This can start to affect them personally, even making them go a little crazy at times. We made a list of some of Hollywood’s most famous names, and how a role almost drove them to madness.
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Leonardo DiCaprio is known for being a method actor, completely committing to his roles in every film he's been a part of, and 2015's 'The Revenant' was no exception. DiCaprio played Hugh Glass, a tough frontiersman that is badly injured by a bear attack and abandoned by his crew to survive in the wilderness on his own.
To fully embody the character, DiCaprio decided to stick to a purely raw meat diet (which was especially hard, considering he's a vegan) and sleep in real animal carcasses. Now, that's commitment.
Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
Anne Hathaway is known for being a phenomenal actress who often plays extremely different characters from film to film. If you remember her from her 'The Devil Wears Prada' days, you were probably shocked when you saw her playing Fantine in 2012's 'Les Miserables'. Some say that Hathaway got a bit obsessed with the role, deciding to shave her head and lose 10 kilos on a strict oatmeal-only diet.
Hathaway wanted to embody the suffering of Fantine, and she certainly looked like she was. The actress later admitted that the role took a considerable physical and psychological toll on her. Obviously, her performance was outstanding.
Adrien Brody – The Pianist
'The Pianist' is a masterpiece of a film; gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, and unforgettable. A big part of that is Adrien Brody's stellar performance as Wladyslaw Szpilman. Of course, playing the part of a Jewish musician during WWII in Nazi-occupied Poland is not an easy character to portray, and Brody went the extra mile to make it as realistic as possible.
The actor dedicated his every moment to learning the role - he lost 12 kilos, broke up with his girlfriend, sold his phone, his car, and his apartment, and basically made sure that he was as miserable in real life as he is in the film. It worked, though, since Brody became the youngest actor to ever win an Oscar for Best Actor, at the age of 29.
Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn
Michelle Williams got to play the one and only Marilyn Monroe in the 2011 film, 'My Week With Marilyn". Obviously, this was a very important role, and Williams wanted to get it just right, so she decided to tie a belt around her legs in order to pull off Monroe's famous walk.
Williams spent weeks learning about Marilyn's life and inner persona. So much so that she even admitted that she had a feeling that Monroe had "taken over".
Natalie Portman – Black Swan
Actress Natalie Portman pushed herself right to the edge when it came to the film "Black Swan." Not only did she explore the psychical state of a mentally disturbed ballet dancer, but she also transformed herself physically too. The actress lost 20 pounds for the role making her pretty dangerously thin. While she did have a double, she did practice ballet with a number of dance instructors in a very demanding program.
The actress claims to not belong to the method school of acting and does not use past experiences when channeling certain emotions during her acting but that doesn't mean she didn't go through a lot for this role. Portraying a disturbed ballerina is no walk in the park.
Shia LaBeouf – Fury
Shia LaBeouf didn't want to just rely on makeup artists to make his wounds look real. He took it a step further and actually decided to cut up his cheek and leave the sore open for the entirety of the production. It didn't stop there. The actor then proceeded to pull out a tooth to amp up the pain.
Of course, when you're portraying a dirty soldier, hygiene isn't a priority, which is why the actor also didn't bathe for a whole month. The rest of the crew and actors had a real hard time working with that smell and pleaded with the actor to go to a different room in between shoots. That's commitment right there!
Ashton Kutcher – Jobs
Ashton Kutcher was determined to get it right for his big role as Steve Jobs in the film "Jobs." The actor tried to copy the notorious tech lord in every way he could, starting with his actual diet. Apparently, that meant a diet made up solely of fruit. Unfortunately, Kutcher's body had a harder time with that than Jobs did, as the actor ended up in the hospital due to severe vitamin deficiency and reduction in bone density
Thankful, the "That '70s Show" actor recovered and returned to production. To put yourself through such medical distress for a role really shows how badly the actor wanted to make it successful. In the end, he didn't do a bad job, Jobs!
Robert De Niro – Taxi Driver and Raging Bull
This legendary actor is not afraid of a challenge, so it's really not surprising to see what he did for some of his films. Even though it's not out of character, his work on "Taxi Driver" really stood out. The actor got himself a fake and illegal taxi license so that he could drive people around New York and get some inspiration.
He also practiced boxing with real-life Jake Lamotta for"Raging Bull", making his boxing skill look super authentic. The actor even at one point broke the guy's ribs and knocked out his teeth. Yikes.
