, to get his voice shaky during the scene where he rides in the makeshift car in the scrap yard.
- He also had him actually eating Twinkies during the scene where he eats them while watching the movie when he's home alone.
- A behind-the-scenes featurette for Kung Fu Panda 3 shows Jack Black (Po) and Angelina Jolie (Tigress) recording together with panda and tiger ear headbands, respectively.
- Bob Dylan is notorious for only giving musicians the barest minimum of instructions (chord changes, tempo) before recording a song, leaving it up to them to work out their individual parts as they go along. Most famously, Al Kooper came up with the "Like a Rolling Stone" organ riff despite not only having never played the song before, but also never even having been an organist (Kooper was mainly a guitarist and pianist, but those slots were already filled. Kooper asked if he could play organ, Dylan said "sure, why not?").
- Martin Birch, who produced Iron Maiden's most famous records, asked (then new) singer Bruce Dickinson to do take after take after take for "The Number of the Beast". Bruce was obviously frustrated and annoyed, and that's when Mr Birch told him something like 'now it's time to record the scream', which he of course delivered in a very unhuman way, which Bruce was never able to replicate.
- Weezer's video "Undone - The Sweater Song" was a one-take shot 20 times. The one that was used was between the 15th and 20th, when the band was tired and simply not caring anymore (things such as a dog defecating on a drum pedal helped).
- According to urban legend, George Clinton instructed guitarist Eddie Hazel to "play like your momma died" when recording "Maggot Brain". Unfortunately, this oft-told story is apocryphal.
- When Miles Davis was recording his groundbreaking fusion album 'Bitches Brew', the session musicians did not know what they were supposed to play beyond tempo and chord changes. You can hear Miles giving instructions during quiet moments.
- Bruce Springsteen wanted his folk album ''We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions" to have an informal sound, so he didn't rehearse with the Sessions band before they started recording. Springsteen can be heard several times on the album giving spontaneous instructions about what instrument he wants to hear.
"In those days, Bruce had a particular way of teaching the band a new song. He wouldn't play it for them from the beginning to the end; he would teach them the different parts of the song, and not necessarily in the order that they appeared. So, he might start off by saying, 'Well, there's this part,' and play them a little bit of the chorus, showing them the chord changes. After that, he might say, 'Then there's this part,' and play them the bridge, and follow this with 'And then there's this part,' and play them a verse. While the guys would be making notes, he might say, 'Then there's this part, which is like an intro‑instrumental thing,' and if there was any other part, such as a solo, he'd teach them that, too. Then he'd ask, 'Everybody got that?' and if they did, he'd say, 'OK, we're going to start with the second part I showed you and then go to part number four. We'll play that twice, and then we'll go to part number one before going back to part number four, then on to part number three, back to part number four, back to part number one, then part number three again, then part number four, and then number one, number one and we'll ride out on one...' They'd be like, 'Huh?' and he'd go, 'All right, you want to run through it?' while the guys were scrambling to understand exactly how the song should be laid out.Ē
- According to Neil Dorfsman, his producer during the Born In The U.S.A. sessions, this article, Bruce would give vague, disjointed, often confusing instructions to each member of the E Street Band on how his songs were to be played in order to allow for more spontaneity and freshness to the performances.
- Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band's "Trout Mask Replica" was intended to sound uncomfortable and on the brink of falling apart. That's because the band really was uncomfortable and on the brink of falling apart; they had rehearsed the songs on the album for nine months, and were recording most of them in one single, manic five-hour marathon session with almost no retakes or overdubs. Antennae Jimmy Semens' performance of Pena sounds hysterical, and he probably was at the time. In a similar manner The Blimp, which is recited in a similar voice, over the phone to Frank Zappa.
- On their album Pooping Like Dogs, The Pennock Bridge Collective had a handful of experimental tracks where they deliberately made sure no one in the band knew how a song was going to turn out: Mainly, they'd have members pull instruments and track numbers out of a hat, then have each member write and record a part based only on whatever had been recorded before they got their turn. The most extreme case of this was "The CCH Pounder Blues", where everyone was instructed to improvise wildly for exactly 30 seconds without being able to hear what anyone else was playing.
