“I was honestly terrified that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off.”
For some of the world’s greatest actors, getting prepared for a role takes a lot more than simply learning their lines. Before they even step foot on set, many actors put in hours of work getting into character, whether that means putting in extra time at the gym, working with an acting coach, or getting to know their cast mates.
But some actors choose to take things a step further, going to unbelievable lengths to make sure that their movie is the best that it can be. For some, that consists of spending months preparing for the job, learning new languages, entirely new skills, or drastically altering their appearance. And for others, they endure extreme conditions on set to make sure that their film is as authentic as possible. No matter what they did, one thing is for sure — these actors all went above and beyond for their role.
Read on to find out what unbelievable things these stars did…
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1. Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio put himself in some extreme situations while filming “The Revenant,” spending nine months in the most remote and frigid regions of Canada and Argentina. Temperatures rarely rose above -22F and at points, it was so cold that Leonardo says his extremities almost froze. During the course of filming, Leo worked on scenes that required him to submerge himself in freezing water as well as eat raw bison liver, despite being a vegetarian for much of his life. At one point, things got so bad that production had to halt for five weeks.
“I can name 30 or 40 sequences that were some of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. Whether it’s going in and out of frozen rivers, or sleeping in animal carcasses, or what I ate on set. [I was] enduring freezing cold and possible hypothermia constantly,” Leonardo told Yahoo Entertainment.
2. Shia LaBeouf
While Shia LaBeouf was filming “Fury,” he is said to have taken things to the next level in the makeup department. His co-star Logan Lerman explained that when Shia wasn’t satisfied with the prosthetics used to create fake wounds on his face, he took things into his own hands. He even reportedly got one of his teeth pulled for the role!
“We were in make-up and they were putting cuts on Shia, and I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, it looks good’, and Shia was like, ‘No, it doesn’t look real.’ Then he walks out into the hallway, and says, ‘Hey man, wanna see something fun? Check this out…’ And he takes out a knife and cuts his face. And for the whole movie he kept opening these cuts on his face. That’s all real,” Logan told British GQ.
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3. Meryl Streep
When Meryl Streep was cast in “Sophie’s Choice,” she knew she would have to speak with a Polish accent. Instead of just mastering how she could sound Polish, she decided to learn the entire language. She later found out that the character actually had to speak Polish in a German accent, so she of course mastered that as well.
4. Margot Robbie
Margot Robbie learned how to ice skate at a near professional level for her role in “I, Tonya.” The actress hit the ice rink for five months leading up to filming, practicing for several hours a day, several days of the week. She trained on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and even the day before her wedding so that she would have to use a stunt double as infrequently as possible.
“I was honestly terrified that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. We were just a few weeks from shooting, and I was still struggling to find my outside edges. I just thought I was never going to get them, and then, one day, it just clicked,” Margot told The Hollywood Reporter.
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5. Heath Ledger
In order to get ready for his role as The Joker in “The Dark Knight,” Heath Ledger checked into a London hotel for a full month. Over the course of a few weeks, he fully immersed himself in the character while testing out voices and altering his mindset. Heath’s father even said that the journal he kept during the experience contained some concerning thoughts.
“I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices – it was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh. I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath – someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts. He’s just an absolute sociopath, a cold-blooded, mass-murdering clown…There are no real boundaries to what The Joker would say or do. Nothing intimidates him, and everything is a big joke,” Heath told Empire Online before his passing.
6. Daniel Day-Lewis
For Daniel Day-Lewis’ role in “Lincoln,” he studied Abraham Lincoln for a year before filming began. Once on set, he became so committed to the role that he stayed in character long after filming wrapped for the day and talked to his cast mates as President Lincoln. His co-star Sally Field, who played Mary Todd Lincoln, has gone as far as to say that she never even met Daniel Day-Lewis.
“I never met him. Never. I met him as Mr. Lincoln. He met me as his Molly, as he called her. And that’s how we knew each other. And we began a relationship. He began it, not me. After I got the role, there were seven months before we began to shoot and he would text me all the time, in character. I would have to then answer back in the language of the time, which was really hard to figure out, but great fun. And we were very much our characters. I would criticize him for the language he just used, as Mary would and that was really the beginning of building a relationship that you see on screen,” Sally told Backstage.
