15 Actors Who Went Too Far For Their Roles

POSTED BY Tayyab Khalil, UPDATED ON November 22nd, 2023
15 Actors Who Went Too Far For Their Role

While many actors consider their movie roles as mere paychecks, few take them to the point of making people wonder if they are mentally insane. At the end of the day, acting is nothing more or less than any other physical profession but let’s take a look at the performers who thought otherwise and took their roles too far for the sake of absolute perfection. So, without any delay here are the 15 actors who went too far for their roles: 


15. Edward Norton (American History X)

Edward Norton in American History X

To portray the former neo-Nazi leader Derek Vinyard in the 1996 crime film American History X, Edward Norton decided to muscularly bulk himself to express the character’s white supremacy belief and racist nature.

Though unnecessary since his marvelous acting would have shunned his slim physique, Norton engaged himself in a vigorous workout for three months; resulting in the gaining of 30 pounds and a prestigious Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.


14. Natalie Portman (Black Swan)

Natalie Portman in Black Swan 2010

A year before the filming of Black Swan, Natalie Portman understood the physical requirements to portray an enthusiastic ballerina and took actual ballet lessons to pull off her performances instead of letting a stunt double do the hard work.

Apart from losing 20 pounds through a daily five-hour workout, Portman was intensely focused on her role and even suffered a concussion and dislocated one of her ribs during the shoot. Her dedication paid off as she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.


13. Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything 2014

As the star of The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne was born to play Stephen Hawking. What may seem like an easy task, the actor assured that portraying someone physically restrained and bound to a wheelchair was a very challenging task.

Redmayne spent four months meeting with different ALS patients in London to understand their physical and emotional lifestyles and even risked his back permanently being curled by the way he sat in the wheelchair. His commitment was recognized by winning numerous accolades including Academy Award for Best Actor.


12. Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Matthew McConaughey Dallas Buyers Club

Due to very limited nutrition of two Diet Cokes, egg whites, and a piece of chicken every day for three months to portray the real-life AIDS patient Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey was on the verge of being blind but that did not stop him from continuing the shooting.

The actor lost 50 pounds for his role as he intended to but being blind was not part of the plan. Because of the scarcity of vitamins and minerals, the actor’s near loss of vision can be attributed to the fact that malnutrition and starvation can lead to blindness.


11. Sylvester Stallone (Rocky IV)

Sylvester Stallone role in Rocky IV

To add a sense of realism to the concluding boxing match of Rocky IV, Sylvester Stallone asked his co-star Dolph Lundgren to try knocking him out. Certainly not the wisest thing to ask for, the request was granted and things did not go well for Stallone afterward.

The impact on Stallone’s chest slammed the heart to the breastbone, resulting in the swelling of his heart and his blood pressure crossing 200. Rushed to a hospital, the actor was placed in intensive care for eight days and Stallone’s life was saved.


10. Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)

Joker The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger – who never portrayed a comic book character before – locked himself in a hotel room for a month to carry out the research and rehearsals necessary to make the Joker the cultural icon he is today.

Sleeping an average of two hours a night while he prepared himself for the biggest – and last – role of his career, Ledger stole the spotlight from Batman in The Dark Knight to the point of posthumously winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.


9. Robert De Niro (Raging Bull)

Raging Bull (1980)

Portraying a boxer is not a cup of tea for any actor yet Robert De Niro pushed himself to the limits for the role of real-life middleweight boxer Giacobbe “Jake” LaMotta in the 1980 biographical film Raging Bull. Gaining 60 pounds and getting trained by none other than LaMotta himself, the actor was a physically changed man.

The role proved too much for De Niro to handle, the actor began suffering from respiratory problems because of the excessive weight gain, and the shootings were forced to stop for some time. The actor’s dedication to his role did not go unnoticed as De Niro was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor for the performance.


8. Choi Min-Sik (Oldboy)

Oldboy (2003)

Voted as one of the best Asian films ever made, the South Korean film Oldboy received a lot of acclaim due to the sense of proficiency displayed by the actors, particularly by Choi Min-Sik who lost and gained weight for his role depending on the filming schedule.

