Entertainment - Talent
By: - at September 6, 2013

44 Examples of the Extreme History of Method Acting

Method acting is an umbrella term for a variety of techniques utilized by actors and actresses to produce within themselves the feelings and thoughts of the characters they are portraying in order to deliver an authentic performance. The key aspect of method acting is the complete immersion of an actor into a role, thereby essentially becoming the character that they are depicting – usually both on and off camera or the stage. Many actors and actresses, past and present, have prescribed to the approach.

actor acting

For some, their commitment to a role involves losing or gaining a significant portion of weight. For others, their devotion, while somewhat admirable, is extreme by anyone’s standards except the actor or actress in question.

History
Method acting dates back to the 1930s, specifically to a theater group in New York City who would employ various methods to obtain realism for their performances. It was initially based on the ideas of Constantin Stanislavski, who emphasized the importance of having truth in performances that was the result of an actor or actress focusing inwards, in order to maintain true emotion for the duration of a scene.

Lee Strasberg would add to the practice during the 1940s and 1950s when he advised performers to draw upon their respective memories and emotions to produce authentic results for the characters they were depicting. Many of Strasberg's students would go on to become icons of the film industry, including Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Marilyn Monroe, Al Pacino, James Dean, Jane Fonda and Jack Nicholson to name just a few.

Since its early days, method acting has evolved and continues to change with the various interpretations and approaches from acting teachers, their students, and established actors.


Extreme Weight Loss

44)  Natalie Portman Devoted to Restrictive Diet and Training
For her role as a mentally unstable ballet dancer in ‘Black Swan’ (2010), Natalie Portman dropped 20 pounds. She also took intense strength and ballet training, working five to eight hours a day, which started a year before filming.

Natalie Portman at the Premier of 'Black Swan'
Natalie Portman at the Premier of 'Black Swan'
John Steven Fernandez [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Her strict diet, which consisted of minute portions, was overseen by a nutritionist.


43)  Anne Hathaway Withered Away
For her role as Fantine in ‘Les Miserables’ (2012), Anne Hathaway lost 25 pounds – 10 before filming began, then another 15 over a two week break to authentically depict the tuberculosis-afflicted character. Hathaway’s diet of dried oatmeal paste involved less than 500 calories per day. She said that the experience affected her emotionally as well as physically.

Anne Hathaway in Costume for 'Les Miserables'
Anne Hathaway in Costume for 'Les Miserables'

She said it took her weeks to get out of the mindset of her character.


42)  Matthew McConaughey Lost Weight Safely
Matthew McConaughey has often been criticized and ridiculed for his apparent lack of commitment to role. However, for ‘The Dallas Buyers Club’ (2013), in which McConaughey plays real-life AIDS sufferer Ron Woodroof, McConaughey lost 38 pounds in six months. Unlike many actors and actresses, he lost the weight relatively safely. He coupled a strict diet with daily cardio workouts. Ultimately, he dropped down to 143 pounds.

Matthew McConaughey Running Marathon:
Matthew McConaughey Running Marathon
By LD Cross  [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


41)  Matthew Fox Got Extremely Lean
Matthew Fox dropped 44 pounds to transform himself into serial killer Picasso for the film ‘Alex Cross’ (2012). Fox’s motivation was to authentically portray Picasso’s energy by being disturbingly “tendony,” and vascular.

Screenshot From 'Alex Cross'
Screenshot From 'Alex Cross'

He achieved his goal through eating just diet shakes and vegetables. Fox didn’t enjoy the experience, but was pleased with the result as he hardly recognized himself when he saw the film.


40)  50 Cent’s Fast Liquid Diet Weight-Loss
For his role in ‘All Things Fall Apart’ (2011), rapper 50 Cent went from 214 to 160 pounds over the course of just nine weeks. He was playing a footballer who becomes terminally ill. He dropped the weight with a liquid diet, coupled with walking three hours a day.

50 Cent Pictured With Val Kilmer
50 Cent Pictured With Val Kilmer
By Keith HInkle [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately for 50 Cent the film failed both commercially and critically.


39)  Antonia Campbell-Hughes Suffered as She Lost Weight
For her role as an Austrian kidnap victim, Natascha Kampusch, in the film ‘3096 Days’ (2013) actress Antonia Campbell-Hughes lost an extreme amount of weight. Her character was based on a real life person who had been held hostage in a dungeon for eight and a half years. Hughes would later explain that she made the decision to lose so much weight because she wanted to suffer as much as the real-life person she was portraying had.

