Method Acting

And How Its Psychological Toll Runs Long And Loud Beyond The Silver Screen

Research links method acting to serious mental disorders like depression, chronic insomnia, and psychosis 

Method acting or “The Method” is a range of training and rehearsal techniques that seeks to encourage sincere and expressive performances through identifying with, understanding, and experiencing a character's inner motivation and emotions. 

It is an acting technique (spearheaded by the likes of legendary actors like Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Marilyn Monroe, Ralph Fiennes, and Tilda Swinton) that sees an  actor psychologically and physically inhabiting a character in a movie in terms of mannerisms, appearance, thought processes, etc.

The decades of the 21st century saw a steady stream of Hollywood actors resorting to method acting in what is perceived as a “passionate pursuit” of mastery over the craft of acting. 

Sebastian Stan in “Pam And Tommy” (2022), Nicholas Cage in “Mandy” (2018), Samuel L. Jackson in “Pulp Fiction” (1994), Christian Bale in “The Machinist” (2004), etc.

However, despite their critical acclaim, several actors have come out against method acting. Many reported long-term psychological damage and the inducing of mental health conditions like emotional fatigue, sleep deprivation, psychosis, eating disorders, social withdrawal, and depressive symptoms. 

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For instance, Lady Gaga had a psychiatric nurse with her on “House Of Gucci” set to help her navigate through her character. Zac Efron availed therapy after his portrayal of the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy in “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” (2019). 

Both Joaquin Phoenix and the late Heath Ledger availed medical help and psychiatric treatment during their respective tenures as the Joker.  

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