Follow TV Tropes

This entry is trivia, which is cool and all, but not a trope. On a work, it goes on the Trivia tab.


Method Acting

Go To

Donkey Kong: Uh, what's method acting?
Candy Kong: It's simple. If you're the bad guy in the movie, you think like a bad guy. You talk like a bad guy. You become a bad guy!

Method Acting is a performance preparation technique where an actor pushes beyond what they do in front of the camera or audience and tries to replicate the life circumstances, mannerisms and emotional feelings of the character they portray, so as to give realism, legitimacy and dramatic strength to their performance.

A distinction, though, is that method acting can be as simple as running a few laps around a track in order to look exhausted... because they are. But a method actor seeks to absorb everything about a character and the environment so that it is not really acting but altering themselves to become someone new. This often streamlines and strengthens the performance; rather than 20 takes of laughing with the cast and crew passing before you find the right line reading, method acting means you are always "on" and can hit those high points faster.

The caveat is that when taken too far, it can have a negative impact on your relationships, mental or physical health, and even the production. A character in a deep depression can bleed into the actor, making them unable to shake it off when the production is over. Actors can gain or lose weight to fit a character who is morphologically different from him, which helps them find a new way of carrying themselves (some like Robert De Niro and Christian Bale are infamous for it), but improper diet, training and metabolism changes can be harmful.

Though Method Acting has produced powerful and affecting performances, it is increasingly finding itself coming under fire for its inherent limitations. Method actors are pretty notorious as being hard to work with because of their involvement with their roles. When all's said and done, method acting is a search for perfection in performance, so method actors sometimes have confrontations with cast and crew over the direction his character takes. Also, well, it's hard to give directions to an actor when he's in-character even off-camera (note that not all Method Actors do this, although they do have a reputation for it). Nonetheless, many of the greatest performances in movie history have resulted from an actor who completely immersed himself in the role.

See Enforced Method Acting, when outside influences craft an environment appropriate to the performance, and Acting in the Dark for when the production puts the actors in a blind spot.

When a writer/director casts an actor for his natural fit into a role (natural method acting, if you may), see Write Who You Know. If the character falls too deep into their role, they may become Lost in Character.

Technically speaking, Method Acting refers to an outgrowth of Konstantin Stanislavski's technique as developed and popularized by Lee Strasberg. Stanislavski's own method, further developed after Strasberg's contact with the Russian's theories, is known as the System. In fact, in acting circles, there are several schools of the Method. Strasberg's version is the best known, with the Actor's Studio being the most revered training ground. But there are also the theories of Stella Adler (who counted both Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro among her students), who was the only one to apprentice under Stanislavski himself. She felt Strasberg's focus on personal identification with the character got Stanislavski all wrong, and that the performer should be using his or her imagination to develop their performance. Sanford Meisner, who knew both Strasberg and Adler personally, developed his own spin on Method ideas, centered on the belief that performers should learn to act based on instinct (Meisner's long list of protégés include Gregory Peck, Steve McQueen, Grace Kelly, and Jeff Goldblum).

There is, needless to say, much debate between followers as to which is the "true" Method, with the likes of Elia Kazan believing it to be a highly personal, subjective actor-to-actor thing rather than a dogma. It should be noted that while for Stanislavski it was important that every actor (for example, even those playing 'Guard #3') research heavily and work just as hard as the actors playing the lead characters, Method Acting in modern cinema is usually only practised by the leading actors for main characters. In addition, one of the most well-known aspects, emotional/affective memory, is a cornerstone in the more modern development of the Method, whereas Stanislavski later noted its limitations in eliciting performance after one protégé had a mental breakdown.

Needless to say, the process is controversial for a reason. Not only is it physically and emotionally exhausting, but it can alter the activity of a person's brain to fit the character they're portraying; staying in one role for too long will cause that character to gradually override the actor's state of mind, and suddenly dropping the character after a performance is complete can really throw the actor for a loop. In many cases, method acting gone wrong can result in the actor facing severe mental health issues and a lack of personal identity, hence the aforementioned case of Stanislavski's student breaking down. Actors who specialize in method acting often have to take long breaks between roles in order to recover from the immense strain they cause, and some, like Daniel Day-Lewis, retire much earlier than non-method actors partly because of the dangers posed by the craft.

On top of this, method actors often feel the need to undergo extreme physical changes to fit the part, such as Christian Bale gaining and losing a hundred pounds for Batman or The Machinist, or Brad Pitt deliberately re-chipping a tooth for Fight Club. Even when you're not making it a point to break bones or teeth for a film, those sorts of changes can leave permanent scars on your body and its responses to future situations. This is not a good thing.