Antonia Campbell-Hughes:
Antonia Campbell-Hughes


38)  Jonah Hill Lost the Weight but It Returned
Before filming for ’21 Jump Street’ (2012) began, Jonah Hill dropped 40 pounds. Officially, he stated that it was motivated by health. He’d been asked to drop some weight for the role, though only around 20 pounds.

Jonah Hill Wearing His Costume From '21 Jump Street'
Jonah Hill Wearing His Costume From '21 Jump Street'
By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ (Jonah HillUploaded by maybeMaybeMaybe) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

He hated the health measures that were involved in losing the weight and didn’t keep up with them long-term as he’d initially planned.


37)  Ewan McGregor Went on a Restrictive Diet
Depicting a drug addict in ‘Trainspotting’ (1996), Ewan McGregor went on a no-dairy and no-alcohol diet over the course of two months to achieve the desired look of a heroin addict.

Ewan McGregor at the Berlin Film Festival
Ewan McGregor at the Berlin Film Festival
By Siebbi (cropped version of ipernity.com) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


36)  Gary Oldman’s Fish and Melon Diet
In order to authentically represent the notorious musician and drug addict Sid Vicious in the biopic ‘Sid and Nancy’ (1986), Gary Oldman lost so much weight for the movie that he ultimately ended up hospitalized for his commitment to the role. He’d been eating nothing but steamed fish and melons.

Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious
Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious


35)  Emile Hirsch Got Lean
For her role in ‘Into the Wild’ (2007), Emile Hirsch went from 156 pound to just 115, losing over 40 pounds.

Emile Hirsch at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival
Emile Hirsch at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival
By David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons





Extreme Weight Gain

34)  Sally Field Gained 25 Pounds
For her role as Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, in ‘Lincoln’ (2012), Sally Fields read a number of biographies, visited the Lincoln’s home as well as various private collections of Lincoln memorabilia. She also put on 25 pounds for her performance to play Abraham Lincoln's psychotic, but lovable wife.

Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln in 'Lincoln'
Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln in 'Lincoln'

Mary Todd had lost a child and would ultimately lose another sickly one, and Mrs. Lincoln unfortunately battles spells of depression very similar to what in today's medical community would be considered schizophrenic episodes. This used to be called hysteria during the mid 1900s especially if this sort of behavior was exhibited by a female patient. 


33)  Toni Collette Ballooned
For the role that introduced Australia and Australians to the global film industry, Toni Collette packed on 40 pounds over just seven weeks for the role as the main character in ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ (1994).

Toni Collette at the 2010 Golden Globe Awards
Toni Collette at the 2010 Golden Globe Awards

Obviously by taking a quick look at the photograph above, Collette has lost all of the weight and is absolutely stunning more than 15 years later. Method acting requires actors and actresses to remove themselves from their typical weight and appearance, to truly become the character they are portraying.


32)  Charlize Theron Plumped Up
For the lead role as serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, in the biopic ‘Monster’ (2003), Charlize Theron gained 30 pounds. She packed on the weight with potato-chips and Krispy Kreme donuts. Theron also shaved off her eyebrows for the role.

Charlize Theron Playing Female Serial Killer Aileen Wuornos Who Went on a Killing Spree as a Truck Stop Prostitute
Charlize Theron Playing Female Serial Killer Aileen Wuornos Who Went on a Killing Spree Posing as a Prostitute at Various Truck Stops


31)  Christina Ricci Plumped Up Too
Christina Ricci added 10 pounds for her role in ‘Monster’ for her portrayal of Wuornos’ partner.

Christina Ricci - Before and After
Christina Ricci - Before and After


30)  George Clooney’s Weight-Gain Caused Injury
Indulging in a diet consisting of almost entirely pasta, George Clooney packed on up to 35 pounds in just a single month for his role in ‘Syriana’ (2005).

George Clooney at the 'Men Who Stare at Goats' Screening
George Clooney at the 'Men Who Stare at Goats' Screening
By Michael Vlasaty (DSC_3319Uploaded by Diaa_abdelmoneim) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

While Clooney would go on to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance, he also ended up tearing his dura mater due to the sudden weight gain, leading to spinal cord leakage.