- As mentioned under Film, the call to the operator in Pink Floyd's The Wall is genuine. The character Pink phones his wife, knowing she's with another man, and the other line keeps disconnecting. The operator's confused reaction ("There's a man answering...") is real. They had to do the call several times before they found one who realized what the situation was. During some tour performances (notably the 1990 Berlin performance), Roger Waters called a real operator and had them dial a stage hand who pretended to be Ms. Floyd's new lover.
- British hardcore/electronic/everything band Enter Shikari often layer in random bits of talking, which is the band members loitering outside the recording studio, drunk, heckling the member who is singing. For the "Ello Tyrannosaurus" lyric just before the breakdown in 'Hello Tyrannosaurus, Meet Tyrannicide', the producer had Rou run to the back of the room and shout the lyric in order to get the correct sense of distance and shouting in a large space.
- During Red House Painters' entire album of Rollercoaster is this in spades. It may very well be the largest case of Enforced Method Acting in music history:
- Some of the record engineers were ordered by 4AD manager, Ivo Watts to make recording as stressful as possible to put Kozelek under a lot of pressure in order to get a more genuine performance out of him. So that strained, stressed sound present on it that you don't hear anywhere else? Not faked even in the slightest!
- "Things Mean A Lot" had an unexpected piano riff added in that caught Kozelek by surprise. The song, being about Kozelek finally getting over an old muse of his, always seems to bring a tear to Kozelek's eyes because of this.
- "Katy Song" was originally supposed to be shorter for the album version, but when the band parts were recorded first, they were told to drag out the second section extra long. Kozelek was not told of this, so when his guitar and vocal parts were recorded he got confused and frustrated when the song was going to end. So that effect of how the guitars and vocals sound progressively more and more exhausted is actually Kozelek trying to keep the song going and getting frustrated.
- "Strawberry Hill" has the chorus sung by a group of strangers picked up from the street outside of a Los Angeles recording studio. When Mark was doing his final take for the vocal line, the crowd started singing in the background with Mark. He was not expecting this and the frail sound of his voice is actually him trying to hold back tears. The song had a lot of personal meaning to him, since it was about his troubled suicidal and depressed past.
- "Brown Eyes" was supposed to be a closing track featuring just Mark Kozelek on guitar. As things progressed, however, he was caught by surprise when the rest of the band came in and started playing with him, re-enforcing the theme of "Strawberry Hill" even more.
- The Lou Reed song "The Kids" ends with children screaming and crying. Producer Bob Ezrin allegedly told his children that their mother left and is never coming back, and he recorded their reaction.
- J-pop group Perfume's music video for "I Still Love U" is a one-shot film that features a minute of the three grimacing, supposedly in emotional pain, toward the end. However, in actuality, they are being given a painful foot massage during the shot, and their occasional laughter gives it away.
- In Prince's music video "Kiss", the face Wendy Melvoin makes when the singer literally gets in her face is genuine. She was simply expecting to play the guitar on a stool while Prince danced around her.
- In the video for YeahYeahYeahs's "Maps", the tears Karen O cries are real. She had written the song for her boyfriend at the time, and he was supposed to come to the set. To make matters worse, it was the last day she'd be able to see him before leaving to go on tour. By the time he arrived (three hours late), she'd gotten quite upset.
- While recording the song "Living for the City", Stevie Wonder's recording partners deliberately interfered with and criticized his performance, in order to get a raw sound out of him. In the end, Wonder's voice was so angry and hoarse that he got the result they were looking for.
- During the 2008 WWE Draft, none of the draftees were told that they'd be switching shows until just seconds before the announcement was made. Most notably seen with the announcer switch between Smackdown! and RAW... the looks of confusion and anger on Michael Cole and Jim Ross' faces as they switched chairs following the announcement of the change were completely real, and Jim Ross actually considered retiring the day after it happened.
- Speaking of Jim Ross, he intentionally did not read the set notes for the shows he was announcing in order to make his on-air calls more realistic. His pleas for trying to get someone to stop the famous Mankind vs. Undertaker Hell in a Cell match is one of the many legitimate results of this practice (moreso because some of the damage Mick Foley took in the match was unintentional and damn near killed him.)
