Being an actress certainly isn’t an easy job. Sure, we as fans see them strutting their stuff, looking all beautiful and living the high life, but behind closed doors, away from the cameras, that’s not always the case. There’s a ton of hard work that goes into being an actress, a major A-list star, and an icon to the masses. These celebs don’t just rock up to the movie sets, or the latest event, without putting in the work and plenty of effort.
You might say, many people in many different industries work hard, right? What makes those in the acting profession different from the rest? Sure, lots of people work hard at what they do, but being an actress, there’s the added pressure of knowing that your work’s going to be on-screen and accessible for people to see, pretty much for life and beyond as well. Actresses also have to contend with being followed around by the paparazzi; every move they make is documented - sometimes it can get a bit too much, and understandably so when your private life goes out the window.
This article’s about those who have suffered a lot during their time in the industry but have ploughed on to make it work. This list also encompasses actresses who have had a tough time of it, who have slogged it out for years and years in order to turn their acting dreams into reality. There are also people on here who have suffered while working on a movie, and have gone through really horrible experiences, trials, and tribulations just to get that scene completed and that project wrapped up. These 15 actresses, in one way or another, have seriously suffered for their craft.
15 Liv Tyler
Anyone who’s seen the movie The Ledge should instantly know what I’m about to touch upon. That iconic scene at the end seemed like an amazing bit of cinematography, and anyone who’s seen it would have been wincing and feeling Liv Tyler’s pain. I am, of course, talking about the bondage scene in which Liv gets thoroughly – and I mean thoroughly – roughed up and ball gagged in a hotel room. It looked painful and Liv has said that it was seriously tough for her to be in that position, and maintain it while they shot the scene. The entire production team were also under an enormous amount of pressure; they only had a couple of hours to film the hotel scenes and they didn’t get to Liv’s close up until they were about to be kicked out. All that pressure and the physical pain she must have been in showed – and it was meant to, because it ended up being the most iconic scene of the movie.
14 Kate Winslet
Kate Winslet has been around for absolutely ages and has a vast and varied filmography in which she’s played numerous different roles. Of course, there’s her role in Titanic – her name will forever be synonymous with that sinking ship – but she’s also appeared in 40 other movies, one of which is the 2008 German-American romantic drama film, The Reader. The film was nominated for several awards and did fantastically well at the box office, but it all really took its toll on Kate. What should have been a joyous occasion, celebrating the success of the film and all, had a really long-lasting effect on Kate – and not in a good way. Her role in the movie, where she played a former Nazi concentration camp guard, really had a detrimental effect on her mental wellbeing. She really lived the character – that’s what makes her such a great actress! – but living the life of such a woman and what her character did in Nazi Germany was seriously tough. She’s described the aftermath of the movie like having “just escaped from a serious car accident” and needing to come to terms with what just happened. It took Kate months before she could finally leave that character for dead and banish those mental demons from her head.
13 Margot Robbie
Before Margot achieved stardom with The Wolf of Wall Street, she was a struggling actress, just trying to settle into life in L.A.
When I say struggling, she had already be in Neighbours, a huge soap opera in Australia and around the world, and had done a few films here and there, but hadn’t reached the big time, something that she desperately craved. So she packed her bags and off to America she went. This was a seriously tough time in Margot’s life; sure, she was young, had been reasonably successful back in Oz, but trying to reach greater heights on American shores would be a different proposition entirely. She knew that and was prepared to suffer for that period because in her mind’s eye, she saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and nowadays she’s basking in that sunlight.
She worked as a sandwich artist in a restaurant, saving every penny she could so that she could put herself through acting school. It was hard time and a lot of suffering, but boy was it worth it.
12 Halle Berry
In 2012, Halle Berry found herself in some serious strife when she was on the set filming for her latest movie. She was in LA, filming The Hive – later renamed and given the title, The Call – where Halle plays a 911 operator who takes a call from a teenager on the run from a serial killer. Apparently, the Oscar-winning star smashed her head on some solid concrete and caused everyone on the set plenty of worry, because – as you’d expect – she wasn’t in a good spot. There were also rumors at the time that Halle was hit by a falling object on the set, but how a person manages to get hit by a falling piece of concrete is beyond me. Anyway, she was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Hospital where she received immediate treatment. She spent some time in hospital while the movie set was shut down, so it must have been pretty serious, but thankfully she did eventually make a full recovery and the filming commenced.
11 Gemma Arterton
In the movie The Disappearance of Alice Creed, British actress Gemma Arterton played one of her toughest roles yet. She played the character of Alice, who was kidnapped and held hostage by the bad guys, who kept her chained up to a bed and ball gagged, pretty much for the duration of the initial part of the movie. Gemma has said she found the experience seriously tough and physically draining, being in a constant state of tension – understandable being in that predicament. She was tied up as Alice but has said she felt tied up within herself as Gemma. It was a really uncomfortable experience that she was in for quite a bit of time too.