29)  Sylvester Stallone Ate Loads of Pancakes
For his role in ‘Cop Land’ (1997), Sylvester Stallone packed on 40 pounds of fat, in order to remain true to the role of a veteran police officer. Stallone scoffed down pancakes in order to quickly gain the necessary weight.

Sylvester Stallone at the Festival de Venise
Sylvester Stallone at the Festival de Venise
By nicolas genin from Paris, France (66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


28)  Rob McElhenney Gained for Comedy
Creator and star of ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ (2005 – present), Rob McElhenney sacrificed his health and athletic physique purely for the sake of comedy, right before season number seven of his television series. McElhenney packed on an astounding 52 pounds.

Rob McElhenney at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con International
Rob McElhenney at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con International
By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

He went from an athletic 160 pounds all the way to a whopping 212 pounds.


27)  Vincent D’Onofrio Big Gainer
Vincent D’Onofrio gained 70 pounds over the course of seven months for his role in ‘Full Metal Jacket’ (1987). His weight spiked at 280 pounds. It took him nine months to take off the excess weight. D’Onofrio also gained 45 pounds for his performance in ‘The Salton Sea’ (2002).

Vincent D'Onofrio at the Premiere of 'Speed Racer' at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival
Vincent D'Onofrio at the Premiere of 'Speed Racer' at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival
By David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


26)  Renee Zellweger Put on Pounds Twice
For her role as the main character in ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ (2001), Renee Zellweger was required to gain 28 pounds. Just a few years later, she did it again for the film’s sequel, ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’ (2004).

Renee Zellweger at the Harvard Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year Parade
Renee Zellweger at the Harvard Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year Parade
John Harrison [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Extreme Weight Loss AND Gain

25)  Matt Damon’s Junk Food Weight-Gain
Matt Damon has gained and lost weight for various roles. For ‘The Informant’ (2009) he gained more than 30 pounds. He achieved the goal by gorging on pizza, hamburgers and beer. He also lost 40 pounds for his performance in ‘Courage Under Fire’ (1996), nearly killing himself in the process.

Matt Damon in 2009 at the Festival du Cinema de Venise
Matt Damon in 2009 at the Festival du Cinema de Venise
By nicolas genin from Paris, France (66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


24)  Jennifer Hudson Weight-Loss Queen
When Jennifer Hudson starred in ‘Dreamgirls’ (2006), she was required to gain 20 pounds for her role. Years later, when she starred in ‘Winnie’ (2011) as Winnie Mandela, Hudson was required to lose 56 pounds.

Jennifer Hudson at the 83rd Academy Awards
Jennifer Hudson at the 83rd Academy Awards
David Torcivia [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


23)  Tom Hanks Altered his Appearance
Before filming ‘Cast Away’ (2000) Tom Hanks let himself go by ceasing exercising in order to look like an average middle-aged man. With the first half of the film recorded, Hanks then took an entire year to drop around 55 pounds and grow out his hair for the second half of the movie.

Tom Hanks in 2009 at a Ceremony at the Hollywood Walk of Fame to Honor George Harrison With a Star
Tom Hanks in 2009 at a Ceremony at the Hollywood Walk of Fame to Honor George Harrison With a Star
Angela George [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

For his role as an AIDS sufferer, Hanks dropped 26 pounds for the film ‘Philadelphia’ (1993). For his role just before that he’d packed on 30 pounds for ‘A League of Their Own’ (1992).


22)  Michael Fassbender Went from Slim to Fit
For his role in ‘Hunger’ (2008), Michael Fassbender dropped 30 pounds over just 10 weeks, in order to depict the 1981 head of an IRA hunger strike.

Michael Fassbender Pictured With Charlize Theron at WonderCon 2012
Michael Fassbender Pictured With Charlize Theron at WonderCon 2012
By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Before ‘Hunger’ Fassbender got into incredible shape after 10 grueling weeks of exercise in preparation for his role in “300” (2006).


21)  Mark Wahlberg Took Time to Get in Shape
For the film ‘The Fighter’ (2010) Mark Wahlberg took almost four years to get in fighting shape to authentically depict a professional. He then had to gain 30 pounds for the latter scenes in the film, when his character went into retirement.

