DARE TO ASK: Actors really do study for love scenes
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
To actors and actresses: Is it possible to play a role in which you are
falling in love with another person and not have that affect you emotionally? I
know it is a job, but the kisses that can curl the toes of audiences must surely
curl your toes, as you are an actual participant.
Ronald, Edmonton, Alberta
I'm an actor who studied under Lee Strasberg for four years. It surely is
possible to play a steamy love scene and not fall in love. In fact, you could
very much dislike the other actor and still pull off a steamy scene. Actors
trained by Strasberg use a technique called "substitution," whereby through our
senses we create someone in our personal lives and imbue that person upon the
actor we are playing the scene with. After we're done, we can get up and walk
away from it and, though emotionally involved as it may be, we know we "created"
it and it's not reality.
M.P., Los Angeles
I've been an actor for more than 20 years. The kisses can be nice at the
start, but remember, at least in stage acting, the makeup may not look all that
great up close. It is a shallow thrill, and after the 100th performance the
thrill is bound to wear off. It really is just make-believe.
Marty K., 42, Minn.
I have found no issue. One just has to have prior experience with the emotion
he or she is acting out and some talent in re-creating it.
If you're an actor and you're all over Angelina Jolie for a scene, you're
probably going to feel something (a fresh vial of Brad Pitt's blood pressing out
from her pocket, perhaps?).
Seriously, any decent actor will draw on his or her feelings to make a hot
scene work, says screenwriter Sharon Y. Cobb of the Beaches, who's sold numerous
Hollywood projects and been on-set with actors such as JoBeth Williams, Sherilyn
Fenn and Jason Flemyng.
"The best actors do have feelings; it's a matter of turning that off,
separating the character and story from real life after the scene is over.
Obviously that doesn't always happen, and that's why we have the Star and other
A common device employed to "juice up" emotions on-screen is to use acting
guru Konstantin Stanislavsky's "Sense Memory" method, Cobb said, in which an
actor draws on memories of personal experiences to bring out the appropriate
"So if there is an emotional response a director is trying to get from an
actor, the director may say, 'How did you feel when you found out your father
had had a heart attack?' The amazing part is how actors can access that source
[of emotion] over and over for repeated takes."
Actors can turn on and off emotions for love scenes because of their
training, she noted. But doing so isn't always easy.
"Most actors want to create an intimate moment, but the reality is they are
surrounded by 40 to 50 people with cameras and lights."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to phillip. email@example.com. You can also hear his