Method acting has received a lot of attention in the last several years, but most people aren’t aware that the roots of the technique go all the way back to the 1930s, when Lee Strasberg pioneered the method style of acting as a member of the Group Theater in New York. Strasberg would later form the Actors Studio in 1947, becoming its artistic director in 1951 and training some of the most recognizable American actors — think Kim Hunter, Marilyn Monroe, Julie Harris, Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman, Ellen Burstyn, and Al Pacino.
While physical transformations have become somewhat synonymous with method acting over the years, this is actually a common misconception: method acting is more about the psychological nature of a role. As originally taught by Strasberg, it involves the careful consideration of a character’s motivations, pushing an actor to personally identify with a character, often by using a “substitution” method — the attempt to understand a character’s emotions through personal memories or experiences. While the technique seems fairly obvious by today’s standards and has trickled into nearly all forms of modern acting, it was once as revolutionary as the shift from silent film to sound.
Click through to see our list of seven actors famous for their method acting techniques.