Mark Wahlberg at the 'Contraband' Movie Premiere in Sydney, Australia
Mark Wahlberg at the 'Contraband' Movie Premiere in Sydney, Australia
By Eva Rinaldi from Sydney Australia (Mark WahlbergUploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Worse still, five months after principle photography, extra scenes – pick-ups – were needed to be filmed, which therefore required Wahlberg to get back into shape.


20)  Mila Kunis Got Super Skinny
In preparation for her role in ‘Black Swan’ (2010), Mila Kunis dropped down to 95 pounds, over five months. Just a couple of years later, Kunis gained both the weight she’d lost and a bit more for her role in ‘Blood Ties’ (2013).

Mila Kunis at Comic-Con 2012
Mila Kunis at Comic-Con 2012
By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


19)  Christian Bale’s Weight Rollercoaster
Although the director for the ‘The Machinist’ (2004) only asked Christian Bale to lose around 10 to 15 pounds for his role, Bale instead lost over 60 pounds, going from a healthy 185 pounds to approximately 120 pounds.

Christian Bale at 'The Dark Knight' Premiere
Christian Bale at 'The Dark Knight' Premiere
By Cristiano Betta [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Following the film, Bale then got back to around a muscular 220 pounds for ‘Batman Begins’ (2005). He then dropped to 135 pounds for ‘Rescue Dawn’ (2006). He was required to get to around 220 again for ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008). Bale then dropped down to 145 pounds for ‘The Fighter’ (2010).

For the third installment of the Batman franchise, Bale was again required to get back up to 220 for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (2012).


18)  Russell Crowe Went from Fit to Fat
After gaining a herculean physique for ‘Gladiator’ (2000), Russell Crowe was required to gain 63 pounds of excess body weight in order to play an overweight CIA agent for ‘Body of Lies’ (2008).

Russell Crowe While Filming 'A Good Year' at London's Piccadilly Circus
Russell Crowe While Filming 'A Good Year' at London's Piccadilly Circus
Caroline Bonarde Ucci [GFDL or CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


17)  Jared Leto Did Extreme Diets
For the film ‘Requiem for a Dream’ (2000), Jared Leto not only lost 25 pounds but also befriended a number of real-life heroin addicts.

For his role in ‘Chapter 27’ (2007) Leto gained 67 pounds for his portrayal of John Lennon’s assassin, Mark David Chapman. Leto reportedly suffered numerous health issues due to the weight gain, with the sudden strain on his body restricting him to a wheelchair on occasions, while he was also prescribed Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering medication, to deal with the extra weight.

Jaret Leto at the 2009 Festival du Cinema de Venise
Jaret Leto at the 2009 Festival du Cinema de Venise
By nicolas genin from Paris, France (66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In dramatic contrast to his weight gain, Leto put his health at great risk for his role as a transgender woman suffering from HIV in ‘The Dallas Buyers Club’ (2013). Leto only had a few weeks to drop weight and opted to starve himself for a month.


16)  Colin Farrell Ate Tuna
Colin Farrell dropped 44 pounds for his performance as, photojournalist Mark Walsh in the film ‘Triage’ (2009). Farrell achieved the loss by only consuming tins of tuna, diet drinks, and black coffee. He ate only about 300 calories a day. Farrell previously added pounds of muscle for his roles in ‘Alexander’ (2004) and ‘Miami Vice’ (2006).

Colin Farrell at the Premiere of 'Seven Psychopaths' - Toronto Film Festival 2012
Colin Farrell at the Premiere of 'Seven Psychopaths' - Toronto Film Festival 2012
By Tony ShekUploaded by MyCanon (Colin Farrell) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


15)  Adrien Brody Quickly Dropped Weight
In order to depict a Polish-Jewish musician during World War II in ‘The Pianist’, Adrien Brody dropped 31 pounds over a six week period, taking him to 129 pounds overall.

Adrien Brody at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2008
Adrien Brody at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2008
By Tony Shek (Adrien Brody) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A number of years later, he was conversely required to gain weight for his role in ‘Predators’ (2010), for which he was added 25 pounds of muscle, to depict a mercenary in the movie.


