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Why the Oscars love method actors

What does Heath Ledger terrorizing Gotham, Daniel Day-Lewis ill-advisedly bragging, “I’ve abandoned my child.” and Leonardo DiCaprio getting mauled by
bear, all have in common? They each used method acting to prepare for their role. Heath Ledger isolated himself for weeks to portray the Joker’s chilling
psychosis. Daniel Day-Lewis spent months in character before filming even began. If I say I’m an oil man, you will agree. And Leonardo DiCaprio really went into the
woods and got mauled by a bear. He ate raw bison liver instead. Each of these performances received an Oscar but unless we’re actually told about the
extreme lengths these actors went to, there’s no way for us to know. Which begs the question: if Leonardo DiCaprio really eats raw bison liver and nobody
is around to see it, does he still get the Oscar? Needed to be done because
we were striving for authenticity. Modern method acting is based on a
system developed in the Soviet Union as a way to structure training for actors. The system provides a framework for actors to understand their characters, by
drawing on their own experiences and imagination. Many method actors take this
to an extreme, pushing themselves to live as if they really were their character. But are intense method acting performances really better? If you just look at the numbers, the Academy seems to think they are. Since 1951 there have been 132 Oscars awarded for Best Actor and Best Actress and 59 have
gone to actors with some training in method acting. And 33 of these Oscars
specifically went to actors who used method acting techniques to prepare for
the role. But there’s more to method acting than just winning Oscars. There’s been this kind of evolutionary dynamic between watching an actor just for who
they are, their screen presence, their persona, versus how they inhabit or
interpret a character. Take Tom Cruise, for example. Whether he’s fighting a
mummy, fighting Morgan Freeman, or fighting the shogunate, it’s impossible to see Tom Cruise as anyone but himself. Does Tom Cruise even know the names of
the characters he’s playing anymore? What is your name? This creates a problem for
actors. They become captives to their star personas. Look at Leonardo DiCaprio
for another example. Despite being nominated five times as an
actor, Jamie Foxx in Ray. He didn’t actually win an Oscar until 2016. And he won for what
happened to be his most intensive method acting role. I don’t know who goes
through the stronger emotional roller coaster really, and physically: your
character or the audience. Me. So taking on ambitious method acting
performances can help actors be taken more seriously. But there might be a more
cynical reason behind method acting’s popularity. Really have seen method
acting become a marketing tool. It doesn’t matter how good your performance is
unless you have a really good behind-the-scenes story to accompany it. Hollywood is a business and businesses need marketing. When Daniel Day-Lewis
goes on Oprah, he gets to promote his movie while also highlighting his own
work as an actor. I’ve begin to hear a voice. Kind of a fingerprint of the soul. “Fingerprint of the soul”, very good. There’s no way for actors to show us all the work that goes into a role, so they
have to tell us instead. My reaction to eating that piece of meat is right up on
screen. But that doesn’t mean method acting is all about marketing, either. After all, it helped Leonardo DiCaprio go from this “Open your eyes.” to this. It really caught on in terms of transforming the appreciation of an
actor, from being someone we just enjoy watching on screen, to being someone who
really is consummate in their craft, who works tirelessly to do justice to their
character and serve the role as best as they can. Actors that have pursued intense method acting routines have created some of the
most memorable performances ever. And to be fair to Leo, if I ate raw bison liver, I would tell people too.


  1. Vox Author

    Getting excited for the Oscars? Let us know in the comments who you think will take home Best Picture this year, and compare your thoughts with our expert analysis on

  2. LuappleSnapples Author

    You picked the worst counter argument to method acting: Tom Cruise.

    When it comes to authenticity, Tom Cruise is one of the most authentic. Whether it comes from being attached to the outside of a cargo plane or high speed motorcycle chases, Tom cruise does his own stunts.

    For this, he’s probably on of the best method actors in Hollywood.

  3. Shen Shen Author

    Leo always seems to overdo his characters. His performance is always so intense. He is not a very talented actor,he just works really hard. I respect him for that.

