When Lady Gaga was preparing for her role as an Italian murderess in the new film House of Gucci, she stayed in character for 18 months – and for half of those she spoke in an Italian accent. “I never broke,” the singer told British Vogue. “I stayed with her.” Gaga is not alone, says actress Rebecca Root in The Guardian. Plenty of actors swear by Method acting – the practice of staying in character on and off screen. Sylvester Stallone told his co-star to knock him unconscious when filming the boxing movie Rocky IV – he ended up in intensive care. Nicolas Cage had two teeth pulled out without anaesthetic before playing a war veteran in Birdy. Halle Berry refused to shower for eight weeks while filming Jungle Fever. And Jamie Foxx glued his eyelids shut to play the blind musician Ray Charles.
Of course, the trouble with Method acting is knowing when to stop. “If you’re playing Macbeth, must you commit regicide? If you’re performing Romeo, do you have to fall in love with the actress playing Juliet?” Well, no. And that’s why so many thesps don’t buy the Method. Laurence Olivier thought it was nonsense. When asked how to cry on cue, Olivier used to say: “I just turn upstage and pull a nose hair out.” He had no patience for Method-loving co-stars, either. In 1976 he worked with Dustin Hoffman on the thriller Marathon Man. One day Hoffman arrived to set looking knackered. He hadn’t slept for 72 hours to prepare for an interrogation scene. Olivier looked at him and drily asked: “My dear boy, why don’t you just try acting?”