Muscle Gain

14)  Mickey Rourke Builds Muscle
For his role in ‘The Wrestler’ (2008), Mickey Rouke built up 27 pounds of pure muscle over seven and a half months. He achieved the goal by extreme weight training and consuming up to seven meals per day.

Mickey Rourke Leaving a Jean Paul Gaultier Fashion Show
Mickey Rourke Leaving a Jean Paul Gaultier Fashion Show
By nicogenin (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


13)  Edward Norton Pumps Iron
For his role in ‘American History X’ (1996) as a brutal white-supremacist, Edward Norton worked out for two and a half months straight to gain 35 pounds of muscle for his adrenaline filled performance.

Edward Norton in Paramus, New Jersey 2010
Edward Norton in Paramus, New Jersey 2010
By Bridget Laudien.Panyd at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons


12)  Tom Hardy Beefed Up
Tom Hardy was originally quit skinny when he started acting. However, for his role in the film ‘Bronson’ (2008) he was required to gain 42 pounds of muscle. He achieved the feat by doing 2,500 press-ups every single day over the course of five weeks.

Tom Hardy at the London Premiere of 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'
Tom Hardy at the London Premiere of 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'
By Sam from UK (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


11)  Vincent Cassel Gained 44 Pounds
For his role as Jacques Mesrine in “Mesrine: Public Enemy #1” (2008) Vincent Cassel gained 44 pounds of muscle over four months.

Vincent Cassel in 2011
Vincent Cassel in 2011
By BemDevassa (Vincent Cassel) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


10)  Will Smith Trained Intensely
Will Smith had to train for six hours every day before filming began for ‘Ali’ (2001) in which Smith depicted the boxing champion, Muhammad Ali. Smith built up 35 pounds of muscle to reach the champion’s weight of 220 pounds.

Will Smith
Will Smith
By Taís Melillo from New York, USA (Celebrity sighting) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Intense Method Acting

9)  Daniel Day-Lewis Intense Researcher
For his role in as Abraham Lincoln in the film ‘Lincoln’, notorious method actor Daniel Day-Lewis researched Lincoln for an entire year, learning as much as was humanly possible. He would also sign text messages to co-stars as "The Commander in Chief" or just "A". Furthermore, he refused to discuss any current events while filming.

Oscar Night in 2008 When Daniel Day-Lewis Won Best Actor in 'There Will Be Blood'
Oscar Night in 2008 When Daniel Day-Lewis Won Best Actor in 'There Will Be Blood'
By Siebbi (Daniel Day-Lewis) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier in Lewis’ career, while depicting disabled Irish artist, Christy Brown, for ‘My Left Foot’ (1989), Lewis spent eight weeks in a hospital for sufferers of cerebral palsy. He also insisted on using a wheelchair while filming and had crew members carry him and even spoon-feed him on occasions while off camera.


8)  Heath Ledger Developed Sleeping Disorders
Determined to bring something totally new to the fairly clichéd character of The Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008), Heath ledger closed himself off in his apartment for an entire month, so that he could develop paranoia and insomnia along the way. He often only allowed himself to sleep a couple of hours a night. He also maintained a journal written as his character The Joker, filling it with nonsensical writing.

Heath Ledger January 2008 in New York
Heath Ledger January 2008 in New York
By Howie (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

There’s speculation that Ledger’s extreme measures for the role led to his sleep difficulties that ultimately saw him require sleeping pills on which he would later overdose.


7)  Marlon Brando Stayed in Bed
Although Marlon Brando would often express contempt for film as both an industry and an art form, he is considered the master of method acting. In his later years, he was often accused of showing up for film roles (simply for the paycheck) rather than ever making any effort to act. His early cinematic efforts, however, were more respectful to the medium.

Marlon Brando in 'Streetcar Named Desire'
Marlon Brando in 'Streetcar Named Desire'

Before production began for ‘The Men’ (1950), Brando stayed in bed for a month at the Birmingham Army Hospital in Van Nuys in preparation for his performance as a paraplegic war veteran.


6)  Joaquin Phoenix Pulls a Prank
The mockumentary ‘I'm Still Here’ (2010) purported to depict Joaquin Phoenix after he’d given up acting to pursue a career in rap music. Phoenix committed to the prank entirely. With the motivation behind the film being about exploring the relationship of celebrity, the media and the public. Phoenix publicly made a fool of himself; with very few people in on the joke.

joaquin phoenix i'm still here
By David Shankbone (http://www.flickr.com/photos/shankbone/4946404141/) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Phoenix grew out his beard and hair and often wore distinguishing sunglasses and suits. He also frequently spoke incoherently, much to the delight of the tabloid media.


