Scenery chewing or scene chewing is a phrase used to describe overacting. It comes from the thought that those who are so wrapped up in their own acting performance leave teeth marks in the scenery and props.
Scenery chewing can be unintentional, which is often down to bad acting, or can be intentional when a role calls for an exaggerated performance.
Here are some examples of actors chewing the scenery, both in a good way and a bad way…
Intentional scenery chewing
This scene from The Shining is a classic example of scenery chewing but one that is totally required for the role, and has since become an iconic piece of cinema. Madness and insanity is a common source of scenery chewing, but most of the time it’s essential to get those emotions across.
Jim Carey is one of the most obvious examples of overacting, and this example from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective sums him up. No doubt the role calls for this kind of overacting but many would no doubt also argue it’s Carey’s dodgy acting as well.
Sir Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar for his role as Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs despite only being on screen for about 16 minutes. His twisted portrayal of the serial killer is another example of how scenery chewing can help show mentally unstable characterisation.
Unintentional scene chewing
Hayden Christianson is just one of many things wrong with the Star Wars prequels and this clip shows why as he delivers his lines with the emotional weight of a beach ball.
Not only is Jon Voight incredibly pervy and creepy in this scene but it’s so over the top it makes J-Lo look like Cate Blanchett.
The Ultimate Scenery Chew. Nic Cage in the remake of The Wicker Man is truly a sight to behold and is well worth a watch just for how unbelievably laughable it is.
Are there any examples of scenery chewing that stick in your memory? If so, drop a comment below…
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