Being A Student of the Craft.
Written by: Laurence Fuller
What is your background in the film industry?
Did you do a School or did you learn by yourself?
Do you have a favourite acting method?
Well firstly it’s great getting to talk to you, I think the subject of education is about who taught you language. Who were the motivating forces in your becoming who you are as an individual before you began to speak in your own voice?
So I will speak to that a little.
I’ve been an international student most of my life, my family moved me from England to Australia when I was young so I got used to adapting. My final years of high school were spent mostly in the drama department of Narrabundah College, Peter Wilkins and Ernie Glass were amazing guides through the world of 20th-century theatre from Brecht to Grotowski.
But my most formative experience as an international student was when I moved back to England to take up the International Course at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, which I now believe is an MA course.
I’ve always felt a great affinity with the work of Daniel Day-Lewis even to his Oedipus-like relationship to his father the Romantic Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis, I found out that he attended BOVTS and so I tried my hand at getting in without expectation as there were 5,000 applicants every year and only 12 places. I remember how exciting it was for me reading that letter of acceptance.
If it is a Method at all, it is a method to break the rules, a way out of stagnant thinking and rigid ways of being, into a lucidity, a more natural state.
I’ve never felt more at peace than when inside of a character, never more at home than within a story, it exists as a sort of protection where I can be truly myself, and it is only Method Acting which I have found allows me this freedom.
It was Daniel Day-Lewis who first showed me this was possible in cinema through his performances on screen.
I was 14 when Gangs Of New York came out, people have different opinions about the film as a whole, but what Day-Lewis did with Bill The Butcher, changed the course of my entire life.
After I came out the cinema I immediately started reading the myths and stories about this man, remaining in character the shoot of the film and this elusive philosophy called The Method, which serious actors took on wholly and seemingly was only accessible to the greatest actors.
I read every book I could find on the subject starting with Stanislavski’s My Life In Art, finding a rich history of the craft which had proceeded me. I went back through all Scorsese’s movies and became obsessed with the collaboration between DeNiro and Scorsese.
Ironically I don’t think there’s more than can be said about Daniel Day-Lewis’ performances that can be read in the books of Stanislavsky, Strasberg, Adler or Sigmund Freud. But that his commitment to these ideals is a full one, which is really the rare thing, and that is an easy idea to put down in writing but the personal experience that he must inevitably go through over the course of a year in time, looks completely different than it does when it comes out in print.
There are two factors that play into this, one is the complete Mystification of what it means to be a “Method Actor”. The other is that words can only take us so far in the discovery of a character, experience and experimentation are the real chariots which gallop us through the craft, which imagination can only design for us.
Day-Lewis does nothing to aid the confusion, as he so rarely speaks with any literal explanation of what he does in public. It seems he doesn’t consider it within the job description to expound on the craft of acting or to detail an approach, and I think he’s right about that.
He’s not an acting coach, he’s a leading man, would know the exact thoughts passing his mind in every frame of the film enhance your viewing of it? Probably not. The cinema after all is a projection of man’s dreams. Day-Lewis considers his audience after the fact, but in his devotion to the part, he considers them infinitely more than the actor who winks to his audience.
He wishes to be subjective in the creation of the performance and then compassionate to his audience receiving that story. I understand his choice for ambiguity, I’m sure he’s also disappointed to see what is often a year of his life in preparation for a character reduced to a sentence or two in a tabloid headline. “Daniel Day-Lewis weaves 10,000 dresses in preparation for his latest film”.
I’ve also found it to be troublesome to develop the necessary language, as so much is preverbal.
— To be continued in our March 2020 Issue of Cut Frame Magazine. —
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