You Talkin’ to me, Focker?
The paradox of the actor is a multi-dimensional challenge. First, the actor must be able to forego their feelings, fears, stage fright, and anxieties to transform themselves into a new entity. Additionally, they must be able to understand the emotions, feelings, motivations, mannerisms, and gestures of the characters they play.
Thus, an actor faces a genuine dilemma of becoming a new being in spite their true self. Therefore, they must alter their behavior, movement, and speech to bring a newfound spirit to life. The actor provides the life-force to create the belief that a new soul is born. The development of a character as a natural being is dependent upon the artist’s ability to compartmentalize. The actor must allow the character to appear natural by remaining cognitive and real to the role. Hence, the actor must maintain a personal artificialness (always) as a duty to keep the character’s integrity.
The actor’s ability to transform into a natural style through self-awareness and artificial means is acting. Often, acting may be called a performance. However, acting and performing are two distinctly different forms.
What is the difference between acting and performing?
If one witness’ excellent acting vs. a remarkable performance—the differences become clearer. One of the most fundamental differences is observable within a character. For instance, let’s compare Robert DeNiro in the film to notice a distinct difference between acting and performance. A young DeNiro in 1980s Raging Bull brings the real-life story of boxing icon, Jake La Motta, to life. Deniro’s acting in on full-display as the viewer comes to forget all about DeNiro as Jake La Motta the emerges. The focus on La Motta (the character) establishes a realness—the audience comes away with a feeling that they know Jake La Motta. Mr. DeNiro is so convincing that he becomes invisible and only a mere vessel for his character. Mr. DeNiro was so resounding in Raging Bull–he would win an Academy Award for Best Actor.
By comparison, let’s examine any of Mr. DeNiro’s performances in those “Meet the Parents/Fockers” movies. Mr. DeNiro is serviceable—but his character is not believable. The viewer does not get past the “that’s Robert DeNiro” stage. At this point, the viewer can determine that Mr. DeNiro is plainly providing a performance lacking in both depth and believability. Thus, a distinct difference is noticeable between the acting and performing. The power of acting centers around bringing a character to life. However, performing fails to bring a character to life as the performer overshadows the role.