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Overacting (also referred to as hamming or mugging) is the exaggeration of gestures and speech when acting. It may be unintentional, particularly in the case of a bad actor, or be required for the role. For the latter, it is commonly used in comical situations or to stress the evil characteristics of a villain. Since the perception of acting quality differs between people the extent of overacting can be subjective.
Overacting can be excessively dramatic to the point where the performance becomes awkward or unintentionally amusing to the audience.
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Unintentional overacting is caused by poor acting, either a good actor performing badly in one scene or a generally poor actor. However, it is not always the fault of the actor as the director has the ultimate role of assessing and influencing the acting. It is sometimes the result of overthinking an action or doing more than what's needed.
The portrayal of an emotion is a common time for overacting, as is a death scene. Theater actors often have to project their voices more than film actors and enunciation can lead to exaggeration. However, stage actors do not have the benefit of a boom mic or other sound equipment, unlike film actors, and it therefore takes more skill to allow the audience to hear every word while not shouting or overemphasizing.
Some unintentional overacting can find itself the subject of parody. William Shatner's performance in the original Star Trek series has been frequently parodied across numerous comedy television shows.
Some roles require overly-exaggerated character acting, particularly those in comedy films. For example, the breakthrough roles for Jim Carrey (in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask) saw him portray the lead characters in a very flamboyant fashion, as the script demanded. This has led to him being classed as an "overactor", even though he has played several "straight" roles since.
Overacting may be used to portray an outlandish character, or to stress the evil characteristics of a villain. Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman was almost immediately typecast as a criminal in his film career, and the necessity to express villainous characters in an overtly physical manner led to the cultivation of his 'big' acting style, which hearkened back to his classical theatre training and would become his trademark. This encompassed "playing everything" via layered performances that vivdly express each character's emotions and internal conflicts. While this approach has garnered Oldman much acclaim during his career, it has on occasion led critics to dismiss his performances as overacting of a superfluous nature. Of his acting, Oldman has said, "[I]t's my influence on those roles that probably they feel bigger than life and a little over-the-top. I mean, I do go for it a bit as an actor, I must admit."
- Chew the scenery worldwidewords.org
- NNDB "William Shatner". Accessed 29 July 2006.
- See, for example, the closing credits of 'Liar Liar: Internet Movie Database. "Memorable Quotes from Liar Liar" Accessed 29 July 2006.
- Gilliver, David. 1998. "Film Review: The Truman Show". Accessed 29 July 2006.
- Sexton, Timothy. How Gary Oldman Avoided Typecasting as a Weirdo, Villain. Yahoo! Movies. 6 December 2011. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
- Popcorn With Peter Travers. Season 5. Episode 15. 9 December 2011. "People who know you ... we remember the big Gary Oldman."
- Gary Oldman feature. Uncut. August 1999.
- See Gary Oldman#Popularity and influence.
- "Week of November 19, 1994: The Professional review". At the Movies. Season 9. Episode 10. 19 November 1994. Gene Siskel gave a wholly negative review, specifically mentioning Oldman's "overacting", among other aspects.
- Rhodes, Steve. Immortal Beloved. Rotten Tomatoes. 26 January, 1995. Added 1 January, 2000. Retrieved 26 November, 2012. "I just did not buy Oldman as Beethoven. I thought he was miscast, and he certainly overacted."
- Gary Oldman interview by Terry Gross. Fresh Air. National Public Radio. 12 February, 1998. Transcript.