British actors generally mock the trope. They find the Method to be unnecessary, and believe the actor doesn't become the character — the character becomes the actor.

    open/close all folders 

    Real-Life Examples 

Real-Life Examples:

  • Older Than Feudalism : In one of the most moving scenes of the play Electra by Sophocles, the heroine is devastated when she discovers an urn containing (or so she thinks) the ashes of her long-lost brother Orestes. In order to create a gripping performance, a Greek actor named Polus took with him on stage the urn containing his late son's ashes.
  • Shia LaBeouf actually took acid for his role in The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman. Not off-screen just so he'd know what it felt like, but while he actually was shooting the film. For Fury (2014) he cut his face, pulled a tooth, and stopped bathing, which got him kicked out of the cast accommodations. He has compared this to Sean Penn being strapped to a real electric chair for Dead Man Walking.
  • Judging by the bloopers of the Madea movies, Tyler Perry stays 100% in-character.
  • Probably no actor has been associated with method acting quite as prominently as Daniel Day-Lewis. He simply IS his character for the duration of his role and gets so deep that he, in certain cases, even refuses to learn his lines because he feels that doing so will add an element of artifice to his performancesnote . For his Academy Award-winning performance in My Left Foot, he did not leave his wheelchair, speak coherently, or even feed himself for the entire filming. For Last of the Mohicans he became a survivalist living off the land. For his role in In the Name of the Father, he lived in a prison cell, basically starved himself and asked the cast and crew to constantly verbally abuse him. While this definitely does result in amazing and spontaneous performances, it also made him one of the most notoriously picky and difficult actors to work with in all of Hollywoodnote . His immersion in his roles is often just as damaging to himself as it is to his coworkers; he had to quit stage acting after becoming so involved in playing Hamlet that he had an actual mental breakdown on-stage, hallucinating that his deceased father's angry spirit had appeared to torment him during the scene with the King's ghost. Whatever one's opinion of him and his method, though, there's no debating that he is one of the most admired and critically acclaimed actors working today. With his win for Lincoln in 2013, he became the first man to win three Best Actor Oscars.
  • Christian Bale is associated with method acting and known for preparing intensely into every role and transforming his body rather than relying of makeup and prosthetics where possible. Bale disputes the "method actor" label, however, especially because he doesn't have formal training in the technique. Instead, he says he maintains accents and mannerisms on set because he struggles to get into character and likes to giggle and wants to avoid causing shoot days to drag by corpsing take after take. He's also famous for keeping a character's accent even when doing promotional interviewsnote , although he's eased off on this habit as he'd started to find it silly. Like Daniel Day-Lewis, he'd developed a reputation as someone difficult to work with, but seems to be easing up. Behind-the-scenes photos and videos of his more-recent movies show him occasionally breaking character and goofing off.
  • Marlon Brando is arguably the first great method actor. In his heyday, he'd study scripts in detail to develop characters while using makeup, diet, and exercise to transform his appearance before Dyeing for Your Art became a thing. This is often overshadowed by the latter stages of his career, where he was as an ego run amuck and reliant on cue cards. However, even in that period, he'd put in the work when presented with a role and script that interested him, like Last Tango in Paris where he was super-efficient and competent and a darling to the crew.
  • Most of the cast of Band of Brothers went through Enforced Method Acting, but Frank John Hughes (Bill Guarnere) was a full-on method actor. The actors playing the replacement soldiers were ostracised by most of the cast, but Hughes took Robin Laing under his wing because Guarnere had done so to Babe Heffron. Hughes also carved 'Fran' into his weapon because that had been the name of Guarnere's wife. Mark Huberman (Les Hashey) said that when the real Guarnere came on set, he asked what he thought of the real Hashey. When Guarnere said he never liked him, Huberman joked that as soon as Hughes heard that, he never spoke to him again on set (though he did assure him it was for the sake of method acting).
  • Especially at the beginning of his career, Robert De Niro was a prolific method actor. His roles in Raging Bull and Taxi Driver are notable examples. Allegedly, in The Untouchables (1987), he insisted upon wearing the same clothes made by Al Capone's tailor, even the underwear.
  • Adrien Brody practically starved himself and gave away his car and home as part of his preparation for his role in Roman Polański's The Pianist. It evidently paid off, making him the youngest (three weeks before his 30th birthday) Best Actor winner in Oscar history.
  • Hilary Swank prepared for both of her Oscar-winning roles in this way.
    • Before playing a trans man in Boys Don't Cry, she lived as a man for a month (she was so convincing that her neighbors thought the "young man" was Swank's visiting brother). Also, when the director confronted her about lying about her age when auditioning, she replied that that is what her character would have done.
    • When she had a severe staph infection from boxing training for Million Dollar Baby, she didn't tell anyone because, again, she believed that's not what her character would have done. Unfortunately, it almost ended up killing her.
  • Heath Ledger dived deep to get into character as The Joker for The Dark Knight. He locked himself away in a motel room for weeks and kept an in-character journal to try and make sense of the Joker's psychology. During this time, Ledger meticulously developed Joker's every tic to create a personification of chaosnote . This resulted in one of the most powerful performances in film history, as well as a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
  • When producing Aliens, James Cameron had all of the actors playing the Space Marines attend a Hollywood boot camp, except for the actor playing Lieutenant Gorman. Also, their introductory scenes were filmed last, to give the best impression that these were people who knew each other and worked together.
