Method acting is the process in which an actor essentially tries to become the character that they are portraying on screen. By walking in the shoes of a character, some actors feel that they will be able to give a better performance once the cameras start rolling. Through the years, it seems that method actors are constantly trying to one up each other in terms of how dedicated they are to their performance. The movie Tropic Thunder pokes fun at method actors by having an Australian character that undergoes a surgical procedure to look like an African-American.
Some actors, like Christian Bale, are habitual method actors. For example, in order to meet the weight specified in the script of The Machinist, Christian Bale lost 65 pounds in a dangerously short amount of time. To prepare for the role, Bale was eating only an apple and a can of tuna a day, and was able to fight off his appetite by smoking cigarettes throughout the day. He lost so much weight, doctors warned if he lost any more he would literally drop dead. After filming The Machinist, Christian Bale had to put all that weight back on (and more) in order to play Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins. Alternatively, Heath Ledger secluded himself from society for months so that he could properly become The Joker in The Dark Knight. Some feel that this seclusion ultimately lead to his dependence on sleeping pills, which lead to his death.
Whether you agree or disagree with what method actors are doing, you have to respect their dedication. However, some actors try a little too hard. Here are 15 actors that took their characters a little too seriously while filming.
15. Adrien Brody — Couldn’t Go Back To His Normal Life After Filming
In 2002, Adrien Brody starred in the movie The Pianist, and his role in the film is still having an effect on him today. The film was about a Jewish composer, Wladslaw Szpilman, and his life during the Holocaust. To prepare for the film, Brody was on a strict starvation diet, eating only two boiled eggs for breakfast, a little chicken for lunch, and a small amount of fish or chicken and steamed vegetables for dinner. As his lightest, he weighed 130 pounds, which is dangerously underweight considering he’s 6’5”. In addition, Brody dropped everything to move to Europe and experience life as a struggling musician. He gave up his apartment, car, phones, and even his girlfriend, in order to bring two bags and a keyboard to Europe.
Brody’s sacrifices were rewarded when the film came out. At age 29, Brody became the youngest actor to win an Oscar. The movie has been universally praised by critics and fans, but Brody has found little success since The Pianist was released. He said the year after its release, he struggled to put his life back together and was sleeping on friends couches for around a year.
14. Shia LaBeouf — Refused To Shower And Became Religious
Fury was a movie based around a tank crew in WWII. The film received mixed reactions from critics and was essentially forgotten about the year after its release. To prepare for his role as a devout Christian soldier, Shia LaBeouf took some extreme measures that made him unpopular on the set of the movie. He ripped out his own tooth during the first few weeks of the movie to make his character seem more real, and refused to shower for the weeks that he was living on set. Star of the film Brad Pitt and director David Ayer had such a problem with LaBeouf’s odor that they made him stay at a different hotel from the rest of the cast.
There’s a very fine line between method acting and absolute insanity. All it really comes down to is how much praise an actor gets after the movie is released. For Shia LaBeouf, it seems that his attempts to relive the life of a soldier in WWII were for pretty much nothing, as the role did little for his career because he plays a fairly minor character. LaBeouf also said that he was going to enlist in the United States military after filming and that he had become a devout Christian on set.
13. Joaquin Phoenix — Ruined His Career For An Inside Joke
I’m Still Here was one of the most underwhelming movies of all time. Released in 2010, the movie was a mockumentary that followed Joaquin Phoenix as he pretended to retire from acting and fake a desire to become the next big hip hop artist. The strangest part of the movie that nobody outside of the cast and crew was in on the movie. Phoenix decided to jeopardize his public image to make a movie that almost nobody has seen. It was essentially a prank spanning multiple years, only for nobody to catch on to the punchline. Phoenix even appeared on David Letterman’s talk show, appearing under the influence for the sake of the movie.
