Black Swan and Method Acting

Posted on 20 February 2013

This post raises a very important point within acting that you need to know, so I would recommend reading it the whole way through.

At the weekend I went to see the critically acclaimed film ‘Black Swan’.

It was a very interesting film and I recommend you see it. Not only is it a great film but it also highlights a particular acting challenge all actors face.

If you haven’t seen it yet, let me fill you in. It centers on a ballet dancer (Natalie Portman) who has worked very hard at her craft but has failed to land a leading role. Why? Well, she is technically brilliant but lacks artistic flare.

An opportunity arises when the Artistic Director (Vincent Cassel) decides to stage ‘Swan Lake’ and needs someone who can play the white and black swan. As you would imagine the white swan character is angelic and fragile while the black swan is, well, a bit naughty. A bit of a simplification but you get the picture.

Portman’s character is great at the white swan. Her character type fits the white swan. But when she dances the part of the black swan she just can’t crack it. It’s too controlled and analytical. Her character hasn’t fully lived yet and is a goody two shoes who struggles to relate to the darkness of the black swan. (It’s worth noting how her real life affected her dancing life, which is very often the case with actors too.)

There is however another dancer in the troop of ballet dancers (Mila Kunis) who is very good at doing the black swan. She comes across as a mischievous and sensual person who can identify with the black swan.

But here is the Directors problem he needs someone who can play both. In ‘Swan Lake’ one dancer plays both roles.

He opts for Portman and tries to educate her on how to play the black swan.

I won’t ruin the film for you so I will stop there, but this raises a crucial acting issue.

Sometimes actors are not aware of how they come across and how much they need to change in order to play a role.

The casting of the film itself highlights this. Portman plays the ‘nice’ girl beautifully and manages to pull off the bad girl routine as well, but not quite as well as Kunis who was cast as the bad girl of the film. You can see that she is very comfortable with that kind of role.

In order to play a range of roles you need to transform because if you don’t someone will walk into the casting room who is exactly like the character.

Here is my pivotal question.

Can you do that now?

Do you have the skill and technique to pull off a performance at the highest level and completely transform?

If you can’t then there is someone out there who can, I can assure you.

If you want to develop this sort of skill and achieve this sort of level of performance then you need to start training.

Natalie Portman employed some hallmark method acting techniques. She also trained in ballet dancing for 10 months before the acting process began showing true commitment to the role.

I predict an Oscar for her performance. Bravo!


Yes, I’m over 18 years of age

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