' ' Cinema Romantico: Pitch Meeting: Method Madness

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Pitch Meeting: Method Madness

In a recent interview with the Daily Mail (grain of salt), Tom Cruise’s first manager Eileen Berlin said that in 1981 her client refused to speak to a waitress who asked him if he was one of the actors in “Taps.” “Tom said to us, ‘Please tell her not to ask me any questions. I’m still in character.’” It mirrors the story Alana Haim told of Bradley Cooper working for a mere 5 days on set of “Licorice Pizza“ and staying in character the whole time. This is often thought of, rightly or wrongly, as The Method, born of Konstantin Stanislavski’s so-called Magic If. “To get audiences to suspend their disbelief,” Alexandra Schwartz recently wrote in The New Yorker of Stanislavski’s system, “actors must suspend theirs.” “But could it work so well that an actor loses sight of reality in the process?” Schwartz rhetorically wondered. “Nemirovich-Danchenko, the first in a long line of skeptics, called the system stanislav-shchina: ‘the Stanislavski sickness.’”

All that, as it absolutely had to, got me to thinking. It got me to thinking about a movie called Method Madness if only because the studio would never let us get away with a title called The Stanislavski Sickness. It’s a movie where an intense Method actor, Albert Brust (Michael Shannon), playing the megalomaniacal villain of a doomsday epic gets so deep into character that he gets stuck in character and can’t get out, literally walking off the set in the middle of the scene where his megalomaniacal villainous character is setting off to steal nuclear launch codes. Frantic, the movie’s young, overmatched producers Jordan and Evan (Abbi Jacobson, Burl Moseley) summon Albert’s long-suffering agent, Lonnie McVain (Kevin Corrigan), who, unsurprised and unpanicked, tells of the urban Hollywood legend of an actor who got so deep into character as Macbeth that he walked off the stage as Macbeth, causing the production to hire another Method actor to get so deep into character as Macduff that he “kills” Macbeth and brings the actor back to “life”. “So who can we hire to track him down?” the producers ask of Brust. “There’s only one actor up to this job,” replies McVain.

Cut to: Jordan and Evan wearing totally inappropriate clothes for ascending a windswept English hill in the middle of nowhere ascending a windswept English hill in the middle of a nowhere to find a small cabin where Daniel Day-Lewis (Daniel Day-Lewis) currently resides, alone, making porcelain figures of famous English footballers. Though Day-Lewis tries chasing these pesky producers out, intoning over and over that he’s retired from acting, Jordan and Evan finally appeal to his inner-acting titan by explaining it’s the role of a lifetime. “I’ve played the role of a lifetime,” Daniel Day-Lewis irritably replies, “twenty-three times. What can you plebes possibly offer me?” “A chance to save the world,” says Evan. “For real,” Jordan adds. Daniel Day-Lewis sets aside his half-finished Raheem Sterling figurine and accepts the role.

After a training montage in which Daniel Day-Lewis gets into character as the world’s greatest tracker, he tracks Albert Brust halfway across the world, swimming the whole Atlantic along the way, and finally meeting Brust mano-a-mano on a gravelly backroad beneath a darkened sky where Day-Lewis, really getting into the swing of things, thunders “With the fate of the world on the line, I meet you here, rabid scum, on this rocky road-” Except it turns out that Brust’s Method safe word is rocky road ice cream, immediately causing him to break character. The world is saved; Daniel-Day Lewis wins his fourth Oscar. 

*In Case Of Emergency: if Daniel Day-Lewis does not agreed to be lured out of retirement to play himself lured out of retirement, we will instead enlist Keira Knightley to play herself as a brilliant (I repeat myself), demanding, tempestuous Method actor who agrees to re-Method herself as the bounty hunter Domino Harvey and go after Albert Brust. 

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