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Andrew Garfield Clarifies the Misconceptions of Method Acting

Andrew Garfield sings in a diner as Jonathan Larson in Tick, Tick ... BOOM! the movie

Method acting has become something of a plague on the acting community, if you will—meaning that it leaves everyone with a bad feeling in the pit of their stomach when they hear the term, and actors are forced to put their opinions on the technique out into the world. Lately, that’s been largely thanks to horror stories of Jared Leto’s behavior on sets. He’s not alone. There are plenty of actors who have given “Method” acting a bad name, and we’ve moved far away from the technique’s origins and what it actually stands for.

That’s what prompted actor Andrew Garfield to defend Method acting and how it isn’t about being an “asshole” but is more connected to … its actual origins. The technique is just a way of living in imagined circumstances (compare that to my own favorite technique of Meisner, which has the actor applying their own feelings and memories to have the same emotional connection to the role). It’s meant to put an actor into a character despite their own personal history, but it has moved so far from that in how we see it that it isn’t surprising that many are just put off by the mention of Method acting.

The quote (via Deadline) highlights my own frustrations with what is now being dubbed Method acting. “There’s been a lot of misconceptions around what Method acting is, I think…It’s not about being an asshole to everyone on set,” Garfield told Marc Maron in an episode of WTF With Marc Maron. “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.”

Acting techniques aren’t so black and white

Where Garfield and I disagree is on the merit of the technique. I just gravitate more towards the Meisner technique of what amounts to emotional recollection versus the Lee Strasberg method. And that’s fine, we can disagree, but I do like what he is saying about Method acting as a whole and how it isn’t about staying in character the entire time or these “stunts” that we’re seeing pop up more often than not. Instead, he points out that it is supposed to be a personal thing.

“I’m kind of bothered by this idea that ‘Method acting’s f*cking bullsh*t.’ No, I don’t think you know what Method acting is if you’re calling it bullsh*t — or you just worked with someone who claims to be a Method actor, that isn’t actually acting the Method at all,” he said. “And it’s also very private…I think the process…I don’t want people to see the f***ing pipes of my toilet. I don’t want them to see how I’m making the sausage.”

I’ve called Method acting “nonsense” in the past as I agreed with David Harbour’s (who studied Method acting and used it) stance, but there are clearly some people who prefer it to others—that is, when they’re actually using the Lee Strasberg method of acting instead of whatever it is that has become the new meaning of “Method” acting, which is nonsense.

Not everyone who goes method does so in the way that Jared Leto has, or other actors who use it as an excuse to do do these outlandish things in the name of their “craft.” And while I may not understand Garfield’s approach, he’s pointing out that the assholery that comes with new-age Method actors isn’t what he is referring to as a legitimate acting technique, and so I do understand his point of view, and he’s right to defend the actual Lee Strasberg (and, by extension, Stanislavsky) approach.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. A writer her whole life but professionally starting back in 2016 who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.