Everyone’s heard of the in-depth and exhaustive lengths some actors go to in order to prepare for their roles, especially when it comes to Method acting. Take, for example, the time Method actor Dustin Hoffman stayed up a few nights in a row during the making of the 1976 film Marathon Man supposedly to commit to his character’s emotional verisimilitude; his costar Laurence Olivier observed this self-imposed suffering and responded, “My dear boy, why don’t you just try acting?” Actually, Hoffman later shared he’d actually stayed awake so long due to personal problems coupled with excessive partying. But the truth still holds: many of the most celebrated actors in cinematic history have been trained in the techniques based on Constantin Stanislavski’s theory of internalizing the process of acting. Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Al Pacino, Marilyn Monroe, Jack Nicholson, and Mickey Rourke are among the thespians who have used the approach. But it’s not a good fit for every actor. Here are various actors’ thoughts about the Method as well as some of their experiences. 

Charlize Theron: “I can’t do the Method thing. I did it once, for ‘Devil’s Advocate,’ and I was just exhausted. It was really hard to go to those deep, dark places because I was so tired. It was good for me to figure this out, and I am much better now at understanding and living and breathing in the moment with the character.”

Nicolas Cage: “There’s a fine line between the Method actor and the schizophrenic.”

Michael Keaton: “I guess I’m probably a Method actor; I don’t know … I just think of it as staying in the zone.”

Tyrese Gibson: “James Franco is a Method actor. I respect Method actors, but he never snapped out of character. Whenever we’d have to get in the ring for boxing scenes, and even during practice, the dude was full-on hitting me.”

Dennis Hopper: “In Method acting, you can’t have preconceived ideas. You have to live in the moment. You have to keep yourself open.”

George Clooney: “I’m a Method actor. I spent years training for the drinking and carousing I had to do in this film.” 

Shirley Temple: “I guess I was an early Method actress. I would go to a quiet part of the sound stage with my mother. I wouldn’t think of anything sad, I would just make my mind blank. In a minute, I could cry.”

John Malkovich: “I’m not a Method actor. I don’t believe acting should be psychodrama. I look within myself and see what I can find to play the role with. If I’m playing a blind man, I don’t go around blindfolded for days. A lot of good actors would, but I don’t go in for that very much. I like to just make it up as I go along.”

Tim Robbins: “I wouldn’t say I’m a method actor. I do research when I feel I don’t have enough experience for the part I’m playing.”

Academy Award-winning French actress Marion Cotillard: “I’m not a Method actor, but I’m affected by the life I share my life with during shooting. It’s always a very strange and special period for me.”

Ashley Rickards: “I’m sort of a reverse Method actor. In my personal life, I become my characters. After ‘One Tree Hill,’ I started dressing in Converse and ripped jeans and hoodies. On ‘Awkward,’ it manifests in how I speak.”

Tom Felton who played Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series: “I remember my first scene with Alan Rickman, and I was anxious because he is a slight Method actor; as soon as he is in his cloak, he walks and talks like Snape—it’s quite terrifying.”

Jeremy Irons: “I wouldn’t call myself a Method actor, but I have my own method. I do my own research. I come up with a background for the character. I’m not a club man. I don’t like isms. I’ve never really studied Stanislavski.”

Claire Danes: “If I took my characters home with me, half of my life would be a misery, I think. No, I tend to compartmentalize work from my life. I’m not terribly Method.”

The Full Monty actor Robert Carlyle: “Years and years ago, I was a bit more method-y. Every actor has got their own methods, but back in the day when I was younger and a bit more stupid, I thought I had to do this to really feel it: You have to become this thing … But of course, you don’t have to kill someone in order to know what it’s like to be a murderer! Eventually, as you get older, you leave all that behind.”

What are your thoughts and experiences with the Method? Please share!

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