An Actor’s Guide: 3 Ways To Fake Cry On Command

When the scene gets really emotional, and the lead actress or actor suddenly starts to cry, - do you sometimes find yourself wondering: are those real tears? Can they really cry on cue, or is there a trick to it? Now we’ll tell you everything on how actors fake cry in the movies.

Referring to tragic experience

The fact is that some actors can actually cry on demand! And they can virtually do it at any time – like Bryce Dallas Howard did on Conan O'Brien’s talk show (but we'll come back to that later).

So, actors use a variety of ways to produce genuine tears. And one of the most popular techniques is referring back to one’s sad or even tragic experience. Generally, it means that when they need to shed some tears, performers turn to the memories of some sad events or emotionally charged moments from their own lives.

By recalling the details of a loss or a heartbreak, they are able to bring themselves to tears. By the way, these can be happy memories, too! For some people, tears that come from a feeling of gratitude, are just easier to produce (and less painful, for sure!).

On the other hand, some actors prefer to fully immerse themselves in the roles they play. And as they live through their characters’ grief, or pain, or other emotions, tears just come naturally when they are needed. The latest example of this approach was Jennifer Hudson, who portrayed Grizabella in a movie adaptation of the musical “Cats”. The actress revealed that she cried every time she sang "Memory" on set! 

An example that's a bit different is Amy Adams who can immediately start crying on demand - which she brilliantly demonstrated on The Graham Norton Show. It turns out that the actress has a special story in store, that makes her cry every single time she thinks about it! It’s a news story about a hot-sauce plant in California that has been shut down because of its unpleasant fumes. Surprisingly, it somehow allows Amy Adams to get into the right emotional state.

However, these popular theatrical techniques might not work every time. Lots of great actors have a hard time crying on cue! So what do they do then? They use some additional techniques.

Actors’ little helpers

When actors need a little bit of help to simulate crying, they use special products, called “tear sticks” and “tear blowers”. They contain menthol, which irritates the eyes. Applied under the eyes, or blown right into them, menthol vapors cause the natural body reaction, that not only induces tears but also makes your eyes red and puffy – like you usually have it in real life while crying.

These products are a great help to actors who find it harder to fake cry than laugh. Packed in a tube that resembles a lipstick, a tear-stick is quite effective and easy to use while performing on stage or in front of a camera. 

Anna Faris unveiled this secret, demonstrating the use of this device with Joshua Jackson at The Late Show with James Corden. It’s amazing, but within a couple of seconds, all three were crying – quite realistically! Also, Vaseline-based products can be used to create the effect of a teary-wet face. And, surely, eye drops are a quick way to get a single tear rolling down the cheek. However, some film directors need more emotion from their actors, so they use other tricks to achieve the desired effect.

Mean tricks

While shooting Wes Craven’s “New Nightmare”, the crew of the movie wanted child actor Miko Hughes to produce ultra-real emotions. To achieve that, right before shooting the scene where the boy had to cry, his father told him that his mother had died (!), and quickly walked off the set! Yeah, it sounds horrible even for a horror movie, but it’s no wonder that the scene was that realistic!

Getty Images

Getty Images

Another example of things getting a bit too personal on set were the tears of Winona Rider on “Dracula”. Director Francis Ford Coppola wasn’t satisfied with the way Winona performed the break-down scene, so he told her co-star Keanu Reeves to insult and shame her. Well, not exactly her, to tell the truth, but her character, but still – that was definitely a memorable experience for the actress, who was only twenty at the time.

But the top of our list (if we had one) would probably go to Stanley Kubrick. While shooting the iconic “Shining” he almost drove the actress Shelley Duvall insane. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Duvall recalled that she “had to cry 12 hours a day, all day long, nine months (of shooting) straight, five or six days a week.” Moreover, the director treated her with open hostility in order to get the level of fear and hysteria he needed from the actress.

The physical methods

We have already mentioned Bryce Dallas Howard, who managed to start crying when Conan O'Brien asked her to – right in front of the cameras, during an interview! It turns out that for Bryce it’s not a natural gift, even though it looks like it "It's technical, - the actress explained. – It’s something that can be learned and taught.”

Getty Images

Getty Images

Her method includes yawning over and over again, which makes the soft palate lift – and tears roll, eventually! And don’t forget about proper hydration: one has to drink enough to be able to produce tears! Moreover, there are other physical tricks which help actors cry on the spot, like staring and … laughing.

You know that feeling when something is so funny tears begin to flow? Exactly! Sometimes it’s really hard to tell if a person is laughing or crying, especially when they conceal the face. So yes – sometimes actors use this technique too! 

But staring is probably the most natural way to induce tears: if you don't blink for 30 seconds, it will cause your eyes to water up to compensate for the dryness. And, for the best effect, it should be combined with one of the other techniques we have already mentioned.

Getty Images

Getty Images

So take Jennifer Lawrence, for example. The award-winning actress revealed in an interview with MTV News, that she doesn't have anything in her life that can instantly make her cry. So, she just fakes her way through the scene, by holding her eyes open for a long time and making sobbing movements and voila - it happens.

As you see, there are different techniques that actors use to start shedding real tears whenever they need to Every actor uses a different method or a combination of methods. You can use their tips and try them out yourself!

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