The restraints cut her wrists and mouth – in real life too – and she was in actual physical pain. Perhaps that’s why she was able to play the role of the damsel in distress so well, because she was in serious distress. The things actresses have to go through to make a movie work!
10 Kirsten Dunst
Kirsten Dunst has suffered seriously for her craft, sometimes because of it. I’m not just talking about one, or a couple or isolated incidences here. I’m talking about years and years of suffering, pretty much from when she burst onto the scene as a child star.
As a youngster who began acting at the age of six, Kirsten was thrust into this world she knew nothing about, and found it seriously tough. She blames her mom for pushing her into acting - which must have been tough anyway – but then when she began growing up, especially during her teenage phase, she began to feel the effects of fame and being in the public eye and found it all really difficult to deal with. This feeling didn’t really subsided and she had bouts of depression. In 2008 things came to a head; her depression began to be debilitating and so Kirsten actually went to rehab. Fingers crossed those mental demons are gone for good.
9 Sienna Miller
Among these other entries, this may seem a tad trivial, but it just shows what actresses have to go through.
An actress’ job is, well, acting. But in today’s day and age, her job description isn’t just limited to being on set. It involves doing interviews, being in front of the camera, partaking in photo shoots, and promoting their work and acting projects. When all’s finished and a movie’s wrapped up and released, there’s the parties, get togethers, award ceremonies... This may seem like the time where an actress can have a bit of fun and let her hair down, but she’s still in the public eye and has to behave in a certain manner. She also has to look all elegant and glamorous, and sometimes, this could get pretty tough. Sienna Miller has spoken about how she’s suffered, been in physical pain just so she could look beautiful at award ceremonies. She’s also mentioned that while filming her movie The Lost City Of Z, the corset she had to wear caused her some serious pain.
Again, pretty minor compared to some of the other actresses on this list, but Sienna suffered for her craft all the same, all be it in a slightly different way.
8 Jaimie Alexander
There are tons of things that can go wrong when shooting a movie, especially when it’s a movie like Thor, which I’m assuming had a massive set, a ton of cast members, and props all over the place.
The actress Jaimie Alexander’s career took off in 2003 when she was cast as the lead in the film The Other Side. Since those early beginnings, her career’s gone from strength to strength, and she’s gained a whole new fan base due to her vast and varied filmography. She brought the character of Sif to life in the movie Thor in 2011. Her performance drew plenty of accolades, so it was a no-brainer that when Thor: The Dark World started being filmed, she reprised her role. But this was very nearly her last movie.
Due to a serious accident on set, she almost became wheelchair-bound for life – it would probably have marked the end of her acting career. One day, it had been raining ferociously and Jaimie took a seriously nasty fall down some steep wet stairs. She ended up in a crumpled heap with a slipped a disk, she chipped eleven vertebrae, and dislocated a shoulder; no doubt she seriously suffered as a result of that debilitating injury, but thankfully she’s back and fighting fit.
7 Diane Kruger
The German actress and ex-fashion model Diane Kruger is probably best known for her role in Troy, and Quentin Tarantino's epic war film, Inglourious Basterds. Tarantino, the legendary writer, director, and actor, went all out for this film. He got a host of A-list stars on board, including Diane, and his aim was to make everything in the film scream realism. But things got a bit too real for Diane, who almost died, literally at the hands of Tarantino.
There’s scene in the movie where Diane gets strangled, but it wasn’t actually the actor depicted in the movie that was doing the strangling. Apparently, Tarantino didn’t trust the actor concerned to be able to do the choking properly, so he took it upon himself to do the choking – it’s his hands that are in the close up of that scene. Diane agreed to all of this, but Tarantino got way too carried away and almost ended up strangling her to the point where she died of asphyxiation. Tarantino forgot to yell cut, and so the strangling continued and Diane was actually rendered unconscious. Strangled by your director – that must have been an interesting day at the office for Diane!
6 Renee Zellweger
Think of Renee Zellweger and you think of her role as Bridget Jones, the ditzy, lost, singleton going through a midlife crisis. That midlife crisis Bridget went through involved obsessing about weight and health – that kind of stuff that most people can look forward to when they reach middle age. Bridget was obsessing about weight, because she was, let’s face it, a bit on the pudgy side. This is something that Renee found seriously tough; her character, Bridget, was in a way suffering, but Renee was too during that time.