- Also draft-related - in order to properly keep up the air of shock (as well as downplay spoilers) in the 2005 draft's opening pick, John Cena apparently arrived at the arena very late and stayed in his car until it was time for him to come out at the start of the show. Only Cena and the people he had a segment and a match with that night - Chris Jericho, Christian, and Tyson Tomko - were informed of it in advance.
- Rumor has it that the ring crew for June 7, 2010's RAW were only told that Wade Barrett would come down to the ring to interrupt John Cena vs. CM Punk... not that he'd then get the other "rookies" from the recently-concluded NXT show to jump and beat down John Cena, then attack Matt Striker, Jerry Lawler (prompting Michael Cole to promptly flee), the ring announcer Justin Roberts and ringside crew, and literally wreck the ringside and even tear at the ring itself.
- Then there's WCW which, per its usual, managed to screw this up. They had backstage segments aplenty, but at one point decided that to increase spontaneity the announce team was not allowed to see and were not told about. This naturally led to plenty of segments that occurred for no apparent reason and led to nothing and the commentators looking like a bunch of morons. Most notably, a fan dressed as Sting jumped a barricade and ran into a match and the commentators, so used to not being told about changes to shows, assumed it was the real Sting.
- WCW once had a whole PPV based on this, WCW Starrcade 91. This show introduced "The Lethal Lottery," a Dusty Rhodes creation. The idea was that the show would be made up of tag team matches where the participants (partners AND opponents) would be drawn at random, with the winners going on to compete in the two-ring "Battlebowl" battle royal at the end of the night. This resulted in some very odd combinations. In one match, Sting, the company's #1 Face, was paired up with legendary monster heel Abdullah the Butcher, and Sting had been feuding with Abby and Cactus Jack up to that point. The opening match had Jimmy Garvin of the Fabulous Freebirds and rookie Marcus Alexander Bagwell vs. Michael Hayes of the Fabulous Freebirds and Tracy Smothers. WCW would revisit the "Lethal Lottery" concept on three more PPVs, Starrcade 92, Battlebowl in November 1993, and Slamboree 1996, though they'd rig the drawings for those later shows.
- No one knew Eric Bischoff was coming the night he joined WWE. Similar to the John Cena example, he kept hidden in a limo. Supposedly Booker T, one of the few to spot Bischoff, summed it up by saying, "Tell me I didn't just see that".
- Even Hall and Nash weren't told who the third man was at the Bash at the Beach. The two struggle to not look confused as Hogan goes Hollywood.
- On a 2009 episode of Raw, Triple H is in the ring (in DX without Shawn Michaels) and decides to phone HBK. His music starts... and then his voice comes out from the other end of the phone... singing a voicemail message to the tune of his own theme music. Hunter apparently had no idea that this was Shawn's message and he promptly proceeded to completely lose it.
- The Rock's return in 2011 was hidden even from the scripts of that episode which all told that Justin Bieber would be the host. (The Rock briefly alludes to this in his monologue.) Speaking of The Rock, his feud with John Cena was strained because the two men actually did not get along (at the time) but both knew the fans wanted to see them in a match.
- Unfortunate example: Sting's obvious anger as he crushes Jeff Hardy at TNA Victory Road 2011? Real anger - Jeff was so strung out on drugs that Eric Bischoff had to come down and tell Sting to get it over with fast. Jeff can be seen trying to escape Sting's winning pinfall, and as Sting walks out, he answers a fan's "THAT WAS BULLSHIT!" with a loud (and on-camera) "I AGREE!"
- In an interview on WWE.com following the one-night return of Jake "The Snake" Roberts, he declared that as far as he knew, only Vince, Triple H, a woman in charge of the transportation and a talent executive were aware of his return and presence at the venue, which would make the reactions of the commentators and The Shield this trope.
- Although pro-wrestling is mostly planned out and rehearsed, there is still quite a lot that can go on unexpectedly.
