martin freeman method acting

Method acting is a divisive topic in Hollywood. Sometimes it results in the work of Marlon Brando, and sometimes it ends in Jared Leto sending rats to his costars. Clearly, not everyone is Brando. But for Sherlock and The Hobbit star Martin Freeman, it’s not the lack of a new-age Brando that is at fault, it’s method acting in general. Freeman recently took aim at method acting and at Jim Carrey’s “method” performance in Man on the Moon in a very well-articulated, profanity-laden rant against what he calls a “‘selfish, narcissistic” approach to acting.

In a recent appearance on the Off Menu podcast (via The Telegraph), Martin Freeman lambasted method acting as a “pretentious” Hollywood gimmick, calling it “a highly impractical way of working, which is why I think it belongs more to the student and academic side than the practical ability side.” Freeman added:

“To be honest, it’s quite a pain in the [ass] when someone ‘loses themselves.’ It is a massive pain in the [ass] because it’s no longer a craft and a job.”

Freeman took aim at Carrey’s performance in Miloš Forman’s 1999 Andy Kaufman biographical drama Man on the Moon in particular in his takedown of method acting. Carrey’s behavior on set was notoriously aggressive and disruptive, going so far as to affect his own sense of self, as shown in the 2017 documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond. And Freeman must have been watching that documentary recently, because he blasted Carrey’s performance as a specific example of method acting gone too far:

“For me, and I’m genuinely sure Jim Carrey is a lovely and smart person, but it was the most self-aggrandizing, selfish, narcissistic fucking bollocks I have ever seen. The idea that anything in our culture would celebrate or support it is deranged, literally deranged.”

Freeman added, “You need to keep grounded in reality, and that’s not to say you don’t lose yourself in the time between ‘action’ and ‘cut,’ but I think the rest of it is absolute pretentious nonsense and highly amateurish. It is not professional. Get the job done, do your work.”

Freeman, of course, isn’t the only one to think this way. There’s a popular school of thought that method acting is just a gimmick that allows (usually male) actors to act like assholes on set. And British actors are famously disapproving of method acting, most of them having been trained professionally to — as Freeman said — get the job done and do your work. And it generally results in more fun behind-the-scenes footage, with Freeman having the time to joke around and frequently flash the middle finger to people on set of The Hobbit instead of, you know, sending rat carcasses to his co-stars.

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