You can tell looking like Bridget isn’t Renee’s normal look. Take a look at pictures of Renee now and compare them to when she was playing Bridget, and you wouldn’t have a clue that they’re the same person. Renee likes to take care of her health and look a certain way, which is why she found it incredibly tough when she had to gain weight for those movies. She had to gain an extra 28 pounds to play Bridget, and did so basically by eating junk – the only way you can really put on that type of weight. But this was a mind-trip for the normally health-conscious Renee. She started watching all these programs about what happens to the body when it has to deal with a weight increase of that magnitude in such a short space of time, how it’s obviously really unhealthy, and she had panic attacks thinking about her health. That’s dedication for you, sacrificing your health for the sake of a movie!
5 Isla Fisher
Isla seriously suffered whilst on the set of the Now You See Me movie, a film where a team of illusionists trick the cops and steal money which they distribute to their audience, all in the name of magic and illusions. It’s a seriously good film, and Isla’s role as the escapist was terrific – she took to the role brilliantly. That’s because she practiced quite a bit, actually putting herself into an escapist’s shoes and in the same situations. That’s all well and good – preparation for any role is crucial – but when it’s for something like escapism, it’s kind of a good idea to tell the people around you that you’re practicing and trying something out.
Isla was practicing doing some form of escapism and a magic trick in a water tank when she got herself into some hot water (not literally). There’s nothing worse than thinking you’re going to drown, and so Isla must have been terrified. She was actually about to drown; there were people there around the tank, but they just passed off what she was doing as superb acting. People finally started to get an inkling that all was not good and she was eventually rescued. It must have been one terrifying ordeal.
4 Meryl Streep
Meryl’s undoubtedly one of the best actresses of her generation. She’s been active in the industry since 1971, has appeared in a ton of movies, made numerous TV and stage appearances, and has rightly won plenty of awards and accolades. But 1994 was nearly the last we and anyone else saw of Meryl. The greatest actress of her generation very nearly lost her life due to a tragic accident on the sets of The River Wild. From the title of that movie you can tell it wasn’t being filmed on a nice, cosy, indoor film set. Meryl probably wished it was after what happened to her – her near-death experience. Her and her co-stars were filming a scene around some icy water, but Meryl wasn’t able to maintain her balance and plunged into it. Being in water of that temperature for any length of time could have been fatal, and she did suffer terribly because of that experience. Thankfully for Meryl, Kevin Bacon came to the rescue.
3 Jennifer Lawrence
The sultry star of Winter’s Bone, House at the End of the Street, X-Men, and The Hunger Games has packed a hell of a lot into her ten years in the industry, and she’s still only 26! Jennifer’s career has gone from strength to strength over recent years, but it was all very nearly over on the set of The Hunger Games.
During the film, there’s a scene which sees Jennifer running through a foggy tunnel, and it almost had dire consequences. Those of you who have seen The Hunger Games would know that there’s a ton of special effects and different types of props that went into making the movie. But Jennifer suffered because of the fog machine. The machine was in the tunnel with her while she was running, but it malfunctioned and emitted far too much smoke. Jennifer who was still in the tunnel, couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe, and was in serious danger of passing out and suffocating in the smoky haze.
2 Charlize Theron
The South African beauty has been around since 1995 and is now in her forties, but is showing no signs of slowing down or wanting to take it easy. She’s recently been churning out films for fun and is getting more and more into her work as a producer, but it all very nearly didn’t happen.
A decade into her movie career, Charlize was cast in the movie Æon Flux – a science fiction spy action film – as the main woman herself. The film was pretty successful, and subsequent comic books were released, as was a video game based on Charlize’s character. There were plenty of action sequences in the movie, and one very nearly proved to be fatal for Charlize. She was on the sets and attempted to perform a backflip, but it all went horribly wrong. She ended up snapping her neck, couldn’t move, and was in real danger of dying. Thankfully she got to the hospital in time, but it took her a good few months to recover from the injury physically – mentally it took a lot longer and she probably still suffers from flashbacks to that incident to this day.
1 Lindsay Lohan
Lindsay began her career as a model before moving into the acting world – kind of the natural progression for most models. She then added a third string to her bow, the singing, but her path to stardom has been far from smooth, and trying to maintain her standing in the industry while continuing doing what she does best has been anything but easy.
That’s because she has seriously suffered with having to contend with various addictions through different stages of her career. She’s had bouts of depression, has had an eating disorder, and as if that wasn’t enough, has battled with drug and alcohol addictions. Understandably, this had a seriously detrimental effect on her career. Some may say the pressures of life in the limelight led to her suffering with these issues, but having been a star at such a young age, she probably used alcohol and drugs to try and cope with everything that was going on. The eating disorder arose because she felt like she needed to look a certain way on-screen – the pressures of being a female star – so yes, Lindsay seriously suffered for her craft and because of it too.