Some big-name Hollywood stars would have you believe a lot of blood, sweat, and tears go into the craft of acting. Leonardo DiCaprio ate raw bison liver for The Revenant, while Daniel Day-Lewis remained in a wheelchair throughout filming on My Left Foot, letting he co-stars spoon feed him and wheel him around, staying in character throughout.
While the presence of blood, sweat and tears is questionable, it’s fair to say that in both instances, the actors involved put themselves through hell. And ultimately, it was all worth it, as both DiCaprio and Day-Lewis both earned widespread acclaim (and Oscars) for their troubles.
But what about the films that don’t fly so high, and the crazy stories of actors putting themselves through immeasurable pain for them? They may not have gotten the widespread love for their hard work, but here are 16 Actors That Went Through Physical Hell For Movies No One Saw.
16. Christian Bale Lost A Ton Of Weight Eating Apples And Tuna
Christian Bale’s extreme weight loss for Brad Anderson’s psychological thriller The Machinist is well-documented. The Batman actor lost a whopping 65 pounds to play paranoid insomniac Trevor Reznik, existing on a grim diet of one apple and a can of tuna a day leading up to production. Bale also curbed his appetite by smoking cigarettes; thankfully, the role didn’t require any kissing scenes.
It didn’t help the film at the box office, though, with The Machinist ranking 45th in its first week of release and making just $8.2 million off the back of a $5 million budget. All that and, according to co-star Michael Ironside, Bale’s extreme weight loss was entirely unnecessary and actually the result of a typo in the original script.
“The writer is only about five-foot-six, and he put his own weights in” Ironside told The Daily Mail. “And then Chris did the film and Chris said, ‘No, don’t change the weights. I want to see if I make them.’ … So those weights he writes on the bathroom wall in the film are his actual weights in the film.”
15. Jared Leto Became So Fat He Ended Up With Gout
Jared Leto’s method acting antics proved something of a nightmare on Suicide Squad, with the Oscar winner allegedly sending his cast mates everything from dead rats to condoms. It therefore comforted some of his costars to know that Leto’s antics have sometimes landed him in serious trouble – like, go to the hospital immediately, kind of trouble.
In preparation for the role of Mark David Chapman, the deranged real-life assassin of John Lennon in the movie Chapter 27, Leto decided to bulk up substantially. He managed to gain an astonishing 67 pounds ahead of filming by existing on a delicious-sounding diet of microwaved pints of ice cream mixed with soy sauce and olive oil.
It was a weight gain that not only saw him develop gout, but also forced him to move around in a wheelchair due to the extreme stress the sudden weight gain had put on his body. Unfortunately for Leto, while his own performance was praised, Chapter 27 was met with negative reviews from critics and made less than $200,000 at the box office.
14. Matthew Fox Got Scary Ripped On A UFC Fitness Regime
Matthew Fox was keen to break into the movie world in the wake of his success on the hit series Lost, but he’s not always had the best of luck when it comes to his project choice. We Are Marshall, Vantage Point, and Speed Racer all failed to ignite at the box office, and it was a similar situation with Alex Cross, the latest film based on the popular James Patterson character from the hit novels.
Fox played the part of cage fighter and killer Picasso, and he prepared for the role by putting himself through literal hell. He lost 40 pounds from his 200-pound frame, existing on what he described as a “very leafy” diet and combining it with mixed martial arts training and intense workout sessions.
What a shame then that Alex Cross, which saw Tyler Perry disastrously replace Idris Elba as the titular character prior to filming, proved to be such a dud, making failing to recoup its production budget and earning negative reviews from critics. It hardly helped that the movie boasted the worst tagline in cinema history: “Don’t ever cross Alex Cross”.
13. Shia LaBeouf Got Really Drunk On Moonshine During Filming
Shia LaBeouf is fast emerging as a modern-day Nicolas Cage when it comes to his on-set antics. He famously wanted all of the sex scenes in Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac to be real, much to the chagrin of his co-stars, and when David Ayer asked for his character in Fury to have a cut on his face, rather than head to make-up, LaBeouf simply sliced his face there and then. That’s either dedication or stupidity.
