Movie Acting Tips from Michael Caine
Michael Caine is one of the most well-known movie actors in the industry. His most notable roles include being a part of Christopher Nolan‘s Batman Trilogy, where he played Alfred Pennyworth, as well as taking on the titular role in the 1966 British film Alfie. Needless to say, Michael Caine has had a successful career spanning several decades and a lot of this can be attributed to a combination of his own hard work and impressive acting skills.
During his film acting workshop broadcast on BBC, Sir Michael Caine shared some helpful movie acting tips for those who aspire to reach the same level of success that he has. These tips include how to focus during a performance, how to relax on camera, and even the perfect way to handle cigarette props.
Read more about them below.
Michael Caine Acting Advice
1. “When speaking to an actor off-camera, look into one eye and stick with it.”
An actor is trained not to look directly at the camera, or else, they’ll end up ruining the shot and they’ll have to start the scene all over again. An exception to the rule is an acting method called breaking the fourth wall. It means that the actor intentionally faces the camera to talk to the audience, this acting method is also commonly applied to both television and theater arts.
But in case you are instructed to look at your onscreen partner, make sure you get practice before shooting the actual scene especially if you aren’t accustomed to it yet. Taking Michael Caine’s advice, try maintaining eye contact off-camera with your co-star to apply it more comfortably later on.
2.”Film acting is, in large part, reacting and listening.”
Acting means more than just delivering your lines, it is immersing yourself in the actual story and bringing a character to life. To “be in the moment,” experts recommend that you follow the Meisner Technique. This involves listening to what the other person wants and reading their body language. The technique focuses more on the other actor as opposed to the one you are playing.
3. “The camera catches everything you do, so don’t be afraid to play things subtly.”
Do not be afraid to improvise! Improvisation helps an actor approach a script according to their own terms.
If you need help with honing your improv skills, you can always enroll in a regular acting class. Comedy bars offer such short courses. They give actors the chance to deliver clear performances and develop a sense of confidence in the role they are playing. With that being said, developing your improv skills as an actor will offer a positive impact on your career.
4. “If you’re going to smoke on-screen, you must plan it absolutely perfectly. Don’t mess up the continuity.”
In American Horror Story, actress Jessica Lange was seen snorting cocaine onscreen, and even if the substance was nowhere near the real thing, her performance was eerily convincing. Michael Caine, who admits that he used to smoke in real life, even “perfectly plans” how he is going to handle such props. The point here is that acting requires you to strategize how you would approach the entire scene, and this includes the props handed to you.
5. “All actors steal certain gestures and behaviors from other actors, but the best actors make these gestures their own. Steal from the best—and make it your own.”
When it comes to becoming a skilled actor, even Michael Caine admits that he learns from the best. The king of slapstick comedy Charlie Chaplin is known to have influenced a whole generation of other actors such as Jim Carrey and Robin Williams. But Carrey and Williams view Chaplin as an inspiration to develop their very own style of slapstick comedy.
6. “An actor relaxes in front of the camera by concentrating, and knowing that you have no enemies on set, everyone’s on your side and doing their best to make you look your best for the movie.”
Acting is not a solo job. In order to make a scene really work, you have one whole production team backing you up. So try not to feel any pressure by thinking that the weight is all on you because at the end of the day it is all about team effort. In your part, try to bring what’s best for the scene and do learn to develop healthy working relationships with the other people involved as well.
7. “A majority of movie acting is relaxation. If you’re knocking yourself out, you’re doing it wrong.”
To avoid getting emotionally drained from acting, keep in mind the three Rs in acting: relax, remove, remember.
Relax, it’s okay to feel nervous before performing. All you need to do is to learn how to manage your nerves. Do focus on doing a good job, and remove any train of negative thoughts. Lastly, remember to stay conscious of the task at hand.
8. “Theater acting is an operation with a scalpel, movie acting is an operation with a laser.”
Michael Caine does justice to the acting business by deeming acting as a task that is as difficult as a surgery for both theater and film acting. Everyone knows just how challenging it is to perform surgery. So it doesn’t matter if you resort to using a laser or scalpel, one thing is for sure: precision is key.
The thing about film acting is that while it might not be as precise as theater acting, the out-of-sequence performance can pose as a challenge for actors as well. Imagine having your character’s story arc go from normal to depressing. In theater acting, you have one shot to deliver the performance and this is done continuously without any cuts. Film acting does give an actor a lot of chances to redo a scene, but think of how difficult it is to do this out of sequence! One minute the actor has to act happy, and the next they need to convey sadness.
With these helpful tips coming from Sir Michael Caine himself, you are bound to turn heads during your next acting job.Good luck on your acting career, and may all your goals be fully achieved.