Method acting has long been a controversial topic in Hollywood—the performance technique is notorious for pushing actors to extreme measures, in order to fully embody a character, such as gaining or losing a huge amount of weight, doing their own dangerous stunts, or being a dick to their co-stars and the crew. While it’s gifted us some pretty iconic performances, including Christina Bale’s American Psycho, where he was on a four-month diet of black coffee, an apple, and a can of tuna a day, and Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, which he prepared for by “running down the streets of New York, in full clown makeup and his burgundy suit,” few would say that the method is particularly…healthy. Enter Andrew Garfield, who has wielded his sword and armor to defend method acting’s honor, claiming the practice led him to have an “incredibly spiritual experience” in the past.
On a recent podcast episode of WTF, the 39-year-old told host Marc Maron that he’s “kind of bothered by this idea that ‘method acting is fucking bullshit,’” since, it turns out, he’s pretty into it.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Garfield used method acting to channel his inner 17th-century Jesuit priest for the 2016 film Silence. To fit the bill, Garfield said he was “celibate for six months, and fasting a lot, because [he] and Adam [Driver] had to lose a bunch of weight anyway.” You heard that right—the ever-devoted Garfield refused to have sex so that he could bring out his reverent side.
Garfield didn’t starve himself to fit into a dress for one night (we’re looking at you, Kim K), but the long-term effects of these extreme lifestyles are concerning. Kate Winslet previously admitted that she took it “too far” while preparing to star in the 2020 film Ammonite, where she played a 19th-century fossil hunter. In her own words, her behavior was “bordering on the ridiculous,” which included “a cold beachside cottage and using candles during power cuts.” Winslet also previously struggled to return to regular human life after bouts of method acting, which was the case for her role in the 2008 film The Reader, in which she played a Nazi guard.
“People are still acting in that way, and it’s not about being an asshole to everyone on set,” Garfield told Marcon. “It’s actually just about living truthfully under imagined circumstances, and being really nice to the crew simultaneously, and being a normal human being, and being able to drop it when you need to and staying in it when you want to stay in it.”
Regardless of Garfield’s protests, actors have used method acting to justify some pretty asshole-y behavior: Jarod Leto said he sent his co-stars “used condoms,” “anal beads,” and rats while playing the Joker in Suicide Squad, according to The Independent.
And while Anne Hathaway didn’t get sex toys or rodents, she did admit, amidst praise, that Leto’s method acting as Adam Neumann while filming WeCrashed did cause some...confusion on set. In an interview with Men’s Health, she reportedly said it was weird calling him “Jared” so she just called him “Adam” or “my costar.”
Method acting has landed actors in the ICU, driven them to panic attacks, and caused them to contract pancreatitis, but sure, it’s all about “living truthfully,” whatever the hell that means. It’s also hard to ignore the fact that many of those who plunge head first into method acting are men—proving men can commit to things if it means a chance at more fortune and fame. If this is male actors’ stab at developing a sense of empathy or just some kind of Eat Pray Love journey for themselves, then fine (who’s to say that you won’t find salvation by sleeping in an animal carcass anyway?). But for the love of God, if this really is your jam, please take a break to have a cracker or two. And if you really can’t do your job without starving yourself or traumatizing others, maybe this just isn’t the job for you.