Actors have all kinds of methods to their madness, and much of it depends on how they were schooled, where they were schooled, and what sort of role they might be preparing for. Many “old school”actors choose a method acting approach, which means putting themselves in the shoes of the character as much as possible – meaning everything they do, think, dream, eat, drink, etc is what the character would do in a similar circumstance.
Method acting has resulted in some pretty fantastic performances, but we’ve also witnessed things like intense weight loss or gain, smoking habits, etc that are arguably not as healthy.
Here are 14 times performers may have taken their dedication to method acting a bit too far.
14. Natalie Portman in Black Swan
Natalie Portman spent 8 hours a day in ballet classes so that she could appear to be as good a ballerina as her character was in the film. At one point she dislocated a rib and she said that the training left her feeling like she was “literally going to die.”
In case you were thinking of taking up dancing.
13. Jamie Foxx in Ray.
Ray Charles was blind from the age of 7, and to simulate living that way, Jamie Foxx glued his eyes shut for 13 hours a day.
The director of the film, Taylor Hackford, is the one who suggested the approach but everyone on set sometimes forgot Jamie couldn’t see and left him bumbling around in the dark on his own.
12. Nick Nolte in Down and Out in Beverly Hills
Nolte played a philosopher-vagrant in the film, and to research what it might have been like to live that way in Los Angeles, he spent five weeks living on the streets as a homeless man.
Also, he ate real dog food (twice).
11. Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Tom Holland played Peter Parker, a 15-year-old who becomes Spider-Man. The trouble was, Tom had never attended an American high school, and so he enrolled in one in the Bronx to get a better feel for the experience.
It was only for three days, though, in which he practiced his accent and fake name, and was ignored when he told people he was Spider-Man.
10. Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther.
Chadwick Boseman was afraid of losing his accent between takes, and so he kept it up, even between takes, during all of the MCU movies he played T’Challa in.
Boseman firmly believed that T’Challa should speak with an accent based in the Xhosa language, and worked with a South African dialect coach to get it right.
9. Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs
Foster joined the FBI Academy in Virginia – the same one Clarice was attending – and immersed herself in the daily routines of the trainees at Quantico.
She also met with senior FBI officers and serial killer experts to learn more about what her role would entail.
Her co-star, Scott Glenn, regretted his alternate choice – he listened to serial killers doing their business, instead.
8. Marlon Brando in The Men
Brando spent a month in bed at a veteran’s hospital to prepare for his role as an injured WWII lieutenant.
He even checked himself into the same hospital where his character was convalescing – Birmingham General Army Hospital in Van Nuys, CA.
7. Robert Pattinson in The Lighthouse
While playing a drunken sailor who was slowly losing his grip on reality, Pattison would get horribly drunk before his scenes.
In this “maddened” state, he reportedly licked puddles of mud, was sick on set, and peed himself.
I’m glad I wasn’t on that film’s cleaning crew.
6. Chloe Sevigny in The Brown Bunny
In the final scene of The Brown Bunny, Sevigny is seen giving co-star Vincent Gallo an actual bl*wjob on film.
The scene caused a scandal at the Cannes Film Festival and beyond (even though she was of course the only one criticized) but she never apologized, saying she only wanted to push the envelope.
5. Robert Pattinson in Little Ashes
Pattison was required to do a few s^x scenes while playing Salvador Dali, and in one, he was meant to act out masturbating alongside another actor.
Pattison instead did it for real, and took it all the way to the end, telling Germany’s Interview magazine that his “org*sm face is recorded for eternity.”
4. Val Kilmer in The Doors
Kilmer went so deep into Doors singer Jim Morrison’s mind that he couldn’t get out – he had to go to therapy to stop thinking like the legendary frontman.
Kilmer learned how to speak and sing like Morrison by wearing his clothes and hanging out at his favorite haunts.
At one point Morrison’s own former band mates couldn’t tell the difference between the two around 80% of the time.
3. Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland
Forest Whitaker really earned his Academy Award for this role – he learned Swahili, for one, but also ate nothing but mashed bananas and beans, remaining in character offset.
He also met with former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s friends, relatives, and victims to prepare for the role.
His wife and kids were reportedly so over it by the time filming was done.
2. Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot
Lewis is legendary for his method ways, going the extra mile often – like when he remained in a wheelchair for the entire filming of My Left Foot.
He played the role of an artist with cerebral palsy and remained in his chair even between takes, having crew members feed him – even though the pain of two broken ribs.
1. Adrien Brody in The Pianist
Brody eschewed his apartment, his car, and most of his other belongings while preparing to play the role of a Holocaust victim in The Pianist.
He also moved to Europe with only two bags, started dieting to lose an extreme amount of weight, and did his best to experience just “a fraction” of what someone went through in the ghettos and camps during the Holocaust.
These are some great performances, but I’m not sure they were worth it!
Are you a movie buff? Share your favorite method performances with us in the comments.