But all that was nothing compared to his antics on John Hillcoat’s Lawless, a film that saw the actor play Jack Bondurant, one of three brothers running an illegal bootlegging business. Keen to be as authentic as possible, LaBeouf got drunk on Moonshine before and during filming, in a move that, in hindsight, is made all the more uncomfortable given his issues with alcohol.
He also later revealed co-star Mia Wasikowska was left feeling uncomfortable by his antics. “She was calling her attorney, like, ‘Get me the f*** out of here,’” LaBeouf told the NY Daily News insisting he “didn’t drink off set for no reason”, and that the moonshine was to get “that drunk bloat” he needed.
12. Daniel Day Lewis Basically Left His Wife
The soon-to-retire Daniel Day-Lewis is famous for carefully selecting his film projects and immersing himself in his roles, but even multiple Oscar winners get it wrong every now and then. The Ballad of Jack and Rose is arguably the one blot on his resume, with the film failing to make back its $1.5 million budget at the box office and generating markedly contrasting reviews among critics.
Written and directed by Rebecca Miller, who just happened to be Day-Lewis’ wife, the famously meticulous actor decided to prepare for the role of Jack, a single parent father living with his daughter on an isolated island, by separating himself from the world.
Or more specifically, his wife. In order to grasp Jack’s sense of abandonment and isolation, he spent as much time as he could away from his wife, Miller. Chances are he may have spent even more time away from her when he read the reviews the film generated.
11. Nicholas Cage Had Teeth Removed Without Anaesthetic
Nicholas Cage has a reputation for his own special brand of crazy these days, but back in 1984, he was just an ordinary actor who had made the extraordinary decision to ditch the family name, Coppola, for a surname inspired by a Marvel comic book character.
Cast in Alan Parker’s post-Vietnam drama Birdy as a mentally unstable former G.I. recovering from a serious facial injury that has him bandaged around the head throughout the film, Cage took his first tentative steps aboard the crazy train. Keen to get a better understanding of the pain his character felt, he made the unusual move of having four teeth pulled out (without anaesthesia) during filming.
“They were baby teeth,” he explained to The Telegraph, “so I took advantage of it and had them out. I thought it would add an interesting dimension to the role.” In addition, Cage also opted to spend five weeks during filming with his head completely wrapped in bandages, both on and off set – a move that he soon ended up regretting.
“When I took the bandages off, my skin was all infected because of acne and ingrowing hairs,” he said. The movie ended up making just $1.4 million at the box office off the back of a budget of $12 million, with those ingrowing hairs likely to last longer in Cage’s memory than the film itself.
10. Ashton Kutcher Ate So Much Fruit He Ended Up In Hospital
When Ashton Kutcher landed the role of Steve Jobs in the big screen biopic Jobs, he decided to immerse himself in the character of the Apple founder – something which actually involved eating a lot of apples, as it turns out. As well as studying hundreds of hours of tape featuring Jobs both walking and speaking, he decided to adopt Jobs’ famous fruitarian diet regime. For one month, Kutcher ate noting but fruit, nuts, and seeds. And it didn’t go well.
“The fruitarian diet can lead to, like, severe issues,” Kutcher revealed in an interview with USA Today. “I went to the hospital like two days before we started shooting the movie. I was like doubled over in pain. My pancreas levels were completely out of whack. It was really terrifying … considering everything.”
Still, the resulting movie was great, right? Wrong. Jobs flopped on its opening weekend and fared poorly with the critics. It went on to be all but erased from history following the arrival of Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs two years later.
9. Nicholas Cage Swallowed Live Cockroaches
The ’80s were a strange time for Nicholas Cage. Not content with having teeth removed for Birdy, four years later, his penchant for odd behavior on set took an altogether different turn with Vampire’s Kiss. Playing the part of Peter Loew, a publishing executive who becomes convinced he is turning into a vampire, one scene required Cage to pretend to eat a live cockroach.
