10 Actors Who Went to Extremes for Movie Roles

85th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals

Part of being a successful actor is being able to make viewers believe that you are exactly who you say you are. As a result, the best actors are those who are able to completely submerge themselves in their roles.  While all actors have different methods of getting into character, some are willing to do almost anything to become the characters they portray on-screen.  Whether it be losing or gaining weight, living in insulation, or sacrificing personal hygiene, some will stop at nothing.  In the industry, this technique is often referred to as method acting, but to those outside of the industry, it is just plain crazy.  Here are 10 actors who went to extremes for movie roles.

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10. Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro is perhaps one of the best-known actors of his generation, and he certainly didn’t earn such recognition by playing it safe. De Niro is known for giving his all to every role he plays, and in the 1991 remake of Cape Fear, De Niro showed just how far he was willing to go. To prepare for the role, De Niro donned a body full of tattoos, put on several pounds of muscle, and even paid a dentist $5,000 to disfigure his teeth.

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9. Matt Damon

In 1996, now well-known actor, Matt Damon, was just beginning his rise to the top.  While preparing for the film, Courage Under Fire, Damon went on an extreme diet which resulted in a more than 40 pound weight loss.  According to Damon: “I ran six miles in the morning and six miles at night, and I’d drink four to six pots of coffee to be able to run that distance.” Damon also said that the diet resulted in hunger so extreme that when he kissed his girlfriend he could taste the left over food on her lips.

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8. Christian Bale

In the 2004 film, The Machinist, Christian Bale lost so much weight that he was almost unrecognizable.  In order to accurately portray the role of Trevor Reznik an insomniac machinist, Bale underwent a drastic physical transformation in the form of a 63 pound weight loss.  According to sources, this is the most drastic weight loss any actor has ever undergone for a movie role.

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7. 50 Cent

50 Cent may not be well-known for his work as an actor; however, he has proven to be very dedicated to the craft. Several years ago, pictures of a very emaciated 50 began circulating the internet; however, it was quickly revealed that he had lost the weight for a movie role.  The usually buff 50 cent lost over 50 pounds to play a cancer stricken football player in the independent film, All Things Fall Apart.  Unfortunately for Fif, the role did not do anything to boost his acting career.

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6. Malcolm McDowell

The 1971 film A Clockwork Orange is one of director Stanley Kubrick’s most noteworthy works.  However, for actor Malcolm McDowell, the film probably brings back some very painful memories. McDowell was so dedicated to his role as Alex DeLarge that during one of the film’s most memorable scenes, he allowed himself to be strapped down to a chair and attached to a contraption that left his eyes open. As a result, McDowell sustained injuries to his eyes which resulted in temporary blindness.

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5. Charlize Theron

In the 2003 film, Monster, Charlize Theron took on the role of famous female serial killer, Aileen Wournos.  In order to transform herself from a beautiful blonde model to a seedy criminal, Theron gained over 30 pounds, and even shaved her eyebrows bald.

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4. Jared Leto

Jared Leto is a very talented entertainer.  The actor/singer/director/producer has been in the business for more than 20 years, and he is well-known for putting his all into everything he does. In 2013, Leto gained attention for his role in the film the Dallas Buyers Club in which he portrayed a transgender woman with HIV. In order to get into character, Leto starved himself to get his weight down to an incredible 114 pounds.  This drastic weight loss marks the second time Leto dramatically altered his weight in order to prepare for a role.  In the 2007 film, Chapter 27, Leto portrayed Mark David Chapman, the man convicted of murdering John Lennon.  Leto gained approximately 70 pounds for the role.

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3. Halle Berry

Somebody probably should’ve told Halle Berry that the film Jungle Fever had nothing to do with an actual jungle before she decided to go weeks without bathing in efforts to prepare for the role.  According to Berry herself,  “I didn’t shower the whole entire time that we shot that movie, so that was probably about eight weeks.”

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2. Heath Ledger

In the 2008 film, The Dark Knight, the late Heath Ledger gained critical acclaim for his portrayal of The Joker.  Released six months after his death, the film allowed audiences to see Ledger as much more than a pretty boy movie star.  According to sources, Ledger fully committed himself to accurately portraying the strange villain.  For six weeks, Ledger locked himself in a hotel room and practiced his mannerisms.  Ledger also kept a detailed diary while preparing for the role.

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1. Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis is no stranger to going to extremes for his acting roles. In the 1989 film, My Left Foot, Day-Lewis portrayed Christy Brown, a man stricken with cerebral palsy. In order to get into character, Day-Lewis chose to live his life in a wheelchair while filming.   For years, rumors circulated that he had sustained rib injuries from behind in a hunched position for so long; however, Day-Lewis has since denied that.  In the 2012 film, Lincoln, Day-Lewis returned to method acting for his role as the 16th United States president Abraham Lincoln.  According to those on the set of the film, Day-Lewis required that everyone, including Steven Spielberg, refer to him as Mr. President while shooting the film.

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