Hugh Jackman and Richard Armitage both went through rigorous acting training. HJ went to Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) after university. RA went to a performing arts school and was a professional dancer before going to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) for three years.
In this video Hugh Jackman talks about acting:
HJ says that “You always have to have conflict as an actor.” Holding back the emotion creates the conflict. You have to have conflict and that way you can keep communicating. This reminds me of Richard Armitage saying that he always looks for the opposite in a character. If the character is the bad guy, he looks for the good in the character. To me, that is looking for the conflict in the character. That is what HJ was describing, and that is what makes the acting interesting to the audience.
I was trained as an actor in my youth. The one lesson that I have never forgotten is that “Acting is Energy”. You must utilize all your energy in portraying a character. Hugh Jackman and Richard Armitage both utilize ALL their energy in their characters. To me, that is what makes them master actors. They are not casual in their approach to their character portrayal. They put ALL of their energy into it, even if the project they are in turns out to be crap. (Van Helsing, anyone?) 🙂
Hugh Jackman was offered a part in Neighbors, an extremely popular British soap opera. He turned it down in favor of continuing training. He has said that he was taught at WAAPA that Stanislavski wrote two books. He believes that how the character looks, the clothes he wears, the physical presence of the character is as important as the inner life of the character.
For anyone not familiar with acting training, Constantin Stanislavski is the father of “method’ acting. His was “The first book described what is commonly known as “method” acting.” This means knowing who your character is, building a character from a psychological basis by reaching into your past to connect with the emotions of the character. But Stanislavski also wrote that building a character from the outside in was equally important. Acting has to be tackled from both sides.
Richard Armitage says he is not a “method” actor. However, he appears to utilize some of the techniques. He says he “believes” in the role he is playing. He pretends that it is true. He believes he IS the character. He has admitted to dreaming as the character. He has also said that he stays in character throughout the filming and finds it hard to break out of being the character while he is filming. Identifying yourself in terms of the character is part of method acting.
One comment of RA’s was so interesting to me. He said in an interview “It was fascinating to be a big person inside a small body.” He believed he was in a small body! In reality of course he never left his big body, but he believed he was 5’2″ instead of 6’2″!
RA has spoken about how Thorin’s boots helped him get in character, as well as wearing the wig and beard. This actor would “become the character” and identify with his thoughts and feelings: he would “walk, talk, think, feel, cry, laugh as the author wants him to.” Method acting requires an analysis of the text to be performed into units describing interactions with the other characters. It requires analysis of the text to break it into actions, analyzing the psychophysical behavior of actors on stage in action. Stanislavski said that an actor who REALLY believed he was the character needed help. Instead, what he proposed was a “Magical IF”, that is, IF I was this character, what would I do?? The character’s objectives drives the actor’s physical actions. That is the inner life of the character. That is what I believe Richard Armitage is a master at.
In addition to the inner life of the character, how the character looks, talks, walks, gestures, wears clothes, i.e. the outer appearance of the character, also influences the portrayal of the character by the actor. You cannot separate the two. Both are important to the real, true and believable creation of a character.
To me, these are two great character portrayals. Richard Armitage was Mr. Thornton in North & South. Totally believable. His anguish, his love, were palpable. In the same way, Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Peter Allen in The Boy from Oz was utterly masterful. He flirted, he danced, he loved his partners, both Liza Minelli, and Gregory Connell. Again, totally believable.
I love both of these actors equally for their skillful acting. even though both have performed in works that I thought were not worthy of their ability. I can only hope that we will have the opportunity to see them bring to life many more characters.
Thanks to RAnet, Wikipedia, HughJackmanfan and YouTube for the illustrations.