It’s Friday question day. Today’s comes from reader Chester Carlson:
Glenn Close was new to movie making when filming "The Big Chill." Looking back, she laughs at her inexperience/naiveté. Such as when she told the director her character would never have chosen the china pattern on the plates etc. used in the big dinner scene.
Did you ever have a stage actor or actress bring too much stage technique to a TV set? Or maybe need to tell someone to tone down their Method? How did you handle it? Lawrence Kasdan was polite to Close while she was saying this. What would you do?
First off, I am not a big fan of method acting. You’re “acting”. You’re “playing” a part. The idea of having to “become” the character you are portraying in order to do it justice is fine unless the character is a hooker or serial killer. The “Method” ends when you have to actually turn tricks or shoot fifteen people. The “I was just doing research for my guest starring role on CSI: MIAMI” defense rarely spares the defendant the chair, even with a good review from Tom Shales.
I was directing a show once where a character had to clean something offstage. He asked me where exactly off stage? I walked to a spot and said, “Here. No, wait… here.” During the show he scrubbed the floor in that spot, seen by no one. And p.s., if it helped his performance you’d never know it. And his scrubbing skills weren’t so hot either.
I know I’m generalizing and there are exceptions but often times when actors apply the Method technique they take things and themselves so seriously in their quest for “the truth” that “funny” flies right out the window.
If I’m casting an actor and I see he’s had Method training I tend to beware. Obviously, if his audition is great I’m going to hire him even if his acting coach is Pia Zadora but if there are two equal candidates I would probably opt for the non-Method actor.
As a director it’s my job to get the best performance out of every cast member and have them all peak at once on show night. Each actor has his own approach. I need to embrace that and make each one feel comfortable. On stage, I encourage actors to employ whatever process works best for them, even if it’s Method. I might have to answer more questions, or allow an actor certain freedom to find moments or emotions but that’s what the director is there for. I see my job as being a big net. Actors are free to experiment because they know I’ll never let them fall. I’m always there to catch them.
I would have had long talks with Glenn Close over china patterns because that’s what she needed then. I would listen intently and take her concerns seriously. Then during a break I would go back to my trailer and blow my brains out.
My favorite definition of acting comes from that icon of the theater and silver screen, Benjamin Franklin who said, “The art of acting consists in keeping people from coughing.”
What’s your question?