Given that acting is all about becoming another person – so well, in fact, that your goal is to convince audiences that you really are them time and time again – it’s no wonder that there are several schools of thought with regards to how one might approach such a complicated task.
Whereas some actors choose to simply turn up on the set of their latest movie, take a deep breath and immerse themselves in their characters on a whim, there are others actors who find it’s much easier to immerse themselves into a role if they go utterly insane.
This occurs in the research stages, of course, when an actor has signed on to star in a movie and is given a few months before shooting begins. For some, this period might be used to see friends and family, party, relax, or regret signing on to do anything, though for other, more seriously-inclined performers, this build-up is considered to be the most important part of the entire process.
Just as in the case of a novelist, good writing always goes back to the research. But how far is too far?[/nextpage][nextpage]
10. Adrien Brody – The Pianist (2002)
Adrien Brody became the youngest male in Academy Award history when he bagged an Oscar for Best Actor at just 29 years old. The movie was The Pianist, directed by the one and only Roman Polanski, and based on a real to life memoir, in which Brody played Holocaust survivor and author Wladyslaw Szpilman.
To hit the emotional cues that such a role demanded, Brody set about creating an existence for himself that would match the sad and lonely soul of the character he was set to play.
So how did he do it, then? Firstly, he gave up his apartment and his car. This, in turn, caused his then-girlfriend to leave him. After withdrawing from society for a length of time in the aftermath of their break-up, Brody became depressed in real life. He proceeded to immerse himself in the role by learning to actually play the piano, ’til he was pretty great at reciting the works of Chopin.
Brody had no phone during this period, and contact with other human beings was minimal, if at all. Today, Brody explains that he chose to do all this in a conscious effort to make himself extremely depressed. It paid off, and you can feel yourself ready to admire the man for his hands-on approach.
Then you remember the millions of dollars and the Oscar, and you don’t feel so bad.[/nextpage][nextpage]
9. The Entire Cast – The Seven Samurai (1954)
When it comes to directorial perfectionists, Japanese master Akira Kurosawa was picky enough to make Stanley Kubrick look like a hack – that’s to say, he was utterly uncompromising when it came to making his movies as authentic as possible.
Over the length of his long career, that included using real arrows on his cast members in Throne of Blood, setting a castle set on fire with his actors inside it in Ran, and dying an entire water supply black so “the rain looked better” in Rashomon. Woah, right?
One other such instance of Kurosawa’s insanity came in the form of the research task that he assigned his cast prior to shooting what is arguably his greatest ever film, The Seven Samurai. To ensure that his actors were well-aquantied (“well-aquantied” is Kurosawa for “expert in”) with samurai life, he assigned them all the task of getting into character by means of wearing the outfits on an endlessly loop for three weeks, so that they could “bond” with them. He also mentioned that he wanted them to have that “worn down” look, and that dirt was encouraged. And it worked.
The cast were reported to have bonded spiritually with their characters in unexpected ways over the course of the weeks, and the movie itself went on to become a classic of world cinema. Taxing, to say the least, but we’d certainly prefer to wear a samurai costume for three weeks over being shot with real arrows.
Unfortunately actor Toshiro Mifune, who starred in both Samurai and Throne of Blood, was subjected to both.[/nextpage][nextpage]
8. Marlon Brando – The Men (1950)
Although Marlon Brando is often considered to be one of the greatest – if not thegreatest – actors of all time, his debut flick The Men still remains relatively unknown to mainstream audiences.
The plot, which is set around a WWII veteran who is wounded in combat and struggles to rehabilitate himself, is genuinely affecting in places – this might be, partly, due to the research that Marlon Brando undertook prior to filming: he spent almost a month confined to a ward in an army hospital, using only a wheelchair as a means to get about, whilst he studied the patients.
At the time of shooting, producers on The Men were worried about Brando’s idiosyncratic acting style – they thought he mumbled his lines too much, and that audiences wouldn’t take to the way Brando didn’t seem to “respond” to the other actors on set. This proved to be of little concern, of course, as audiences everywhere would eventually come to embrace Brando’s acting chops and naturalistic performance style with gusto.
Though he’s undoubtably an actor of great means, Brando’s stay at the army hospital here was sure to have helped with all the emotion factors that such a role demanded, and is one of the earliest examples in cinematic history of an actor taking the research process quite so seriously.[/nextpage][nextpage]
7. Viggo Mortensen – Eastern Promises (2007)
Back when he played Aragorn to perfection in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Viggo Mortensen went all “method” and decided to inhabit the skin of his character for most of the production, which meant learning Aragorn-y skills and taking his sword everywhere with him (and we mean everywhere). Though that in itself is impressive, it wasn’t exactly “research,” which is precisely what the underrated actor delved into prior to shooting David Cronenberg’s excellent crime thriller Eastern Promises. And Viggo is one of the main reasons as to why the movie itself is so good.
Starring as Nikolai Luzhin, a cleaner and driver in the Russian mafia, Mortensen took the prep for his role super seriously – and it’s all up there on the screen. To research playing a Russian, he moved to the country for a brief period, and travelled the Urals. There, he immersed himself in Russian life, watched Russian movies and television shows, and even tested his knowledge on the language (he attempted to learn it prior to leaving home, and can speak it fairly fluently now).
He also read books by famous Russian authors, such as Dostoyevsky and Nabokov, and spent weeks researching Russian gang culture with the aid of a professional criminologist. Then there’s the subject of the many tattoos Mortensen’s character has etched all over his body.
Although the actor opted to use fake tattoos for the movie, he apparently became his character to such an extent that, upon walking into a London-based Russian diner, the entire place fell into silence out of genuine fear. Now that’s research.
(Excerpt) Read More at: WhatCulture.com[/nextpage]