Method acting isn’t a new technique, but the idea of living the life of a character in order to give an honest performance has only gotten more popular in the last few decades. Some actors can take the technique a bit too far, however, pushing the limits of both themselves and those around them. Here are Screen Rant’s 10 Actors Who Almost Went Crazy in Their Roles.
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Few actors have immersed themselves in a role quite like Ledger did when he was tapped to play Batman’s arch-nemesis, the Joker, back in 2006. The actor locked himself away in a London hotel room for a month, keeping a diary and experimenting with various voices and mannerisms until he’d come up with his ideal vision of the character. The result was one of the greatest villainous performances of all time, one that earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2009. Tragically, Ledger never got to see his work on the big screen, dying of an accidental prescription drug overdose the year prior. Rumors that the role drove him to suicide or that he couldn’t leave the part behind are probably exaggerating, but his last role will always have movie fans talking.
Joaquin Phoenix - I’m Still Here
Back in 2008, when this two-time Academy Award nominee announced that he was quitting acting to pursue a career as a hip-hop artist, most assumed it was a hoax. After roughly a year and a half of bizarre behavior and public appearances resulted in this 2010 mockumentary, which was later confirmed to be a hoax. After the film received a decidedly mixed critical reaction, Phoenix took a break from the acting game. He’s since returned from his self-imposed hiatus to earn a third Academy Award nomination for his phenomenal work in The Master, so it’s safe to say he’s now firmly back on track.
Adrien Brody - The Pianist
The 6’5 Brody slimmed all the way down to 130 pounds to pull off the emaciated look of a Holocaust survivor in Roman Polanski’s historical drama. He’s since said that the genuine desperation that comes from starvation was something he couldn’t fake, and at times he found himself wondering if he was going to be able to escape the role with his sanity. It reportedly took the actor over a year and a half to settle back into his normal life. Considering that the role resulted in Brody becoming the youngest actor to ever notch a Best Actor Oscar win, we’d say it was worth it.
Jamie Dornan - The Fall
Before Dornan gained worldwide fame for his leading role in the 50 Shades of Grey adaptation, he was starring as the “Belfast Strangler” in this BBC series opposite X-Files star Gillian Anderson. In order to help get himself in the mindset of a serial killer, the 33 year old actor confessed to following a woman off the train and pursuing her (from a distance) for several blocks. He probably should have kept that information to himself.
Shia LaBeouf - Fury
LaBeouf’s made every effort to move on to more serious roles since his days of palling around with Optimus Prime and Bumblebee in the Transformers franchise. He’s become a very serious method actor, known for going to various extremes for his movies, and his supporting role in David Ayer’s WWII film was no different. He told an interviewer that he pulled his own tooth and slashed his own face with a knife for a more realistic look before revealing that he hadn’t bathed in months and that he’d “spent days watching horses die.” Even for LaBeouf, that’s pretty out there.
Jared Leto - Suicide Squad
The Clown Prince of Crime is not a role that can be taken lightly, and Leto may have taken his preparation for the part even further than Ledger did. The 43 year old’s decision to stay in character in between takes isn’t all that out of the ordinary, but his gift-giving habits certainly were. He sent his fellow cast members a series of bizarre presents, including a box of bullets for co-star Will Smith and a live rat for Margot Robbie. He even sent the entire cast a video of him in character alongside a dead pig. Apparently method gift-giving is a thing nowadays.