No method to this madness

Method actors are often praised for their dedication, however, this process can often be harmful to the actor and those around them.

Method acting is a technique in which actors fully inhabit the role of a character, both on and off set during filming. While this may seem like a harmless approach, the physical and mental effects on the actors who practice it can be detrimental to everyone involved. Although many justify its presence in the acting world by deeming it “self-sacrifice,” it is no excuse for  hurting the actor’s castmates and even innocent strangers.

By putting their bodies through excruciating stress in order to inhabit the mind of their character, method actors can oftentimes be seriously injured or even hospitalized. Unfortunately, this was the case with Tom Hanks, who almost died while filming the 2000 survival drama “Castaway.” According to the entertainment website Fandom Wire, in order to really embody a FedEx worker who got stranded on an island, Hanks refused to shower for weeks, resulting in a nearly fatal staphylococcus infection that later required hospitalization when he cut his leg during filming. If it had been left untreated, the infection would have poisoned the actor’s blood and killed him. 

While one would think this cautionary tale would be enough to convince actors that this method should not be practiced, this was not the case. Ashton Kutcher also had to be hospitalized due to the acting technique, revealed Mila Kunis in a Hot Ones Interview.

Kunis explained that in preparation to portray Steve Jobs in the 2013 film “Jobs,” Kutcher stuck to the same fruitarian diet as the late Apple co-founder. This resulted in his be hospitalization not once, but twice due to pancreatitis. While Hanks and Kutcher  were successful in their performances, they also dealt with the immense fear that they would lose their lives.

Moreover, physical pain is not the only thing actors have to endure, as method acting can also cause extraordinary mental trauma. The action movie “Black Panther” was released in early 2018 and, while viewers loved the film, they were unaware of the mental toll it took on one of its stars, Michael B. Jordan. As stated by USA Today, Jordan had to seek professional help from a therapist after isolating himself to feel more in touch with his character, who had a lonely childhood in the foster care system. 

Method acting also took a mental toll on Heath Ledger when he took on the highly-praised role of the Joker in “The Dark Knight.” Ledger was found dead in January 2008 due to an accidental overdose. It is assumed by many that this was greatly due to his portrayal of the maniacle character, since the film was the last one he took part in. Ledger practiced method acting and it allegedly worsened his insomnia, resulting in him turning to sleeping pills, the drug that would later kill him. These cases were heartbreaking, yet preventable, especially knowing they occurred due to the actors’ commitment to their craft. 

“Heath Ledger was one of the best actors we have had the pleasure of witnessing. He had the capability of becoming one of the greats. It’s horrible that method acting was responsible for such a tragic death” senior Armando Camejo said. 

Perhaps the main reason method acting should be retired is the toll it has on the people working with the actor. One instance in which method actors caused harm to those around them was when Jared Leto, who —like Ledger— portrayed the Joker, sent a series of “gifts” to his “Suicide Squad” (2016) castmates. As reported by the TV and film site Screen Crush, these included bullets, a live rat, a dead pig, used contraceptives and intimate objects. Leto’s attempt to embody the character, who only appeared in the film for around 10 minutes, unnecessarily put his castmates in an uncomfortable position. He defended his actions by saying that the Joker was someone who did not respect personal boundaries, truly showing how his mental adaptation into the character was the reason for these inhumane deliveries. 

While the people hurt during Leto’s method acting were people he knew, the same does not apply to those hurt when Jamie Dornan prepared for his role in “The Fall,” in which he played a serial killer. An article by The Guardian reveals that Dornan admitted to stalking a woman to enter the mind of the murderer. In doing this, he most likely caused the innocent woman a tremendous amount of stress and fear. Method acting is a choice actors themselves make, however, this does not deter it from harming others which is why the process should not be continued.

“It’s very selfish for actors to impose trauma on other people for their own benefit. While method acting isn’t ideal when it hurts the actor, it is especially terrible when it hurts innocent people,” junior Elani Soto said.

Method acting is used in many widely-celebrated shows and movies, however, the technique itself should not be celebrated. After causing so much harm, it is time the method be left behind.