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My understanding is that Method actors should always want to address their co-actors by their character names, even when not on stage, and to be addressed by their character's name anytime they're on set.

But in the proliferation of "behind-the-scenes" exposes I've never seen this done. In fact, the blooper reel often shows actors calling others by real names instead of character names.

Is there a custom or taboo that explains this? (Or are there no "true" Method actors?)

  • Can you give a specific blooper reel/scene where known method actors are called by their real names? Because I've seen it done in comedies (where most actors aren't method acting), but I have a hard time believing Sean Penn or Christian Bale have been called by their real names in any blooper reel. – Johnny Bones May 15 '15 at 13:54
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    To add to what Johnny said, most actors aren't method, so wouldn't care. – Catija May 15 '15 at 17:00
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    Bale gets a bad rap, but that guy gets locked in. That's how he's able to deliver such awesome performances. Same with Penn. If those guys need to "become" their character to get fully engrossed (like Ledger did with Joker), then calling them by their given name takes them out of that alternate reality and will definitely screw them up. – Johnny Bones May 15 '15 at 18:29
  • @JohnnyBones: There is no "definite" conclusion to be made from your comment. Why do you assume that method acting includes behaving as the character 24/7, as opposed to merely living a life that very much mirrors that of the character without necessarily needing to uphold their personal identity? – Flater Oct 17 '18 at 10:46
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I don't think mixing names is necessarily within the scope of method acting. It's not like Gary Oldman (just to use an example) is going to fall completely out of character if someone calls him Gary rather than his character's name.

Between shoots, the set is really very colloquial unless there is a very emotional scene being shot.

While some actors stay in character even between shots, getting their real name called out isn't a big deal. It's not like they're hypnotized, and their real name is the "snap out of it" trigger.

  • Interesting. I don't have any experience, so I thought it would be awkward and at least a little bit confusing/taxing. E.g., suppose there's an actor John playing character Adam. In scene an actress shrieks, "Adam, watch out!" Director yells, "Cut! John, let's move your mark over here and shoot that again." John moves over. "Action!" Actress looks at John and shrieks, "Adam, watch out!" I wonder what's going on inside John/Adam's head? If he's a Method actor then he's John one second and Adam the next (then John, then Adam again). Can Method actors flip as easily as the cameras? – feetwet May 15 '15 at 17:31
  • @feetwet - No, I don't believe they flis anything by getting called different names. Just like I wouldn't start quacking if you called me Donald Duck. :) – Alec May 15 '15 at 17:34
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    @feetwet: I think it's more out of respect for their method than a literal inability on their part to function. He doesn't want to respond to instructions addressed to John, and it might affect his performance as any annoying distraction would, but it's unlikely that he literally cannot cope, and he won't necessarily have to re-immerse into the character from scratch just from "John" being used once. The whole point of being addressed as your character is to remove that obstacle, but it doesn't mean the obstacle is insurmountable. – Steve Jessop May 15 '15 at 18:22
  • @feetwet This is just sort of part of being an actor. As a person, you reflexively respond to your own name, so that's not going to be confusing... similarly, you can get used to being called another name. Personally, I respond quite naturally to both my first and middle name because, at different points in my life, I've been called them as my primary name. An actor spends a month or two on set alone, plus months in pre-production preparing the role they're performing. It's just not as confusing as you're making it seem. – Catija May 15 '15 at 19:50
  • These arguments all sound reasonable. I guess it's surprising to me because as an observer it's jarring to watch actors, sometimes in costume, off screen talking about their character in the third person, and with their fellow actors calling them by their personal name instead of the character name. (And, of course, there are some acting roles where it is forbidden to break role in public, like if you're at a reenactment or promoting a licensed children's character.) – feetwet May 15 '15 at 20:58
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As a "method" actor myself, I can attest to the fact that "staying in character" is not at all dependent on how people address me. A good example from a play would be if I (as my character...who is still me) found out my father had died unexpectedly and then there was an intermission. For those 20min, I will stay in character in order to react truthfully when the second act begins. Meisner technique is "living truthfully in imaginary circumstances." In order to honor the truth of my emotions that continue in the second act, I can't go hang out and laugh with friends during intermission and then turn it on once the curtain goes up again. I have to stay in it. Simple explanation ... but a very truncated one ... there's much more involved ... but you get the picture.

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