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7. Rooney Mara
For Rooney Mara’s role in “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” she got several piercings including her eyebrows, four in each ear, and her right nipple. The move was pretty drastic, considering she didn’t even have her ears pierced prior to the film.
“[Piercing my nipple] was actually not that painful. Everyone thinks that would be the most painful. I’m naked quite a lot in the movie and I thought, ‘She has it in the book, and she should have it [in the movie].’ Because of all the tattoos and the makeup and the piercings, and the physical transformations my body has to go through, it would always feel sort of like I was in costume, even if I was naked. It just felt like a good one to get—a necessary one to get,” Rooney told Allure.
6. Christian Bale
Christian Bale is known for taking extreme measures to prepare for his roles, often gaining or losing large amounts of weight in short periods of time. He has explained that the metamorphosis helps him get into character and that he feels more connected to a role when he doesn’t look like himself. In 2004, Christian lost a whopping 60 pounds for his role in “The Machinist” and although it may seem drastic to an outsider, he says it was a very “zen” experience.
“It’s an amazing experience doing that. When you’re so skinny that you can hardly walk up a flight of stairs…you’re, like, this being of pure thought. It’s like you’ve abandoned your body. That’s the most Zen-like state I’ve ever been in my life. Two hours sleep, reading a book for 10 hours straight without stopping…unbelievable. You couldn’t rile me up. No rollercoaster of emotions,” Christian told The Guardian.
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8. Dwayne Johnson
Dwayne Johnson was so committed to one important scene in “Hercules” that he passed out while filming it. During the iconic moment where is chained up and screams “I am Hercules,” Dwayne says he actually “blacked out” because he was fighting so hard to make the scene look realistic.
“It was the most important scene for me in the entire movie…so I asked my props supervisor to give me real chains, real cuffs, real cement so I could not break them if I tried. With all my might and my energy I screamed, ‘I am Hercules,’ until I had nothing left. “I blacked out and I fainted,” Dwayne told Sky News.
9. Sean Young
Back in 1988, Sean Young was cast as Batwoman in Tim Burton’s “Batman” but shortly before filming, she broke her arm in a horseback riding accident. Sean was replaced in the flick by Kim Bassinger. When the film became a box office hit, a sequel was quickly announced and Sean decided to campaign for the role. On several occasions she publicly dressed up as Catwoman including an interview with Joan Rivers and an unannounced trip to the Warner Brothers lot to demand an audition. Unfortunately, the stunt wasn’t well perceived and Sean didn’t get the role — but she was definitely well prepared if she had.”
“People didn’t quite get it the way it was intended,” Young told TooFab many years later.
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10. Jennifer Lawrence
When Jennifer Lawrence first joined the cast of “X-Men” as Mystique, she had no idea what she was getting into in the wardrobe department. She ended up spending eight hours in the makeup chair every day getting her entire body painted in order to film — even when she found out that the paint really irritated her skin. On top of that she couldn’t sit down to use the bathroom when in her full costume and had to pee standing up out of a funnel.
“I love these movies — it’s just the paint. I was 20 and I didn’t care about fumes and toxins, and now I’m almost 25 and I’m like, ‘I can’t even pronounce this and that’s going in my nose? I’m breathing that?'” Jennifer told EW.
11. Joaquin Phoenix
It’s not unusual for Joaquin Phoenix to go above and beyond for a part in a movie and for his role in “The Master,” Joaquin even recruited the help of a dentist. In order to play a man with a clenched jaw, Joaquin had brackets fastened to his teeth so that he could keep one half of his jaw shut while speaking.
“My dad sometimes would talk out of the side; he’d clench down one side of his mouth. And I just thought it represented tension in this way, somebody that’s just blocked and tight. So I actually went to my dentist and I had them fasten these metal brackets to my teeth on the top and the bottom and then I wrapped rubber bands around it to force my jaw shut on one side…After a couple weeks, the bands, they weren’t really strong enough to kind of hold it so I ended up getting rid of the rubber bands and I still had these metal brackets in and so it made me constantly aware of my cheek. You know, they had these pointy tips so they’d tear up the cheek a little bit, so I just then was constantly aware of it,” Joaquin told KCBX.
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