Except, Cage being Cage, when the script called for him to eat a very much still living cockroach, he decided that was exactly what he was going to do. For real. “Every muscle in my body didn’t want to do it, but I did it anyway,” Cage said, years later. Matters were made worse by the fact that Cage ended up having to do three takes, which presumably meant consuming three cockroaches.
The film went on to make just $750,000 off a modest $2 million budget and was largely dismissed by critics. It has, at least, enjoyed a second lease of life on YouTube, though not for the reasons Cage may have necessarily hoped.
8. Lon Chaney Almost Blinded Himself With Egg Whites
Famously known as “The Man Of a Thousand Faces”, Lon Chaney dedicated himself to the craft of acting before it became in vogue to do so. A veteran who enjoyed a film career spanning four decades, from the 1930s onwards, there are countless examples of Chaney taking his preparations to the extreme, in an era when special effects and make-up were limited at best. Perhaps the best example of this came during The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Playing the aforementioned hunchback, Chaney was required to recreate the white, colorless eyes of his character.
But this was long before color contact lenses were the norm, so Chaney had to come up with something else and the results were terrifying – both intentionally and unintentionally. Using egg whites, pushed into his eye sockets, he was able to authentically appear as blind as a bat – partly because the move had pretty much rendered him exactly that. It’s also likely to have hurt like hell. And have you seen the film in question? No. Not many people have.
7. Chris Hemsworth Lived Like A Sailor
Pretty much everyone was shocked when professional beefcake and Thor actor Chris Hemsworth emerged ahead of the release of Ron Howard’s In The Heart of the Sea looking a hell of a lot slimmer than normal. It soon became apparent that Hemsworth had been existing on a meager diet, alongside castmates Cillian Murphy and Ben Whishaw, to ensure that he was the right shape for the film about a group of castaways lost at sea.
“We couldn’t go away for a month and get skinny, we had to do it while we were shooting,” Hemsworth explained to E! News. “At one point, a day’s rations were a boiled egg, a couple of crackers and a celery stick.”
Hemsworth lost a total of 33 pounds in an extremely short space of time and succinctly summed up the regime with the following: “wouldn’t recommend it”. In The Heart of the Sea went on to gross $93 million off a budget of $100 million, and most critics wouldn’t recommend it either.
6. Antonia Campbell-Hughes Broke Bones
Northern Irish actress Antonia Campbell-Hughes took weight loss to a new extreme in the German drama 3096, which told the real-life story of Natascha Kampusch, a 10-year-old girl kidnapped and held hostage for eight years by Wolfgang Priklopil.
“There was an understanding from the beginning that I would suffer as much as she did,” Campbell-Hughes told The Evening Standard. Starving herself in much the same way Priklopil starved Kampusch, she also spent much of her time with her head shaved in parts and completely naked – as the real Kampusch was.
The film’s claustrophobic prison cell-like set was also designed to look exactly like the five-square-meter dungeon the young girl existed in. Unable to stand in the space, Campbell-Hughes suffered cuts, bruises, a broken nose, fractured rib. and torn Achilles tendon as a result of this approach. A controversial project from the start, the film received no theatrical release in the UK and makes for difficult viewing.
5. Joaquin Phoenix Became A Bearded Recluse
I’m Still Here was intended to be the mockumentary to end all mockumentaries, dreamed up by Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck as a savage take-down of reality TV, fame, and the trappings of Hollywood. Or something like that, anyway.
The project saw Phoenix announce his plans to retire from acting and take up a career as a rapper. With apparently only Affleck in on the joke, Phoenix grew his hair and beard long and took to giving monosyllabic responses during interviews. Taking on the characteristics of an entirely different person throughout this time was tough, as no one but Affleck knew he was playing a character. Many people thought it was real. Everyone else didn’t care either way.
Anyway, Phoenix suffered for his art, with the film calling on his “character” to make himself sick in one particular scene – something Phoenix did for real – as well as treat those around him with contempt, get naked on several occasions, and pretend to take drugs.