- The Undertaker's loss at Wrestlemania XXX to Brock Lesnar was only known by the 'Taker, Brock, Triple H, Vince and Stephanie McMahon, decided mere hours before the match went on. Everyone's reaction, even Brock's manager Paul Heyman's reaction, is all out genuine shock.
- In Paranoia, combat is intended to be portrayed as fast, confused, and entertainingly deadly, rather than tactically optimal - so the GM is encouraged to give the players only a few seconds to decide what their characters are doing each round.
- The rulebook contains an example of play that runs something like this:
GM: Suddenly some hairy guys jump up from behind the gray things and shake sticks at you. Fred, what do you do?Fred: Wait, what?GM: Right. John, how about you?
- Extending this beyond combat, some games even suggest in the guidebook that in order to keep the players on their toes, the GM should make rolls for no reason at all, and occasionally pass private notes to players saying things like "just smile and nod".
- Then that player knows what's actually going on. A note saying "Make a perception roll, but don't tell the others" makes everyone paranoid.
- The rulebook contains an example of play that runs something like this:
- In the original production of The Phantom of the Opera, at one point the Phantom is underground, having kidnapped Christine. He loads her into the boat. On stage, the boat needs to be pushed out to the front, as though he was pushing it into the water. Not knowing that the boat was so heavy, it took a lot out of the Phantom and he was severely out of breath. The rendering of the next song, "slowly, gently, in anticipation" is so affected that the director decides to keep it like that.
- In fact, during Shakespeare's time, it seemed perfectly common to be cruel to the actors like that, not telling them when they were going to be slapped, etc. Then there is one scene where a character tries to get a word in but can't manage to interrupt someone. Since the actors weren't given the full script, only their own lines and the key lines before them so they would know when it was their turn, the previous actor would say a phrase similar to the key line three times, each time causing a false alarm, making the actor after him think it's his turn to speak, only to be cut off by the first character's continued talking. This very convincingly created the illusion of the second character trying in vain to get a word in.
- A bit of unintentional Enforced Method Acting appears on the original Broadway soundtrack of Gypsy. In the song "Some People," the actor who plays Rose's father has a small line — "You're not gettin' eighty-eighty cents out of me, Rose." Unfortunately, on the day of recording, the actor failed to show up to do the line, so Stephen Sondheim himself ended up recording it — and he was so pissed off at the actor for not being there that the anger came across as genuine, prompting a similarly angry response from Ethel Merman.
- Supposedly, when creating the soundtrack for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln for the 1964 World's Fair and then Disneyland, Walt Disney kept having voice actor Royal Dano redo the entire speech, complaining about small things that made it "not quite right," until Dano was absolutely exhausted, and could barely make it to the end, at which point Disney said it was perfect, that it was what a weary Lincoln would have sounded like. He may have had a point, as the speech still induces shivers half a century later.
- During the scene where Big Boss meets Granin in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Hideo Kojima had Granin's motion actor drink real whiskey to the point where he was absolutely smashed and kept forgetting his lines.
- He also deliberately switched the casting of Big Boss's two motion actors — the man who played him during talking scenes was a motion actor who specialized in acrobatics, and the man who played him during action scenes was a motion actor who specialized in talking scenes. This resulted in a lot of serendipitous responses, particularly during the love scenes with EVA - for instance, when EVA leans in to kiss him in the mountaintop bolthole, his motion actor, unused to doing love scenes, froze up and pulled back nervously. It was very in character for Snake, so it was kept and Kojima later said it was one of his favourite touches.
- For the recording sessions of Spec Ops: The Line, the actors playing Walker, Adams and Lugo recorded all their lines together in one room, in hopes that a realistic character dynamic would develop between them. They also recorded all their lines in chronological sequence in long, tiring sessions, such that by the end of the recording sessions they were tired, angry and eager to go home — just like the characters themselves.
- In the film Surviving Evidence, Kayla Bashe note who played Taylor, was actually "terrified of zombies." Her freaking out every time a zombie appeared? Not entirely an act. Additionally, the dialogue in the scene where Taylor and Erica put on a play was improvised to highlight the play's Stylistic Suck.
