There is no doubt that many Hollywood actors are extremely dedicated to their craft, so much so that they would go to crazy and extreme lengths just to give an honest depiction of the character they are playing. To be more realistic in their roles many of these actors go one step further by using ‘method acting’, a system which entails the actor living the life of their character even when they are not filming. Many of the actors on this list became so transfixed with their roles that they refused to break out of character no matter what situation they found themselves in.
However, this is bound to take a strain on these stars as they, in a sense, actually become one with their character which often makes it a difficult task to transition back into normal life, or to disassociate their own traits from those of their characters. Many of these stars had to undergo extreme changes to their appearance and weight which often left them questioning their true identity. Some of these stars have been someone else for so long that it makes them forget who they really are and many may suffer a complete existential crisis. It’s a more unsettling thought when the actors are taking on more sinister roles like those of murderers and villains; they have to take on the huge feat of getting inside the mind of someone capable of murder while presenting these people realistically. It’s completely understandable the tremendous effect this would have on the human psyche and shows just how impressive and talented the stars on this list are.
11. Johnny Depp – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
For Depp’s portrayal of Hunter S. Thompson in the 1998 movie “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” the actor got so invested in his character that he moved into the real-life Thompson’s basement in order to study all his mannerisms and idiosyncrasies. The actor spent a total of four months living in the basement during which he studied Thompson’s notes about his drug-fueled psychedelic experience in Las Vegas. The pair are said to have spent their days building propane bombs and firing guns; eventually Depp shaved his head to match Thompson’s receding hairline. Depp is said to have become so transfixed with Thompson that it took him several months after filming to get rid of Thompson’s mannerisms. The two remained the best of friends until Thompson’s suicide in 2005.
10. Charlize Theron – Monster
Theron, a former model was definitely not the predictable choice to take on the role of the real life serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the 2003 movie ‘Monster.’ Theron is unrecognizable in the movie as she put her all into giving a believable performance; the actress had to shave her eyebrows, wear prosthetic teeth and gain 30 pounds in order to embody Wuornos realistically. It all benefited the actress in the end as she gave an outstanding performance which earned her a Best Actress Oscar.
9. Christian Bale – The Machinist
Bale, who is known for taking on extreme weight transitions for his movie roles took things to extreme lengths for his role in the 2005 movie ‘The Machinist.’ The actor went on an insane crash diet dropping a staggering 63 pounds; Bale, who virtually availed of no medical input into the diet is said to have survived on a can of tuna and an apple a day. Bale’s weight plummeted to only 120 pounds; the actor only stopped here as producers warned him against losing any more weight. Only half a year after this the actor went on to gain 100 pounds for his role in Batman begins.
8. Shia Labeouf – Fury
LaBeouf, who is not commonly considered the most serious of actors, went to extreme lengths to prove his dedication to his craft while preparing for the 2014 action movie ‘Fury.’ There is no doubt the actor went to crazy limits and arguably insane around and during the movie’s production. LaBeouf in his own words explained: “I spent a month living on a forward operating base. Then I linked up with my cast and went to Fort Irwin. I pulled my tooth out, knifed my face and spent days watching horses die. I didn’t bathe for four months.’’ Wow! Nevertheless, the actor’s perseverance and commitment certainly benefited him as he succeeded in giving a great supporting performance.
7. Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
DiCaprio put himself through living hell during the filming of the 2015 historical drama ‘The Revenant.’ Apart from enduring hypothermic temperatures on a continuous basis the actor also went to crazy extremes by sleeping inside the carcass of a horse. DiCaprio furthermore went as far as consuming raw bison for one scene, which is particularly impressive considering he is a vegetarian; in fact, the scenes in which the actor gets sick after consuming the meat are all his body’s natural reaction to the experience. When speaking on the matter the actor said “I can name 30 or 40 sequences that were some of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.” Nevertheless, there’s no doubt it was all worth it in the end as the actor’s hard work payed off tenfold as he went on to win his first, much-anticipated and long-overdue Best Actor Oscar earlier this year.
