We all know of the transformations actors go through to become their characters, some even take it a little too. After watching hundreds of films I’ve noticed that the greatest actors share an eye for detail and whilst we may not recognise them at first it’s the small things which make a performance truly great.
There’s a new planet every day and a new scene to play It just makes you feel like you’re a part of history. I mean, you dont go to work with Daniel day-lewis you go to work with whoever his character is, that’s what you see when you get to work in the morning in that’s who leaves at night it’s amazing to see when actors disappear and become their characters, almost as if they’re being possessed But how is this achieved? It’s been hard to find out but I think I managed to narrow it down to four techniques.
Technique number 1, is vocal control or timbre This is the first step actors take to distance themselves from their personas by altering their voice here’s an example for moonlight come home when you meant to come home you hear? The voice is one of the actor’s most powerful tools most powerful tools especially with how it’s used to interpret a writer’s text you can hear the concern in her voice the heavy breaths inbetween each statement as well as her voice breaking constantly make it obvious to see how worried she is contrast this with when she calms down TV privileges revoked and it’s clear to see that volume pitch speed and breaths all contribute heavily to fleshing out her character in fact, voice breaks and a slow speed are reoccurring characteristics of her voice by doing this Naomi Harris has given Paula a distinctive vocal quality amateur actors rely on their face and exaggerated expressions to communicate their feelings when all that’s needed would be a modification in voice A perfect example of the power of body language can be seen in this is England we can see combo played by Stephen Graham manipulate body language to show his discomfort “it’s nice it’s it’s nice having a big family I never blamed my dad for anything like that, for him being away in working because there was always food on that table that’s why I respect that man for…always…luck you as his rage begins to build his movements become more striking as if the only way he can suppress his feelings is to transfer them into motion what body language does convey, with pretty good accuracy is our emotional intent At times actors pick a gesture that becomes recognisable for the character using them to convey an emotion one example is blinking And if I keep blinking it weakens me but if I’m talking to you and I don’t blink and I just keep going, you start to listen to what i’m saying. This is where listening and general concentration is at its most important it’s these authentic moments that leads to a truly realistic performance this is mostly because the expectation that everything is planned is shattered creating a chaos where actors have to rely on the instincts There could be something that really does surprise you and all of a sudden you’re woken up because another actor gives you a line in a certain way and you surprise yourself at all your reaction and you think wow that’s interesting Take this clip from midnight cowboy Hoffman’s improvised anger at first seems out of character for what we thought was a slick smooth talking hustler but as we learn more we realise that this outburst was foreshadowing the destruction of his calm facade to make way for a frustrated and scared man, improvisation can allow an actor to fuse their personality with their role making a character truly theirs in fact sometimes the best thing an actor can do is simply not act But to actually feel. And don’t just take it for me, here’s Elia Kazan “Brando picked the glove up and made one of the most eloquent moments in the film he held the glove she reached for it he pulled it back and then he put his hand in the glove which has an obvious sexual significance and she was embarrassed he was shy about the whole thing and because of what Brando and she did with that glove which was an accident which they responded to alertly and creatively because of that it became a marvelous scene putting a glove, a ladies glove on…it wasn’t acting it was just…wow. Improvisation may be the main way in creating uncertain moments but the second method is by playing the scene out where an actor slowly builds to the primary emotion think of Brando by his wife in last Tango in Paris or Denzel Washington in American Gangster both these moments have a clear destination and both actors decide to draw out the moment creating suspense and more importantly unpredictability allow your intuition to be your guide let go of being certain art is an illumination of life and in life there is an element of unpredictability in each moment. No, I just want to go out I really got some bad ideas in my head I just- De Niro show us several emotions in what should technically be be a simple scene and whilst Paul Schrader’s script is amazing it’s De Niro’s performance which adds a realism to his character. He appears: angry sad, confused and he even smiles at one point, this makes his behaviour seem organic as he cycles through all these emotions similar to how a real person would in fact when you compare the scene to the script you can tell that the Niro adds several pauses and changes his facial expressions at will to express his character’s true feelings Never let the audience know how it’s gonna come out, get them on your time you want to stop that movement from the popcorn to the mouth get people to Get people to stop chewing, the truth will do that I’m not saying that there’s a definitive way to truly make a characters in life like but these are reoccurring elements of performance so the next time you watch a film look out for the little things