The 15 Best Instances of Enforced Method Acting

Last week, I happened upon a fascinating article at TV Tropes that discusses the Hollywood practice of Enforced Method Acting. As opposed to when actors get really into their roles through Method acting, EMA is when directors/producers manipulate the circumstances of a movie or TV show — without the actors knowing — in order to get a more genuine reaction out of their stars. You could lose an hour reading through the list, but to save you time we’ve counted down the fifteen examples from film and TV that took us by surprise.

15. While we know that The Blair Witch Project wasn’t real, it was definitely unscripted: The actors got only a 35-page outline of the mythology, and as shooting went on, the directors denied them food and shook their tent at night to scare them. A message to the poor actors read, Your safety is our concern. Your comfort is not.

14. To make Daniel Radcliffe appropriately sad when the character of Sirius died in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, actor Gary Oldman offered to do a “warm-up” with Radcliffe — by shaking him roughly and screaming in his face. Instant tears.

13. Neil Flynn, who played the Janitor on Scrubs, got free reign with his improvisation; often the script would read, Janitor: What Neil Says.

12. Mark Hamill, a.k.a. Luke Skywalker, discovered that Darth Vader was his father only a few minutes prior to filming that famous scene in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. David Prowse, who wore Vader’s suit but didn’t contribute the voice, was told to say, “No, Obi-Wan killed your father!”

11. Brad Pitt knew that Edward Norton‘s first punch in Fight Club would be weird, but he was expecting the shoulder, not the ear (since the director told Norton, at the last minute, to change it up).

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    • Lucia Peters

      Alfred Hitchcock once told child actor Bill Mumy (Will Robinson from Lost in Space) that he’d nail his feet to the floor if he didn’t stay still. He stayed still, and he was appropriately terrified. Everybody wins!

    • Frederick Rubin

      Stanley Kubrick directing Shelley Duvall in The Shining.

    • Alex Proff

      Lucy Liu wasn’t in “Tomorrow Never Dies”, the actress was Michelle Yeoh.

    • Araf Karsh