Writer Kyle Buchanan has a new book out, Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road, which is an oral history of the making of Fury Road. I only just got my copy, and haven’t cracked it open yet, but knowing Buchanan’s work, it will be a riotous and informative read. What is already making the rounds, though, is an excerpt in Vanity Fair about the on-set clash between the film’s stars, Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy. The Sony hack revealed that Fury Road was a nightmare production, with production issues, budget issues, location issues—just about every issue a film can have, it had. Yet, it turned out to be an instant classic, despite its hellish making-of. One of the issues rumored for years and now clarified in Buchanan’s book is that Theron and Hardy did not, to put it mildly, get along.
What is described is a personality clash between two very different actors. Everyone interviewed agrees that Theron comes in prepared and ready to work. They emphasize how professional she is, turning up early to set, no muss, no fuss. In contrast, Hardy is repeatedly described as “Method”, the excuse given for being frequently late to set, even hours late, and for treating Theron so poorly she eventually asked for “protection” and a female producer was sent to try and mediate the situation (but was not allowed onto set, so it sounds like that effort pretty much failed). For her part of the clashes on set, Theron says, “We should not have done that; we should have been better. I can own up to that.” For his part, Hardy offers, “What she needed was a better, perhaps more experienced partner in me. […] I’d like to think that now that I’m older and uglier, I could rise to that occasion.”
First of all, Method acting does not mean being a constant asshole on set. It has come to mean that because a wide variety of bad behavior has been blamed on some actor—almost always a guy, because women can’t get away with this without being called “bitches”, or worse, just being fired, full stop—acting out of line. Oh, but he HAS to send gross crap to his co-stars, he’s so Method! Oh, but he HAS to scream at everyone on set, he’s so Method! Oh, but he HAS to harass his co-star, he’s so Method!
Method acting is just calling on personal memories to create tangible reactions in a scene. Like remembering how sad you were when your beloved childhood pet died, so that you can summon genuine tears in an emotional moment. It does NOT mean being a raging asshole to everyone in your vicinity. Modern acting discourse, however, has completely ruined the term “Method acting”, and this is a prime example of that. Tom Hardy wasn’t an asshole to Charlize Theron because he’s a Method actor. I could believe any other excuse—insecurity, childishness, just plain assholery—but “Method acting” is not a valid excuse. That everyone seems so content to just let it go because, oh, he’s so Method! is gross and everything that remains wrong with the industry even after we’ve had so many big conversations about behavior and bullying in Hollywood.
It’ll be interesting to see if Tom Hardy speaks anymore on this topic. It has been ten years since Fury Road first went into production, people can change a lot in ten years, and it does sound like Hardy recognizes, with the perspective of age, that he was being a prick back then, and he wouldn’t be that same prick now. But will he, and other “Method actors”, be held to better standards of behavior going forward? Or will this just be another example in the “Oh, but he’s so Method!” file?
Live long and gossip,
PS: I have seen the big movie that comes out next week, but I can’t talk about it because it’s embargoed. I have not fully conquered my burning urge to talk about anything else, though, so everything I’ve written today is deranged. You have been warned!