  • James Dean was a method actor to the extreme, although it often worked: he kept everyone waiting while he brooded in his dressing room on the set of Rebel Without a Cause, but then pulled off the police station scene in one take. He also ad-libbed the very effective moment in East of Eden when Cal breaks down and tearfully embraces his father when he refuses to accept the money he is offering (much to Raymond Massey's obvious shock). Not everyone was a fan of his style, though; he annoyed Rock Hudson to no end with his extensive preparation on Giant.
  • Dustin Hoffman is another method actor. There's a famous anecdote about classical actor Laurence Olivier's reaction to his method when they worked together on Marathon Man; Hoffman decided to stay up for three nights to look the part, to which Olivier reacted with the amusing line: "Try acting dear boy, it's much easier." (Olivier himself said later that the anecdote was a result of Out-of-Context Eavesdropping, and that although he did say something of the sort to Hoffman it was in response to something unrelated to the Method. But it's such a neat story that it persists regardless.) Like Daniel Day-Lewis, Hoffman's devotion to method acting is known for making him difficult to work with, and he is sometimes cited as an example of taking it way too far; while filming Kramer vs. Kramer, he became so immersed in his role as an embittered divorcee fighting a nasty custody battle that he came to genuinely despise his co-star Meryl Streep as if she were his ex-wife, hurling constant and horrific verbal abuse at her before eventually punching her in the face just to get into character, prompting an enraged Streep to swear she would never work with him again (and she hasn't).
  • Andy Kaufman was a method actor who took the technique far beyond stage and screen. With certain characters, he absolutely refused to break because there were always people around from whom he could get a reaction. His dedication was such that his gags could last days or weeks. He exaggerated it with his "Tony Clifton" persona. In real life, Kaufman was a quiet and shy teetotaling vegetarian. As Clifton, he'd drink, smoke, eat meat, hit on every woman in sight and engage in casual sex. Sometimes he'd end up staying in character for days at a time. It was so all-consuming that Tony was treated as a separate entity, even getting separate contracts from Andy. For instance, when Clifton got too disruptive around the set of Taxi, the producers called Clifton into a management meeting, 'fired' him, and had security escort him out of the studio. From that point on, Kaufman never performed the Clifton character on or around the show.
  • Jim Carrey pretended to be Andy Kaufman for the entire duration of filming Man on the Moon, in part because Kaufman himself was so devoted to staying in character(s). Naturally this drove most of his coworkers nuts (the only time during production he 'shut off Kaufman' was while auditioning for How the Grinch Stole Christmas!). He even began developing strange tics and specific movements that Kaufman himself would do, but which weren't actually in the script. Kaufman's old friends/colleagues working on the movie just decided to let it ride and figured "Hey, Andy's back with us for a few months". Once production wrapped, Carrey found himself feeling hollow inside, needing a few weeks to reconstruct who he was. Some of his more infamous antics since then could be attributed in part to the aftereffects of the experience, but Carrey found the whole process freeing — by the time he took on that role, he was desperately tired of maintaining the public persona of "A-list sunshiny comedy star Jim Carrey" and found the chance to assume the persona of someone who didn't care about what other people thought of him a sort of corrective. All this is discussed in the retrospective documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond.
    • Carrey and Dana Vachon's 2020 Surreal Humor novel Memoirs and Misinformation includes wild Adam Westing of this trope: A fictional version of Carrey, desperate to finally get some respect in his career from the industry and his peers or risk becoming a White-Dwarf Starlet, decides to apply method acting to prepare for the prospective role of Mao Zedong's ghost inhabiting his body. The prep work includes listening to Mao's speeches constantly (i.e. while he's lounging in his pool) and deliberately gaining weight; when he throws a party for his Hollywood peers he delivers a long rant on the decadence of capitalism and while some listeners are enthralled, others brush it off as him just doing what he did playing Kaufman.
  • John Simm received Stanislavskian training at drama school. He's been known to starve himself, consuming only coffee and cigarettes in order to play Vincent van Gogh and to refuse hospital treatment after breaking some ribs while playing Raskolnikov because the fever and the pain "added to his performance". He also experimented with drugs when preparing for Human Traffic. When he was preparing to play Bernard Sumner in 24-Hour Party People, he was constantly listening to tapes of Sumner's interviews on his Walkman in order to get his voice right.
  • Andy Serkis met his wife while they were playing a couple on stage. They went on a date in character to prepare for the role and then started seeing each other in real life.
  • Johnny Depp would never call himself a Method actor, but appears to have shades of it nonetheless—he does extensive research and background reading on nearly all of his roles, especially when portraying real people. He even lived with friend Hunter S. Thompson when portraying him in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, saying he had to "steal a bit of his soul." (He also let Hunter, who was wearing a mining hat at that time, shave his head.) On Edward Scissorhands, his commitment nearly became Fatal Method Acting: he passed out from heat exhaustion while filming the scene when Edward flees down the street back to his castle.
  • Michael Fassbender dropped a terrifying amount of weight to accurately portray activist Bobby Sands in Hunger—and he doesn't have a lot of weight available to lose in the first place. He also did extensive interviews with real-life sex addicts for Shame.
  • Similarly, Elliot Page dropped weight over the course of filming An American Crime, in which he portrayed Sylvia Likens, a real-life young woman who was tortured and starved and eventually died in her neighbor's basement. When asked if he was eating normally, he said: "No, because Sylvia wasn't being fed."
  • Ed Harris is famous for his method acting bringing intensity and sometimes scariness. (The video shows that even flubbing his lines he refuses to break out of the overtly stern general he was playing.)
