An actor’s biggest test comes with a complex role. What often determines how legitimate the actor’s performance will be is whether or not he or she really knows and understands that particular character. Staying in character is a stern test that can turn into an overly emotional exercise. Some of the best examples of staying in character have some seriously detrimental consequences. Some examples include Heath Ledger as Joker, Steve Carrell as John du Pont, and Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove. These performances have the common denominator of heavy emotional involvement.
As the Joker Heath Ledger rarely slept, was hard to be around, and found himself at odds with the character while filming The Dark Knight. The emotional toll of the roll is largely credited with Ledger’s downward spiral into an eventual accidental death. The Peter Sellers role as Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove was equally as difficult.
In the film, Peter Sellers had to play three roles simultaneously for director Stanley Kubrick. Sellers was so intensely involved in all the roles that it almost seemed like he couldn’t have a minute to be himself. Some people claim that when Peter’s mother visited him onset he addressed her as Dr. Strangelove. Lastly come Steve Carell and his role in Foxcatcher.
Carell plays the part of John du Pont, an eccentric and insane millionaire that went to prison for the murder of Olympic wrestling champ Alexander Schultz. Carell stated that he was so deep into his role that he was often reclusive and incredibly difficult to talk to.
These roles are considered sensational and that’s a direct result of the actor’s strong emotional commitment.
Why so serious? It’s only a film.