Some of the biggest names in Hollywood have found themselves really lost in their roles, thanks to the popularity of method acting. These method actors essentially stay in character for the whole time they are making their movie, even when the cameras aren’t rolling.
Robert de Niro, while filming Taxi Driver, would actually pick up passengers in his New York cab during breaks between shooting, while king of method acting Daniel Day-Lewis insisted on living on the set of The Crucible, which had no electricity or running water, and contracted pneumonia while making Gangs of New York after he refused to wear a modern winter coat.
It’s all very well if the actor has chosen to do something unusual and a bit crazy in order to prepare for their role. It’s also another thing entirely when the actors are forced into it by an overbearing director or even end up in a terrifying situation that they knew nothing about.
The actors in the list below were forever affected by their roles on creepy movies, thanks to the disturbing antics on set and the strange and scary things they were asked (or told) to do. Which of the following roles would creep you out the most?
15 Sandra Peabody
Last House on the Left was the first film made by horror king Wes Craven all the way back in 1972. It is widely credited as changing the horror movie industry forever, and it certainly changed the life of lead actress Sandra Peabody, credited in the film as Sandra Cassell. In order to maintain the atmosphere on set, Craven told the actors who played her attackers to stay in character throughout the whole shoot, ensuring that the poor 23-year-old actress remained terrified whether the cameras were rolling or not. Unsurprisingly, Peabody is usually absent when the stars of the seminal film are interviewed today.
14 Mia Farrow
Directed by Roman Polanski, Rosemary’s Baby is one of the most successful and critically acclaimed horror films of all time, even winning an Academy Award for Supporting Actress, Ruth Gordon. Star Mia Farrow plays a pregnant woman who believed that a satanic cult wanted to use her unborn baby in one of its evil rituals. The scene which traumatized Farrow–when she eats raw liver in the kitchen of her home–may have seemed fairly innocuous to viewers, but the actress was in fact a strict vegetarian, and Polanski actually insisted on several takes of the scene in question.
13 Malcolm McDowell
Based on the dystopian novel by author Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange wasn’t a conventional horror film, but it was certainly disturbing and featured scenes of extreme violence. Malcom McDowell played Alex, the film’s anti-hero, and unfortunately for him, director Stanley Kubrick wanted to follow the original book as faithfully as possible, including the scene where Alex’s eyes are pinned open and he is forced to watch violent films in an effort to cure him of his criminal tendencies. McDowell was temporarily blinded as a result of this scene, and the antique eye clamps used in the scene sliced his cornea.
12 Veronica Cartwright
Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi epic Alien boasts one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history, when an alien just bursts out of John Hurt’s chest. It’s a tense and traumatic scene at the best of times, but what made it that much worse for the rest of the cast was that they didn’t even know what was going to happen before the scene was filmed. Ridley Scott had deliberately kept them in the dark as he wanted their reactions to be as real and authentic as possible. Veronica Cartwright, who is the actress who played Lambert in the movie, was hit by a jet of fake blood during the filming of the scene and promptly fainted as a result. Wouldn't you?
11 Jennifer Carpenter
Jennifer Carpenter received rave reviews for her performance as a possessed young woman in the horror film The Exorcism of Emily Rose, based on a true story. Some viewers were so convinced that they even began to question whether Carpenter herself was actually possessed in real life. Many of the actors and crew on the film reported a number of creepy phenomena during the shoot. Carpenter herself used to be woken regularly at night when the radio in her hotel room would turn on by itself—once blasting “Alive” by Pearl Jam at top volume! Carpenter admitted that she found these episodes a little scary and has steered clear of horror films ever since.
10 Isabelle Adjani
Made in 1981, the psychological horror film Possession stars Isabelle Adjani as a woman whose husband begins to question whether she might in fact be possessed by a demonic spirit, after she begins to display increasingly disturbing behavior. It seems that Adjani’s performance was so realistic that she even managed to convince herself at one point that there was something strange going on with her, and the French-born actress later revealed that she had undergone years of therapy in order to undo the psychological damage she had suffered while making the film, and that she would never take on another horror role like that again.
9 The Blair Witch Project Actors
The Blair Witch Project was the cinematic phenomenon of 1999, supposedly a found-footage documentary about three college students who headed into the woods to try and track down a mysterious local ghost. Director Adam Wingard sent his three young stars out to camp in the woods before attacking their tents at night, stealing their food and using planted actors to move the film along in unexpected directions. All three actors have spoken about how deeply traumatic the filming was and also how they faced a backlash from fans when it was revealed that the found-footage documentary was really a feature film.