Apart from doing his stunt work and training for six weeks, Min-Sik ate a live octopus once his character was released following his imprisonment of fifteen years. Worse enough, he did it seven times due to retakes with seven different octopuses.


7. Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman)

Scent of a Woman (1992)

Destined for superstardom, Al Pacino never disappointed the audience whether the film was mediocre or high-budgeted. Despite winning only one Academy Award out of his eight nominations, he is remembered for the veracity he puts into it.

For the role of blind Lieutenant Colonel Slade in Scent of a Woman, Pacino claimed that he really could not see during the shooting. Oddly enough, his co-star Chris O’Donnell received a note of appreciation a few weeks after the completion of filming from the actor stating:

“Although I didn’t see you, I know you were great.”


6. Jim Carrey (Man on the Moon)

Jim Carrey (Man on the Moon)

Normally Jim Carrey does not take bold steps when it comes to movies but an exception was made as he portrayed entertainer Andy Kaufman in the 1999 biopic Man on the Moon. Undoubtedly his best movie, Jim Carrey took his role too far much to the annoyance of his co-workers.

Always staying in character, Carrey refused to answer anyone who did not refer to him as Andy Kaufman or his alter-ego Tony Clifton. To recreate the infamous interview involving Kaufman and Jerry “The King” Lawler on Late Night with David Letterman, Carrey received a real slap from Lawler who portrayed himself.


5. Marlon Brando (The Men)

Marlon Brando (The Men)

As the very first practitioner of method acting, Marlon Brando is second to none in his profession and often credited as the greatest actor of all time. Known for staying in character throughout the shoot, Brando glorified the art of acting.

When finally offered a role for what would be his very first film The Men, Brando spent an entire month in a bed at the Birmingham Army Hospital to make sure that he portrayed the role of a paraplegic veteran with commitment.


4. Adrien Brody (The Pianist)

The Pianist 2002

History was made when Adrian Brody became the youngest recipient of the Academy Award for Best Actor by portraying Władysław Szpilman – a real-life piano player who survived the Nazi-controlled Warsaw Ghetto and Holocaust – in The Pianist.

Completely immersed in character, Brody practiced the piano daily for four hours to play the specific passages for the film instead of letting sound editing do the trick. Moreover, the actor sacrificed his comfortable living by leaving everything behind and moving to Europe to fully understand the isolated experience of the character.


3. Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry)

Hilary Swank in Boys Dont Cry

Image Copyright: Hart-Sharp Entertainment

The tragic story about the life and murder of Brandon Teena – a young female-to-male transgender – in the 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry broke the hearts of viewers. Yet little is known about the preparation Hilary Swank went through for her character.

One month before the shooting, the actress disguised her femininity by living as a man – cutting her hair short, bounding her breasts, stuffing a sock in her undergarments, and even introducing herself as her brother James to family and friends. Her dedication was awarded an Academy Award for Best Actress for the role.


2. Christian Bale (The Machinist)

Christian Bale went too far for the role in The Machinist

As bizarre as it may sound, Christian Bale limited his diet to one can of tuna and an apple a day to reach 120 pounds for his role in The Machinist. Wanting to reach 99 pounds, the actor stopped at the request of the producers who were gravely concerned for his health.

Interestingly enough, the actor was offered the role of Batman a year later and engaged in an intense three-hour workout to get back in shape as if there was nothing to it.


1. Daniel Day-Lewis (The Last of the Mohicans)

Daniel Day-Lewis went too far for Last of the Mohicans

When it comes to method acting, Daniel Day-Lewis is untouchable. The three-time Academy Award winner has always transformed into the characters he portrays but his role as Nathaniel Hawkeye in Last of the Mohicans takes the cake.

To play a Mohican, Day-Lewis unnecessarily taught himself to live as a survivalist to the point of hunting animals for food by utilizing a tomahawk or a flintlock rifle. He refused to eat anything which he had not killed and even learned to build a canoe.

Feel free to share some more stories about the actors who went too far for their roles in the comments below!

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