Johnny Depp – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas gave Johnny Depp a real opportunity to show off his acting chops. To get as close as he could to the real-life version he went for some interesting choices, one of which involved sleeping next to explosives. Just like Thompson would do.
The actor also took some hardcore substances during shooting and according to insiders even shows up to the audition in Thompossons clothes that had not been washed for thirty years. The directors obviously really appreciated that.
Joaquin Phoenix – I’m Still Here
When portraying Freddie Quell in the film "I’m Still Here", Joaquin Phoenix really channeled the crazy. Apparently, it's something you just have to do when playing an actor who is going out of control. And no one knows that better than the insane actor himself.
Phoenix even made an appearance on David Letterman completely in character. The interview ended up being really confusing and a little hard to watch after a while.
Nicolas Cage – Ghost Rider
Apparently, Nic Cage's co-stars were pretty afraid of him during the filming of "Ghost Rider ." Portraying the character Johnny Blaze, the actor refused to speak to the other actors between takes, he donned Egyptian symbols to invoke spirits and wore make-up to try to make him look like a corpse.
The whole thing kind of freaked everyone out, making them pretty much stay away from him. We don't blame things. Funnily enough, the actor doesn't even claim to be that much of a fan of the franchise, but clearly, something spoke to him.
Val Kilmer – The Doors
Playing a rockstar is never easy. When Val Kilmer portrayed the Doors frontman, Jim Morrison, he went on a musical journey and learned all about Morrison's song. Seems reasonable. He then went on to learn 50 of the singer's songs. Unfortunately only 15 made it into the final cut.
No wonder he earned himself the name "Jim" on set. He really deserved it.
Jared Leto – Suicide Squad
After watching Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger portray one of pop culture's most iconic characters, Jarred Leto was determined to do as good of a job as possible! His preparations were intense and involved him sending weird gifts to his co-stars. The Joker, ahem, Leto, sent Margot Robbie disturbing love letters and a dead rat. Will Smith who played Deadshot was lucky enough to receive bullets in the mail. Nice.
Apparently, therapists had to show up on set to help the actor get through the role as his sanity was beginning to be questioned. Unfortunately for him, Jaoquin Phoenix blew that all out of the park a couple of years later with his version of the Joker.
Daniel Day-Lewis – My Left Foot
Regarded as one of the greatest actors of our time, Daniel Day-Lewis went off the rails in the film "My Left Foot." In the film, he played a disabled hunchback. During the duration of filming, the actor remained in that position, leaving him with two broken ribs by the end of the production.
The Lincoln actor was practically in a state of self-imposed handicap, refusing to come out of character. The crew even had to spoon-feed him.
Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
Heath Ledger was dynamite as the Joker in "The Dark Knight", so much so that everyone on set was terrified of him. Legendary actor Sir Michael Caine even stumbled over his lines during scenes with Ledger. It would be a regular occasion to find the actor acting like a recluse, drawing disturbing doodles in his dressing or hotel room.
It didn't just stop there. The actor was abusing prescription pills, suffering from insomnia, and depression. The film is regarded as the thing that ultimately sent him over the edge.
Bill Skarsgard – It
Playing a demonic clown is bound to create some problems with your mental state. Bill Skarsgard can certainly attest to this. The horrifying clown got a real upgrade when the actor took the reigns on this one. There is no denying the sheer terror when watching this film, which is surprising, considering the fact that he didn't have much experience beforehand.
Thanks to the film, the actor instantly shot to stardom. He now will forever be remembered as the greatest Pennywise ever. That fact remained true in the sequel.
Christian Bale – The Machinist
The actor is known for pushing the limits and immersing himself deep into certain roles, both physically and mentally. In the film "The Machinist", Bale played the hallucinating machinists with insomnia. He lost 60 pounds for the role, making himself completely emaciated. The actor didn't get much sleep either and would go for weeks fully awake.
The actor would also go as far as completely isolating himself from the outside world for months. All of this of course made his acting on the film absolute perfection.
Malcolm McDowell – A Clockwork Orange
Not only did Malcolm McDowell give the best performance of his career, but he also did so completely improvising. This impacted the actor's personal life and even caused him to have seizures at night. In addition to that, he needed therapy during filming.
McDowell even suffered from temporary blindness. The actor had to be treated for insanity and was put on medication.
