Natalie Portman’s career as an actress has embraced Marvel blockbusters and an Oscar-winning performance, but she has rarely attempted Method acting. The “May December” actress stated in an interview with The Wall Street Journal Magazine that she has never attempted to method act and that many women in the business cannot afford to use this kind of training. “I’ve gotten very into roles, but I think it’s honestly a luxury that women can’t afford,” Portman eelucidated. “I don’t think that children or partners would be very understanding of, you know, me making everyone call me ‘Jackie Kennedy’ all the time.”
Being full Method actor, in Portman’s opinion, would simply conflict with her responsibilities as a mother. Not that she doesn’t do any significant preparation. To get into role for “Black Swan,” she spent months training as a ballet dancer, even changing her diet to include only of carrots and almonds. Nonetheless, Portman manages to keep her identity apart from the role she is portraying while filming. In response to Carey Mulligan, an opponent of Portman’s who never attempted Method acting prior to recently when she accepted on an appearance in Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro,” the actress recently made remarks regarding female actresses and the style of acting.
“There was a part of me as an actor that always felt like, ‘Well, I’m never going to be one of those actors that keeps their dialect in between takes,’” she said to Variety. “There was a part of me that was slightly held back, or maybe nervous of completely committing to something. But that was what Bradley asked, basically, at the beginning of the process. He was like, ‘If you’re going to do this, you just have to fully, fully do it.’ When he said that, I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to absolutely do it all.’ I’m going to do all the research. I’m going to do all the dialect stuff. I’m going to do everything, so that when I get on set, I am 100% able to just feel like I’m onstage and have that sense of ‘I don’t remember what happened.’”
Cooper, along with other male performers like Daniel Day-Lewis, Jared Leto, and Jeremy Strong, is renowned for adhering to character throughout the filming process and using Method acting procedures. Jared Leto recently made fun of himself while giving a presentation at the 2024 Golden Globes because of how well-known he is as a Method actor. Leto said to the audience “I have been in presenter mode for weeks now, I’ve been doing research developing my character, incessantly reminding everyone around me to please call me by my character name, dammit…I’ve also learned the art of holding an envelope. It’s about the angle, the grip. It’s about the subtlety, the meaningful connection between presenter partner and paper. It is a deeply emotional journey.”
Leto’s experiences with Method acting are widely known, from his weight gain or loss for roles (he lost almost 40 pounds for his Oscar-winning performance in “Dallas Buyers Club”) to his obsession with the Joker for “Suicide Squad,” which led him to give his co-stars offensive gifts.
Regarding being called a Method actor, Leto stated to Variety in 2020, “I appreciate the term, but I think it’s a little cloudy, the definition. And it could also be really pretentious as well. I was thinking of it as my job to show up and do the best work that I can. It’s my job to show up, do whatever I can, to be over-prepared. And to deliver. It’s also my job to show up and, you know, be a pleasure to work with. And to be collaborative, and to have a good experience on set.”
Method acting has shown to be a contentious approach. In April 2022, Mads Mikkelsen made news when he criticized the acting technique, labeling it as “pretentious” and said, “It’s bullshit. Preparation, you can take into insanity. What if it’s a shit film — what do you think you achieved? Am I impressed that you didn’t drop character? You should have dropped it from the beginning! How do you prepare for a serial killer? You gonna spend two years checking it out?”
To portray the role of a Jesuit priest in Martin Scorsese’s film “Silence,” actor Andrew Garfield went so far as to claim that “there been a lot of misconceptions about what method acting is, I think. People are still acting in that way, and it’s not about being an asshole to everyone on set. It’s actually just about living truthfully under imagined circumstances, and being really nice to the crew simultaneously, and being a normal human being, and being able to drop it when you need to and staying in it when you want to stay in it.”