I noticed recently that often the best actors in film have a strong theatrical heritage. What was it that drew them together, I asked myself. Here I want to show that, funnily enough, what draws this selection of actors together is a shared sense of how acting should be done that often makes them stand out – I think that it’s what they garnered from their time in the theatre.
Daniel Day-Lewis, for one, started his career in the National Youth Theatre, continuing his theatrical development well until he took his first major role
in My Beautiful Laundrette. The method acting for which he is famed, however, was not fully evident until My Left Foot some years later. I believe that this method acting, which has won him three Academy Awards, is a legacy of having been educated in acting by the gruelling and very different experience of acting in theatre. The ferocity of the monologues and the intensity of his gaze, evident in There Will Be Blood (arguably his career-defining performance) show a theatricality that should come as no surprise to anyone with a knowledge of his background. Other actors such as Ben Kingsley, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Derek Jacobi share this background of having studied at the National Youth Theatre, and what becomes immediately apparent is their shared interest in fiery, distinctive character studies. Between them, they possess some of the most widely-known and instantly recognisable roles in film history.
The translation of stage success to film success is so pervasive because of the distinct ability to bring a convincing and authentic possession of a role that comes from having sharpened one’s chops on the stage rather than going straight into the daunting world of film.