As a serious Method Acting Coach, you may be surprised to know that I went to see the new film by Sacha Baron Cohen, ‘Bruno’.
Myself and my wife Natalie went along for a good laugh, and we weren’t disappointed. But let me warn you, if you’re easily offended or of a delicate disposition, then it may not be for you!
I have always been intrigued by Mr Cohen’s work because there is something very Method about it.
Yes, it’s high comedy, but the Method is used by many a great comedy actor, including Gene Wilder.
Now, I know that Mr Cohen probably won’t say he is a Method Actor, and he probably hasn’t had a method acting training, but let me explain where the similarities are.
He creates characters that are utterly believable. They may be extreme, but he can fool everyone around him. The people that come into contact with him who don’t know he is acting are completely convinced. To the point where he can create bizarre comic moments because the people involved REALLY believe that is him. Of course, eventually he pushes too far and they walk off.
But the creation of such convincing characters is the forte of the Method Actor. They also tend to test these characters out on the public. Robert De Niro, when he created the character of Travis Bickle on Taxi Driver, spent a month driving a New York cab to understand the world of his character. Daniel Day-Lewis goes out in public and tests his characters out with those around him.
This is a great test. If people in real life are convinced by you, then you’re on the right track. With my students, as part of my acting courses, I sometimes ask them to go and do a scene in a real restaurant, art gallery or public place, and see how the people around them react. Are they convinced?
Also, there is something else about Mr Cohen’s work. I believe there is a very talented serious actor in there too. There are a few fleeting moments in the film which are touching. But it was enough for me to see that he has the ability and potential.
The big message from all this is that being believable doesn’t always mean being subtle. It means being believable. It’s a fine line, but the boundaries must be tested.
During your own acting classes, test your believability. Ask your peers if they truly believed what they saw… if they say yes you’re on the right track.