50 Cent –All Things Fall Apart
The rapper proved that he is not just about the 2000s club hits, but also about serious acting. When he starred in the film "All Things Fall Apart" he made an effort to physically transform himself into an almost sickly version of himself.
This was done by sticking to a strictly liquid diet. The actor ended up weighing 160lbs after nine weeks of dieting. Sady, all that hard work didn't exactly pay off as the film ended up being a giant flop.
Johnny Depp – Pirates of The Caribbean
Being no stranger to controversy, Johnny Depp's time as the crazy Captain Jack Sparrow attracted a lot of media attention. The actor reportedly challenged Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones when playing the beloved character.
The acting proved to be successful as it ultimately became part of the first of many sequels. Only after the film wrap did he go back to being just plain old Johnny Depp.
Hilary Swank – Boys, Don’t Cry
Hillary Swank was really gunning for that Oscar when she portrayed Brandon Teena in "Boys Don't Cry." Completely immersed in the role, Swank behaved as if she was completely male for the duration of the shoot. She bound up her chest, used male pronouns, and even wore a prosthetic male appendage.
When portraying a real-life person, it's important to take it as far as possible. Of course, all that effort really paid off in the end and Hillary Swank ended up winning the Oscar that year. The world will now forever remember the awful tragedy of Brandon Teena.
Jamie Dornan – The Fall
Jamie Dornan time and time again reveals his tremendous commitment to the parts he plays. Forget about "50 Shades of Grey", his work on the BBC series "The Fall", Dornan experienced some creepy behavior while preparing to portray a serial murderer by following a woman off the train.
This was how he taught himself to prey on someone, admitting that “It felt kind of exciting, in a real sort of dirty way. I’m sort of not proud of myself.” That leaves us all kinds of questions for "50 Shades of Grey"
Halle Berry – Jungle Fever
Halle Berry doesn't shy away from digging deep. And that certainly shows in "Jungle Fever" where she played a street worker and addict. The actress didn't shower for two weeks and would often visit institutions for people struggling with addiction.
The actress underwent a total transformation revealing her amazing acting chops. The actress went on to repeat that in future films.
Jamie Foxx – Ray
To accurately represent both his idol Ray Charles, as well as the blind community, Jamie Foxx wanted to make a lasting impression on folks. What did he do? He wore prosthetic eyelids for half the day, every day, and stayed completely in character.
He even had people guiding him around between takes. His methods certainly worked because that year the Academy Award for Best Actor went to him.
Kate Winslet – The Reader
The Reader was one of the best films to come out in the year 2008 and that was largely due to Kate Winslet's superb acting. Playing the role of a Nazi concentration camp guard, the actress spoke of the serious emotional toll it took her, saying that it took her months to truly rid herself of the character.
This is just why she is considered one of the greats today. The actress even compared the feeling of escaping a serious car accident when describing how she felt leaving that character behind.
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
It was no easy feat playing the troubled ice skater Tonya Harding and actress Margot Robbie was not messing around when she took on this role. The Australian beauty trained rigorously for 5 months every day for 4 hours daily. By the end of it, she was a pretty fantastic ice-skater.
While she may not have been good enough to nail the triple axel, she did manage to bag an Oscar. So at least that.
Robert Pattinson – Good Time
Robert Pattinson shot to international fame as Edward Cullen in the "Twilight" series, but he gained real respect as an actor when he played a thief in the film "Good Time." Pattinson went completely unnoticed when he started working at a car wash and took subways in New York City in order to prepare for the role.
He even moved into a basement apartment in Harlem. The actor never opened his curtains, barely changed their sheets, and wore and slept in the same clothes for months. It certainly shows on screen!
John Krasinski – 13 Hours
Who would have thought that Jim from "The Office" could blow us away in the super-charged drama film "13 Hours." The actor transformed into a super ripped special ops soldier in the 2012 film by undergoing an incredibly harsh training program created by a former Navy SEAL.
According to the actor, they learned how to shoot from a bunch of different weapons and maneuver through the dark. There were also tons of other strenuous activities. Sounds challenging!
Chris Hemsworth – In the Heart of the Sea
Chris Hemsworth put himself through the wringer for the epic film "In the Heart of the Sea." The Australian actor completely transformed himself by putting himself on a strict diet with an intake of no more than 500 calories a day.
The Ron Howard film showed a scarily emaciated and disheveled Hemsworth. According to Entertainment Weekly, the actor said, that he and the actors were obsessively weighing themselves every day.
