Meet actor Cornelio Sunny of HBO Asia’s “Halfworlds” and “3: Alif Lam Mim” whose dedication to method acting has put him in the doghouse. Literally
Outfit by Etro
There’s a method to method acting. Actor Cornelio Sunny generously explains it: “Method [acting] is about studying a character. The concept is to understand the character, but not necessarily agree with them.” For example, when method actors like himself play a murderer, he says, “We [think about] killing mosquitoes. We study the character of a mosquito killer, and we consider the humans onscreen to be mosquitoes.”
Sunny would know this backwards and forwards. After all, the Mexican-Indonesian actor has been practicing method acting when he studied the art in Canada, where he spent most of his youth. It was also in Canada where he first found his passion for acting; he was in fifth grade when he acted as Saint Michael in a play and managed to make his grown-up audience cry. “I instantly realized that acting has so much effect. It can move people,” he enthuses.
Since returning to Indonesia, his mother’s home country, the 30-year-old has acted in a number of productions, most notably in HBO Asia’s TV series “Halfworlds,” where he shared a few scenes with Alex Abbad. This year, Sunny is set to appear in the action thriller “The Professionals” with Arifin Putra and Richard Kyle, followed by “Rudy Habibie” with Reza Rahadian.
DA MAN met up with the actor on the rise to discuss the three craziest things he’s ever done in the name of acting.
1. He became a real dog person
We already knew Sunny is a great actor, but we didn’t know that he’s a doggone great actor.
In 2015, Sunny produced and played in a little-known art house film called “Another Trip to the Moon.” Also starring Tara Basro, the surrealist movie saw Sunny acting as a dog man. And by “dog man,” we meant “a hybrid of a dog and a man.”
“Throughout the movie, I wore a dog mask, walked like a dog, etc.,” Sunny elaborates. “To get into character, for about a week or so, I slept with my dogs, ate with my dogs. My girlfriend witnessed the whole thing.”
It helps that he’s always been a dog person and owns two dogs in his house, Nero and Dante. “Nero is a Rottweiler, and people who know him, when they saw me in the movie, they would say, ‘Oh, that’s Nero!’”
Outfit by Etro
2. He worked out for 11 hours in a day
A student of pencak silat, Sunny had a chance to showcase his talent in the dystopian action movie “3: Alif Lam Mim” with Abimana Aryasatya, which was released in 2015. Playing as Alif, who “only knows how to train, fight, train, fight,” Sunny delved into his character by working out for 11 hours a day! And, yes, he didn’t use a stuntman during filming. “Acting is make-believe. It needs to be convincing. For someone who likes to goof around all day, I cannot just be Alif. The audience would see through me,” he reasons.
Sunny learned pencak silat after he became disinterested in Kyokushin, a style of karate. “Each form of martial arts has its own philosophy and Kang Cecep [Arif Rahman, instructor] told me that silat is about silaturahmi (family ties). It’s not to attack … We’re supposed to receive first and only strike after being struck. I feel that it’s so me,” he unfolds. “Silat is a form of self-defense that is really created to defend the self, not to destroy opponents.”
As much as he enjoys silat and working out in general, he also states, “I really hate weightlifting” and mentions that he’s forced to do it because of pressure from the media and public. “It’s too bad that the film industry sells glamor. It’s not only about the soul; it’s also about the physique,” he sums up. “It’s the consequence of the profession.”
By this time, it was clear to us that Sunny is the kind of person who’s always keeping things real. So, it was hardly a surprise when he points out the ultimate exercise motivation tip: “Just stay fit so that you don’t die too fast.”
Outfit by Etro
3. He experiments on strangers
A serious movie lover, Sunny spends a few hours every day to watch at least one film at home, except when he’s prepping himself to play a character, because, he admits, “I’m easily influenced by the characters I love, and I like to experiment and become them in real life.”
He explains further, “I would watch this movie, and if there’s a character I like, I would be, like, ‘I want to be them today!’ So, I would go out and experiment on people at a McDonald’s, for example. That’s what I do.”
To avoid confusion, he does it mostly with strangers. “Usually it will last one, two hours with, like, a cab driver. Or, I would order food but I would be a jerk about it,” he nonchalantly raves. “The main subjects of my experiment are usually my dogs. If they start barking at me, that means they’re not comfortable with me anymore. That’s when I return to my normal self.”
Which brings us to the question, was he experimenting during the whole interview? Sunny denies it right away. Then again, he also says, “I never admit it when I’m experimenting.”
I guess none will ever find out.