According to reports, Matt Damon tried to get Joaquin Phoenix to publicly admit that what had happened was just a joke. In his own words, Damon said, “The release was too clever by half — you have to tell the public that it’s a joke because they will not forgive you if they’re not in on the joke.”
12. James Franco — Directed The Entire Movie As Tommy Wiseau
The Disaster Artist is one of the weirdest movies to be released in recent years. In a nutshell, the movie is about the making of one of the worst movies of all time, The Room. The latter was directed by a man named Tommy Wiseau, who is such an unusual person that you would think he was a fictional character. Amazingly, he’s real. And thanks to The Disaster Artist, he’s becoming a household name.
In order to nail his portrayal of Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist, James Franco (who also directed The Disaster Artist) never broke character while on set. He gave all of his directions to the cast and crew while pretending to be Tommy Wiseau. We can only imagine how chaotic production must have been if James Franco was giving people instructions while pretending to be the worst director of all time. Dave Franco, who also stars in The Disaster Artist said that “After a while, we would sort of get used to it, but there were so many cameos in the movie where every day a new person would show up, and we’d kind of have to prep them. We’d be like, ‘So you’re not going to be around James today…’” But it paid off! The Disaster Artist has been called the best movie of 2017.
11. Billy Bob Thornton — Put Glass In His Shoes To Make Him Limp
Sling Blade is about a mentally challenged man named Karl Childers, who was released from a psychiatric hospital 25 years after committing murder. In the movie, Childers becomes friends with a mother and her son, and is eventually asked to save them. Billy Bob Thornton played Childers and went to extreme measures to play the role. In order to give his character a more convincing limp, Thornton crushed glass and placed it inside of his shoes. But you have to wonder, at that point, is it even acting?
It turns out that walking on all that glass was worth it for Thornton, because Sling Blade propelled his career to new heights. He was given an Oscar nomination for his performance in the movie and ended up winning an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Following the movie’s release, Thornton became a household name but he never nailed a role like he did in Sling Blade.
10. Nicolas Cage — Removed His Wisdom Teeth Without Painkillers
Nicolas Cage was once a well-respected actor. In fact, he’s an Academy Award winning actor. He’s become somewhat of a meme in the past few years, but that’s only because many of his movies have been box-office disasters. Before Cage was in the offensively bad Ghost Rider movie, he starred in a movie called Birdy — a Vietnam war film that focused on post-traumatic stress disorder. Though Cage wasn’t the star of the 1984 movie, it was most certainly his big break.
In the movie, Cage tries helping his friend, Birdy, deal with his PTSD. Cage’s character had most of his face blown off by an explosion, so the actor decided that he should wear the bandages that his character would have worn for weeks. He had them on for so long that acne and rashes began forming under the bandages. People began staring at him in the street when he would walk around with them and he could feel them laughing at him behind his back. Cage says this helped him get into the mind of his character. Furthermore, Cage had his wisdom teeth removed without painkillers so that he would be able to realistically act like someone in pain!
9. Robert De Niro — Worked As An Actual Cab Driver For Taxi Driver
In 1976, Robert De Niro said one of the most iconic movie phrases of all time is, “You talkin’ to me?” He’s become somewhat of a sellout today, but back in the 70s, Robert De Niro was one of the most respected actors on the planet. One of his most famous roles was in the movie Taxi Driver — a psychological thriller directed by Martin Scorsese that went on to be nominated for four Academy Awards. As you’ve probably guessed, in the movie, Robert De Niro plays a taxi driver, but he prepared for the role in a rather unusual way.
Instead of focusing on the psychological aspect of his character, Robert De Niro wanted to see what it would actually be like to work as a taxi driver. He filed for a New York City Taxi license and, on weekends, would work as a cab driver just a year after winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in The Godfather Part II. In one instance, a passenger recognized De Niro and poked fun at the Oscar-winning actor for driving a cab. This isn’t the first time De Niro has gone to extremes to prepare for a role. To set himself up for Raging Bull, De Niro put on 60 pounds.