5)  Dustin Hoffman Didn’t Sleep
While starring in ‘Marathon Man’ (1976), Dustin Hoffman wanted to truly understand the character of Thomas "Babe" Levy and as such deprived himself of sleep. Consequently, Hoffman once showed up on set after staying awake for two days straight.

Hoffman at the 2012 Premiere of 'Quartet'
Hoffman at the 2012 Premiere of 'Quartet'

He was in such a state that co-star and film legend Laurence Olivier is reported to have suggested to Hoffman that he should give up on method acting and just try straight up acting – as it is much easier.


4)  Jim Carrey Became Andy Kaufman
While depicting comedy legend Andy Kaufman in ‘Man on the Moon’ (1999) Jim Carrey never broke character, ignoring his co-stars and crew if they referred to him as anything but Andy or Tony (in reference to Kaufman’s alter ego, Tony Clifton). Consequently, Carrey’s commitment to the role infuriated a number of people involved in the production.

Jim Carrey at the Premios 40 Principales Awards
Jim Carrey at the Premios 40 Principales Awards
By Noemi Nuñez [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Adding to the authenticity of his performance, Carrey researched and developed specific eccentricities that Kaufman possessed, even though they were never mentioned in the script. Although reviews for Carrey’s performance were mixed, he did receive a Golden Globe for the role.


3)  Kate Winslet Absorbed in Her Role
Kate Winslet invested so much of herself into her role in ‘The Reader’ (2008), in which she played a former Nazi concentration camp guard. Winslet struggled to get out of her character’s mindset – even after filming was complete.

Kate Winslet at the 2007 Palm Film Festival
Kate Winslet at the 2007 Palm Film Festival
By Maggie (Maggiejumps) from Palm Springs, United States (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Reportedly, she had been so fixated on an accurately depicting the role that she struggled for several months to find her old self.


2)  Shia Lebeouf Goes Nude
For the film ‘Nymphomaniac’ (2013) Shia Labeouf reportedly had actual intercourse rather than simulating sex scenes with his co-star, Mia Goth. The two actors were dating at the time. While it was a shocking revelation to the American media and public, actual sex scenes in feature films is commonplace in European and Asian cinema.

Shia Lebeouf at the 2009 Premiere of 'Transformers 2'
Shia Lebeouf at the 2009 Premiere of 'Transformers 2'
By nicolas genin from Paris, France (Transformers 2, Megan Fox & Shia Labeouf) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This marked the first time a high-profile American actor had taken such extremes.


1)  Robert De Niro the Extreme Method Actor
Robert De Niro is a vocal proponent of method acting, committing to whatever will deliver the best possible performance from himself and his co-stars. He has been known to insult co-stars just to get them genuinely angry for a scene. In preparation for his iconic role in 'Taxi Driver’ (1976), De Niro performed 12 hour shifts as a taxi driver for a month in order to understand the isolation of the job and mindset of the drivers.

Publicity Photo of Robert De Niro for 'The Last Tycoon' 1976
Publicity Photo of Robert De Niro for 'The Last Tycoon' 1976

For his role as rapist Max Cady in ‘Cape Fear’ (1991) De Niro had a dentist file down his teeth just to have them look decayed.

Years earlier, for ‘Raging Bull’ (1980) De Niro gained 60 pounds of excess weight to depict Jake LaMotta. Consequently, De Niro suffered difficulty breathing during filming. The production was even shut down at one point as director, Martin Scorcese reportedly feared for De Niro's well-being.


Conclusion
Actor and actress’ can have various motivations behind the extreme actions that they take in preparation for their respective roles. It can be a legitimate commitment to their role, out of respect for the art of film, or a desire to win critical praise or an award. Whatever the case may be, the objective is always the same – to deliver an authentic performance.

Ultimately it doesn’t really matter what a performer’s core motivation is. It’s their personal choice and sacrifice to make for the sake of their art. The only real question is, given the impact such extreme measures can and almost invariably do have on their bodies and overall health, whether it’s really worth it.


 

 

 

 

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