It’s been said that pain is temporary, but film is forever. Perhaps that’s why some of cinema’s best scenes come from making actors suffer.
Whether it’s being put in a barrel with raw fish or having to eat it, saying something nasty about another character or sharing a sex scene with them, there are plenty of things that can make an actor uncomfortable on set. If they’re lucky the scene can be done in just a few takes, but some of these scenes can take literally months.
Captain America: Civil War
The first teaser trailer of Captain America: Civil War features a shot of Steve Rogers stopping a helicopter from taking off with his bare hands. Chris Evans beefed up even more for his fifth outing as Captain America, and the filmmakers wanted to show this off by having him actually strain against a crane holding helicopter. This gave the effect of Evans’ very real muscles bulging, and co-director Joe Russo said that it’s "the most powerful shot of the film”.
The Force Awakens
To shoot the scenes that take place on Rey’s home planet of Jakku, the cast and crew of Star Wars: The Force Awakens spent the first part of the film’s production in the blazing desert heat of Abu Dhabi. Actors Daisy Ridley and John Boyega trained on treadmills for all the running they’d have to do, but that didn’t prepare them for the added challenge of running on sand. Ridley said running on the combination of hard and soft sand was killer on the legs, and she was thankful for the shots that included explosions, because that usually meant fewer takes.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Since Mad Max was essentially a two hour car chase in the dessert, the film was extremely trying on the cast and crew. Tom Hardy in particular struggled to see George Miller’s vision through the sand and sweat of the production. Both Miller and costar Charlize Theron described Hardy as difficult to work with, but once Hardy saw the final product he was thoroughly impressed and apologized to Martin and Theron for failing to see the big picture while on set.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2
The Hunger Games cast has said multiple times that the hardest scene in Mockingjay to shoot was the sewer scene. It was three weeks of shooting in an actual hot sewer that Liam Hemsworth, the tallest cast member, couldn’t even stand up straight in. It didn’t help matters that their costumes were super absorbent, adding up to 20 pounds of water weight.
In a production that by all accounts took a big toll on Shelly Duvall, there was one scene in particular that earned a spot in the history books. When Wendy is wielding a baseball bat to defend herself from her deranged husband Jack, Duvall needed to maintain a hysterical state for 127 takes… we’re not sure there was much acting involved by that last one.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
For all the CGI Peter Jackson used in his Hobbit films, you’d think some fish would be easy to fake, but for the Laketown scene in which the Dwarves hide in barrels, the actors had to be covered in real fish. Adam Brown, who played Ori, actually has a phobia of fish, so he wasn’t very happy about being covered head to toe their juices.
Say what you will about Leonardo DiCaprio, but you can’t deny his commitment to a role, particularly with regards to his work on The Revenant. It’s now a well known fact that there was nothing fake about the raw bison liver he makes a meal of, and while any meat eater would probably have a hard time with this, the fact that Leo is usually a vegetarian made this an even tougher pill to swallow.
The famous vomit scene from The Exorcist wasn’t fun for anyone. The projectile pea soup was meant to hit actor Jason Miller in the chest, but accidentally hit him in the face. His shocked reaction you see is real and he was not happy about it. Linda Blair hated vegetables so much at the time, that the use of the pea soup actually did make her vomit, though fortunately not in Jason Miller’s face
One of Leonardo DiCaprio’s first days of filming on Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained was a dinner scene that he shared with costars Samuel L. Jackson and Jamie Foxx. DiCaprio had to stop in the middle of a take at one point because he was struggling with character’s excessive use of the ’N word’. Jackson famously pulled him aside and told him "Motherfucker, this is just another Tuesday for us.” Apparently this helped, as there is nothing sugarcoated about DiCaprio’s performance of slaveowner Calvin Candie, and Django Unchained holds the all time record for most uses of the ’N word’ with 116 uses.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Every Guardian of the Galaxy has a near death experience at some point in the film. As Drax, Dave Bautista had one of the most difficult scenes to survive. After losing a fight against Ronan, Drax nearly drowns before before Groot pulls him out of the pool of yellow liquid. Bautista was already recovering from a cold and could barely speak, yet he was required to be shirtless, freezing, and covered in goo while delivering a scene which serves as the emotional centre of his character. On top of all that, he gets mocked by a racoon.
