The above picture is Christian Bale, one of my all-time favorites actors and a noted method actor; on the left is him in The Machinist (2004) and the right is him as Batman (2005). For the former, he went from 180 pounds to 120 pounds, then went back up to 220 pounds for the latter. All in a manner of months.
Daniel Day-Lewis is perhaps the quintessential case of method acting. There are a myriad examples with all of his roles, but for example, in his first Oscar-winning role as Christy Brown in My Left Foot (1989), one of the greatest performances of all-time, he refused to leave his wheelchair and had crew members carry him around the set. He also insisted that all of his meals would be spoon-fed to him, even off camera. Reportedly, he broke two ribs because of the way he confined himself to his wheelchair.
In other words, as I’ve heard it described, the art of method acting is not even “acting” per se, but rather “becoming” the character, as we see with the two above examples.
First and foremost, this is certainly taking the art very seriously and very far, as the case with Bale shows. He wanted to drop down to 100 pounds, but he was ordered not to, as it would be detrimental to his health beyond even what it already was.
But my question is, is this acting? If you’re actually becoming the character on and off the set and doing that which they do, can it be referred to as acting? Acting is pretend. Transforming your body, portraying behavioral tics and other intricacies of the character is not pretending.
Then again, you can’t deny the results; Daniel Day-Lewis has won three Oscars and Christian Bale one.
Personally, I think it is acting, just at a much, much more advanced level. When watching these guys, I get lost in their character. I completely forget that there is an actor behind the role; the immersion is incredible and it adds something wonderful to the film. I don’t want them to harm themselves, but it’s a high form of art within an already respectable field.
I don’t think there is a better living actor and maybe actor regardless, that is better than Daniel Day-Lewis. He’s fucking insane, but I think you need to be insane to some degree to reach the highest form of art and he has undoubtedly.