  • Joaquin Phoenix has proven to be a strong method actor in recent years, with his Andy Kaufman-esque experiment I'm Still Here (in which he spent over a year pretending to be an out of control burnout and fooling almost everyone in the process) and the film The Master (where he stayed in character for three months and was later compared to Daniel Day-Lewis by director Paul Thomas Anderson).
  • Jodie Foster while she was working on Nell revealed that she is not normally a method actress ("They go to acting class and learn to melt like an ice cream cone"), but had to become one for this part. She lived in the house, ate Nell's food, and almost "channeled" the character as she developed her gestural language.
  • Another non-Method actor who had to be one for a specific role was Frank Langella when he played Richard Nixon in the stage version of Frost/Nixon. He said the dramatic tension in the play more or less required it.
    I did not want to go out of character, even for a minute, when I was offstage. I would go to the darkest corner at the back of the stage and just stay with my thoughts and wait. When I was required, the stage manager had to come over to me and say, 'Mr. President, you are needed onstage.'
  • When he was cast as Cardassian spy-turned-tailor Garak on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Andrew Robinson prepared for his role by writing a 200-plus page character outline and Backstory for Garak, which he used as his personal bible for the character. The show's producers approved of most of his backstory, except for portions that went counter to established Cardassian history. Robinson later used most of his outline as the basis for his Expanded Universe novel A Stitch In Time.
  • Prior to filming The Hustler (1961), Paul Newman had never held a pool cue before. To prepare for the role, he took out the dining room table from his home and installed a pool table so he could spend all his free time practicing.
    • As part of her research, Piper Laurie actually hung out at the Greyhound bus terminal at night.
  • An Older Than Feudalism example: In a production of Sophocles' Electra, an actor named Polus, in order to convincingly play the part of the grief-stricken heroine mourning her brother, came on stage carrying an urn containing the ashes of his own son.
  • According to the "Making of a Legend" featurette on 20th Anniversary DVD of RoboCop (1987), Peter Weller attempted to do this in the first few weeks of filming, insisting that the cast and crew call him either (depending on the scene) RoboCop, Alex or Murphy during filming. This later got dropped, but director Paul Verhoeven, and actors Kurtwood Smith (Boddicker) and the late Miguel Ferrer (Morton) thought it was too silly and respectively refused to indulge it, refused to talk to Weller outside of filming scenes together for the first week, and busted his chops over it.
  • The water torture done to JJ Jareau in the 200th episode of Criminal Minds was actually done to actress AJ Cook, who volunteered in order to make it more real.
  • For Lorenzo's Oil, Nick Nolte followed Augusto Odone around for months, observing and copying minutiae of his speech, dress, gestures, posture, even minor habits — like hanging his glasses off one ear. Odone had wanted Marcello Mastroianni for the role; he thought Nolte made him sound like an ice cream vendor in New York's Little Italy.
  • Lee Pace: his character Roy Walker in The Fall was bedridden and possibly paralyzed. He pretended to be a paraplegic and answered to the name "Roy" for the first 12 weeks of filming so his six-year-old fellow costar Catinca Untaru would act believably. Almost everyone on set thought he had lost the use of his legs in an accident. A lot of people were ticked when they found out the truth.
  • Mel Blanc is a rare example of a method voice actor: it has been said that when he stepped into the booth to do voice acting, one could tell which character he was portraying without even having to hear his lines. This extends to one of his most famous roles, Bugs Bunny: in order to get the sound of Bugs chewing on a carrot just right, he would chew on raw carrots himself and would spit them back out since he couldn't swallow them quickly enough. It's been often claimed that Blanc did this in spite of hating the taste (or even being allergic to them), but in his autobiography, he wrote that while he wasn't terribly fond of raw carrots, "hate" was an overstatement.
  • BJ Ward is another voice acting example. During her stint as the voice of Velma in Scooby-Doo, she would wear turtle-neck sweaters and glasses to the recording sessions to help get into character.
  • Jared Leto has, for better and for worse, become very well-known for indulging in this.
    • His role as The Joker in Suicide Squad (2016) became infamous for several incidents regarding his behind-the-scenes antics in the name of getting "in-character", which included things like sending dead animals and used sexual items to his costars. This got him outcast from his costars, and the internet had a field day lampooning his questionable approach to the Method, especially since his character's part was smaller than the level of attention led most to believe.
    • Leto dialed things waaaaaaay back for his role in Blade Runner 2049 as the blind Niander Wallace, where he opted to wear completely opaque contact lenses and performed unable to see anything. This worked out a lot better as Wallace is a slow, yet heavily-cadenced character who doesn't invite major on-set shenanigans, and the performance was much better-received.
    • While filming Morbius (2022), Leto was so committed to playing Michael Morbius' initial diseased state that he used crutches even off-camera, which became a problem after he reportedly took 45-minute bathroom breaks, which hindered production. Eventually, the studio and Leto were able to come to a compromise by just having him use a wheelchair instead.
  • A pretty funny example: Voice actor J. Michael Tatum once came from a recording session of Black Butler to Hetalia: Axis Powers he couldn't get himself to do the voice of France, who has a completely different accent to Sebastian, who is English. When Tatum takes a Snuggy, yes, a Snuggy and when he wears it, France's voice comes back to him.
  • On Lois & Clark, John Shea took Lex Luthor very seriously. Not only did he study Nietzsche, but he checked himself into John Jay College of Criminal Justice in-character to get a diagnosis on 'his' pathology.
  • In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Chadwick Boseman spoke in his character's African accent in between takes and during bloopers so he wouldn't lose it.
  • In a downplayed and nonspecific example, many actors playing villainous or otherwise despicable characters find it difficult to flip between being chummy with their costars offset but general assholes onset. Such actors will typically keep their distance from the rest of the cast, interacting with them as little as possible.