- When The Cinema Snob and Allison Pregler teamed up to review The Asylum's Sherlock Holmes Mockbuster, Brad was supposed to punch her for suggesting they review another film together. He actually hit her, and her reaction is genuine. It was clear from the outtake video that it was an accident, though.
- For that matter, there are instances of this in a Let's Play, especially a blind Let's Play where they're legitimately surprised at a plot point or are startled by a Jump Scare.
- Discussed in a Cracked article: 12 Classic Movie Moments Made Possible by Abuse and Murder
- And again in 5 Amazing Performances From Actors Who Weren't Acting.
- In the Happy Tree Friends episode "Shard at Work", Warren Graff (who voices Handy the beaver) choked himself with water while recording a scene where Handy gets a fish bowl stuck on his head.
- When The Nostalgia Critic is getting beaten in The Wicker Man review, according to Doug he really was getting groin attacked with minimal protection. You can tell by the way his legs twitch any time he gets a hit.
- In his 150th episode, Bennett the Sage received a beatdown by a number of other internet personalities with wiffle bats, concluding with Woolie cracking a pool cue on him to knock him to the floor. The pool cue was breakable, but it broke in a completely different area, meaning Bennett really did have a pool cue broken on his back. He shows off the bruise in the outtakes with Marc joking that they were filming an assault.
- Nathan Ruegger, the voice of Skippy Squirrel in Animaniacs, would often be tickled by his father while he was recording to make his laughter sound more genuine.
- The earliest Peanuts specials were done this way — since Charles Schulz and Bill Melendez insisted on real child voice actors, some of whom couldn't yet read, dialogue was fed to the kids line-by-line or sometimes word-by-word, and the lines we hear are often spliced together from the kids reciting the words or lines back. Arguably the best example is Sally's confused speech ("All I want is what I...have coming to me! All I want is my fair share!") in A Charlie Brown Christmas. This unique "sound" quickly became such an expected element of the specials that it continued to be followed, even when mixing software and better techniques could have smoothed things over a bit.
Anime and Manga
- Skip Beat!: Kyoko does this when she gets into her character for Dark Moon. Everyone's shock is real because they didn't know how Kyoko would present her character. It was so unexpected and shocking that Director Ogata falls to his knees.
- The first chapter of Gundam Sousei (a Dramatization of the production of Mobile Suit Gundam) does this with the infamous 'Bright Slap' scene by having Yoshiyuki Tomino punch Toru Furuya in the face after several unimpressive line reads.
- Another chapter shows Shuichi Ikeda going for drinks with cast members after each day of recording finished, except Toru Furuya, who he was distant towards, to reflect the uncomfortable relationship between Char and Amuro. Once the final episode wrapped up, Ikeda invited Furuya out for drinks, which began a friendship reflected in Char and Amuro's interactions in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. This worked largely because of the Japanese concept of "social drinking", which is an extremely important side of work interaction. Ikeda inviting everyone but Furuya would be considered as one of the most rude things he could do to a fellow co-worker.
- In Bleach episode 298, Ichigo is filming a movie directed by Abarai Renji, with special effects provided by Kuchiki Byakuya. Said special effects include Byakuya attacking Ichigo with his Bankai. Ouch.
Ichigo: Why am I the only one whose getting beat up?! The explosions are too powerful, the attacks are precise, and I get shoved down from crazy places without warning!Renji: You did some great acting in every one of those scenes.Ichigo: I wasn't acting!
- Ten Little Gall Force is a Super-Deformed OVA that reimagines the cast of Gall Force as actors making a movie. At one stage, they're shooting the scene where Catty fries herself acting as the conductor for a broken power cable. Catty asks the director if he's sure the wire's not live, and the director shrugs, so she grabs the wire... and then the director activates it, electrocuting her for real. He seems thrilled with the "reality" of the scene.
- In Sket Dance, Momoka and the Sket Dan decide to host a puppet show with a story based on Momoka's actual experiences. By the end of the show, Momoka ends up crying, somewhat appropriately, during the part when her character was crying as well.
- The fictional director in Bolt ran Bolt's life this way. The words "method acting" are even mentioned by the exec who came to evaluate the show.
Director: And if the dog believes it... the audience will believe it.
