In the Stars reading for this week, Richard Dyer explores the different styles of acting popularized by film actors. Although today people are less concerned with the acting style of stars, there is still an undercurrent of fascination with the approach an actor may take when delving into a role. Dyer writes that Method acting, for example, receives such respect because “the fact that many people did and do believe that the Method performer ‘got inside the character’ or ‘became’ him/her gave such performances a mark of authenticity that made other styles seem correspondingly artificial or stilted” (142).
This distinction between an artificial performance and a genuine approach is becoming increasingly characterized by physicality. As the Oscars were on last night, I was reminded of the media fascination with stars when they undergo physical transformations for their roles. It is almost as if it requires too much in-depth knowledge about acting and performance for the typical audience member or media consumer to fully grasp the amount of effort that actors put into their roles until it can be made concrete with a visual.
When Anne Hathaway took her long hair to a buzz-cut for her role in Les Miserables, there were multiple news stories highlighting her sacrifice for her craft. To take it to the next level, Matthew McConaughey’s nearly fifty-pound weight loss for his role in Dallas Buyer’s Club was a huge topic of conversation. It seems an unlikely coincidence that both of these actors received Oscars for these performances, considering they had just prior received significant attention for their commitment to these roles. Yet, perhaps it is just a fascination with bodies that infiltrates the realm of acting in general. Chris Pratt’s transformation from the chubby buddy to the buff hero for his role in Guardians of the Galaxy initiated the skyrocketing of his star persona. There were seemingly endless stories on his transformation including details on his workout routine and diet regimen and even how his wife felt about it.
I’m not sure what the true root of the media frenzy over body changes is, but the possibility that it is in part due to a physical manifestation of an actor’s hard work seems reasonable. Most people think actors have a fairly easy job, so when they see them sacrifice for their career, it makes sense that people would have a certain amount of respect for actors they see doing so.