Daniel Espinosa, the director of the upcoming Safe House, is one of my new favorite people. He is a big fan of realism in movies and it can be found in every facet of his work. My favorite thing about his approach to realism? The way he prepares his actors. In a press meeting about the film, he had this to say:
When I do rehearsals with actors, I don’t do them in a white empty room. I take them to the shopping mall or a restaurant or grocery places, and I get them to buy the groceries and read the lines, because when you do that, if people turn around and look at you, you’re doing a play. You’re not doing a movie. If you’re doing a movie, they should just think that you are any other guy just having a conversation. And if you have a fight in a grocery store, people won’t look at you. They’re gonna walk away, because they’re going to be uncomfortable, but if they think you’re faking it, then they’re gonna stick around, so I use the reality around the actors to push them.
As someone with a theatrical background, my first instinct is to be mildly offended by his insinuation that plays cannot be realistic. However, I don’t think that’s what he’s saying, and what he is saying is absolutely genius. I cannot think of a better way to force actors to really become their characters than to throw them into an everyday situation and make them blend in.
Everybody should follow this example. I imagine that a lot of poor performances could have been cured by an angry grandmother trying to buy cat food.