6. Kate Winslet – The Reader
It’s been said that Winslet became so enthralled in her character while filming the 2008 German-American romantic drama ‘The Reader’ that it took her a long period of time to transmission back into her normal life. Winselt put all her emotions and everything she had into her character who is a former Nazi concentration camp guard. The actress herself remarked: “When I leave a character, I have to analyse the trance through which I have just passed. It can take me several months to say goodbye to them.” Thankfully Winslet eventually found her way back to herself and her performance went on to secure her Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress.
5. Robert De Niro – Taxi Driver
For De Niro’s role in the 1976’s psychological thriller ‘Taxi Driver’ he took his method acting to new lengths; not only did the actor lose 30 pounds to play the role, he went as far as receiving a taxi license in order to drive people around so he felt at one with his character. De Niro is also said to have shaved his head into a Mohawk halfway through the film’s production. This is not the only example of the actor’s dedication to realistically embodying his characters; for his role as a boxer in ‘Raging Bull’ (1980) De Niro underwent rigorous hours of training as well as gaining 60 pounds.
4. Jared Leto – Suicide Squad
There have been many rumors about the extreme lengths Leto went to in preparation for his role as The Joker in the up-coming movie ‘Suicide Squad’. Perhaps taking inspiration form Heath Ledger or wanting to give a performance worthy to follow his depiction of the character, Leto has gone to lengths that would be generally considered as acts of insanity. Some examples of Leto’s behavior included sending strange gifts to his fellow cast mates; Will Smith received a box of bullets and Margot Robbie was gifted a live rat. The star is also said to have sent a video to his cast mates of himself in character standing next to a dead pig. With these circumstances it’s no wonder people are anticipating watching Leto’s performance in this movie.
3. Daniel Day Lewis – My Left Foot
Day-Lewis is commonly associated with extremes cases of method acting and his role as Christy Brown in the 1989 film “My Left Foot” is a perfect example of just this. The actor portrays a character who suffers from cerebral palsy and only has the ability to move his left foot; during filming the star broke two of his ribs from the constant hunched over position he held in his wheelchair. The actor went to insane lengths to embody his character as even when he was off-set Day-Lewis simply outright refused to break character; this resulted in people often having to help him carry out the tasks his character couldn’t perform. It was also reported that while engaging in a visit with his agent Day-Lewis would still not break out of character and his agent became so frustrated he left. This is not the only case of extreme method acting taken on by the actor as he is also renowned for spending six months alone in the wilderness while preparing himself for “The Last of the Mohicans.”
2. Adrien Brody – The Pianist
Brody went to great lengths to give a convincing performance in the 2002 Holocaust drama ‘The Pianist.’ The actor knew the important message and heavy thematic content this movie held and wanted to give a performance that was realistic and true to his character. Brody was challenged both mentally and physically as he endured what could only be described as a spell of madness. When speaking about his experience the actor said “I gave up my apartment, I sold my car, I disconnected the phones, and I left,” he continued. “I took two bags and my keyboard and moved to Europe.” Not only this but the actor went on a crazy diet that saw him lose 30 pounds in six weeks; Brody is six foot five inches so this would have been a huge strain on his body. Nevertheless, Brody’s commitment to this part was so worth it in the end as the performance went on to make him the youngest actor to take home the Best Actor award at the Oscars.
1. Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
It was Ledger’s role as The Joker in the 2008 movie “The Dark Knight” that saw the actor take his method acting to new extremes. Ledger became so obsessed with creating the perfect “agent of chaos” that he went through large periods without breaking character. One instance saw the actor lock himself in a hotel room for a solid month scrutinizing over every mannerism and various ways to portray the villain. Ledger also kept a journal in which he wrote in as his character; parts of the journal were revealed by the actor’s father Kim Ledger in a 2013 documentary which displayed one page with the words ‘Bye Bye’ scrawled across it. This is rather unnerving as tragically Ledger died of an accidental overdose before he ever got the chance to see his character on the big-screen. Many conspiracy theorists still hold the viewpoint that Ledger simply took the role too far and was eventually unable to disassociate himself from the character, resulting in his untimely death. Nevertheless, there is no arguing Ledger gave an unbelievable performance, which is widely regarded as one of the best villainous depictions to ever grace movie screens. The performance earned the star his first Oscar, which most likely would have been the first of many if circumstances had unfolded differently.