Aubrey Plaza, who surprised Robert De Niro on-set.
Aubrey Plaza, who surprised Robert De Niro on-set.
De Niro is well known for his comprehensive character work.
For Raging Bull, he learned to box at a pro level and put on 60 lbs for the film’s second half to play the crestfallen Jake LaMotta.
For Taxi Driver, he became a fully licenced New York taxi driver and would put in night shifts to understand the world of Travis Bickle.
For The Godfather II, he spent three months in Sicily learning the language, the accent, and the mannerisms of that region of Italy to play the young Don Vito Corleone.
For The Deer Hunter, he travelled around the United States, learning about steel mills in different places and learning about the lives of the workers and what their shifts are like to play the character of Michael.
In short, he’s no slouch when it comes to prep and getting into character.
But, he met his match on the set of Dirty Grandpa. Which was not the best film choice he’s ever made, but that aside let’s focus on what happened on set.
His co-star Aubrey Plaza, also a method actor, went to town to get into her character, Lenore.
Lenore has the hots for De Niro’s character, Dick Kelly and spends most of her time trying to get him in the sack.
Before filming, she had never met De Niro, and there were no rehearsals. When he turns up to shoot, she is already in character and this is what she said happened:
“I didn’t really have a relationship with him [De Niro] off camera because he’s him. I didn’t have time to get to know him, he shows up in a puff of smoke and there’s no chatting at the water cooler.” By the time he’d show up, I’m in character. My character had one goal: To have sex with him. I was acting totally insane as the character because we were about to shoot. I don’t think he understood that wasn’t me. You’d think he would because he’s an actor and an amazing one.”
She didn’t stop there either. She then did this:
“I didn’t know him, we’d never talked, and I was really scared of working with him… but I was like, ‘I’m gonna do something really crazy’, and I took a real slutty picture of myself in my trailer, in character, and then I printed it out and I put it in a book of zen Buddhism. And then I slipped it under his trailer door with a little note that said, ‘Happy shooting’, or something, and then I waited.”
A week went by without De Niro saying anything about it. She was ‘terrified’ she had made a serious mistake, but then one day he “just casually came over to me and he was like, ‘I got your book…’ I put the picture on page four and he was like, ‘I only got to page four, but it was very good,’ and then he walked away.”
So here is the thing.
What these two are doing is advanced method playtime.
They know their craft, they have trained in it for years, and now they can play off-camera to enhance their work.
Whilst there is nothing in the process of method acting detailing you must do this sort of thing; there is an ethos of leaving no stone unturned and doing everything you can to get psychologically close to the character you are playing.
I love how Aubrey took risks and challenged him. She tried to out method the master. Good for her; I’m sure she won a lot of his respect in the process.
Something to think about!
The Master Of The Method
You would need to be living in a remote area of the Amazon not to have heard about this ongoing trial.
I saw a segment of it the other day, which interested me from an acting point of view.
Johnny Depp was asked how he first met her and told the story.
It turns out he first came into contact with her because he auditioned her for a film he would appear in, The Rum Diary.
Depp was also a producer on the film and wanted to ensure that she was the right fit. In particular, he said that he needed to feel that she would be capable of killing his character. Within the first few minutes of meeting her, he thought that she was suitable, but there was an issue when she acted in the audition scenes.
She wouldn’t keep still.
Depp said, “There was something very important that she had to learn about stillness as opposed to…acting a little too much.”
Yip, and there is the age-old problem that even pro actors appearing in Hollywood films have to deal with, which is overacting.
Depp is, without doubt, one of the most talented actors to work on screen, and yes, he is a method actor.
He knows that “acting” in the traditional sense is death to a performance. It needs to be much deeper than just trying to play the role by indicating through gestures and grimaces to the audience.
He also previously gave this advice about acting:
“The most difficult part about acting is just to be—to be in a state of being.”
Ah, there we are. The truth about how great acting is achieved is told in that one sentence.
The actor needs to be.
How do you achieve that?
By being completely still and present.
For many an actor, this seems like a fate worse than death. They don’t believe that you can achieve anything by being still and present, so continue to gesticulate and pretend.
The best actors in the world know different and so do I.
As you probably know, my Timoney Method® Acting Cycle involves Presence, Perception and Impulse.
It’s the key to delivering deep and authentic work.
Brian discusses the negative media comments by Mads Mikkelsen about method acting in comparison to Jared Leto’s use of method acting.
