method acting

Will Smith Says Ben Foster Lived in a Tent While Filming Emancipation

Ben Foster and Will Smith. Photo: Michael Tran/AFP via Getty Images

The latest stop on Will Smith’s Emancipation press tour is a very familiar one: Red Table Talk. In a special edition moderated by his children, Trey, Jaden, and Willow, Will had a discussion about his upcoming movie that was low on The Slap discourse and heavy on Method acting. Faced with traumatizing and dehumanizing subject matter — including being called the N-word in scenes and an accident where the Oscar-winning actor was locked in neck chains for quite some time — Will said that he couldn’t help but go too far with the character. “You go into a state, and when you go that one click too far,” he explained, “Will Smith disappears, and then what happens is, psychologically, you go farther and farther into Peter, and you don’t realize that ‘you’ are slipping away. And then it’s over, and you go back, and you look for you, and you’re gone.”

Another actor went further than Will to get into his character’s mind. Ben Foster — who plays the film’s villain, a slave tracker and marksman — didn’t acknowledge Will at all during production and only greeted him once Emancipation wrapped. On the first day of filming, Will told a story about how he greeted the extras after losing an entire day to lightning and heat. “In my mind I was giving my best Will Smith, and Ben just walked past me and didn’t say nothing,” he said. “I thought, Oh, he must not have seen me. And then for six months he didn’t speak to me. He didn’t make eye contact with me. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t acknowledge me for six months. But what he did that first day, I was like, Yup, got it. We’re not playing. This is real. We’re not fooling around.”

Foster was so intense on set that he spent his days not in his trailer, but in his character’s tent, according to Will. “He had all his stuff in his character tent,” the actor said to his children on the talk show. The school of Method acting salutes you, Ben Foster. Even if the implications of Method acting for this kind of movie are a little …

Ben Foster Was Method Acting on Emancipation Set