Charlize Theron – Monster
When Charlize Theron was given the challenge of playing Aileen Wuornos in the 2003 film, Monster, she was in for quite a trip. Not only did she transform physically to the point that you couldn't even recognize her. Her skin was layered with a tattoo sink, her hair was thinned and she had dentures put in.
The beautiful actress even shaved her eyebrows. Of course, there was also the emotional distress of playing such a disturbed and tragic individual.
Demi Moore – GI Jane
When the gorgeous actress Demi Moore played the tough Jordon O’Neil in "GI Jane" the first thing she has to do was shave all of her hair off. Then came the exhausting training led by former Navy SEALS.
According to Moore, she claimed that she could have let a stuntwoman come and take over the more physical roles but she decided to them herself feeling that she would have missed out on an opportunity.
Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Rooney Mara worked extensively with director David Fincher and Pat McGrath the renowned makeup artist to create the 26 different looks that made up the character Lisbeth Salander. In addition to the jet black hair and piercings, Mara also got her eyebrows bleached.
Mara felt like the piercings and the tattoos she got for the role were just the right choice.
Danny DeVito – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
We are sure that everyone had a tough time portraying psychiatric patients in the iconic film "One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest", but Danny Devito had a particularly troubling time on set. The actor even created an imaginary friend for himself.
The production was shot in an actual mental asylum and many of the actors suffered mental breakdowns throughout filming.
Sydney Lassick – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
It was not easy for the cast of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest." Sydney Lassick had a mental breakdown during the last scene. While the set psychologist had no real concern for Dany Devito and his imaginary friend, he did worry for Lassic who displayed some terribly erratic behavior.
The actor became increasingly unpredictable and exploded during the last scene. He even had to be removed from the set and brought back later after he calmed down.
Nicolas Cage – Birdy
Nicolas Cage didn't get the title of the craziest actor in Hollywood for nothing. During the shooting of the film "Birdy", the actor went a little off the rails and got his teeth pulled in order to play the role of mutated Vietnam war vet.
For 5 weeks Cage did not remove the bandages from his face. People started to actually believe that the actor was truly disfigured.
Shelley Duvall – The Shining
Shelly Duvall was not messing around in "The Shining" when she portrayed Wendy Torrance. Her jaw-dropping performance in the infamous baseball scene earned her instant recognition. They did that scene 127 times and Duvall could just spend hours a day just screaming.
Director Stanley Kubrick apparently really destroyed the actress. After 13 months of shooting, Duvall said that her time on that set was “almost unbearable."
Zac Efron – Killing Zac Efron
Zac Efron has certainly come a long way since "High School Musical." In the middle of the production of his reality TV show "Killing Zac Efron", the actor fell violently ill while on set in Papua New Guinea. The "Neighbors" star had to be transported via helicopter to Australia to be treated.
It is said that the actor suffered from a bacterial infection that may have been typhoid. Efron, however, recovered quickly after 3 weeks in medical care By Christmas Eve he was already home in L.A.
Heather Donahue – The Blair Witch Project
The whole cast from "The Blair Witch Project" suffered a great deal of trauma while filming the horror flick. When the director sent these kids into the woods, the poor actors didn't really know what they were in for. They were taunted and terrified throughout the duration of the shooting.
Heather Donahue especially had a hard time as she had to pretend that the whole experience was real which even involved faking her own death.
Marilyn Burns – Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Texas Chain Saw Massacre has been considered as of the most horrific films ever made, so probably wasn't a walk in the park to act in. Marilyn Burns endured a lot of trauma at the hands of the notorious director, Tobe Hooper. In one scene he even cut her finger open to evoke real pain.
According to what she told Terror Trap, the actress said was "a surrealistic and became so frightening because I had to be tied up and screaming for so long,” “Afterwards, I was just so grateful it was over. I probably was the happiest girl alive.”
Kyle Richards – Halloween
Kyle Richards' career goes further back than "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." At just nine years old, she starred in the horror film "Halloween." The actress had no real idea about what she is acting in at the time.
When she saw the movie for the first time, the actress expressed how it was the first time she pieced it together." The actress even said that she had to sleep with her mom until she was a teen. She must have been really terrified.
Mathew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Mathew McConaughey had to go through a major physical transformation for this role. The actor lost about 50 pounds to play AIDS victim Ron Woodroof in "Dallas Buyers Club."