- In Superman Returns, Lex Luthor cuts the brakes on his assistant's car so that her screams for help will be authentic. When she confronts him later, he explains that if she hadn't really been terrified, Superman would be able to tell.
- Tropic Thunder uses this trope in the plot, which involves a director filming a movie about The Vietnam War dropping his five actors into the Golden Triangle of Asia while riddling the jungle with hidden cameras as advised by Shell-Shocked Veteran Four-Leaf Tayback.
- The Truman Show takes this concept, and runs it into the ground.
- In Epic Movie, while trying to escape a prison cell, Captain Swallows stabs Edward in the abdomen to ensure his pain is realistic enough to get the guards in.
- Just the basic concept of Bowfinger is an extreme version of this, where the main lead, Kit Ramsey, doesn't even know he's in a movie, and all his scenes are filmed in secret because the titular film director couldn't afford to actually hire him.
- In Show People, assistance slice onions in front of would-be dramatic actress Peggy Pepper when she can't cry on command.
- Sherlock Holmes: Holmes does this to Watson several times, each time with the explanation that he needed Watson to behave as though something was absolutely true when it wasn't.
- In the "Dying Detective" Holmes appears to be dying of poison. Of course, it turns out that he's perfectly fine and was only acting so that Watson's reactions to it (and subsequent conversation with the suspect who had tried to poison him) would be genuine enough to convince said suspect.
- A far crueler example is when Holmes fakes his own death for three years, leaving Watson alone even though his wife has died. Upon Holmes's return, Watson is quick to reprimand him for this. Holmes states that it was essential the world believed him dead, and Watson's behavior wouldn't be convincing enough if it was an act. The cruelty is mitigated by the fact that Holmes was lying low to protect both his life and Watson's, and explaining that the death of Watson's wife was the reason he ended his isolation.
- The desperate haphazard plan Fisk comes up with in the first book of the Knight and Rogue Series, to drug the Mad Scientist Ceciel they're escaping from and pretend that he and she are going out to perform some sacrifice or another with Michael, nearly falls apart when a guard sees Ceciel's rather vacant face and bad actor Michael's fairly unconcerned expression. There's nothing to be done about the drugged look, so Fisk gets Michael to panic by beginning to talk about how they're sacrificing his 'fertility'.
- In The Hunger Games, this happens repeatedly with Katniss. She can't act, and so is never warned about Peeta's interview strategies so her reactions will be genuine. By the third book, this has escalated to dropping her into a war zone in order to film propaganda because the studio shoots never work. At first they just stick to a hospital with real victims, but no one was expecting bombers to turn up. And when they do, they try to keep her out of the fighting, but she goes in anyway and they keep the camera rolling.
- In Barbara Hambly's Search the Seven Hills, a troupe of girls playing nymphs is entertaining a Roman banquet when a troupe of actors as satyrs burst out on them. Marcus notes that either the girls were consummate actresses, or they had not expected to be actually molested by the satyrs.
- In-universe example: In The Wizard of Sunset Strip, a special-effects adept conjures a real demon onto the set during the filming of a Human Sacrifice scene. The actress playing the "victim" freaks out for real, but the crew assume it's an illusion and keep on filming, only realizing she's genuinely terrified when she faints.
- Reserved For The Cat: When Jonathan and Ninette are practicing a new illusion for Jonathan's act, he doesn't bother to tell Ninette that the flames she's about to see (while she's locked in a box) are magically-created fake flames. He then learns that you don't want to get kicked by a ballerina.
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever features the shepherds in the titular Christmas pageant, who tremble in very realistic terror when the angel appears... because they're afraid of the kid playing the angel.
Live Action Television
- The "Conspiracy Theories" episode of Community: Jeff, Annie, the Dean, a police officer, and the theater professor all shooting each other with fake guns in order to prove a point. Each time, someone thinks that the gun is real and freaks out.
- In Malcolm in the Middle, Reese breaks a leg when he sneaked out in the minibike Lois had under lock. They try to make it look like Craig ran over his leg with the car. When Reese's screams don't sound very believable, Dewey proceeds to punch him in the bump that is his broken bone.
