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When studying unique performances as part of acting classes or listening to actors discuss particular roles, one point that becomes clear is that the inspiration for particular acting decisions can come from a wide variety of different places.

Depending on the actor and their training, this inspiration can come from the source material itself, through a lived experience, through intense use of the Stanislavski Method or other credited techniques.

Beyond that, there are often other more esoteric sources of a unique performance, where a great actor will be inspired by rather unusual subject matter.


Al Pacino In Heat

The 1995 Michael Mann film Heat is known almost exclusively for that coffee shop scene where Robert De Niro and Al Pacino meet in a coffee shop, but it is also an example of how an actor can get the seed of his inspiration from a place that seems odd in the final cut.

Al Pacino’s performance as Lieutenant Vincent Hanna is one of his most infamous performances, but there is a reason for his extremely over-the-top behaviour that comes from an early draft of the script

His character was originally scripted to be a cocaine addict and Mr Pacino shaped his performance around the idea that he was under the influence the whole time as a way to stay sharp.


Faye Dunaway In Mommie Dearest

The Joan Crawford biopic Mommie Dearest is a truly strange film, with Faye Dunaway’s performance as the legendary Hollywood actress eliciting gasps and laughter in equal measure, due to just how extreme it is.

One critic for Variety magazine argued that she did not so much chew the scenery and swallow it whole starting at each corner of the screen in each scene.

However, the reason for this was the book that was the original source of the screenplay written by Christine Crawford, which depending on which source is correct is either a tell-all book that highlights a person who always acted like she was on-screen, or was a spiteful character assassination.

Because of this, Faye Dunaway’s performance, one so divisive that the film was at one point marketed as a dark comedy, is the only fitting performance given the source material.

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