The "Interstellar" actor had a hard time recovering after that role, saying that at times he would even lose his eyesight, or his legs would lock up after a short run around the block.
George Lazenby – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
We've had a lot of James Bonds over the years, and not all of them have been up to the task. Take George Lazenby who let the role get a little to his head. The actor and former model started to believe that he was really James Bond and began clashing with the entire cast and crew.
"James Bond" even ended up bringing a real gun to set and would shoot empty bottles. Needless to say, that was the first and last James Bond film he was ever in.
Rip Torn – Maidstone
Rip Torn took things a little far during the filming of Maidstone. When director Norman Mailer told the actors that they need to plot an assassination attempt on the character, Rip Torn took that super seriously and ended up attacking the director with a hammer.
Mailer survived and wrestled Rip Torn to the ground and thankfully the rest of the cast intervened. Easy there, Rip.
Janet Leigh – Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock is famous for terrifying both his viewers and actors. Such is the case is with Janet Leigh during the production of "Psycho." The character Marion Crane as we all know (spoiler alert) gets famously stabbed in the shower by the psycho Norman Bates.
Leigh was traumatized by this role and even had a hard time showering at home. The actress would lock the doors and the windows of the house but leave the bathroom door just in case. You don't work with Hitchcock and come out sane.
Christian Bale – Terminator: Salvation
Christian Bale has been known to fully immerse himself in whatever role he gets. Even if he's playing a robot. On the set of "The Terminator", the actor went berserk on set and verbally attacked the director of photography. Supposedly it was ok because he was in character when doing so!
Thankfully Bale came to his senses and realized he shouldn't be yelling at someone for trying to do his job. The poor cinematographer was simply trying to set up the shot.
Leonardo DiCaprio -Django Unchained
The dedication that Leo shows in his films could definitely be seen during the shooting of "Django Unchained." The actor cut his hand while acting in the scene but continued while the cameras were rolling never for one moment breaking character.
The bloody hands made it to the final scene because it was just so authentic. You actually can see the moment it happens when he slams his hand into the table and accidentally breaks a glass, instantly cutting his hand. It's one of the most powerful scenes in the film.
Gene Hackman – The Royal Tenenbaums
On the set of "The Royal Tenenbaums", Gene Hackman proved to be pretty unfriendly during filming. Turns out director Wes Anderson begged the actor to join the cast. After months of convincing and pleading, Hackman was eventually convinced.
Unfortunately, when the time came to play the part, he wasn't really game to play ball and be nice to his fellow actors. In fact, he acted pretty terribly to everyone around him. Guess he was just channeling the character.
Bob Hoskins – Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Bob Hoskins had a tough time on the cartoon film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." Seeing as the film is mostly cartoons, the actor had to imagine the rest of the animated cast in order to act out the scene. Turns out that that made him a little crazy and soon after production, Hoskins was imagining cartoon characters wherever he went.
When you're doing that for almost an entire year, it's inevitable that you'll start seeing things. By the look of things, he did a really swell job.
Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games
Jennifer Lawrence took on a lot of challenges in "The Hunger Games." Both physical and mental stresses were a big part of the production. The lead actress at one point almost suffocated in a particular scene. It happened when she was running through a tunnel and the fog machine malfunctioned.
Sometimes these props can create a lot of issues on set. That scene was super traumatic and the actress needed some recovery time before resuming the shoot. Good thing she made it through.
Isabella Adjani – Possession
As we have seen, acting in a horror can be a grueling experience for many people and the film "Possession" is no exception. The film is known for having one of the most horrific scenes in cinema history, and the woman at the center of it all was Isabella Adjani.
The actress had to go through therapy for a few years after the film was released as the trauma was just too overbearing.
Klaus Kinski – Aguirre, The Wrath of God
Perhaps of the greatest actors to have ever lived, Klaus Kinski is still no easy man to work with. The director Werner Herzog certainly knew this when going in but apparently didn't want to compromise on his choice. The actor clashed with everyone.
During the filming of "Aguirre, The Wrath of God," Kinski went overboard and aimed and shot at extras multiple times because, according to him, they were playing cards too loudly. Actors.
Robert De Niro – Cape Fear
As the psychotic Max Cady, Robert De Niro put himself through the wringer when trying to pull this look off. He even paid a dentist a pretty penny and tried to get his teeth shaved down. The actor got semi-permanent tattoos and did an impressive amount of research on sex offenders.