  • During filming of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Charles Flesischer was on set so he and Bob Hoskins could play off each other and create a more spontaneous dynamic. Even though he was standing off to the side, off camera, Fleischer insisted on wearing rabbit ears, overalls, and a bowtie, saying it helped him get in the mindset of a cartoon character.
  • Vincent D'Onofrio is a method actor and teaches the technique as well. He explains that it goes much deeper than understanding, assuming, and maintaining a character. Beneath it all, a true method actor will develop an entire internal monologue that runs parallel to the spoken dialogue and have that running through their head while performing. This is really apparent in roles like Wilson Fisk in Daredevil (2015), or Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket.
  • To better understand the character of Hercule Poirot, David Suchet read Agatha Christie's novels and stories in depth to create a detailed written dossier that he'd regularly consult to make sure his performance was in keeping with what he thought was Christie's vision. In addition, he'd maintain the character's accent and mannerisms as long as the mustache was on his lip.
  • While playing Elsa in Frozen (2013), Idina Menzel "was holding my hands in the studio and not letting my hands move too much when I was talking” in order to portray the "stereotypically regal" character.
  • As noted above, Jeff Goldblum studied under Sanford Meisner, and as follows he can be extremely committed to his roles whether he is given room to improvise (as in Thor: Ragnarok) or not (his work with Wes Anderson, in which he cannot change a single word — not even an article), though he's come to rely less on this trope over time. The most extreme case was playing Seth Brundle in The Fly (1986): He regularly worked out with weights to achieve Seth's initial post-fusion physique and was able to do most of the start and endpoints of the acrobatic routines that were otherwise performed by doubles who were professional gymnasts, and drank a great deal of coffee to achieve the "speedy little tempo rhythm" of a fly (he even kept one in a plastic bag to observe its movements!), all of this on top of the physical contortions, speech therapy, and hours of makeup needed for the later stages of his Slow Transformation. He also took Seth's insecurity over his relationship with Veronica so much to heart — not hard to do given she was played by his actual lover at the time, Geena Davis — that, while watching the filming of the scenes between her and the third corner of the Love Triangle, he fussed over how they were playing out to the point of once being asked to leave the set. The payoff of all this was his Star-Making Role.
  • Many Narcos cast members personally met the historical figures they would portray on the show, in order to ensure the authenticity of their performances. Boyd Holbrook in particular arranged for himself and Pedro Pascal to receive a week of DEA training from the real Steve Murphy and Javier Peña.
  • While recording "Somebody Should Leave," Reba McEntire needed something sad to think about, to make her voice convey the sorrow in the lyrics. She pictured her dog's recent miscarriage, and how the dog looked up at her with such misery in her eyes after losing her puppies.
  • The Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal and his body doubles, Brendan Wayne and Lateef Crowder, sometimes continue to wear Mandalorian helmets in between takes, even after shedding the rest of the armor for street clothes. While recording ADR, Pascal copies Mando's motions, going so far as to use a pillow as a decoy for the Child. For scenes that Lucasfilm shot with either Wayne or Crowder instead of Pascal, he'd ask the double for Mando's thoughts and emotions while preparing for the dubbing session.
  • During the last episodes of Bones, T.J. Thyne was reported to have stayed in the wheelchair Hodgins used after becoming paralyzed even between takes.
  • For Attack of the Clones, Jango and Boba Fett actors Temuera Morrison and Daniel Logan continued to call each other "Son" and "Dad" in between takes.
  • Since most of the characters in Dan in Real Life were an extended family coming together for the holidays, the cast lived in the same house for a month in order to facilitate a more natural chemistry with each other. This ended up working out, as the genuine familial atmosphere that the cast shared was one of the film's most praised elements.
  • Austin Butler worked intensely for three years to nail Elvis Presley for Elvis (2022). He found a personal connection to the singer after learning they both lost their mothers at the age of 23, wore period-appropriate clothing for rehearsals and voice lessons, and worked so hard on the voice that he hasn't been able to completely shed the timbre and accent after wrapping the movie. Butler also mentioned that he got so deep in character that he lost touch with himself and had to spend several months breaking down "Elvis" and rebuilding "Austin Butler".
  • Levi Kreis, the original touring Hermes in Hadestown, kept a 160-page Hermes journal filled with his own headcanons about Hermes' backstory, his relationship with Calliope, how he raised Orpheus, and his relationships with Persephone and Hades, all of which informed his performance onstage.
  • Viggo Mortensen studied Russian gangsters and criminal tattoo culture to build a realistic character for Eastern Promises. At first, he tried keeping the tattoos on and maintaining his character even while not shooting until he realized that he was genuinely terrifying members of London's Russian community. He abandoned his plans and made sure to wash thoroughly at the end of each shooting day.
  • Jeremy Strong has become infamous for his method acting, bringing to every one of his roles an intensity and commitment that would make Daniel Day-Lewis proud (and, given that Strong worked with Day-Lewis as a crew member on The Crucible, probably has). This has frequently led to him getting injured or nearly injured on set: during a scene in season one of Succession where Kendall has to run through the streets of New York to get to an important board meeting on time, Strong insisted on running as far and fast as he could in dress shoes, leading to him fracturing his foot, and was doused in actual buckets of ice water to simulate Kendall coming out of an icy-cold lake in the season one finale. While filming a protest scene in The Trial of the Chicago 7, he asked to be sprayed with actual tear gas, only for Aaron Sorkin to refuse because he didn't want to harm anyone.

