Crying typically happens in a pivotal scene in a movie, TV show or live performance, as a character’s emotions finally get the best of her. Seeing a character cry makes members of the audience tear up too, which further draws in an audience to the story and the character’s struggle. Actors use a variety of techniques to get the water works going, and to deliver, what looks like to us, an authentic performance.
Recalling sad memories helps an actor get the tears flowing. This is a part of “method” acting, where an actor draws on things from his personal life to better inhabit the character he is playing. When a script calls for tears, the actor reflects on a time when he cried for real, such as when a family member died or he lost his first love. Recalling this memory brings the feelings of sadness back and it’s easier to start crying on cue.
Inhabiting a Character
Another way an actor can truly inhabit a character is to put herself in the character’s shoes, to empathize with the character’s struggles and to think how the character would really react if this happened to her. Instead of simply “playing” a character, the actor “becomes” that character, and the character’s emotions become the actor’s emotions too. This helps create a more authentic performance.
Sad Music or Other Art Forms
Art can move a viewer or listener to tears. Movies, music, TV shows, paintings, poetry, stories and all kinds of art can make tears well up inside the participant. Actors use this to their advantage. Before performing a scene that calls for crying, an actor may listen to a particularly sad song to get him in the proper headspace. This sadness can then be applied to the scene, making crying easier to do on cue.
Directors and actors sometimes push an actor to start crying by using unscripted verbal abuse. While this can be rather cruel, it sometimes gets the job done, as the actor’s real emotions blend into the character’s emotions and the scene is performed with more fragility than before. This technique was employed by director Francis Ford Coppola and actor Keanu Reeves to Winona Ryder for the film “Dracula.”
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