The character creeped out not only viewers but the director himself Martin Scorsese. The actor even tried to freak out Scorsese with threatening messages on his voice machine.
Dustin Hoffman – Kramer vs. Kramer
Playing a divorced couple, Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep got deep into character inevitably leading to some tension surfacing. At one point Hoffman was so deep in character that he actually ended up slapping Meryl Steep in the face.
The actress recounted that incident recently and expressed how much the Tootsie actor went too far.
Charlize Theron – Atomic Blonde
Like we saw with "Monster", Charlize Theron does not shy away from challenges, and while her transformation to becoming Aileen Wuornos got her an Oscar, her role as a spy in the film "Atomic Blonde" got her attention as a hardcore action star.
In 2017, the actress did all her own stunts and ended up enduring a lot of physical pain. Theron bruised her ribs during the filming of action scenes and at one point even clenched her teeth so hard that she cracked two of them.
George Clooney — Syriana
Little known tidbit: George Clooney almost died on the set of Syriana. The mega-star broke his back during an incident that happened on set. The actor feared that he may never walk again and spiraled into an extremely dark place.
During his time in the hospital, there was actually more than one occasion where the actor even thought of calling it quits altogether. Thankfully, in the end, he recovered.
Isla Fisher — Now You See Me
In the film "Now You See Me"Isla Fisher experienced a horrifying time while being trapped underwater. The scene dictated that she pretends to struggle to get free herself by her shackles in the water enclosure. Naturally, the struggles just look like really good acting and the actress was actually in trouble.
Her chains got stuck so she couldn't actually swim to free herself. The crew watching thought that she was just really convincing. Luckily the actress managed to pull the latch and set herself free.
Viggo Mortensen — The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
"The Lord of the Rings" had a lot going on. From the costume and set designs to the epic story-telling, organizing it was a massive undertaking. And with that amount of stress, sometimes you can lose track of "smaller" details, like your actor's whereabouts.
In one scene, Viggo Mortensen's character got shot in the back with an arrow meaning that the actor had to lie face down in a river. Unfortunately, the rover's current was a little stronger than everyone anticipated. With his heavy costume, the actor almost drowned.
Jason Statham — The Expendables 3
In 2013, tough British actor Jason Statham accidentally drove a semi-truck in the Black Sea. The actor got into this horrible accident on set and revealed the story on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."
According to the actor, while driving the truck in Vrana Bulgaria, he was supposed to stop the strike but something malfunctioned and he ended up pummeling into the water.
Michael J. Fox — Back to the Future III
Michael J. Fox was no stranger to playing the "Back to the Future" character Marty McFly. Unfortunately, things didn't go as smoothly as the first two times and Fox ended up getting almost very, very badly injured. In the scene where Fox gets a noose around his neck in the town square, things went a little awry.
Director Robert Zemeckis wanted to make eh scene look more realistic and unfortunately in the third take, the actor was actually getting hanged. Fox swang unconscious at the end of the rope for a few seconds before the director had realized what he had done.
Martin Sheen — Apocalypse Now
One of the most nerve-racking films ever made left many actors naturally traumatized. Francis Ford Coppola’s magnum opus taunted his actors in the Vietnamese jungles to the point that Martin Sheen actually had a heart attack while filming and had to cry for help.
The cast was surrounded by fake dead bodies, cocaine, and just all-around rough conditions.
Peter O’Toole — Lawrence Of Arabia
The 1962 historical epic, "Lawrence Of Arabia" is a 4-hour film of people in the desert. While it is representative of great cinema, it's natural to assume it wasn’t always smooth sailing on set. Peter O’Toole, who starred in the lead role, was crushed by a herd of camels.
The actor fell off his camel and couldn’t get up again. Fortunately, his camel shielded him from the trampling
Eddie Redmayne — The Danish Girl
It’s no surprise that Redmayne is on this list — he’s become rather well known for his foray into method acting. One of his films, “The Danish Girl”, where he plays transgender artist Lili Elbe, meant he was researching the role for two years before he even knew it was officially his to play!
He also interviewed many trans women, absorbing their stories, as well as an ex-colleague of his, Lana Wachowski (director of “The Matrix”), and gaining insights. He said it was a learning curve because he had always traditionally associated gender with sexuality.