  4. Jerzy Feliks Author

    It is a bit overhyped but for me the best example of what it actually is, is seeing Daniel Day Lewis as himself as compared to any of the carachters he has played. He is unrecognizable as himself. In his case I have no doubt that it has nothing to do with a hype.

  5. Chris Young Author

    Cynical and marketing are not synonymous. the anti money ideal that Vox regularly pushes is getting old and is poisonous. Yes ideals and dreams are the fundamental but money is the blood. Don’t hate on it.

  6. Callie S Author

    I think the primary drawback of method acting is its praise for people who injure themselves for work. Losing 40 pounds in a few months or nearly getting hypothermia aren't things we should be rewarding; those are things we should be punishing execs for encouraging. An actor's ability should not be how willing they are to put their health at risk. It also never seems to apply to actors who actually come from the background of those characters: the main actor of Tangerine got no commendation, even though she literally is a trans woman living in LA who used to be a sex worker. That performance digs into painful and potentially traumatic memories, and its flawless, but the movie wasn't even nominated at the Oscars. Similar things happened for movies like City of God and The Killing Fields. Haing S. Ngor is the only Asian to win an Academy for Best Supporting Actor, but his performance doesn't receive any notice now.

  7. enki sumer Author

    The argument is based on oscar wins/nominations but wouldn't a better analysis be based on films that have influenced filmmakers? Oscars aren't the best metric of films fame, history is. Thus

  8. RaymondtheA.I. Author

    I'm a bit more cynical. Yeah, method acting has produced some awesome stuff, but I think we're growing obsessed with it for the wrong reasons. Actors are doing it more and more not just to create good performances, but also to display how dedicated and demanding their works is. It's like the more intense they can make the behind the set story, the more we'll take them seriously as ARTISTS and not just movie stars.
    All well and good for them, but I think there's also value in acting styles that appear more seamless, like the actor just eases into it without much effort. Sometimes actors get stuck playing a certain type, but lots of others manage to inhabit a role without forcing us to constantly think about how scenes were filmed or how intensely they had to prepare. And I find that impressive as well. I couldn't do that, just slide into a role and read my lines convincingly but with enough charisma to make them stick. On the other hand, if I ate bison liver, I'd puke.

  9. Stewart Kee Author

    The only problem is that half the actors mentioned are not, nor have they claimed to be, method actors. The authenticity that Leo DiCaprio was talking about was the authenticity you get on screen from filming on real locations rather than the artificial look you get from C.G.I. cheap video. The poster clearly does not know what he's talking about.

  10. TrapSkateLive Author

    Simple. Put your life and sanity on the line to get a character across. That's an Award winning recipe in my book. #DedicatedArt 💯🎥🏆

  11. Colette Richardson Author

    Whilst the performances may end up being incredible, I think it's incredibly detrimental for young actors to have this kind of method (whether or not it's the true definition of method acting is another question) celebrated so highly. Many characters undergo deep emotional, psychological or physical trauma over the course of their journey – thus making the conflict interesting. If you as an actor go to extreme lengths to put yourself in that exact place for authenticity's sake, rather than finding a parallel emotional circumstance, you run the risk of bringing your character home with you and taking on some of that trauma yourself. At the end of the day, each project is just that – a project, and I think that celebrating any kind of method that encourages bringing characters home with you will ultimately result in a public belief that actors are noble for sacrificing their personal health and safety (physical or mental) for a role. A talented actor with strong technique should be able to tell you their story without putting themself in harm's way. As consumers of art, we want longevity for our artists and safety for the human beings behind the art. While connecting to the character is cruical – staying safe is equally as important, and I think that as an artistic community, we need to recognize that.

  12. skpmd4186 Author

    only problem is that the Revenant is a bad movie and Leo should have gotten an Oscar for one of the countless better performances he did prior to it.