    In-Universe Examples 

In-Universe Examples:

  • Maya Kitajima from Glass Mask acts by imagining herself as the character and thinking like them instead of following the script. Play a blind-deaf girl? Live several days with bound eyes and plugged ears. Play a wolf? Drive your roommate insane by only walking on all fours and communicating with animal noises. One notable example of her training includes pretending to eat her favourite food from an empty bowl by her past experience of eating ramen while the rest failed to do so.
  • Kirk Lazarus from Tropic Thunder is famous for taking method acting to ridiculous extremes, having gotten plastic surgery to play a black man for his role in the Movie Within the Movie. And for all of his roles, he always stays in character 24/7 until he is done recording the DVD Commentary. In the actual DVD Commentary for Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey Jr. stayed true to his character's word and did it entirely in-character as Kirk Lazarus in-character as Lincoln Osiris. When he gets to the "I don't break character until after the DVD commentary" line in the movie, he continues as Kirk Lazarus. When Lazarus finally breaks character near the end of the movie, so does Robert Downey Jr. in the commentary.
  • In the webcomic Superosity, one actor acting Jar Jar Binks went for this to an extreme point: having his brain moved to an actual bioengineered body of Jar Jar Binks.
  • In Skip Beat!, method acting is the bread and butter of Kyoko, to the extreme of sometimes dressing and acting off-set like the character she is filming now.
  • The story "Type Cast" in issue #24 of Creepy featured Roland Bryce, who, forced into horror roles despite hating them, gets in-character by actually mutilating corpses, sacrificing animals and so on. He eventually snaps from guilt and pressure and strangles his agent, ending up in an asylum, which he's mistakenly released from some time later. The asylum director, calling to check on him, is informed that he has a job at another studio. The picture he's appearing in? The Story of Jack the Ripper...
  • In Castle, Natalie Rhodes is preparing to play Nikki Heat. To do so, she shadows Kate Beckett, the detective who inspired the character, imitating and analyzing everything she does. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Hoodwinked!, Kirk Kirkkendall is an actor trying to land the job as the lumberjack character in a TV commercial for Paul's Bunion Foot Cream (which has the "soothing formula to make the bunions head for the hills"). When Kirk is told that he's landed the spot, the director instructs him to go out into the forest and cut down an actual tree, emphasizing, "Don't act like a woodsman, be a woodsman." Kirk's first attempts to cut a tree down are unsuccessful due to his spectacular incompetence at holding an axe, though he improves once he comes upon a copy of the book Chopping for Actors. It all goes well until he comes to a giant redwood tree. It becomes almost Fatal Method Acting, since after Kirk has managed to cut away a large "bite" that leaves the tree balancing very precariously, it gives way and falls on top of him. He ends up on top of the trunk as it rolls down a hill, and when it hits a pair of small trees at the bottom, he is catapulted into the window of Granny Puckett's cottage, where by Contrived Coincidence, a domestic disturbance is happening.
  • In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Actor," Stanley Tucci plays David Ruskin, a renowned film and stage actor who is to portray Monk in an upcoming film adaptation of the Steve Wagner case ("Mr. Monk and the Astronaut"). To get into the part of Monk, he shadows Monk for a couple of days to learn more about Monk's different mannerisms, and his investigative processes, even being allowed into two different homicide scenes to observe. However, during the second crime scene investigation at a pawnshop, Natalie excuses herself to the back alleyway as Monk coaches Ruskin on how to say his catchphrase "It's a gift and a curse". Monk finds her out back:
    Adrian Monk: There you are! What are you doing?
    Natalie Teeger: Just getting some air.
    Adrian Monk: There's a lot of air inside. Everybody's in there breathing away.
    Natalie Teeger: Yeah, it's a little stuffy for me in there. "It's a gift! And a curse! It's a gift and a curse, it's a gift and a curse!"
    Adrian Monk: Okay?
    Natalie Teeger: Okay Mr. Monk, don't you see? It's already happening!
    Adrian Monk: What is?
    Natalie Teeger: Okay, I've been doing a little research on your new "pal". Two years ago, David Ruskin played an alcoholic in a TV movie. He got so into it, he had to check himself into rehab for three months!
    Adrian Monk: A lot of people check themselves into rehab.