Hilary Swank — Million Dollar Baby
In the film “Million Dollar Baby”, Swank portrays Macushla (well, that was Clint Eastwood’s name for her in the film), a female boxer. But even Eastwood was worrying about Swank’s obsession with training — she spent six days a week in the gym, and gained almost 20 pounds of muscle!
But it was the fact that when a huge blister on her foot popped — and she didn’t stop — that there was cause for actual worry. Apparently, the doctor confirmed that she was just hours from a potentially fatal staph infection reaching her heart. My goodness!
Forest Whitaker — The Last King of Scotland
In the film, “The Last King of Scotland”, Forest Whitaker went really deep with his research and portrayal of Ugandan Idi Amin. He went as far as gaining over 50 pounds, learning Swahili, and getting Amin’s dialect down.
That was something which actually took time for the actor to literally yell himself out of — “it wasn’t until the movie was over that I decided I could let go of the character […] I started yelling to get his voice out of me and get my own voice back.” Boy oh boy, that’s kinda scary!
Jared Leto — Dallas Buyers Club
Jared Leto. The greatness knows no end for this method actor! To get into character as a trans woman in the film, “Dallas Buyers Club”, Leto lost a heap of weight, waxed his body, and stayed in drag even off of the set.
He consulted with trans people to make his character more authentic, and his portrayal was so good, that he won the Oscar, Golden Globe, AND SAG Award for Best Supporting Actor. Adding this film to our list!
Eddie Redmayne — The Theory of Everything
Yes, we’re having a bit of an Eddie Redmayne moment — but why wouldn’t we want to talk about the role which won him an Oscar? And the SAG Award? AND a Golden Globe? It was for his role as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything”, and Redmayne dug deep for this one.
He worked with movement coaches and spoke to nurses who had worked with Hawking just so he could understand how his condition started and how it evolved. It would’ve been extremely nerve-wracking, particularly to change how your body moves when your daily functions are basically ingrained into you.
Choi Min-Sik — Oldboy
This South Korean is best known for his role in “Oldboy” (and if you’re unfamiliar with the South Korean actor, we don’t blame you), and his method of acting for this role is definitely worth a shoutout!
He plays a businessman who has a drinking issue, is abducted, and then held prisoner for fifteen years. But what lands him on this list is the fact that he agreed to use a hot wire to burn his flesh (to mark each year imprisoned), and to eat a whole live octopus…in one take. Good grief!
Daniel Day-Lewis — Gangs of New York
Once again, Daniel Day-Lewis shows us what he's really made of. The Irish actor is just too good! But we wanted to draw your attention to his insistence on wearing only clothing that was period-appropriate.
During “Gangs of New York”, he refused to wear a warm, insulated coat, because it’s not what his character, Bill the Butcher would have worn at the time. So instead, the actor actually caught Pneumonia! No wonder our moms tell us to wear a warm jacket when we’re out in the cold!
Tom Hanks — Cast Away
This case of method acting involved the craziest extreme diet. For his role in “Cast Away,” Tom Hanks gained (and then lost) over fifty pounds. He also got a staph infection due to his refusal to wash or cut his hair. Yikes! Not to mention his role in the film “The Green Mile” where he portrays a prison guard.
Apparently, his portrayal was so convincing, even off-set that he freaked out Stephen King himself! The story goes that when King sat in a prop electric chair, Hanks told him that, he, as the head guard, couldn’t be seen by his underlings playing around with such a lethal piece of equipment. Woah!
Al Pacino — Scent of a Woman
In the film "Scent of a Woman”, Pacino really floors us with his portrayal of a blind man. During filming, the actor in fact claimed to truly be blind.
Apparently, he would trip over things and touch objects and hold onto them as he moved around — and even at the end of the film, he wrote to co-star Chris O’Donnell “though I didn’t see you, I know you were great.” Not sure whether to laugh here or be spooked!
Billy Bob Thornton — Sling Blade
This is perhaps one of the more extreme cases of method acting — whereby the role actually puts the actor through physical pain. In the film “Sling Blade”, he used a rather painful method to get his character’s signature limp correct.
He put some crushed glass inside his shoes, which forced him to wince and limp around. We can’t even imagine doing that to ourselves, let alone for the course of filming a movie!
Sylvester Stallone — Rocky IV
Ah, good old “Rocky” — we do love seeing Stallone portray the boxer! But apparently during the filming of “Rocky IV”, Stallone actually asked Dolph Lundgren (the actor portraying his nemesis in the film), to actually try and knock him out.
