Methodology & Method Acting

Here I am, a few days after Columbus Day, recovering from jetlag. This time I have returned from Charles DeGaulle Airport, outside of Paris, France. While most of you are recovering from your Monday off, I am home thinking about my pleasurable weekend spent taking in some art at the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay.

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Okay, the Parisian museums don’t have much to do with Method Acting, do they. But the art works that are hanging in those grand museums are they’re because the artists that painted them had a method. So in what ever your field, pay attention to method.

Hey, remember the television series popular in the States back in the 80s called Taxi? Danny DeVito is the most famous of that show’s alumni. But there was a character named Bobby Wheeler, an aspiring actor who drove a cab while hoping to hit the big time on either stage, screen, or TV.

The reality was that he’d take any role offered to him, but he rarely was asked to audition, and when he was up for a part, or actually was cast in some off, off, off-Broadway production, he’d be off immersing himself into his role. Wheeler, portrayed by Jeff Conaway (right), 04jeff would often be seen in the garage of the Sunshine Taxi Company, trying to get into the character for a role he was pursuing.

This is the substance of ‘method acting’ — you do not “act” per se — instead you believe you are the actual person (character) and perform your role based upon your belief in what drives or motivates the character. In short, your method and your motivation is to become the character.

There’s one movie scene that is most often called the classic example of method acting. It is the famed taxicab scene from Elia Kazan’s award winning film On The Waterfront (1954).

This emotional scene featured Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy, the heroic, small-time, washed-up boxer and errand boy for corrupt union bosses who later joins up with a crusading priest to seek reform and challenge the Mob on the docks.

Playing opposite Brando was Rod Steiger, as his older brother Charlie, a thug who was the enforcer for the union boss. When Terry got in the way of some nasty union business, his future as a boxer was finished. He was commanded to throw a few fights or die. Afterwards Terry confronts Charlie in the back of the cab:

Terry: You was my brother, Charley. You should’ve looked out for me a little bit. You should’ve taken care of me — just a little bit — so I wouldn’t have to take them dives for the short-end money.

Charley: I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.

Terry (yelling): You don’t understand! I could’ve had class. I could’ve been a contender. I could’ve been somebody,
instead of a bum, which is what I am. Let’s face it.

Charley hands Terry a gun, for protection: “Here, take this. You’re gonna need it.”

This film won eight Oscars including Best Picture, Director, Actor, and five other awards including the Best Performance by An Actress in a Supporting Role Oscar which went to Eva Marie Saint in her first ever movie role. Kazan had a method, as did Brando, and Saint, and Lee J Cobb, as well as Rod Steiger. Each of them knew exactly what they would do. They all had a method.

So what does all of this methodology have to do with The Arts – JustMeMike’s New Blog?

It’s quite simple: to get from JFK to Paris, you need a plan which should include a way to get there, enough money to support yourself once there, and a way to get back.

To do anything you need a plan, as well as a methodology. While this column won’t get me any notices from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts, and Sciences, nor will it come to the attention of the folks who decide on awards like a Pulitzer Prize – I still have to apply my own methods to make this column reach you.

Of course, I still need you to read it, and I have no control over that; so no plan, or method, is completely fool-proof.