Can an actor become the character he is playing ( within reason)

I have always been fascinated by how we derive at our own identity. I know our families and friends influence this a lot when we are young. I have witnessed many men and woman seem to grow into an identity where others seem to put a sign on their back and live with it. I like the idea of being able to modify my identity beyond the normal maturing and growth we go through. Our physical being seldom reflects who we really feel like we are or should be but too often that’s how we get pegged

No cites, but I remember reading about Jerry Lewis carrying his Buddy Love personae home with him outside the studio. I have also read about Bill Murray continuing to act like Hunter S. Thompson, showing up at SNL sessions with the cigarette holder, etc. Both cases the effect was temporary, of course. Once Charlie Weaver discovered his “hayseed” personae, he never appeared out of character again. I’m sure there are other similar stories involving method actors.

That’s the whole point behind method acting, isn’t it?

Sometimes it causes problems. Actors get a little too into their characters and kinda lose themselves in the process. If the character isn’t necessarily a “good” character it can really cause problems. I believe Heath Ledger had a lot of difficulties as a result of his role as the Joker, though I don’t know how much of that was just Hollywood gossip.

It’s not just actors. David Bowie lost himself in the character of Ziggy Stardust, and similarly Vincent Furnier had a problem with the Alice Cooper character. Vincent has said in many interviews that he now takes “Alice” out for concerts and such and mentally puts him away when he’s done. The rest of the time he is just Vincent.

Moved to Cafe Society from GQ.

General Questions Moderator

I know that people with borderline personality syndrome will often take on the identity of their new friends or sometimes a TV character.

Would Andy Kaufman/Tony Clifton be an example?

Johnny Dep I think is another. My buddy does the renaissance fairs and has taken on a Scottish accent as well as much of the dialect.

There’s also the aspect that the “character” becomes the actor in many cases and reflects pre-existing aspects of the actor’s personality, it’s not a one way street.

Some of the reasons actors are chosen is that they already embody aspects of the character’s traits. There is feedback loop where an actor getting respect or admiration for certain aspects of a character may emphasize those personality traits in themselves, but it’s rarely completely immersive unless it’s done deliberately.

One example of this is Daniel Lawrence Whitney AKA Larry the Cable Guy who was a pretty terrible stand up comic in his early career until he hit solid gold with the “Larry” character and it has become (AFAICT) the default 24/7 personality he presents to the public.

Good points Astro, as you said they feed off the admiration and positive feedback the public has for the character they play. I think to some extent we do this life and it assists in shaping us into who we become.

Can you tell the difference between Robert Downey Jr. and Tony Stark these days?

I’ve seen him say the opposite: he was Buddy Love before the movie was even begun. He basically took all his unpleasant traits and put them into the character.

Paul Reubens/Pee-Wee Herman is another good example. For a number of years, he was ‘in character’ pretty much whenever he was in public.

As I understand it, Daniel Day-Lewis method acts to the point where, depending on the character he’s playing, he can be quite scary to be around. He doesn’t break character when the cameras stop, until the film is finished.

Peter Sellers claimed that he had no real personality, and that he only knew how to be other people. Given that whatever personality he did have was apparently a tremendous jerk (see Wikipedia) he could have been speaking wishfully, but he apparently did have real difficulty appearing in public without a character to play.

Four actors, a couple of them minor league musicians, got hired for a TV series and essentially became the characters they were hired to play.

The Monkees.

I don’t have a cite off the top of my head, but I know Chistian Bale immersed himself in the role of the main character in American Psycho. I believe wikipedia may mention it.

I think Johnny Weissmuller did act like Tarzan in his old days, yells and all that ( but is this within reason ? ).
Don’t know about Bela Lugosi, but he was buried in his Dracula outfit.

During the run of 24, Kiefer Sutherland ran down a would-be burglar at a friend’s house, pursuing him across the lawn and tackling him. Not terribly smart, really; alcohol may have been involved.

No. At the end of the day, absent a profound psychological issue, they are pretending. That is all they are doing. The amount of attention we give actors astonishes me. Each to their own.

That was exactly my point, when a profound psycholgical issue is present the identity of the actor may be compromised. I believe in life we have those that are basicaly actors doing life and at any moment they may find the new roll they will begin living.