What a performance! Exploring audiences’ responses to film acting

Sarah Ralph, Martin Barker

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The part played by acting in audiences’ responses to films is largely unexplored – but often assumed to be considerable. In this essay, we report on the results of a small research project into this, using the 1995 film The Usual Suspects as a focus and stimulus. Deliberately recruiting a mix of audiences, the project resulted in twelve discussion groups. Out of the responses of these groups, we explore the variety of ways in which acting plays a part within people’s responses, and outline a tentative model for theorising this relationship.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-761
Number of pages23
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


  • film acting
  • performance
  • The Usual Suspects
  • audience responses

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