6. The Reader (2008)
Another good result for method acting was Kate Winslet’s Best Actress win at the Academy Awards. In this film, she played a former Nazi concentration camp guard in the post-war drama, and went through great efforts to accurately portray it.
The actress was allegedly so immersed in her character, she spoke with a German accent 24/7, which brought some confusion to her kids when it came to reading bedtime stories.
She also admitted it took her several months to get back to normal after being so focused on the role, saying: “It’s like I’ve escaped from a serious car accident and need to understand what has just happened. When I leave a character, I have to analyze the trance through which I have just passed. It can take me several months to say goodbye to them.”
7. I’m Still Here (2010)
After making his rap debut in January 2009, Joaquin Phoenix made an unusual appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, promoting the film “Two Lovers” – which he claimed was his last. The actor had a sloppy beard and sunglasses, and appeared completely incoherent and unresponsive to Letterman’s questions. He then announced his hip-hop aspirations, complaining he was serious about them.
The interview turned out to be a hoax, part of the mockumentary film “I’m Still Here,” directed by Casey Affleck and co-written by him and Phoenix. Filming began on January 16, 2009 at Las Vegas nightclub, and it followed the life of Phoenix, and his “transition” from actor to hip-hop artist. He kept character for public appearances, and the staged events of the film weren’t revealed as such until the film was released.
The mockumentary served mostly as proof that reality TV is based on staged events. Surely, both Affleck and Phoenix didn’t expect that the latter’s portrayal of himself would trick so many people, making it a great example of the extent of method acting.
Still, it wasn’t the only time this was proven: for the film “Walk the Line” (2004), a Johnny Cash biopic, the actor took intensive singing and guitar lessons, and only responded to “JR”, Johnny Cash’s real name; and after “Gladiator”, he got so attached he thought he could carry his sword with him everywhere.
8. The Last King of Scotland (2006)
During what seemed a crisis point in his career, Forest Whitaker felt his role as former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland” was make or break, and it culminated in him throwing so deep into the character that, reportedly, his wife and children didn’t want to talk to him as long as he was shooting.
He transformed into Amin and became him for almost six months, staying in character the whole time off set, too. He reduced his meals to mostly mashed bananas and beans, mastered the dictator’s unique accent and, most peculiarly, became fluent in Swahili and Kakwa.
His approach was what seems classic method acting, also including that he read numerous books, watched plenty documentaries and even met some of Amin’s family and friends. This won him numerous awards, including the Oscar for Best Actor.
9. Monster (2003)
Charlize Theron’s most extreme transformation came in 2003, portraying the true story of Aileen Wuornos, the prostitute, serial killer and man-eater responsible for murdering seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990. The transcendent rawness and tortured existence of the performance was what one remembers when thinking of actors disappearing into roles.
The actress gained 30 lbs., but this was solely the basis of her transformation: her skin underwent layers of washed-off tattoo ink to give her a rough, weathered look; shaved her eyebrows; wore prosthetic rotting teeth; and had her hair thinned and friend for the entire duration of filming. Roger Ebert considered her performance “one of the greatest in the history of cinema” and, obviously enough, it earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress.
10. Oldboy (2003)
Korean actor Choi Min-sik has won countless awards for his performances, and is best known to Western audiences for his role in “Oldboy”, the original Korean film that inspired Spike Lee’s remake in 2013. As an actor who usually brings a certain physicality to his portrayals, it surely didn’t take long to figure out what was being asked of him for this particular role – which he responded by rising to the challenge.
In the film, his character is confined to a room for years and, after being freed, is determined to find and slaughter his captors. His approach to the role, as legendary as it’s been in other films over the years, included gaining and losing weight to accurately portray the character’s long-term imprisonment, as well as burning his flesh with a hot wire, to appear as if the character was tattoing himself to count off the years he has spent in prison.
Although these seem crazy enough, they don’t compare to a scene in which the character is required to eat a live octopus and, of course, it took several takes and several octopuses. Choi, who is a Buddhist, apologized to each one.
Author Bio: Alex Gandra is a Portuguese writer and filmmaker.She graduated this year in New Communication Technologies from the University of Aveiro and is currently in a master’s degree in Digital Audiovisual. She spends too much time in cafés writing scripts and other kinds of texts you can find at medium.com/@gandra_le. She’s also writing a book she hopes to finish some day.