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Overacting (also referred to as hamming or mugging) refers to acting that is exaggerated. Overacting can be viewed negatively or positively. It is sometimes known as "chewing the scenery".[1]


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. He has played several "straight" roles since.[2]

Overacting may be used to portray an outlandish character, or to stress the evil characteristics of a villain.[3] Academy Award winner Gary Oldman was almost typecast as a criminal early in his film career:[4] the necessity to express villainous characters in an overtly physical manner led to the cultivation of his "big" acting style,[5] which hearkened back to his classical theatre training and would become his trademark.[6] Oldman has conceded that his approach involves an element of overacting, saying: "[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."[7]

Oscar and Tony Award-winning actor Al Pacino, when asked if he overacts, said: "Well, all actors do, in a way. You know what they say: in the theater you have to reach the balcony." Pacino suggested that directors serve to rein in screen performances that are too large.[8]


In an article on overacting, Independent critic Leigh Singer wrote: "Unlike theatre's declamatory projecting to the back row, a 'stagey' performance onscreen isn't a compliment... ultimately, it really is a matter of personal taste."[9] Jeff Labrecque of Entertainment Weekly argued that "there's a thin line between overacting (bad) and acting that you're overacting (bizarrely genius)";[10] the publication at one time gave year-end awards for "best" and "worst" overacting in film, with the aforementioned Oldman and Pacino winning the former for their work in Léon: The Professional (1994) and The Devil's Advocate (1997), respectively.[11][12] Guardian journalist Chris Michael, a proponent of overacting, said: "From Hugo Weaving's Agent Smith to Heath Ledger's Joker to the entire oeuvre of William Shatner, mannered or stylised acting is an underrated skill."[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chew the scenery worldwidewords.org
  2. ^ Gilliver, David. 1998. "Film Review: The Truman Show". Accessed 29 July 2006.
  3. ^ a b https://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/oct/11/why-i-love-overacting
  4. ^ Sexton, Timothy. How Gary Oldman Avoided Typecasting as a Weirdo, Villain. Yahoo! Movies. Wayback Machine. 6 December 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  5. ^ Popcorn With Peter Travers. Season 5. Episode 15. 9 December 2011. "People who know you ... we remember the big Gary Oldman."
  6. ^ Roberts, Chris (August 1999). "Gary Oldman: A sheep in wolf's clothing". Uncut. IPC Media (27).
  7. ^ Gary Oldman interview by Terry Gross. Fresh Air. National Public Radio. 12 February 1998.
  8. ^ "Extra: Al Pacino, "Scarface" & Overacting". CBS. April 18, 2010. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  9. ^ https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/the-overactors-mad-bad-and-dangerous-to-the-scenery-1984789.html
  10. ^ http://ew.com/article/2009/11/11/nicolas-cage-bad-lieutenant/
  11. ^ http://www.ew.com/article/1994/12/30/our-take-this-years-movies/
  12. ^ http://ew.com/article/1997/12/26/best-worst-movie-campaigns/