Recently I have been reading lots of articles on Jared Leto and his so-called “Method Acting” he did while being the Joker. While some praise method acting as great way to understand and realistically portray a character, the fact is that it is misunderstood and today, it is used incorrectly. Or worse, in Jared Leto’s case, it is an excuse for deplorable behavior.
Method Acting was originally called “The Stanislavski Method”, or “The Method”, when it first was introduced into the mainstream in 1897. The basic tenet of this system was to experience things your character might experience, and then learn the outward, visible, effects of those experiences. “On stage, if an actor experiences only internal feelings or only physical actions, then the performance is dead,” the system expresses as one of its basic tenets. The purpose of Method Acting was to learn “emotional memory”, whereby a person could harken back to their past experience and express those outward effects as an actor.
Somewhere along the way, The Method has changed into something else. Actors now subject themselves to the situations while portraying the part itself, which has a very different effect: whereas in the original Method, an actor was still in complete control of his performance, an actor in this new “method” simply wasn’t.
According to SBS, Jared Leto supposedly “really got into the role” of Joker in the new movie Suicide Squad through the use of Method Acting. According to their article:
Leto was reportedly so committed to the part that he gifted the cast and crew with a litany of horrible items: used condoms, a dead pig, a live rat. To get into the character’s twisted mindset, he also watched footage of brutal crimes online. “The Joker is incredibly comfortable with acts of violence,” he told Rolling Stone. “I was watching real violence, consuming that. There’s a lot you can learn from seeing it.”
I need to explain something to young and veteran actors out there. That is not Method Acting. That is abusive behavior and it is beyond unprofessional. When your costars almost pepper-spray you because of your behavior, something is wrong. Check yourself.
What does that approach get you? Some might say a realistic performancce, but if that comes at risk to destroying your career and losing your friends, is it worth it?
I have used the method before. I had to portray a very inebriated person for a project, and I came to the realization that I don’t drink very much myself and wasn’t sure how to do it believably. So I set up a camera, and drank myself silly one evening, all while running through my lines over and over as I sank into the swamp of booze. The next day wasn’t so much fun.
However, upon reviewing the recording while sober, I picked up on certain inflections I made which seemed to be “keynotes” of the drunken slur I was going for. So then, when recording, I harkened back to those keynotes and the result was very believable drunken voice acting. But it was acting.
You can do this too. If you haven’t experienced a certain situation your character is in, you can dip your toe in the water and pay attention to how you felt, how you acted, and how those outward signs were reflections of your inner situation. Once you learn those outward signs, you no longer need the situation to act it out.
Because you’re an actor, not an ass.
I’m looking forward to see #SuicideSquad but I can’t help but think of Jared Leto as so unprofessional on set that it does taint it.
— Pete Meredith (@MrMerryD) August 3, 2016
— Wes Trapper (@WesBTrapper) June 23, 2016