Many of cinema’s most beloved actors practice some systematic approach to finding their character. In New York City, theater director and acting coach Lee Strasberg trained the likes of Anne Bancroft, Jane Fonda, Dustin Hoffman, Ellen Burstyn, and Paul Newman at his Actor’s Studio. There they would learn, as laid out by filmmaker Elia Kazan in his autobiography, “to launch their work on every scene by taking a minute to remember the details surrounding the emotional experience in their lives that would correspond to the emotion of the scene they were about to play.”
Sometimes, as Newman would come to find out after eating 50 boiled eggs on the set of “Cool Hand Luke,” method acting can only take you so far. Other times, as “American Gigolo” star Jon Bernthal has observed, “making everybody call you by your character name and not showering for eight months was not what [Russian theater practitioner Konstantin] Stanislavski had in mind with the Method.” Michael Ironside leans more toward the latter sentiment:
“Never make your character the responsibility of somebody else to have to deal with. Your job is to go in there and be a professional, find some way, whatever horrific thing you’re working on, not to let it spill over. It shouldn’t be the cameraman’s responsibility to have to deal with you or the directors or something like that. That’s hysteria, that’s not f***ing acting, that’s not craft. So I throw this raincoat over the misogynistic character or over the bloodthirsty, and they’re all derivatives of me. You take the checks and balances out.”
If that’s how we get the iconic bug-killer Jean Rasczak on the big screen, then perhaps more actors should embrace the Binkie.