I’m sure you have seen the shytshow that has ensued after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock after making a joke on stage about his wife at the Oscars last night.
The media discussion that has unfolded has been interesting.
It has mainly revolved around whether Will should have slapped him or not.
Now this staggers me. If anyone walked up to someone in the street and slapped them, the police would be called, and everyone would condemn it.
But if you do it on live TV in front of the world at an Oscar ceremony, we should debate it.
After he did this, he won the Oscar for Best Actor. So he wasn’t removed from the room (any bouncer will tell you that would be automatic anywhere else); he stayed and went on stage to collect it and was then appluaded by the attendees for his speech.
This, my fine feathered Grasshopper, is insanity. It’s never right to hit someone unless in self-defence.
This is what we tell our children, and we are right to do so.
This is what Jaden Smith, Will Smith’s son, said on Twitter after the event.
“And That’s How We Do It!”
Hmmm, not cool.
Graduating from the Ultimate Actiung Programme, Lisa Daintry has appeared in the major TV drama, Anne, starring Maxine Peake whom she acted opposite and Little Boy Blue starring Stephen Graham.
“Working with Maxine Peake was a fabulous experience. She was kind and generous and a true professional. I loved being part of Anne ITV Drama the Hillsbourgh. Very Grateful.
The Ultimate Acting course prepared me from a complete beginner to someone who was equipped with all the tools to feel confident to be a professional actor in the industry. Brian Timoney is an excellent teacher! Strong to push you through, but kind and compassionate to help you grow as an artist. The course shows you how to make you’re acting truthful, interesting and believable in a safe, professional and friendly environment. It also teaches you the business side of acting, which is vital. Amazing Experience, Life Changing! Thank you Brian Timoney you’ve been so supportive and my Rock! Forever grateful.”- Lisa Marie Daintry
Graduating from the Ultimate Acting Programme Auriane Teffaf appeared at the National Theatre in the production The Visit starring Lesley Manville.
This is what he said about the Ultimate Acting Programme:
“A life-changing experience! It’s not an easy ride but it’s worth it! Thank you ever so much Brian and Natalie for an incredible year.”- Auriane Teffaf
The media are at it again.
It’s not about method acting this time but related to acting at large.
Let me explain.
Prince Harry was interviewed yesterday and was asked to comment on the upsurge in resignations from jobs during the Pandemic.
“a lot of the job resignations you mention aren’t all bad. In fact, it is a sign that with self-awareness comes the need for change. Many people around the world have been stuck in jobs that didn’t bring them joy, and now they’re putting their mental health and happiness first. This is something to be celebrated.”
Now, what are the media saying about this?
Well, here is a headline that’s out there:
Prince Harry Says People Should Quit Their Jobs If It’s Negatively Affecting Their Mental Health
Some people like to work! ‘Privileged’ Prince Harry is SLAMMED on social media for saying that leaving your job will bolster ‘mental health awakening’ during new interview to promote startup.
Prince Harry Is Happy You Quit Your Job
Now, I’m talking about this because if you are not careful, the media can end up brainwashing you into thinking what they want you to think rather than the truth.
- Harry never said anyone should quit their job or that he would be happy if you quit your job.
- He never said you shouldn’t work. Implied in the second headline.
- He never said that leaving your job will bolster your mental health.
What he did say is that if your job is making you unhappy, then good for you if you have decided to get out of said job and go for something different.
What is wrong with that? Why is he being ridiculed?
Let me tell you why. The world has brainwashed society into believing that you should be following a certain path in life, and if you don’t, you are strange, weird or downright bad.
We are brainwashed in this country from when we are knee-high to ducks to believe that if we don’t study hard at school, get good grades, get a well-paid job(it doesn’t matter if you don’t like it, join the club, no one likes it), get married, have kids, get a house and a car, save for our retirement (so important right? because then at the age of 65 you are going to start doing what you really wanted to do all along) then you NOT be happy!
What a lie we have been sold. I’m not saying that there are not things to be enjoyed in the above plan, but thinking that you must hold down a job you don’t like doesn’t need to be one of them.
Think about this for a moment.
What is life about?
Is it not for you to find happiness and some meaning in your life?
I would say that’s a large part of it, and if you sacrifice that because you are trying to keep to ‘the plan’ society has for you, then you will potentially miss out on why you were put on planet earth.
Good on Harry for calling this.
But guess what? He has been trolled to within an inch of his life on social media; those that have committed to the ‘the plan’ can’t stand being told that it doesn’t need to be that way, especially from a Prince.
