10 Best Method Actors

Looking for the 10 best method actors? Method actors became popular when students trained by pioneers Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler came to prominence in the fifties. The training pushed actors to become the characters, using their own personal experiences to find the emotional core they portray. These teachers trained students who went on to win Oscars as the best actors of their generation.

  1. Daniel Day-Lewis. Daniel Day-Lewis is a two-time Oscar winner, while receiving four nominations for his work. His method acting appears in films such as “My Left Foot,” where Lewis refused to leave his character’s wheelchair, spoke in the broken dialect of an individual afflicted with cerebral palsy and even had crew members feed him. The hard work won the method actor his first Oscar.
  2. Marlon Brando. Marlon Brando remains the poster child for method acting. The actor received eight Oscar nominations from 1952 to 1990, winning two for “The Godfather” and “On the Waterfront.” An example of the method actor’s training includes spending a full month confined to a veteran’s hospital in preparation for his debut film “The Men.”
  3. Robert De Niro. Robert De Niro won his second Oscar for his portrayal of boxing champion Jake LaMotta. For the role, which spanned 23-years, De Niro worked out to achieve a lean, muscular body and then gained over 50 pounds for the film’s climax as a washed-up has-been. De Niro won his first Oscar for “The Godfather: Part II” and earned four other nominations.
  4. Al Pacino. Al Pacino is a co-president of the Actors Studio, the school he studied in under the method acting philosophies of Strasberg and Adler. Pacino earned seven Oscar nominations before finally winning his first in 1993’s “Scent of a Woman.”
  5. Jack Nicholson. Jack Nicholson said in an interview with "Esquire" that he utilizes method acting more than almost any actor in Hollywood. He received twelve Oscar nominations in his career, the most of any male actor as of 2010, and won for “As Good as it Gets,” “Terms of Endearment” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
  6. Edward Norton. Edward Norton is another actor who studies the Strasberg method techniques. He earned an Oscar nomination for his first role in a film. When he portrayed the split personalities of a man accused of murdering a priest, it was a tour-de-force.
  7. Christian Bale. Christian Bale followed the footsteps of Robert De Niro over the years in his approach as a method actor. In 2004, Bale dropped to 120 pounds for the film “The Machinist” before working out and gaining almost 100 pounds six months later for his role as Batman in Christopher Nolan’s 2005 film “Batman Begins.”
  8. Forest Whitaker. While not the first name mentioned when talking about method actors, Forest Whitaker finally won his first Oscar for his portrayal of Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland.” For his role in “Ghost Dog,” Whitaker studied eastern philosophy and mediated continuously throughout the film shoot.
  9. Adrian Brody. Adrian Brody won an Oscar for his starring performance in the 2002 Roman Polanski film “The Pianist.” To prepare for his role as a man who lived in a war-torn Warsaw, Brody gave up his car and apartment because he felt he owed it to the Polish Jews he represented in the movie.
  10. Heath Ledger. Heath Ledger’s method acting work affected his health while filming “The Dark Knight.” In an interview with the New York Times, he said he felt exhausted and refused to let his mind stop. He filled notebooks with strange, off-the-wall writings as he buried himself in the persona of The Joker. His hard work paid off; he posthumously won an Oscar for the performance.
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