Lee Strasberg’s Method Acting: The Extent of the Technique

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We’ve witnessed method acting at its finest and most intense….from Marlon Brando’s character in A Streetcar Named Desire, Robert De Niro in Taxi,  and of course Heath Ledger’s role as The Joker in The Dark Knight . The acting technique of the method was introduced to many by Lee Strasberg, who was an actor, director, and acting teacher that trained artists such as Dustin Hoffman, Paul Newman, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, and Al Pacino.

What exactly is method acting? The technique centers around the person completely immersing themselves in the character they are portraying, emphasizing the psychology & history behind the character. As brilliant as the method acting technique can be, to fully become another person continuously until that is your reality can be problematic. Case in point, a character that has an evil mentality or a role that requires extreme physical change/weight loss like Christian Bale’s transformation in The Machinist can be mentally draining to some who may experience difficulties with such a project.  When is practicing the method technique unhealthy and harmful?

Excessively using the method technique can be problematic if the characters are dark and mentally in a negative place . Yet, if the artist knows how to practice balance and not letting the “alternate reality” they’ve created consume their lives, then the method is a fine way to create a superb performance that is believable and truthful.

The method acting is just one type of acting technique, and it is very interesting to analyze/research because it revolves around an intriguing question. How far? Just how far as humans are we willing to go to create an experience within an experience…to inhabit the mind and develop the existence of someone else that only comes to life through us?

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