Let me tell you something—Prince or not, we all have choices in this life.
When I was 18, I worked in a bank and hated every minute of it, but I decided to escape and become an actor instead. It didn’t happen overnight, but I put my own plan in place to make it happen and worked at it every day.
It’s easy to look at successful people and think it’s okay for them, but for the vast majority of them, they started out with nothing and made it happen.
Yes, I know Harry was born into the Royalty, but he still had the courage to leave when it wasn’t making him happy and find another way.
Many (if not most) actors started out with nothing. They had no experience, no acting skills, no money, or resources, but they had one important quality – resourcefulness.
Don’t let society and the media dictate your story. Make it your story, with your choices. I know it will not always be easy, there will be tough times for sure, but that, my Grasshopper, is part of a life well-lived.
Every time there is a media article about the hazards of method acting, they always tell one story repeatedly.
And, repeatedly, they always get it wrong.
Or worse, they know it’s wrong but tell the big fat lie anyway.
It’s time to put this lie to bed once and for all.
Lady Gaga was asked possibly the most ridiculous (but maybe not ridiculous) question I’ve ever heard.
Here it is:
“When you are acting, do you take the role home with you, or do you leave it on set?”
She actually paused for a bit before answering this, not because she was concerned about the answer, but it looked like she felt the answer was obvious, and for any method actor like her.
OF COURSE, YOU TAKE THE BLOODY ROLE HOME WITH YOU!
Now, I said at the top of this email that perhaps it wasn’t a ridiculous question because, there are in fact, many actors who do not take the role home with them.
Yes, they turn up, they do their best to get into the role, and when it’s clocking off time, they are like a rat up a drainpipe off home, or more likely off down the pub.
Method actors, on the other hand, go home and do more work on the character. They understand that getting into character is challenging, especially in a film environment when you continuously stop and start throughout the day.
At home, the method actor can try out sense memories or experience what it’s like to make dinner at home as the character, or even, as Lady Gaga did, talk to her mum in character.
Yes, I know that many, especially the media, just love to ridicule this kind of behaviour, calling it unnecessary and even dangerous.
I call it diligent.
Yes, they push the envelope and take things as far as possible, and yes, they push their acting instrument (their mind and body) to its limit. So do Olympic athletes, but I don’t see anyone ridiculing them.
The Master Of The Method
Last week I went to the Tate to see an exhibition on the work of the French sculptor, Rodin.
He produced some fantastic works of art including, The Kiss and The Thinker. Although, my favourite is The Burghers Of Calais.
It’s a sculpture of six men with ropes around their necks. It was based on the story that in 1346, Calais was besieged by King Edward III of England. He agreed to spare the townspeople if six of their leaders surrendered with ropes around their necks, ready for execution. Ultimately they were spared, but the sculpture captures the moment when they are standing with the ropes around their necks in readiness for their execution.
The detail is astounding. They look entirely lifelike. The expression and detail on their faces is unnerving.
Now, what did it take to create this?
Well, apart from years of dedication to his craft, it took a great deal of patience. You can’t rush pieces of art like this.
Rodin had a saying about patience:
“Patience is also a form of action.”
It can be easy to get swept along in the daily chaos of modern life, but if you want to create a work of art, you need to slow down.
For the actor, this means taking the time to sculpt their instrument – their mind and body.
Becoming a great actor is not an overnight experience it takes time and patience.
When I looked at Rodin’s work, I wondered how many days, weeks or even months he spent on one aspect of the human body.
For the actor, sometimes you just need to focus and practice on one aspect at a time, perfecting it. Then one day, the instrument is ready for performance.
If you want to be an acting artist, which is the highest form of acting, you need to demonstrate patience.
We live in a society where people don’t need to be patient anymore, and increasingly many don’t like being patient.
If you want a movie, you can download it instantly.
When I was a teenager (pre tinternet), you had to go to a video store and rent a videotape. If it was a popular movie, the chances are it wasn’t available as someone else had rented it. Then you would rent another one (probably not as good, but there was no way of knowing as there were no online reviews) and waste two hours of your life watching it. Then you had to return it a day or two later, and if you forgot (this happened to me so many times it wasn’t funny), you got charged again!
The good news is that if you embrace patience, you will stand out from the crowd.
While the impatient look for their next quick fix of ‘instant’, you will be slowly and patiently chiselling away at your craft.
Then one day, the impatient will look at your work and wonder how you did it before they become distracted by something new and shiny.