Actors Like No Other: 11 Extreme Measures Taken By Actors For A Role

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A lot of people think that actors lead a very cushy life. In some respects this is true, but what some actors do to earn their stardom is often unacknowledged. There are numerous accounts of actors going to extreme lengths while preparing for a role to deliver a convincing performance. Here’s a list of some method actors who gave memorable performances at great personal cost.

Shia LaBeouf – Fury

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In order to meet perfectionist director David Ayer’s expectations while shooting the WWII epic Fury, Shia LaBeouf left no stone unturned for giving a stellar performance. When the makeup team applied fake blood and scars on his face, he was unsatisfied with the look and went ahead using a real knife on his face. Apart from literally scarring his face, LaBeouf also pulled out two of his lower incisors during another scene.

Tom Hanks – Castaway

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In order to play a convincing castaway in Robert Zemeckis’ critically-acclaimed movie, Tom Hanks isolated himself from others to understand his character’s psyche. Even more amazing is the fact that he dropped 50 pounds in a very short time, eating a meager diet of only fish, crabs and veggies for months. He developed Type 2 diabetes in the bargain, but hey, at least his performance was absolutely brilliant.

Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight

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Playing the criminal mastermind in The Dark Knight was an exercise in testing psychological extremities for Heath Ledger. In order to develop the character of the Joker, he isolated himself from others and remained locked up at home – he expected to enter a space of psychotic mentality and deviant conscience so as to portray the character more realistically on screen.

Daniel Day Lewis – My Left Foot

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In My Left Foot, Daniel Day Lewis played the role of artist suffering from cerebral palsy who was thus wheelchair bound. Despite his agent’s disapproval, Day Lewis decided to remain in a wheelchair and use only one leg in the months leading up to the shoot. He developed injuries in his ribs and back from being hunched up on the wheelchair and also took to being fed by the crew like Christy Brown in real life.

Charlize Theron – Monster

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Charlize Theron’s Oscar-winning performance as Aileen Wuornos required a total undoing of her external beauty for highlighting the character’s animalistic ferocity. Alongside mastering the psyche of anger, loneliness and violence, Theron had to pack on many extra pounds in little time. She fed herself countless chips, donuts and other unhealthy snacks and finally achieved the right look for her role.

Michael J. Fox – Back to the Future 3

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While performing the action sequences of the Back to the Future trilogy, Michael J. Fox received many scrapes and cuts. But it was during the third movie’s shoot that things got out of hand. One scene had Marty hanging from a noose when he is mercifully shot free. After six takes of him standing on a box to ensure safety, Fox got rid of the box for a more realistic shot. He was unable to keep his hands between the noose and neck however, and almost suffocated to death before the crew cut him free.

Jared Leto – Chapter 27

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In a 2007 release that was a complete flop, Jared Leto played Mark Chapman – the murderer of John Lennon – in Chapter 27. In order to stay true to Chapman’s physical characteristics, Leto put on over 60 pounds in a short span of time by chugging melted ice cream mixed with soy sauce and olive oil. The rapid weight gain was highly detrimental to his health with him developing gout, which left him relying on a wheelchair for movement for quite a while.

Debbie Reynolds – Singing in the Rain

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A wonderful musical that set the bar high for similar subsequent productions, Singing in the Rain saw Gene Kelly as co-director and actor. Known for putting the cast through rigorous 18-hour routines and dance practices, not everyone was able to cope with Kelly. Debbie Reynolds is supposed to have had a bad time, having little dancing experience – her feet bled from practice frequently and she was always under Kelly’s line of fire. The physical and mental strain left Reynolds crying uncontrollably many a time during shoots.

Jackie Chan – Police Story

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Known for his Kung-Fu based action scenes, Jackie Chan has suffered many injuries through the course of his acting career. He insists on performing his own stunts, and this immovable persistence got the better of him while filming Police Story. In one of the scenes, Chan’s character had to slide down a metal pole, crash through a glass pain and then fight off the villain. While shooting the scene, some issues with safety measures caused the stunt to go wrong; Chan suffered cracked ribs, a spine injury, broken pelvis as well as burns and scars from broken lights.

Kate Winslet – Titanic

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Working with hard task-master James Cameron, Kate Winslet was under much physical and mental strain during the filming of Titanic. To shoot the climax, the team had to shoot in a huge tank of cold water for many days and poor Kate developed hypothermia due to her recurrent dips in the chilly waters. She also almost drowned due to an unfortunate accident on set. Add to this the fact that Cameron had a short temper and you have a very challenging working environment for a young actress to cope with.

Jamie Dornan – The Fall

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All set to play a serial killer in the BBC series The Fall, Jamie Dornan attempted to get a finer grasp of such a disturbed psyche. He thus once followed a woman off a train, wishing to foray into the mental landscape of a stalker and killer. Thankfully, it was just for the role, and well, hardly anyone would mind Dornan stalking them.

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