8 Heath Ledger
Australian actor Heath Ledger’s scene-stealing turn as The Joker, in the Batman movie The Dark Night was rightly hailed as the performance of a lifetime. Friends say that he lived and breathed the sinister Joker role, creating a mesmerizing onscreen persona but obviously also putting a tremendous strain on his fragile mental health at the time. A few months after filming wrapped up, Ledger died from an accidental overdose of prescription medication at the age of just 28. The Dark Knight was released six months later, and by the end of the year, Ledger had posthumously won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
7 Marilyn Burns
The entire cast of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, made back in 1974, had a tough time on set, having to deal with the terrifying Leatherface and his iconic bloody chainsaw. But one young actress seemed to be affected more than the others—Marilyn Burns. Burns featured in the final scene of the film, tied to a chair and at the mercy of Leatherface and his horrifying cannibal family. The scene may have lasted five minutes in the movie, but filming took 26 hours, during which time Burns was tied to the chair, covered in blood, and subject to terrifying attacks and taunts from the actors playing the gruesome Sawyer family.
6 Tippi Hedren
Alfred Hitchcock was a real trailblazer when it came to making original and gripping psychological horror movies back in the day. His 1963 film, The Birds, made a star of Tippi Hedren, but the filming became a nightmare for the actress when she refused Hitchcock’s advances. Hedren believed that Hitchcock punished her by using real birds for the scene when her character was attacked in the attic, rather than the mechanical birds used during the rest of the shoot. In addition, the director insisted on reshooting the scene over and over again, despite the fact that his star was bruised, bleeding, exhausted and absolutely traumatized by that point.
5 Kyle Richards
If it is difficult for adult actors to cope with making a horror film, then imagine how much more demanding it is for children, many of whom are faced with gruesome and violent scenes at a very tender age. Kyle Richards, now a familiar face on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, starred in the original Halloween movie when she was just nine years old. Despite playing cards with “Michael Myers” in between scenes, Richards revealed that the experience of making a horror film left her traumatized for life, and she never even considered acting in another horror movie ever again after that experience. We wonder if Michael Myers had his mask on or off while they played cards.
4 JoBeth Williams
Star of the 1982 horror Poltergeist, JoBeth Williams, was horrified to learn that she was going to be expected to swim with real skeletons during the making of the film. Foolishly, she had believed that fake skeletons would be used for the gruesome scene, but producer Steven Spielberg insisted on using the real thing for authenticity. Williams not only found herself needing to take shower after shower once filming was done, but she also became convinced that items in her home were being moved by some malevolent force. The film is already notorious for being cursed, with several cast members dying young in the years after its release.
3 Janet Leigh
Alfred Hitchcock may have been a visionary film director, but he clearly had no idea how to manage and take care of his female stars on set. Janet Leigh, who made just a brief appearance at the beginning of the famous movie Psycho before being knifed in the shower, struggled to get the iconic scene out of her mind after filming was over in 1960. After seeing the finished scene, Leigh promptly refused to take any more showers and insisted that she would only take baths from now on...and only after she had checked that every door and window was securely locked! Imagine having to live with a fear of taking showers for the rest of your life...
2 Linda Blair
Linda Blair was just 13 years old when she starred in 1970 film The Exorcist as a young girl possessed by the devil. She turned in a fantastic performance, but it was obviously an exhausting and traumatic experience for someone so young and innocent. Many other young actresses had rejected the part after their parents found out about the subject matter. In addition, Blair faced continued questions from the media as to whether or not she really was possessed, with several books published on the subject. Astonishingly, some religious figures even called for her to go through a real exorcism.
1 Shelley Duvall
Shelley Duvall was a big movie star in the 1980’s, with a bright future in front of her. However, after starring in the Stanley Kubrick adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining, she disappeared from our screens for good. The reason for her premature retirement was the trauma that she went through while filming The Shining. It is said that Kubrick made her film the baseball bat scene a total of 127 times, until her hands were raw and throat hoarse from crying. The actress was so traumatized by this experience that her hair even began to fall out. Kubrick also kept his leading lady isolated on set, telling cast and crew, “don’t sympathize with Shelley.” That's just mean.
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