- The opening-night production of Macbeth in Slings and Arrows includes an In-Universe version; Slings and Arrows is a story about a theater company, and director Geoffrey Tennant is not above manipulating his performers to get results. In order to get the performance he wants out of his recalcitrant Macbeth, Geoffrey changes all the blocking at the last minute, inserts a small tree at a strategic location, and gives secret instructions to Macbeth's opponents in fight scenes.
- In Breakout Kings, Ray forces this upon Lloyd when he enacts a plan that involves letting their captive crook swipe his keys and his (unloaded) gun so that she'll take them straight to her partner as hostages. Needless to say, Lloyd is less than thrilled.
- Inverted in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "School Hard", where Angel brings Xander with him and pretends to have captured food in order to get close to Spike. Xander, not liking or trusting Angel, is somewhere between believing it and not. Apparently, though, it was Angel's performance that was suspect, as Spike pulls away at the last moment to cheap shot Angel. Afterwards, Xander asks what would have happened if Spike had bitten Xander.
Angel: Then we would have known he bought it.
- In an episode of Stargate Atlantis, the heroes need a telepathic enemy army to believe that they've been beaten...so they create a failed rescue attempt to feed false information to a captive Jack O'Neill and Woolsey, then allow them to be interrogated. Jack's been around long enough to know something's up, but Woolsey believes he's going to die and predictably freaks out, fooling the enemy completely.
- On My Name Is Earl, Liberty pays her next-door neighbor to be the Heel in her wrestling matches. Joy stuffs the neighbor into the trunk of her car, puts on the costume, and proceeds to try and sabotage Liberty's performance. (It ended up making her performance better, as well as helping both women air their grievances towards one another.)
- In An Adventure in Space and Time, William Hartnell is thinking about his grief over the departing producer, Verity Lambert, while performing a scene in which his character leaves his granddaughter stranded on a post-apocalyptic Earth in the year 2150, and his acting is notably better than the usual Stylistic Suck it has been shown as. This is Rule of Drama - in real life, Verity Lambert stayed on the production for almost a year after the scene was made.
- In Star Trek: Voyager, Tom Paris plays the part of a malcontent to smoke out a traitor among the crew. On Tuvok's recommendation, Chakotay is not informed of the deception in order to make his reactions more believable.
- On Friends, Joey suffers a hernia while working out. Unfortunately, he's been without an acting role in a while and has no health insurance, so he tries to get an emergency role. He gets one as a dying father on a medical show who tells his son to take care of his mother. The child actor playing his son fails to elicit the right amount of emotion for the scene, so Chandler pulls back the blanket over Joey and shows the kid Joey's hernia. This upsets the boy enough for a thoroughly realistic performance.
- In Sense8, Lito is filming a shoot-'em-up scene while tuned in to Will, who is doing a firearms training drill, which really dials up the intensity for Lito.
- The Avatar in Fire Emblem Awakening hears about how Walhart will kill Basilio after he and Flavia attack the conquerer. Knowing that the Fire Emblem might be stolen by the Grimleal (namely Validar), s/he and Basilio devise a plan for Basilio to fake death to the Conqueror, and not actually tell Flavia, so her cries when catching up with Chrom are legit. Later on, the Avatar proves correct — the Fire Emblem is stolen, but the green gem was replaced with a fake and Basilio was not actually dead. Just as Validar (and Lucina) had thought, Grima tries to possess the Avatar... but the Avatar attacks Chrom anyways and weakens the attack so Chrom survives... but s/he does not tell Chrom or Lucina that they'll do that, so their Big "NO!" and reactions will genuinely fool Validar. Cue Basilio walking in talking about how they fooled them all.
- Mass Effect's Cerberus News Network extra had a few headlines about how an actor was nearly fried to death by freak space lightning during a film shoot, and went along with it. They kept it in and made trillions.
- Also, the Citadel DLC features Shepard in a Blasto movie. The subsequent crisis causes Shepard to make one of his/her famous "Conversation Wheel Decisions", enforcing the acting... but not by a lot.
- In one of the bonus strips from The Order of the Stick, Elan is trying to gain roleplaying XP by bemoaning a light wound. Belkar decides to help him with his motivation. Injury and Stabbing Ensue.