When Lundgren agreed, he hit Stallone so hard that his blood pressure “goes up to 260…they fly me back to America...I’m in intensive care for five days…he hit my heart so hard that it banged against my ribs and started to swell.” Apparently, that’s something that only happens in car accidents. Holy moly!
Sean Penn — Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Penn really is one heck of an actor — and he likes to use the method acting technique to get into the character’s headspace for whichever role he is taking on. In the film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, Penn was so good at adopting the role of his character, Jeff, that it was the only name that he responded to on set.
So no, he wasn’t just stoned and getting into character as a laid-back stoner, he actually thought he was Jeff…maybe…
Mickey Rourke — The Wrestler
So this isn’t Rourke’s first rodeo, and he’s got quite the filmography behind him. In the film, “The Wrestler”, Rourke did most of his stunts, leading to numerous injuries. But then he went to WrestleMania XXV and actually knocked out Chris Jericho with a punch.
Not to mention in his role in “Iron Man 2”, where he visited Russian prisons, befriended inmates, and then studied Russian for hours daily in order to prepare for his role as Vanko.
Nicolas Cage — Vampire’s Kiss
Nicolas Cage is one big name in Hollywood. In the movie "Vampire’s Kiss," one of the stories that escaped the set was that in the dark comedy, the New York book agent (who’s under the impression that he’s turned into a vampire), had to eat a cockroach.
Rather than using a fake, edible prop, Cage said he wanted the real thing. The worst part? He had to do the scene twice. Gross!
Michael Caine — Dressed to Kill
The man, the myth, the legend. Caine is a great of the cinema, and he has his own secrets that make him tick. In the film, “Dressed to Kill”, there’s a scene where he needed to not just tear up, but bawl, and really, truly cry.
According to the actor, he digs up a “secret” painful memory that each time, helps him to cry for a performance. We certainly are curious, but also we’re sure it’s deeply personal. Gah!
Gary Oldman — Hannibal/Darkest Hour
Honestly, in his portrayal of Sir Winston Churchill, Oldman really is unrecognizable. He almost disappears into his character and into his role (and this portrayal is not the only role where he’s done this thing. Just watch “Hannibal”). He, like others on this list, uses a “pain bag”, which includes images that bring out emotions in Oldman.
Geez, that’s kinda sad, but we guess it’s his job to bring characters, and their pain, to life. But for his role in “Darkest Hour”, he actually smoked almost $30,000 worth of cigars. Subsequently, the actor developed some stomach issues — which we hope are resolved now.
Marlon Brando — Truckline Cafe
There’s a Broadway show from the 1940s, called “Truckline Cafe”, in which the actor who brought us “The Godfather”, Marlon Brando, goes method. For his debut on Broadway, the actor ran up and down flights of stairs, before a behind-the-scenes stagehand would pour a bucket of ice water over his head.
Why do you ask? To make it seem as though his character really was emerging from a lake. Of course.
Meryl Streep — The Devil Wears Prada
One of Hollywood’s most iconic actresses, Meryl Streep is not without her regrets when taking on certain roles — if only for the fact that they alienated her. In her role as Miranda Priestly, in “The Devil Wears Prada”, she would bring her character into real-life interactions with her costars.
Streep said that she became a little upset at herself and a bit down because she was separated from the others and was “miserable” in her trailer. Aw! She even told the media that it made her give up Method for good!
Lady Gaga — House of Gucci
The singer-songwriter plays Patrizia Reggiani in Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci.” The socialite who quickly became rather infamous for arranging to end the life of her husband, Mr. Maurizio Gucci, didn’t become so overnight.
Lady Gaga told British Vogue that she lived as her character for over a year and a half, both on and off camera. Some of her friends and family were worried for her, as she also noted that she became a little out of touch with the real world. Scary!
Michael B. Jordan — Black Panther
This has to be the first time an actor from a Marvel film has ever gone too deep with Method acting, right? Well for Michael B., portraying Killmonger in “Black Panther” was more of a mission than he expected it to be. According to Jordan, taking on the role led him to seek out therapy afterward.
To get into character, Jordan isolated himself, because that was how Erik Killmonger had surmised the world was against him. Jordan then worked through his feelings with a therapist and then allowed himself to readjust to his life.