The Madness Behind ‘The Method’

Decoder Ring

Apr 26 2022 • 47 mins

When we think of method acting, we tend to think of actors going a little over the top for a role – like Jared Leto, who allegedly sent his colleagues dead rats when he was preparing to be The Joker, or Robert De Niro refusing to break character on the set of the movie Raging Bull. But that’s not how method acting began. On this episode of Decoder Ring: we look at how “The Method” came to be so well-known and yet so widely misunderstood. It’s a saga that spans three centuries and involves scores of famous actors, directors and teachers. And it altered how we think about realism, authenticity, and a good performance. Our guest today is Isaac Butler, who wrote The Method: How The 20th Century Learned to Act. Decoder Ring is written and produced by Willa Paskin. This episode was produced by Elizabeth Nakano. Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts.  If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit

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