Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Another F*ing Method Actor
Dustin Hoffman was doing Marathon Man. He starved himself and didn't sleep or whatever the hell else for three days, so that he could come in with the goods, right? And then Larry Olivier, says..."My dear boy, why don't you try acting?"
And throughout the years, I've heard this explanation used ad nauseum to explain why Method Acting is craziness. Except for one thing...Lee Strasberg (the guy who's credited as the Father of Method Acting) agreed with Olivier. In Lee's own words, "If it's literal, where is the art in Acting?"
First of all, what the Hell is "THE METHOD"? Well, it is a phrase that was coined by critics of Lee Strasberg's work. It's a variation on Stanislavski's "System", which is a shortening of the longer phrase, "A system of things for the actor to do when in a difficult spot."
Secondly, "THE METHOD" is a problematic phrase, because it suggests that there is one way to do things. Even Lee Strasberg, himself, said in a car-ride with my teacher, David Gideon, that of all of the actors he'd worked with over the years, "Never two the same".
Thirdly, most of what is referred to as "METHOD ACTING" in society is complete bunk. People seem to think that actors study Lee Strasberg's work and learn how to be completely psychotic. And unfortunately, the highly publicized METHOD moments generally have nothing to do with a craft of acting. And Lee never felt the need to correct society, because he thought it was great enough that there was a conversation going on at all about how actors do what they do.
So, what is it, then?
The funniest thing about THE METHOD is the fact that all of the misconceptions around it are so wildly off-base. When it comes down to it, Strasberg taught people how to play make-believe again. He taught them how to do what we all did when we were five years old; how to stop judging ourselves and our work; how to get out of our own ways and PLAY.
And in fact, Olivier once sat in on a session in The Actors Studio and in commenting on work from Othello, couldn't quite explain what he meant and asked to get up and demonstrate. Lee, of course, welcomed the demonstration from such a knowledgeable source. And Olivier proceeded to fall apart in front of The Actors Studio, falling into pitfall after pitfall of self-judgment, until FINALLY, he hocked a big loogie, spat at the floor of Lee's feet, said "Fuck you! Fuck all of you!", and continued his work to great success. After he finished and had clearly demonstrated his point, Lee said, "You make fun of our work, and yet you do it!"
Because what is THE METHOD? It's what we all naturally do on the nights when everything comes alive for us. It's anything and everything you need to do in order to be able to engage your imagination. It's being able to do that eight shows a week.
So, the next time you come across that intense Actor Man in Actor Land, who's in it and really feelin' it, who starves himself down do the bone for a role, and then lives in a tent and stays *in character* for three months...next time that happens, just know that Lee Strasberg would be the first person to stand up and say that what he's doing has nothing to do with a craft of acting. That's just Another F*ing Method Actor.
Thoughts? STORIES? Do tell. :O)