Many actors have played roles that when the public watches, they are immersed in the character and in many cases, forget the actor that is portraying them. Such has been the case for the actors as well, as some may take it too far while researching and studying the role and thus becoming immersed in the character themselves.
Fans can recall the story of the late actor Heath Ledger, famous for many roles in films including Monster’s Ball and the critically acclaimed Brokeback Mountain. For his role as “The Joker” in the Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Ledger went to extremes to prepare for the character, famously locking himself away in a hotel room and maintained a diary to prepare for the role.
“It’s a combination of reading all the comic books I could that were relevant to the script and then just closing my eyes and meditating on it,” he said to Empire in a 2007 interview. “I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices… it was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh. I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath; someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts. He’s just an absolute sociopath, a cold-blooded, mass-murdering clown.”
In a New York Times interview, he also explained how “physically and mentally draining” the process of playing the role was, affecting his already troubled sleep. The actor would, unfortunately, die due to accidental overdose while the film was in the editing stage, and many attributed his death to his portrayal of the Joker. A recent documentary on the actor dispelled that rumor when his sister said “He was having fun. He wasn’t depressed about the Joker.”
Heavyweight actor Will Smith, known for his massive roles in movies like Independence Day, Men In Black, and Aladdin, also recalled an experience where the use of method acting resulted in him getting lost in the character. He discussed in a 2015 interview with Esquire how he embodied his character to a fault, as he almost lost himself as well.
“For Six Degrees,” Smith said, “I wanted to perform well so badly that I was spending six and seven and eight days in character before shooting. You have to be careful with that.” He went on to add how that process affected his normal life. “With Six Degrees of Separation, I got a taste early of the dangers of going too far for a character,” Smith admitted. “My character was in love with Stockard Channing’s character. And I actually fell in love with Stockard Channing.”
The Bad Boys For Life star continued, “So the movie was over and I went home, and I was dying to see Stockard. I was like, ‘Oh no! What have I done?’ That was my last experience with Method acting, where you’re reprogramming your mind. You’re actually playing around with your psychology. You teach yourself to like things and to dislike things. It is a really dangerous place when you get good at it. But once I had that experience, I was like, ‘No more Method acting.’”