Described as both challenging and unorthodox, extreme method acting is one of the most popular trends in Hollywood. Most people admire what these performers do but would never try to fit into their shoes because of the risks involved, here are the top 10 extreme method actors who have pushed themselves to the limit in different roles.
Many actresses auditioned to act as Brandon Teena in the 1999 movie Boys Don’t Cry, a timid female-to-male transgender person who was killed in mysterious circumstances. However, Hilary Swank beat them all after she showed up with her trademark cowboy hat and overalls which were borrowed from her husband. A month to shooting, Swank lived like a man even though she’s actually female. Hilary trimmed her hair short, tucked her breasts and went as far as stuffing a sock in her panties. All while trying to hide her femininity as best as possible to embody Brandon Teena’s character.
It was in 2003 that the then 29-year old Adrian Brody won his Best Actor Oscar’s award for a stint in Roman Polanski’s The Pianist. But very few people are aware of the tears & sweat that went into scooping that prize. To identify with Wladyslaw Szpilman, the real-life Holocaust era pianist who managed to survive against all odds, Brody stripped himself of everyday life necessities and lived in squalid conditions like the person he was acting. He did away with his car, home, girlfriend and other personal belongings before migrating to Europe which was the center of the Holocaust. He says that this experience changed his mind for the better and contributed to the powerful performance he gave.
DeNiro was another weirdo who perfected the art of extreme method acting in his own style, while portraying Vito Corleone in The Godfather II he went to live in Sicily, Italy and actively learnt the native dialect. This played a part in him winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. As for his character in Raging Bull (1980), De Niro gained a whooping 60lbs in order to resemble a middleweight boxer named Jake La Motta. He also went through rigorous boxing training sessions administered by LaMotta himself.
When legendary actor Al Pacino was slotted to play Frank Serpico in the movie Serpico, an undercover agent tasked with exposing corruption within the police force. Sources say that he was so deeply involved in the role that when driving his car in real life, he saw a lorry on the road spewing fumes from its exhaust pipe and stopped the driver attempting to make an actual arrest.
Buddhist Min-sik Choi
Though Min-sik Choi is not well-known like other actors found on this list, he’s also done some incredible things to perfect his art. For instance in Oldboy (2003), he burned his own flesh with a hot ironrod to mimic a prisoner who was on solitary confinement. Upon being freed, Min-sik Choi visited a restaurant and asked for something live to eat. To which the waiter gave him a living octopus and he proceeds to feed on it.
Heath also took his work overboard while playing Joker in the Batman franchise. In fact, some people believe that his immersion into the character contributed in his untimely death. Ledger actively locked himself inside a hotel-room for a whole month and rarely slept, prior to shooting he made a personal diary that was filled with photos of previous Batman comics, including cutout pictures from Stanley Kubrick’s piece known as A Clockwork Orange, game cards and other random clown pictures. After completing his rigorous routine, Ledger later told reporters that he slept for only two hours per night. All in a bid to prepare for the role of a psychotic, schizophrenic and murderous clown as is the case with Joker.
Day-Lewis is regarded as one of the most talented actors in Hollywood, or most insane depending on how you want to look at it. He often goes to extreme lengths when immersing himself in the roles he’s given. For instance, in the 1989 classic My Left Foot he totally refused to move from his wheel-chair and had fellow crew members lift him up over any obstacles. During this time, Daniel also insisted that all meals should be spoonfed to him directly. Endless weeks of crouching in this apparatus resulted in 2 broken ribs but also a Best Actor Oscars award. Moreover, for his act as Mr. Hawkeye in Last of The Mohicans, he prepared by living in total isolation in the wilderness of Alabama. Tracking, hunting and skinning wild animals for survival.
When budding Hollywood actress Rooney Mara was given the role of a computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander in ‘Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ she didn’t imagine that the body piercings required of that character would totally transform her looks completely. Mara had her nose, lip, brow, ears and nipples pierced so as to perfectly imitate the character she was given. She admits that because of the tattoos, makeup and piercings she underwent intense physical transformations which made her feel like she was always in a costume. The event changed Mara’s life for good.
During the recording of a 1999 biopic entitled ‘Man On The Moon,’ which showcases the life and times of comedian Andy Kaufman, Jim acted strangely by refusing to break character even for a second. He would not respond to anybody on set unless he was being referred to as Andy or Tony Clifton, after Kaufman’s own alter ego. As a purposely repulsive personality, Jim Carrey would put bits of Limburger cheese into his pockets so that he could smell horrible like the real-life character.
Kaufman’s grudge with WWE reporter Jerry Lawler was also played out, it happened in their joint interview on the David Letterman’s show where Lawler slapped Andy on the face and he reciprocated by pouring coffee on him.
Bale is an actor whose weight fluctuates sporadically based on the character he’s portraying, for (The Machinist 2005) he dropped around 63 pounds at his own behest and not the movie director’s. It is reported that Christian only survived on a single can of tuna and apple per day in the period leading to his scene. He reached a shocking 120lbs and even wanted to continue dieting, but the producers talked him out of it fearing for his health. Interestingly, less than 5 months later he bulked up 100lbs more for a set in Batman Begins.