What is Method Acting?

Acting may seem like a mere combination of line memorization and faking emotions to casual audiences. But those who take acting seriously know there is a science to channeling talent into a compelling performance. And as with any discipline, acting can be broken down into different philosophies, with the most notable actors adhering to one philosophy or inventing new ones based on others.

One of the most notorious acting philosophies employed by dedicated thespians is known as the method acting technique.

Types of Acting

Perhaps more well known as a punchline than thoroughly understood by television and film audiences, the method acting technique sees the actor diving into their role with absolute dedication. But to understand what sets this acting technique apart from others, it helps to learn a bit more about other acting philosophies.

The classical acting technique was developed by Konstantin Stanislavski, a Russian actor who rose to prominence in the late 19th century. His goal was to create an acting technique that was approachable by anyone and could easily be applied to a wide variety of roles. This structured approach focused on studying physical movements, vocal control, and other technical aspects of acting. He also encouraged actors to channel memories from their own experiences to try to bring out real emotions related to their characters.

A student of Stanislavski, Michael Chekhov, built upon this technique by encouraging actors to express the issues the characters were facing in physical movements. The Chekhov acting technique has actors suppress this motion internally, allowing dramatic physical performances to emerge from a subconscious level.

Then, there’s the method acting technique, which was developed by Lee Strasberg in the 1930s. Building on the techniques pioneered by Stanislavski, Strasberg created an acting technique in which actors imagine themselves with the thoughts, emotions, and habits of the characters they are portraying.

To gain a better understanding of the method acting technique, you really have to study the practices of the most famous method actors throughout entertainment history.

Famous Method Actors

Perhaps the most well-known modern-day method actor is Daniel Day-Lewis. Techniques he uses to immerse himself in his roles include learning a new language, spending time in jail, and building a canoe. On the set of Martin Scorcese’s Gangs of New York, he reportedly developed hypothermia after refusing to use heating equipment on a cold day of shooting – because after all, Bill the Butcher wouldn’t have had this luxury in the mid-1800s.

Another famous method actor is Robert De Niro, who prepared for his role in Taxi Driver by taking on 12-hour shifts driving a taxi in New York City. Other famous examples of method acting include Heath Ledger locking himself in a hotel room and writing demented diary entries to prepare for this villainous role in The Dark Knight, and Leonardo DiCaprio, normally a vegetarian, eating raw bison meat on the set of The Revenant.

Is Method Acting Right for You?

Needless to say, method acting demands a lot from the performer. But the efforts often generate iconic performances that even the best actors look to for inspiration. If you’re an aspiring actor, using the method acting technique could help you refine your skills and gain momentum in your acting career.

And by attending a talent expo hosted by Discovery Spotlight, you can get noticed by the right agents and find the representation you need to put those talents to proper use.