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Sunday, May 27, 2007

A NIGHTMARISH Acting Audition... Method Acting is bad?

Alfred Hitchcock hates method acting
Alfred Hitchcock hates method acting

I'm currently helping out with a short film.

(There are also other job offers I'm still pondering, my Sin Chew Daily interview seems to have its benefits :D)

The director and I had an audition yesterday trying to find the right actors and actresses for the four primary roles of his film, and we were meant to meet up with two actresses and an actor.

(For the sake of protecting everyone's identities, I'm not going to divulge real names)

It was a nightmare.

The actor I met yesterday, whom I'll call Method Actor, provided an interesting experience. Hungry for the main role, he was peppering the director and I questions about his character, which is supposedly a good and professional thing, before he went... a bit too much with it. Some of the worst things happened when the director went out for a while, leaving only me, an actress (I'll call her S) and Method Actor around for the line-readings.

Method Actor and S happen to be acquaintances, coursemates or something.

These two are supposed to play ex-lovers (the male character still loves the girl a lot, and hasn't been able to get over their breakup) so Method Actor asked the S to remove her cap, so that he can stare at her, to DRINK HER IMAGE (my own words) and understand WHY his character would love her so much. This is pretty much what happened:

(S removes her cap)

Method Actor: Yes, I can see your face better now. I can understand why my character the hero loves your character the heroine, you being so obviously HOT and all.

(S smiles awkwardly)

Method Actor: So, what kind of relationship do we have?

(S stares, unsure how to answer the question, I was sitting next to Method Actor, so I answered immediately)

Me: Just a brief and fleeting one. the heroine never loved the hero, he was just a fling, they went out for two dates, he's too pathetic, so she ignored him since then. But the hero's an emo private eye, so he never ceased to love her, and was unable to let her go.

Method Actor: (looks at me) And you are... who? The director?

Me: The producer.

Method Actor: Right. So, it's just a brief relationship. Did they HAVE SEX?

(S stares)

Me: No.

Method Actor: Oh, right. Was the heroine a tease? Like, did the heroine ever, like, show the hero her cleavage, or things like that?

(S looks uncomfortable.)

Me: No.

Method Actor: Okay. I'm sorry, I need to ask these questions to understand the character more, so I can act better.

S: You're really... professional.

Method Actor: Absolutely, even though I'm not getting paid for this, I want to ensure that you will get the most out of me.

(Method Actor suddenly takes out a cigar)

Method Actor: You have a lighter?

Me: (stares at the cigar) Er... no.

Method Actor: I'm playing a hard-boiled detective, I NEED to really smoke to maximize the effect of the scene you want me to read now. I'll get an ashtray.

Me: This is a non-smoking area. Smoke some other time.

(note: Swifty tends to have a REALLY negative reaction when someone smokes in front of him, friends of Swifty tends to know NOT to smoke in front of Swifty. And he's talking only about cigarettes, not cigars)

Method Actor: Damn.

The director returns, the line-reading begins between Method Actor and S. Taking the director's encouragement to ad-lib to heart, Method Actor suddenly added George Bernard Shaw's "Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power!" line during a monologue he was supposed to be delivering.

I raised a brow.

After the first try, Method Actor decided that he was unhappy with his own acting. He decided to elevate his method acting to another notch by suggesting that he should REALLY BE TIPSY to perform this drunk scene.

Method Actor: I need to order some alcohol.

Me: That's unnecessary. And you won't get it here.

Method Actor: But this is a CHINESE restaurant!

Me: (grimaces) Yes. But this is a DIMSUM* restaurant.

(* To those who didn't want to follow the Wikipedia link: Dim sum is a Chinese light meal or brunch, served usually with Chinese tea. It is eaten some time from morning to early afternoon with family or friends. Dim sum consists of a wide spectrum of choices. It includes combinations of meat, seafood, vegetables, as well as desserts and fruit. The various items are usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate. In contemporary Cantonese, a dim sum meal is usually not referred to as dim sum chan, but as yum cha (literally "tea drinking"), consisting of traditional Cantonese-style dim sum snacks. What is referred to as dim sum chan is rather a cross between Western-style high tea and fast food, consisting of Hong Kong adaptation of Western pastries and appetizers, also referred to as dim sum, or more specifically, say1 dim2 (Western snacks/pastries/appetizers)

Anyway, Method Actor is, well, a METHOD ACTOR. He (kinda) subscribes to method acting, an acting technique in which actors try to replicate in real life the emotional conditions under which the character operates, in an effort to create a life-like, realistic performance. "The Method" typically refers to the generic practice of actors drawing on their own emotions, memories, and experiences to influence their portrayals of characters. Some of the more famous method actors are Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Ellen Burstyn, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Paul Newman and Marilyn Monroe (if I'm not wrong, Jim Carrey and Christian Bale are method actors too).

The great director Alfred Hitchcock had never tolerated the method approach as he believed that actors should only concentrate on their performances and leave work on script and character to the directors and screenwriters. In a Sight and Sound interview, he stated that, 'the method actor is OK in the theatre because he has a free space to move about. But when it comes to cutting the face and what he sees and so forth, there must be some discipline'

Another quote I really like from Hitchcock is: "When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, 'It's in the script.' If he says, 'But what's my motivation?, ' I say, 'Your salary.'"

I wasn't really against the idea of method acting back then, I used to encourage my own actors to come up with their own backstories and motivations for the characters they play (but only AFTER I've shown them one-page copies of their character backstories, I was asking them to expand upon those, NOT to create something new)

But after meeting Method Actor, I think I might actually start to agree with Hitchcock.

Dennis Hopper demonstrating method acting during an interview in 1983
A video warning the dangers of method acting... it leads to COMMUNISM!
Alfred Hitchcock is a badass