    Natalie Teeger: He doesn't drink! That's the thing! He had all the symptoms of an alcoholic without drinking! He's had at least two other breakdowns! Mr. Monk, I think this man is dangerous! I think he's dangerous to you.
    Adrian Monk: Maybe he's just dedicated. Did you ever think of that? [Natalie sighs] Natalie, they're making a movie about me! Now this is something I might actually come close to, almost, enjoying!
    • Natalie's warning does come true. When Stottlemeyer and Disher sit in on a rehearsal of one of the scenes in the TV movie (specifically, the producers' version of the scene at Joanne Raphelson's house), everything goes well (minus the fact that Randy is played by a woman and is Stottlemeyer's romantic partner, which clearly does not go over well with the real Stottlemeyer or Disher) until Ruskin starts performing his lines. He suddenly breaks character in the middle of the take and storms off frustrated due to the mishmash of the crewmen's hats. Things get downhill from there when he ends up basically shooing Monk out of his own apartment. Later, Ruskin is so into the part of Monk that he even goes to the parking garage where Trudy was killed while wearing a wig that could easily allow him to look like Tony Shalhoub, and when the police identify the double homicide's culprit as a car salesman named Jack Leverett, Ruskin misinterprets the news brought to "him" by a parking attendant as being that they've found Trudy's killer. Hence, a simple arrest doesn't work because Ruskin actually takes Leverett hostage with a revolver. The real Monk arrives shortly thereafter and has to talk Ruskin down before he does something outright dangerous.
  • A Mr. Show features a (fictional) documentary about a method actor named Borden Grote (played by David Cross) who did research (about doctors and . . . crowds) for roles in which he appeared for seconds. The documentary features him after he's removed the frontal lobe of his brain to prepare for a role involving abuses at a mental institution. The interviewer and his staff talk about his lifestyle seemingly unaware of something being wrong with him. Cross revealed that he was influenced to make this sketch after hearing about Meryl Streep supposedly laying on a block of ice to play herself dead in a film.
  • In the Robert A. Heinlein novel Double Star, Lorenzo Smythe uses some amount of this to get into his characters, and even used the psychotic aspect of one character as a crutch when he had to chop up a body.
  • Sticky Dilly Buns satirizes the concept in the person of Dillon, a Camp Gay actor who claims to take the Method very seriously — and who seems to get a lot of cross-dressing roles.
  • In Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Mike Shiner is an extreme proponent of this. He drinks real gin on stage during a preview performance, nearly rapes Leslie while on stage, and demands that Riggan get a more realistic looking gun, all in an effort to be "more real."
  • In one episode of the animated series Beetlejuice, the eponymous character ends up playing the role of Captain Ahab in a production of Moby-Dick and gets so into it he starts thinking he really is Ahab. When informed of this, the whale playing Moby just rolls his eyes and makes a disparaging comment about method actors.
  • The Kurt Vonnegut short story "Who Am I This Time?", the main character is very nondescript but completely immerses himself in every character he plays in the local community theater. When an attractive woman meets him while he's playing a role, she starts falling in love with him, which worries other town residents because his personality is completely and solely the role he plays.
  • "All the Sounds of Fear" by Harlan Ellison gives this a really disturbing spin— the actor ultimately gets Lost in Character and in his final breakdown is revealed to be a faceless shapeshifter.
  • One Season 4 episode of Gilmore Girls has Kirk attempting to get in character when he was cast as Jesus in The Last Supper for the festival of living pictures. He went overboard with it by eating lentil, wearing robes, preaching to the crowd and despising one of his neighbors who is cast as Judas Iscariot that it nearly led into a brawl between them.
  • In Don't Starve: Reign of Giants, Wigfrid the Viking Warrior is actually just an actress, dedicated to living out her latest role despite the circumstances.
  • Fox and O'Hare: Recurring accomplice Boyd Capwell lives and breathes it, to the point where he's willing to go days without brushing his teeth for a mouthwash commercial.
  • act-age has two distinct examples:
    • Kei is utterly unable to act a scene unless she can vividly feel the same emotions as her character, so either she recalls those emotions from her past experiences, or she finds a way to recreate them indirectly.
    • Myoujin Araya, introduced in chapter 23, outright experiences the living conditions of his characters. That can include holing up in the mountains for a month and hunting bears. And he does kill one.