  13. Michael Trinta Author

    If almost half of all best actor and actress awards have been won by method actors, it means more than half (the majority) have been won by non-method actors, denotating that the academy prefers non-method actors, since you're either a method actor or you aren't, there's no third alternative.

  14. Pravljični kanal Author

    "Almost half of all Best Actor and Actress awards have been won by method actors" is making it sound like method has been really appreciated by the Academy. However, since there are two main styles of acting (method and character – unless there's a third one I'm not aware of), it means, that 59 Oscars went to method, and 73 to character actors. So the topic of the video should be "Why the Oscars love character actors" 😉

  15. Roderick Sutton Author

    For a film to be GREAT, a director ultimately needs an actor who can become more like the character and less like themselves, or else the STORY of the film wont make sense…

  16. Sebastian Koil Author

    The best example for method acting being used as a marketing tool was Jared Leto's Joker in Suicide Squad. His role was heavily marketed as a great method acting performance by Leto and as the main antagonist of the movie but he ended up only getting 10 minutes of screen time.

  17. brandon huynh Author

    HUH. Get out. This is a ridiculous video considering how you are only citing a total of 3 actors who won an oscar and not knowing what the acting technique really is. Provide some real studies with the VARIOUS acting techniques before you upload this kind of crap.

  18. Mrfairchap Author

    As a rule I tend to ignore the negative and insulting comments posted on YouTube – there is enough negativity in the world already. However, in the case of anything to do with Hollywood, I am prepared to make an exception to that rule…

  19. William Author

    Only Daniel Day-Lewis is a method actor. The rest are just good actors who researched their character. The difference is is, when they yell cut, they're themselves again. Speaking of researching, you may want to do a little more next time.

  20. The Stark Knight Returns Author

    Leonardo Dicaprio may pretend he is a method actor, but he's no method actor.
    The guy barely goes into the mindset of his characters. His accents are shamefully bad. He never feels like he is a natural. He just screams a lot and puts himself through a lot of nasty stuff just to make the Oscar nominations.

    Tom Hardy. Gary Oldman. Day Lewis. Christian Bale. These are method actors. Not Dicaprio.

  21. River Rat Author

    it's a good thing Hollywood gives each other trophies for doing something that doesn't matter because we the people don't care. use all that money to do some good for people who are in need. that would make a much better awards show.

  22. Gianni Andreatta Author

    There are many different methods for acting. The method that became known as “method acting” was the Strasberg method. Stanislavsky wrote a book of many different exercises for an actor to prepare for a role and then many teachers came after that creating there own rules or building off of certain aspects of the Stanislavsky method. The one where people become the character is really based around Lee Strasberg’s rules

  23. Ymi_Yugy Author

    I think you forgot to include how many actors and actresses among those nominated used method acting.
    Imagine 80% did. Then winning less than half would actually lead to the conclusion that method acting reduces the chance of winning.

  24. BellaMusical Author

    There are many great performances by method actors, sure, but there are also great performances by actors who don't go for the method approach. And the result can look just the same to us, the audience. Some people go half way – it seems common to keep the same accent while filming, but that doesn't mean that you have to be a racist monster or something during the whole process. And isn't it a talent in itself to go from being yourself to suddenly be in character when the cameras are turned on?
    If I was an actor, I would probably think that it'd be easier, in a way, to become the character than to switch on/off.

  25. Bruno Santiago Author

    So out of 132 awards for acting, only 59 were given to method actors? Leaving 73 awards given to non method actors? Then the name of the video should be 'Why the Oscars sometimes love method actors; 44,69% of the time to be precise', right?

  26. Christy JediGoddess Author

    One thing that should be of note is the difference between being a method actor (like Daniel Day Lewis) and when an actor only used method acting techniques for one film. Quite a few of the actors shown on here are not true method actors.

  27. MK Niazi27 Author

    Tom Cruise is one of the forgettables. The next generation won't forget Leo, Heath and Daniel Day Lewis like we haven't forgotten Audrey Hepburn.


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