No matter how good a screenplay is, the casting can make or break a movie. It’s important that the actors are just as invested in the film as the writer/directors are and vice-versa. In some cases it’s difficult to find the right actor, however sometimes the actor finds you. It might be an aspiring young actor or an A-list star, but regardless of their status, if they want the part, they won’t back down easily. Think about this: have you ever watched a movie and thought “No one else could play that part”? If so, consider how the actor felt when they read the script for that movie. They say there’s always one role that will consume an actor, so when it comes knocking, that person won’t just let it slip away.
With that said, this list will be going over fifteen actors who went to great lengths for their dream role. Some of these actors and actresses may have taken things a little too far, but in the end you can’t argue with their performances. Each entry on the list showcases the dedication and skill these actors put into their craft. Find out which entry impresses you most.
15. Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Many actors have lost a considerable amount of weight for a role, but McConaughey’s approach for the role of HIV-infected Ron Woodruff was quite unnerving. Not only did he lose the weight, but he locked himself away for several months so he would take on a pallid complexion. Once he was happy with his sickly looking self, he emerged from his mansion of solitude, shocking his friends and family alike. In the end it was all worth it, as McConaughey took home the Academy Award for Best Actor.
14. Jared Leto – Chapter 27
Although this film didn’t do too well at the box office, Jared Leto’s gluttonous determination should not be overlooked. The usual slender and in shape Leto put on a staggering 67 pounds to play the part of Mark David Chapman, in the 2007 film Chapter 27. Leto weighed in on how he gained the pounds in such a short period of time. Obviously he ate things like pizza, pasta and fast food, but his secret trick was to microwave pints of chocolate Häagen-Dazs and drink them; he even admitted to adding olive oil and soy sauce into the mixture in order to make himself look even more bloated. Although this doesn’t sound as hard as losing weight, it’s still pretty impressive.
13. Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
When depicting the life of another person, you want to make sure you do them justice. But when that person is theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author Stephen Hawking, the pressure skyrockets. Not only is this man a genius but he suffers from ALS, which makes it all the more difficult to take on the role. Yet this didn’t stop Eddie Redmayne from pulling off a performance of a lifetime in The Theory of Everything. To prepare for this role, Redmayne studied countless pictures of Hawking alongside a specialist to determine what muscles began to give way during Hawking’s decline to the wheelchair. Redmayne then recorded everything on a chart and worked with a professional dancer to better his controlling of individual muscles. Redmayne went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor – one year after McConaughey’s performance in Dallas Buyers Club.
12. Hilary Swank – Boys Don’t Cry
Many actors have attempted to pull off playing a role as the opposite sex, although Hilary Swank took pretty bold measures to get the part in Boys Don’t Cry. The movie tells the story of Brandon Teena, a female-to-male transgender who was murdered in 1993. To get the part, Swank dressed herself in her husband’s clothes and cut off all her hair. Before shooting, Swank did everything she could to live like a man for a month, doing things like hiding her breasts, stuffing a sock in her underwear and even referring to herself as Hilary’s brother, James. The effort was not in vain, as she won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2000.
11. Min-sik Choi – Old Boy
This actor may not be as well-known as some on this list, but his dedication and acting skills should definitely not be overlooked. Choi played Dae-su Oh in the 2003 South Korean mystery thriller, Old Boy. We’re not talking about the horrible 2013 remake which Spike Lee completely butchered; the original film is a must see. The movie follows the daunting story of a man who is kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 long years only to be released into a web of deceit and lies.
In the movie, the imprisoned character counts down the years by burning his flesh with a hot wire; the thing is, Choi insisted on burning himself for real to ensure a realistic nature. After Dae-su Oh is released in the film, he goes to a restaurant and asks for something alive; he is brought a live octopus which the actor actually ate despite being a Buddhist. Choi said a prayer for each octopus, apologizing for taking its life.
10. Viggo Mortensen – Eastern Promises
Viggo Mortensen has proven his acting skills time and time again, but his dedication for the 2007 Russian gangster drama, Eastern Promises, was quite impressive. The American actor decided to travel to Russia and Siberia alone with no translator. Once there, he drove around for five days, reading literature on Russian prison gangs and their culture to better educate himself on the type of character he would be playing. He also perfected his character’s accent and learned lines in Russian, Ukrainian and English during this lonely trip.
9. Christian Bale – American Psycho
If we’re talking about actors who fought for a role, Christian Bale takes the cake. After he was let go from the lead role in American Psycho part way through filming, he relentlessly sabotaged the set and threatened other actors until he was brought back on as the lead. Bale worked out three hours a day, six days a week for the part and even took on his lead character’s meticulous skin care routine. He also stayed in character the whole time, which made the entire crew uneasy. Bale’s performance was so believable, even the director himself felt uncomfortable around him.
