It isn’t a secret that to make it in Hollywood, you have to go above and beyond and stand out from the crowd. But some actors can be so dedicated to their roles that they can take things to new extremes…Sometimes it is their decision to do so, but at times there can be a darker reason lurking beneath the surface.
Christian Bale – The Machinist
Christian Bale dramatically altered his appearance beyond recognition for his 2004 role in the psychological thriller, The Machinist. The actor dropped a whopping 4 stone and apparently only slept 2 hours a night.
In his GQ interview, Bale recounts: “A lot of times actually I would sit there with headphones in, but I wasn’t listening to anything. I was just pretending to listen so that I could actually hear everything that was going on, but nobody thought I could.”
The actor then goes on to explain that losing all the physical weight put all the energy into his brain, so he was able to read non-stop for up to 10 hours straight. “And so I only slept two hours a night and all I wanted to do was read.” he continued.
So why would the actor go to such lengths? Bale explains: “I’d come off the back of making some films I’d been less than satisfied with and just really wanted something where I could become immersed and obsessed with it.”
The actor did admit that losing all that weight wasn’t a good idea seeing as “there was no money in it”, but he explained it was a fulfilling experience regardless because it challenged him as an actor. Ultimately, it was his decision to lose the weight, and not one forced upon him by directors or the requirements of the role itself.
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Leonardo admits that he did many crazy things in preparation for his action-packed role in The Revenant. Some of these include sleeping inside a dead horse’s carcass, diving in and out of frozen rivers (and potentially catching hypothermia in the process) and last but not least, eating the raw liver of a buffalo to prime himself for the raw meat that his character also eats in the film. What makes this all the more extreme is that the actor is mostly vegan, going to show just how dedicated DiCaprio was for this role.
“I have always been intrigued by these lives I have never experienced.” he told The Independent “And I love the pure pleasure of doing the work, no matter if that work involves some kind of discomfort – even though I don’t see it as that, one just deals with the day-to-day challenges of the character. I do it out of curiosity and I enjoy it. But the way people would have it, it is like a game of self-chastisement and it has never been that way for me – it’s all just a big, funny game.”
Rooney Mara – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
In hopes of fulfilling fan expectations of the book, Mara took her role in the Girl with the dragon tattoo very seriously.
Firstly, she moved to Stockholm several weeks before shooting began, in order to familiarise herself with the character and tap into the character’s sense of isolation. Other sacrifices include chopping her hair and dyeing it black, piercing her face and nipples (racking up 12 piercings in total), bleaching her eyebrows and embarking on a gruelling training program of martial arts, skateboarding and motorcycle riding.
“David (the producer) made it his mission,” she told The Hollywood reporter “to keep me in a very safe bubble while making the film where I didn’t have to think of anything but the character.”
Adrien Brody – The Pianist
Oscar winner Adrien Brody went to great lengths in order to emulate Wladyslaw Szpilman, the real-life concert pianist who survived the horrors of The Holocaust.
Encouraged by the producer, Brody practiced the piano 4 hours a day until he was finally able to play specific passages by Chopin.
In the movie, his character lost his family and home.
“I gave up my apartment, I sold my car, I disconnected the phones, and I left,” he told BBC News “I took two bags and my keyboard and moved to Europe.”
Since the film was shot in reverse chronological order, Brody needed to look near death. The actor underwent a crash diet and lost 30 pounds in 6 weeks.
“I couldn’t have acted that without knowing it. I’ve experienced loss, I’ve experienced sadness in my life, but I didn’t know the desperation that comes with hunger […] there were times when I was concerned that I might not be able to get out of it sane, because I didn’t realize how far it had taken me.”
Jennifer Lawrence shared a “humiliating” and “degrading” experience she had early on in her career. At Elle’s Women in Hollywood event in 2017, the talented actress recounts the story of when she was told by producers to lose 15 pounds in 2 weeks for a role.
And if that wasn’t enough, she also added: “During this time a female producer had me do a nude line-up with about five women who were much, much, thinner than me. We are stood side-by-side with only tape on covering our privates,” she continued.
“After that degrading and humiliating line-up, the female producer told me I should use the naked photos of myself as inspiration for my diet.”
The actress said the experience made her feel “trapped.”
“I let myself be treated a certain way because I felt I had to for my career,” she confessed.