On the 4th of April, 2017, Heath Ledger would’ve celebrated his 38th birthday! He died when he was only 29! Honestly, I haven’t seen any other movie of his! Of course, I would’ve had greater respect and love for him as an actor if I had, but now, with what he did with the Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’, does it really matter? That single role was enough for him to prove to the world what kind of an actor he is!
Like many others say, he redefined the Joker, took away that Joker the world knew through Jack Nicholson. It’s not at all easy! There was nothing in common with Jack Nicholson’s version, and director Christopher Nolan had openly admitted, with pride, that his input to creating the character was very minimal and it was entirely Ledger’s madness! We all wonder in awe while we know about his improvisation on the bomb-blasting of the hospital. Yes, sheer genius and crazy improv!
But, all this didn’t take months of isolation in a hotel room with the script and drugs alone! It took his life as well! The most important thing that we all have to look into! This makes me very curious and anxious about the very famous ‘Method Acting’. We see a lot of actors getting under the skin of the character through various means, to make themselves believe that they’re someone else! Though we don’t know exactly of what Heath Ledger has been through while preparing for the role, we can evidently see the end result – death, which is obviously not acceptable.
I’m an aspiring actor. I have read ‘Sanford Meisner on Acting’, Stella Adler’s ‘The Art of Acting’ and half way through Stanislavski’s ‘An Actor Prepares’. While the first two books opened my eyes wide and realise many ideologies and beliefs that have been stated by the legends, Stanislavski’s has been dragging and I don’t have the necessary concentration that the book needs or deserves. But I haven’t been influenced or inspired to know about the Method at all, till date! However, I’ll soon be reading Lee Strasberg’s ‘A Dream of Passion’, primarily for a different reason other than learning the technique and also to see what it has in hand, actually. I’ll be the dumbest person if I refuse to know about it just because it doesn’t attract me.
But I’ve known the basic ideology of the Method – to live the character. I’ve seen Marlon Brando, Daniel Day-Lewis, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and the Indian actor Ranveer Singh do that. I understand the necessity for each role to go that way, but isn’t acting more about imagination and creativity? Of course, we can’t see any other person performing in a role as Day-Lewis does, we can’t even think of that! But is that the only way? We have of course enjoyed and cherished other performances as well! If an actor is living under the conditions that the character is subjected to in the movie, to be that character itself, then what’s the purpose of acting? Yes, certain roles and characters need severe preparation to understand and portray in a genuine way, but living the character itself? Yes, it’s Day-Lewis’ choice to sit on a wheel-chair throughout the production of ‘My Left Foot’ to get the feel and emotional quotient of a guy with Cerebral Palsy right, but doesn’t it shun away the imagination and power of adapting of an actor? If he’s so used to it, to an extent where it becomes his second nature, where’s the art of acting then?
Yes, I completely understand and see the whole new world unfolding when an actor prepares that way! What excites me more is Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. It might be because I love him, Martin Scorsese and the movie so much! But, it’s definitely more than that! If DiCaprio can excite and pump us in the energetic shots revealing his coke-induced wide eyes and relentless behaviour, and hold us with the famous ‘rolling down the stairs and opening the car door with one foot’ without even consuming drugs in his lifetime, why can’t the others? And this leads me to another strongly bothering Oscar choices! Of course, Matthew McConaughey was amazing in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ and his portrayal of AIDS-affected Ron was mind-blowing and heart-wrenching, I saw more Jordan Belfort in the Wolf, and less DiCaprio! I was wondering if it was the actor or his command in acting that made see only the character made me go crazy. And believe me, it’s more difficult to be happy and energetic and walk and talk effortlessly in front of the camera than gathering tears and sulking, in the darkest moments.
This major stigma that people have about acting and the measures that a few actors take to make-believe themselves that they’re the characters of the roles portrayed are the ones that bother me and make me retrospect my understanding of the art and the audience’s response to it!
As far as my opinion matters, I strongly feel an actor should never be constrained to any method or technique, for Freedom is the first thing he should enjoy in the art of acting. Without the freedom of expression, ways of conceiving and achieving something, the actor becomes just a puppet. And at the same time, an actor like any other artist learning the techniques and rules, and any other human learning the morals and code of conducts, should know all the techniques and choose the ones that suit him, the character, and the movie/play.
The techniques should be in the command of an actor and the actor shouldn’t be in the command of a technique!