8. Clare Woodgate – An Awfully Big Adventure
Auditioning for a role can be quite nerve racking, so when the time comes you have to do your best to hide any unwanted pressure. When Clare Woodgate auditioned for the part of Stella Bradshaw in the film An Awfully Big Adventure, she wasn’t so successful. However, this didn’t deter her from trying again. Usually you aren’t given a second chance to land a role and Woodgate knew this, so that’s why she came up with an elaborate plan to get her second audition. After being turned down, Woodgate then went home, dyed her hair red and fabricated a whole new identity for herself. She auditioned for the same part under the name Georgina Cates, who ended up getting the part.
7. Robert De Niro – Cape Fear & Taxi Driver
Despite De Niro’s recent downward spiral in the world of cinema, none can deny the raw talent and unforgettable performances from his past. For starters, let’s talk about one of his first memorable roles as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. This movie was De Niro’s second collaboration with director Martin Scorsese and it definitely payed off, as De Niro’s famous “You talkin’ to me?” scene is still repeated today. What some may not know is that to stay in character, De Niro actually got a side job as a real taxi driver and used to pick up fairs during breaks between filming.
From one sociopath to the next, De Niro proved just how daunting he could be in the 1991 thriller Cape Fear. Even Scorsese himself admits to being frightened by De Niro’s portrayal of Max Cady. Even though De Niro had the acting skills to pull off the part, he took things a step further and paid a dentist $20,000 dollars to file down his teeth.
6. TJ Miller – Yogi Bear
Although this actor’s skills aren’t up to par with the rest of the actors on this list, his addition is still worth mentioning. Comedian TJ Miller proved just how big of a Yogi Bear fan he is when he sent in his audition tape for the live-action movie. The tape consists of Miller reading his lines just feet away from a hulking live grizzly bear. Acting out your scenes next to a giant wild animal that could kill you may seem idiotic, but it landed him the part; luckily he wasn’t injured in the process.
5. Tom Hanks – Cast Away
Tom Hanks has given us some unforgettable performances, yet none were quite as unsparing as his role in Cast Away. Being stranded on a remote island with only a volleyball for company doesn’t sound too appealing, yet Hanks saw this role as an opportunity to prove just how far he was willing to go as an actor. Before filming, he managed to lose 55 pounds for the part, sticking to a strict diet of fish and rice. Hanks also spent countless hours in water up to his neck to prepare for the desolate role. Even after all was said and done, Hanks wasn’t out of the water yet; just a few days after leaving the island in Fiji, Hanks noticed a small sore on his knee which resulted in extreme swelling and pain. However, Hanks was nominated for best actor that year and the movie was a commercial success.
4. Daniel Day Lewis – My Left Foot
Although this actor only appears in a movie every four years or so, he makes sure to never disappoint. Daniel Day Lewis is known for his method acting and has pushed himself for many different roles, yet his dedication in My Left Foot is quite shocking. Lewis played the part of cerebral palsy stricken artist, Christy Brown. The thing is, besides his stellar performance, Lewis actually stayed in character hunched over in a wheelchair for so long, he ended up breaking two of his ribs. But this didn’t stop the actor, as he continued his performance unfazed.
3. Benedict Cumberbatch – Star Trek Into Darkness
Cumberbatch likely landed his role as the lead villain in JJ Abrams second installment of Star Trek due to his rising popularity at the time. We say this because his addition was a little unconventional. Since he was unable to fly to LA for a proper audition, Cumberbatch decided to shoot a few short audition scenes in his friend’s kitchen using his iPhone. To the actor’s surprise, Abrams liked the menacing performance despite the circumstances and gave Benedict the part.
2. Adrien Brody – The Pianist
After starring in Roman Polanski‘s The Pianist, Adrien Brody proved tenfold just how great of an actor he could be. Not only did he play the part well, he also fully committed himself to the part. Since he was playing the part of Polish-Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman during World War II, Brody not only learnt how to play the piano but also gave up his apartment, sold his car, disconnected his phone and moved to Europe; on top of that Brody, lost 30 pounds in six weeks. His reward for all this hard work was the Academy Award for Best Actor.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Leonardo DiCaprio completely immersed himself in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s survival epic The Revenant. He played the part of legendary frontiersman and fur trapper Hugh Glass, who was left for dead after a death-defying bear attack. DiCaprio didn’t hold back when depicting the hardships of Glass’s journey home: “I can name 30 or 40 sequences that were some of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do,” says DiCaprio. These “sequences” the actor speaks of includes going in and out of frozen rivers, sleeping in real animal carcasses and eating raw bison liver. There were many instances where DiCaprio was on the verge of hypothermia, yet the actor continued to push on. His performance was eerily realistic and captivating, finally earning him the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2016.