- This trope is a running gag in the commentary of ''The B-Movie Comic". It's almost always Lee, the actor who plays snuka on the receiving end, but not always.
- When Agatha performs in the travelling circus show in Girl Genius, Pix compliments her performance, saying that 'You really looked like someone was about to shoot you'. That was because in the audience was Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer, who had earlier attempted to do exactly that.
- White Dark Life features two characters who are actors with superpowers — Lucy Round and Dark Matthew Astarte. Lucy Round is a Superpower Lottery winnernote , but she mostly averts this trope, as she is also quite humble about her abilities, and is implied to not abuse them during a performance except to provide her own special effects. Dark Matt has Resurrective Immortalitynote ; he exploits this by specializing in portraying villainous characters who inevitably suffer a Cruel and Unusual Death.
- In-universe examples for the animated band Gorillaz: according to their biography, Rise of the Ogre, the band weren't told by their director Jamie Hewlett about the 300-foot elk that appears at the end of the "19/2000" video, so they'd look appropriately surprised. Also, the Groin Attack Murdoc suffers at the hands of the zombie ape in "Clint Eastwood" was apparently real, and caused his genitals to "swell up like big purple melons".
- In the Futurama episode "My Three Suns", Bender tries this in order to make Fry cry to free the emperor trapped inside of him. Bender loudly exclaims about seeing Leela being captured and killed by rioters. It works, but only just so. Then Leela breaks the illusion by showing up in the room, entirely unharmed. They eventually get Fry to cry by beating the crap out of him.
Fry: This can't be happening!Bender: It can, and for all you know, it is!
- In The Simpsons, when filming the Radioactive Man movie, the director informs Rainier Wolfcastle at the last second that the acid being used in one of the scenes is real. What follows is one of the most memorable moments in Simpsons history.
- In "The Great Money Caper" the entire town sets up a hoax on Homer and Bart to teach them not to con people, by creating a trick where Groundskeeper Willie is apprehended and found guilty for stealing Homer's car. The only person not in on the hoax? Willie himself, presumably to make his behavior more realistic.
- King of the Hill has Dale try this in one episode, and it actually backfires spectacularly: He tries to sue a tobacco company on the grounds that cigarette smoke made his wife Nancy uglier, and doesn't tell her his plan so she won't have to lie under oath. He overdoes it though, and endangers his marriage by insulting Nancy too harshly. He then spends his entire courtroom appearance establishing that he loves his wife, saving his marriage but destroying his case in the process.
- In the Teen Titans episode "Masks", Robin doesn't tell his teammates that he's disguised himself as Red X because he wants their reactions to be believable in order to fool Slade. Unfortunately, it doesn't help as Slade was on to him from the start.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Green Isn't Your Color" features this in the form of Photo Finish boosting Fluttershy's Moe appeal by taking pictures of her natural reactions to harsh criticism.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars had an arc where Obi-Wan faked his death and disguised himself as his supposed killer, with Anakin and Ahsoka kept in the dark in order to make the ruse more convincing. Unfortunately, their reaction was to seek out his "murderer" and it almost derailed the entire plan.
- In Steven Universe, Steven and Garnet plan to get Pearl and Amethyst to confess to wrongdoing by having Garnet pretend to blame Steven for their actions and punish him. In the middle of Steven's Bad "Bad Acting", the monster that Pearl and Amethyst accidentally freed attacks, which results in them finally admitting everything. Then it turns out the monster attack was faked by Garnet. From his reactions, Steven clearly wasn't informed of that part of the plan.
- In BoJack Horseman, BoJack's considered suitable for the part of the deeply broken, suicidal racehorse Secretariat because he's so much a screw-up in real life, rather than because he's a good actor at all. In fact, once he's getting the movie made and feeling good about himself, he's unable to stop hamming up his line readings in the style of the dated sitcom-acting he's famous for, howling "what are youu-uuuu doing here!!" in Incoming Ham style in a scene that's supposed to be during the darkest day of his character's life. It's only after his real life implodes again that he's able to give the bitter, self-loathing line-read the scene calls for.