  • The bread and butter of the Villain Team in Hero Class Civil Warfare. Izuku even studied several famous fictional supervillains to understand what made them compelling. Izuku even has the villain team spend time together before the exercise so they would get used to seeing themselves as a team. He even has Momo and Mei make all them specialized suits and dresses so they could deeper commit to the role.
  • In Hiccup the Useless, Stoick left Hiccup out of his plan to paint Snotlout as the Hero of Berk to draw attention away from Hiccup because he wanted to sell it that Hiccup's reputation has not changed since the Meathead's last visit. Unfortunately, this backfires badly, as everyone overcompensates to the point where Hiccup is driven to an attempted suicide.
  • In The Cry of Mann, Sam, Taylor and Casper all admitted to getting very deep into their roles. Sam spent three months acting as a mail man and even continued to stay in-character while on set. Taylor spent her days reading real-world missing-persons reports and gave her very minor character some deep, dark backstory. Casper...checks his mail and his email daily.
  • Victorious: The season one finale has Sikowitz teaching his class about method acting. This involves a contest in which his students must adopt personas and stay in character as long as possible. The last person to stay in character is considered the winner.
  • In The Owl House fanfic Method Acting, Luz decides to try this after getting the part of Ghoulliette in a school play, even speaking in Flowery Elizabethan English.
  • Personality Swap AU starts with the entirety of Class 1A trying to act as one of their classmates, though the only two with any success are Izuku and Katsuki, who are playing each other. Aizawa, impressed by Izuku's perfect portrayal of Katsuki, sends him several other such assignments. Every time, Izuku stays completely in character the entire day, including using their fighting styles and finding a way to imitate their Quirks. Given that Izuku will share information that only his characters should know and seamlessly switch places/work with themnote , several note that it's almost as though he's been possessed by his role.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: The emotionless android Data discusses how he'd like to reverse the process of method acting, using his performance to gain a better understanding of emotions instead of vice versa. Later, his interest in method acting gets a Continuity Nod when he watches Barclay's Bad "Bad Acting" and grouses that it is certainly not method acting.
  • One episode of Dix pour cent involves one of Andréa's actors (Jean Dujardin) getting stuck in-character as a World War I deserter, resulting him building a shelter out of sticks and continuing to hunt rabbits, not shaving or showering, in his own yard. The other agents reference Daniel Day-Lewis and how he got out of it by learning Italian shoemaking—or the cheaper, more efficient method of getting him drunk. Andréa and Dujardin's wife opt for the latter.
  • BoJack Horseman had an episode where Naomi Watts was playing the role of Diane in a movie. She got "into" the role in a very creepy way that Diane found very offputting.
    Naomi Watts: Hey, so I guess now that the movie's all about Diane, I really need to dig deep and get to know the real you. So let's talk and talk and talk until I am you and you are nothing but a hollowed-out husk of your former self and every thought and every feeling you ever had belongs to me and me alone. So do we like Sprite, or are we more of a 7-Up girl?
  • Pindakaas en Sushi: Zigzagged with the knight, who attempts to stay in his role with knight speak, but drops the whole act when he doesn't feel like it anymore, only to pick it up later again.
  • Noises Off mocks the trope with Fred, an American Method actor who can't do anything without having a justification.
    Lloyd: You carry them into the study because it's slightly after midnight and we're not going to be finished before we open tomorrow. Correction: BEFORE WE OPEN TONIGHT!!!
  • Parodied by Ryan Reynolds in this video promoting Pokémon Detective Pikachu, where immediately upon being informed that he has gotten the lead role, he starts attempting to actually become Pikachu, which leads him to do things like abandon his kids in the middle of the street because "Pikachu doesn't know who they are" and attempting to lose 187 pounds "until doctors intervened".
  • Shadow of the Vampire. The director explains to the cast that Max Schreck is a dedicated actor of the Method school who keeps his makeup on and always stays in character. In truth he's a real vampire. Incidentally the real-life Max Schreck wasn't a Method actor—he kept his makeup on while filming Nosferatu because it was too much trouble to remove.