8. Jamie Dornan — Stalked A Woman On The Train
To prepare for his role as a serial killer in the 2013 series The Fall, actor Jamie Dornan did something that is borderline illegal, but definitely something his character would do. In the show, Dornan plays a middle-aged husband and father who murders women in his spare time. In an interview, Dornan revealed that to prepare for his role, he followed a woman off the train “to see what it felt like to pursue someone like that.” According to Dornan, he kept his distance from his target and once she reached her stop, he followed her for a couple of blocks before leaving the woman alone. How many actors can say that they’ve done something this creepy to prepare for a role?
Dornan expanded on the experience by saying, “It felt kind of exciting, in a really sort of dirty way. I’m not proud of myself. But I do honestly think I learned something from it, because I’ve obviously never done any of that. It was intriguing to enter the process of ‘what are you following her for’ and ‘what are you trying to find out?’” Dornan faced backlash from people on Twitter for his comments. You may recognize Dornan as Christian Grey in the movie adaption of Fifty Shades Of Grey, and we don’t want to know what he did to prepare for that role.
7. Daniel Day Lewis — Stayed In Character For 3 Months Straight
We all know how far Daniel Day Lewis will go to prepare for a role. Though he has since retired from acting, he was best known for his crazy method-acting antics. For example, while filming Gangs of New York, Lewis asked a butcher to teach him how to carve up a carcass using knives so that he could more accurately portray an old-time butcher. Though he was only nominated for an Academy Award for that particular role, Daniel Day Lewis dominated the competition in 2012 when he portrayed Abraham Lincoln.
Daniel Day Lewis’ process to become Abraham Lincoln in the 2012 movie Lincoln is unknown, though the actor did reveal he tried to learn as much about Lincoln as he could. During filming, director Steven Spielberg noted that Daniel Day Lewis stayed in character as Abraham Lincoln for three months straight and demanded that the cast and crew refer to him as Mr. President. To add to the insanity, some reports have stated that Daniel Day Lewis refused to speak to anyone except Spielberg once shooting began, and nobody with a British accent was allowed to talk because it might throw him off.
6. Jared Leto — Sent Dead Animals To His Cast Mates
After the death of Heath Ledger, nobody believed that someone could fill his shoes as The Joker. For the movie Suicide Squad, Jared Leto stepped up to the plate and gave it his best. However, his performance wasn’t very well received. After the first image of The Joker was revealed, fans were cringing at his tattoos and seemingly psychotic gangster persona. People didn’t find it entertaining — they found it weird. And then the reports came in that Jared Leto stayed in character the entire time while filming Suicide Squad, as well as a few unsavory things.
Leto began sending his cast mates creepy gifts. He sent Margot Robbie, who played Harley Quinn, a love letter and a live rat. Will Smith received a letter and a handful of bullets, and the rest of the cast received a dead pig. But, perhaps most disturbing of all, Jared Leto sent one of the actors a bunch of anal beads and used condoms and managed to freak out the director because of how terrifying it was. And it seems that his performance was for nothing, because not only were most of his scenes cut in Suicide Squad, but DC is looking to replace him as The Joker.
5. Jamie Foxx — Glued His Eyes Shut
Jamie Foxx is somewhat of an odd guy, but you have to admit that he’s talented. He’s an accomplished musician, comedian, and actor. He’s the guy that discovered Ed Sheeran, but most notably, Jamie Foxx was cast in the movie Ray, which was about legendary musician Ray Charles. The movie was universally praised and Foxx won several awards, including an Oscar, for his portrayal of Ray Charles.
However, Foxx’s iconic portrayal of Ray Charles wasn’t entirely due to his own decisions. The director, Taylor Hackford, asked Foxx to glue his eyes shut during filming so that he could more accurately live the life of the blind Ray Charles. For the first few weeks, Foxx would have panic attacks on set, but eventually, he became used to the feeling. He said that his eyes were glued shut for up to 14 hours a day and many people around the set would forget that he couldn’t see. For example, they would leave him sitting alone at the lunch table assuming that he could wander back to the set by himself.
