By Claire Downs
Some actors take their jobs really seriously. Some actors take it a step beyond that. In Hollywood, we call this overindulgence of the craft, method acting. The gist of it is an actor tries to replicate the circumstances of the character he or she portrays, so as to reach complete realism in his or her performance. When taken to an extreme, method acting is a great way to lose or gain massive amounts of weight, stir up press, secure potential award nominations, prove to yourself that you’re a “real artist” and annoy the cast and crew of the film you are working on.
For many actors, it isn’t enough to just look the part, memorize the part, or be paid millions of dollars to act the part. You have to be the part! Here are some actors who took method acting TOO FAR! (Written by me, Tilda Swinton, playing a very convincing blogger named Claire Downs.)
Throughout the filming of the blockbuster action movie, Suicide Squad, Jared Leto’s preparation to play The Joker could warrant harassment charges under normal circumstances. Throughout filming, Leto apparently sent Margot Robbie a dead rat, a dead hog, condoms, sex toys, bullets and confusingly, love letters. Talk about a stressful workplace! In the above clip, Leto talks about walking around trying to creep people out with his laughs.
Leo went all the way for his performance in The Revenant. Shot outdoors in completely natural light, the actor endured “constant hypothermia.” He also waded in a freezing river, slept in animal carcasses, and the vegetarian actor even ate a raw bison liver on camera. It was not in vain, as the role led to DiCaprio taking home his first Oscar for Best Actor.
To prepare for her Oscar-winning role as a trans man in the film Boys Don’t Cry, Swank spent a full month living as a boy, to the point where her neighbors thought she had a brother visiting. Years later, while filming, Million Dollar Baby, Swank got a serious staph infection on her hand from a boxing blister. She didn’t want to tell director Clint Eastwood about her medical issue because, “it wouldn’t be true to the character.”
Shia Leboeuf reportedly cut his own face and had a dentist pull out a tooth for his role in Fury, but that is not the extent of his tango with method acting. In 2014, he was fired from the Broadway show The Orphans, and blamed his dismissal on method acting. In Interview Magazine, he stated, “My whole goal was to intimidate the f-ck out of [Alec] Baldwin. That was the role. And it wasn’t going to be fake. I wanted him to be scared. …So I went about doing that for three weeks of rehearsal.” Ben Foster ended up replacing LaBeouf.
Christian Bale is one of the most well known actors to embrace the method. Specifically, his jarring physical transformations. For his role in The Machinist he lost a shocking sixty-two pounds in four months, only to bulk up to a bodybuilder-like physique for Batman Begins shortly after. The Welsh actor also maintains a fake American accent throughout press tours of movies where he is playing an American character so as “not to confuse fans.”
Robert De Niro
To get ready for his role in Taxi Driver, De Niro actually got a cabby license and shuttled people around New York City in full 12-hour shifts, despite the fact that the movie was barely about driving taxis. But De Niro’s greatest feat of method acting was during the filming of The Untouchables. To portray Al Capone, he insisted on wearing a custom wardrobe of 1920s-era clothing just like the real Al Capone would have worn. Down to the silk underwear – which was not even caught on camera.
Nobody, I mean nobody, beats DDL when it comes to owning their character. Literally every movie he’s ever worked on has an insane story about his antics during production. Everything he does sounds insane, but honestly, it works. During filming of My Left Foot (the story of the paralyzed poet, Christy Brown) the Englishman preferred to be wheelchair-bound 24/7, despite having very real working legs. He also had all meals on-set spoon-fed to him. The crew was definitely annoyed, but none of that matters, Day-Lewis got an Oscar. DDL’s role of Bill The Butcher in Gangs of New York is iconic too. He talked only in a New York accent, sharpened knives obsessively, and refused to wear a winter coat (as it wouldn’t be reflective of the period) off-screen. Of course, the whole not-wearing-a-coat-thing led to him catching pneumonia.