There is nothing sexy about shooting a sex scene. Surrounded by crew and worrying about minute technical details is not an aphrodisiac for most actors. Black Swan was no exception when it came time for Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis to film their sex scene. While audiences seemed to enjoy the finished product, the longtime friends have both gone on record saying it was one of the hardest scenes to shoot, though Kunis denies the rumour that they did shots of tequila to help get through it.
The Evil Dead
To achieve the creepy white-eyed look of the deadites in the first Evil Dead film, director Sam Raimi used crude contact lenses that were uncomfortable and made the actors virtually sightless. During the scene where the possessed Linda attempts to stab Ash with the dagger, actress Betsy Baker actually had no idea where costar Bruce Campbell was, so he there wasn’t much acting required as he defended himself from the blind actress.
X Men Apocalypse
The Quicksilver scene was arguably the best of X Men Days of Future Past. With the character returning for X Men Apocalypse fans are anxious to see how they’ll top it, and it sounds like they won’t be disappointed. There’s only a couple seconds of it in the trailer, but Quicksilver’s run in the X-Mansion was shot with 3-D Phantom cameras traveling at 50mph, while shooting at 3,100 frames per second. Actor Evan Peters spent more time on set than any other actor in the film, with this scene reportedly taking three and a half months to film.
The Brits take their football pretty seriously, so make sure you never get caught calling it soccer around them. For the scene in Hot Fuzz where Nick Frost is trying to break through his new partner’s tough exterior, director Edgar Wright chose a very particular shirt for Frost to wear: a jersey sporting colors of the Bristol Rovers football team. As a die hard West Ham United fan, Frost hated wearing the jersey for this scene.
What's Eating Gilbert Grape
In What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Johnny Depp’s title character is embarrassed by his obese mother and insults her when she’s not around. Depp hated referring to the character played costar Darlene Cates as a ‘beached whale’ so much that he felt guilty about it and apologized to the actress later, even though it was all done in character.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
When shooting the scene where Katniss, Finnick, and Peeta eat fish on the beach, the actors were actually eating raw fish. It was sushi-grade snapper but that didn’t make it any easier for the cast members who didn’t like fish, particularly Jennifer Lawrence. She said in an interview that raw fish tastes just like it smells, then gagged just thinking about it. Her costars apparently found her struggle very amusing.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
In order to increase the squirm factor after having 10,000 snakes in the first Indiana Jones film, Spielberg arranged for 50,000 cockroaches and 30,000 beetles to be brought to set for the bug scene in the Temple of Doom. Many of them had to be placed on Spielberg’s future wife Kate Capshaw, who said she had to take a Valium before filming in order to calm her nerves.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
British actor Terrence Stamp said in an interview that he took a role in Episode I of Star Wars for two reasons: pressure from his agent and to work with Natalie Portman. When it came time to shoot his scene with Portman, she was nowhere to be seen. He asked Lucas where she was and Lucas pointed at a piece of paper for reference. Stamp did not reprise his role, as he described the experience as boring and said that “actors prefer to work with actors.”
While Michael Keaton was clearly having fun with his scenes as Bruce Wayne in Tim Burton’s Batman, he wouldn’t say the same for his scenes as the caped crusader. In 1989 super hero costumes weren’t nearly as advanced as they are today and Keaton could barely move in his. He said the costume made him extremely claustrophobic, but he worked that into the character, by making every little movement extremely deliberate and calculated.
While we haven't seen the movie yet, we've heard enough stories from the set of Suicide Squad to know that Leto's Joker made some of his costars a little uncomfortable. While the rest of the cast rehearsed together, Leto was off working on his own brand of crazy while sending them strange gifts. When he did show up to film his scenes Leto refused to break character between takes. It made for a weird energy on set, so director David Ayer brought a therapist to set just in case any of the actors became a little too tormented.