4. Jim Carrey — Tormented Just About Anyone He Could
To understand the movie Man on the Moon, you have to understand that the movie is about the very unorthodox comedian Andy Kaufman. Kaufman would do a number of bizarre stunts like read the entirety of The Great Gatsby on stage. When he passed away, many people didn’t believe that Kaufman was dead, and instead insisted that he faked his death as part of an elaborate practical joke. In the movie Man on the Moon, Jim Carrey plays Andy Kaufman.
The movie was only Carrey’s second serious role and has gone down as a great performance. To pull off his performance as Andy Kaufman, Carrey insisted on reliving as many moments as Kaufman as possible. He refused to break character on set and would parade around the movie studio harassing whoever he could find in a way similar to Kaufman. Carrey also insisted on being thrown by a wrestler similar to Kaufman and harassed the wrestler until he did it out of anger. A lot of behind-the-scenes footage was shot during the making of Man on the Moon and it has since been released in the documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond. The movie studio behind Man on the Moon tried to suppress the footage for years because they thought it would make everyone hate Jim Carrey.
3. Aaron Eckhart — Pretended That He Had A Child That Passed
Rabbit Hole is essentially about a couple struggling to cope with life after the death of their young son. Nicole Kidman was critically acclaimed for her role as a grieving mother, but Aaron Eckhart also did a decent job portraying her husband. The movie was somewhat of an indie flick, made on a budget of $3 million and pulling over $5 million at the box office. It had a very limited release, which explains its low box-office numbers.
To prepare for his role, Aaron Eckhart probably did the worst thing out of anyone on this list: he went to a support group for parents who lost a child and pretended that he had lost a child himself. Eckhart reflected on the experience by saying that he broke down while telling people who had actually lost their child, that he was struggling with the loss of his fictional child. “Oh yeah, 100 per cent, I lost it. You really believe that you just lost a child. You are as close to reality in that sense as possible. I don’t want to be rude to people who have lost a child, but yeah, you feel right there, you feel like your character.”
2. Leonardo DiCaprio — Slept In Animal Carcasses And Ate Raw Bison Liver
For years, Leonardo DiCaprio has been getting snubbed from the Oscars. Throughout his career, he was nominated numerous times but was never able to bring home an Academy Award. That is, of course, until he played Hugh Glass in the critically-acclaimed movie, The Revenant. And, while his performance is good, it isn’t the best of his career. It’s possibly the Academy heard about what Leo went through for the movie and gave him the award out of pity.
DiCaprio says that he can think of 30 to 40 different instances on set of The Revenant that were some of the hardest things that he ever had to do. For example, he had to trek through freezing waters, fight off hypothermia, sleep in animal carcasses, and eat raw bison liver. According to DiCaprio, the director used his real reaction to tasting bison liver for the first time. It’s important to note that DiCaprio is a vegan.
1. Hilary Swank — Lived Life As A Transgender Person
Boys Don’t Cry is the story of a woman (played by Hilary Swank) who decides to live ther life as a transgender man and the struggles that come with changing your entire identity. The movie was highly controversial when it was released but has been praised for its portrayal of the LGBT community. In the past few years, the movie has had a surge in popularity as the fight for transgender rights continues.
To prepare for the role, Hilary Swank spent months walking around every day with a boyish haircut, a sock in her underwear, and a bandage that confined her breasts. She was trying to disguise her femininity as much as possible and pass as a boy. She would speak in a low voice and introduce herself as James, even to people that already knew her. Swank noted that people would treat her completely differently and get upset when they realized it was her. The experience made her have a greater understanding of what it meant to be transgender and she felt that without that experience, she would never have won an Oscar for Boys Don’t Cry.
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