More importantly, Affleck and Phoenix were putting their own money into the project with nothing resembling a guarantee of success. When they emerged to reveal the entire thing was a hoax, most were nonplussed, and the film pretty much sank without a trace.
4. Shia LaBeouf Took Acid
Two years on from his Moonshine-drunk antics on the set of the bootlegger drama Lawless, LaBeouf took things to a whole new level with Charlie Countryman. Keen to, once again, bring as authentic a portrayal as possible to the screen, LaBeouf opted to prepare for a role in which his character embarked on a strange acid trip by going on his very own strange acid trip.
To LaBeouf’s way of thinking, tripping on acid was the only way he could really get into the head of his character. He also saw it as a way of emulating some of his acting heroes. “There’s a way to do an acid trip like Harold & Kumar, and there’s a way to be on acid,” LaBeouf told E! News. “What I know of acting, Sean Penn actually strapped up to that (electric) chair in Dead Man Walking. These are the guys that I look up to.”
3. Jason Patric Injected Himself With Needles For Real
Long before he replaced Keanu Reeves on Speed 2: Cruise Control, Jason Patric immersed himself in an altogether different role for a similarly lame movie, Rush.
Playing a drug-addicted cop who goes after an elusive drug dealer along with his new partner, Patric was eager to be as authentic a heroin user as possible. That meant taking the unheard-of step of actually injecting himself in the arm using real syringes for authenticity’s sake.
Patric was required to inject himself on several occasions throughout the film. The only real saving grace was that, rather than injecting himself with drugs, Patric instead injected himself with either saline or vitamin solutions. Though Rush went on to earn respectable reviews, it made just $7.2 million off a budget of $17 million and ended up being overshadowed by a song from the film’s soundtrack – Eric Clapton’s “Tears In Heaven”.
2. Lee Pace Pretended To Be Paralyzed For Months
Tarsem Singh’s The Fall ranks among the most visually striking films of recent times, but it’s also one that’s not been seen by that many people, earning just $3.7 million since release. Which is a shame for the film’s star, Lee Pace, given the amount of effort the Halt and Catch Fire star put into making the movie, which was mostly self-funded by Singh to avoid any studio interference.
Part of Singh’s plans included getting Pace to truly become paralyzed stuntman Roy Walker by pretending to actually be a paraplegic. With much of the role requiring him to regale fellow hospital patient Alexandria, played by child actress Catinca Untaru, Singh decided he wanted Untaru to truly believe her co-star was truly paralyzed
“He [Singh] said that it was the way he wanted to work with this little girl [Untaru], so that she would truly believe that I was paralyzed and that everyone on the set would believe it, because if they didn’t believe it then she would figure it out pretty quickly,” Pace explained to Sci-Fi Online.
After two months filming from and using a wheelchair, Pace revealed the truth the film’s crew, who were surprised and possibly quite angry about it. Someone surely must have helped him go to the bathroom during that period, and that couldn’t have been fun for anyone.
1. Ed Harris Tried To Basically Become Jackson Pollock
Pollock was a passion project that bordered on obsession for Ed Harris, who spent close to a decade working on putting together the perfect biopic on the drip-loving artist he bore an uncanny resemblance to.
That wasn’t enough for Harris, though. Keen to take his performance to the next level, Harris turned his whole house into an art studio and event spent time at Pollock’s Long Island studio. Along the way, he also learned to paint using Pollock’s familiar abstract expressionist drip technique, which proved a frustratingly painstaking process. Harris wasn’t done there. He also gained 30 pounds in order to better resemble Pollock during his drunken, middle-aged years. He also switched to smoking Pollock’s more harmful brand of Camel unfiltered cigarettes.
Pollock, which was also directed by Harris, earned him an Oscar nomination, while co-star Marcia Gay Harden won Best Supporting Actress gold for her efforts, and the film received generally positive reviews. However, it made just over $10 million at the box office and has been largely forgotten in the years since.
Do you remember any other actors that went through hell for a role? Sound off in the comments.
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