"Ewan McGregor Learned How To Cook Heroin": 22 Actors Who Went To Extreme Lengths To Prepare For A Role.

Actors are known to take various steps to dive into the mind of the characters they play. The best actors in the business will sacrifice parts of themselves both physically and mentally to get the deepest understanding of how to portray their characters and live vicariously through them.

Below are some of the extreme lengths that actors have gone through to give us the performances we enjoy so much. Check them out!

The late Heath Ledger's role as 'The Joker' in The Dark Knight received universal acclaim, and even won the actor a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. 

Ledger prepared extensively for the part, living alone in a motel room for six weeks to isolate his mind and dive into the psychology of the character. During this time, he would write down The Joker's thoughts in a notebook, and worked on every tic from the The Joker's voice to the licking of the lips. He worked extensively on The Joker's laugh, making it a point to have it distinct from Jack Nicholson's Joker in the 1989 movie Batman.

Michael Caine described Heath Ledger's Joker as the best incarnation of the character. When Caine first saw Ledger perform, he was so frightened that he forgot his lines.


Jamie Foxx went the extra mile while prepping for his role as Ray Charles in the Oscar-winning biopic Ray. Foxx wore eye prosthetics for 14 hours a day that made him actually blind and attended the Braille Institute to help immerse himself further into Ray's lifestyle. Foxx described the filming process as exhausting, as they would film for long hours during the day, and then he would stay up late practicing piano. As such, all the piano playing in the movie is done by Foxx himself.


In one of the more famous cases of an actor going to extreme lengths, Christian Bale lost 63 pounds for his role in The Machinist. He ended up weighing 110 pounds when filming began, and wanted to lose another 10 pounds, but was stopped for fear it would severely damage his health.

Bale's diet in his crash diet consisted of a can of tuna and an apple a day. Bale would also smoke cigarettes to curb his appetite and help lose weight faster.

In just a few months, Bale regained all his weight and muscle back in time to film Batman Begins.


Eddie Redmayne's Oscar-winning performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything was a tough road from concept to creation. After spending a few hours with Hawking, Redmayne underwent an intense transformation. He lost 15 pounds and trained with a dancer for four months so that he could have complete control over every part of his body. He met with 40 ALS patients and kept a chart that showed which of Hawking's muscles declined at which time in his life. He would then contort his face and body in front of a mirror for hours at a time to get it just right. Between takes while filming, Redmayne would remain completely motionless, to the point that he was told after filming completed that he had altered his spine alignment.

Stephen Hawking was blown away by the performance, saying that at certain times, he felt he was watching himself on the screen.


Adrien Brody became the youngest recipient of the Academy Award for Best Actor for his stunning performance as Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist. He played piano for at least four hours a day in preparation for the role, as well as losing over 30 pounds by having a strict diet of two boiled eggs and green tea for breakfast, a little chicken for lunch, and a small piece of fish or chicken with steamed vegetables for dinner over a six week period. He also sold his car, his apartment, and didn't watch any TV to help develop a feeling of 'loss'.


Jared Leto's first acting role in five years was no cakewalk, as he lost 30 pounds and waxed his entire body to take on the part of Rayon, the transgender woman who has AIDS, in Dallas Buyers Club. Leto remained in character for the entirety of filming, even going grocery shopping in full costume and received numerous stares.


While it didn't fare too well with critics at the time of its release, Footloose has gone on to become a cult-classic, and Kevin Bacon's role in the film is one of the more iconic parts of 1980's film.

To prepare for the role, the 24 year-old Kevin Bacon went back to high school for a day. He attended Payson Utah High School as "Ren McCormack" (with the principal's knowledge) to get the full experience as an outsider in high school. He left partway through the first day.


Before he made the movie Pollock, Ed Harris had a long fascination with the artist after his father bought Harris a book about Jackson Pollock, because he thought Harris had such a strong resemblance to Pollock.

When he was prepping for the role, he built a studio in his house to learn how to do the drip painting technique, and even halted filming for six weeks to gain 30 pounds to portray Pollock in his later years.

Starring and directing the movie took a stressful toll on Harris, who was briefly hospitalized after collapsing on set.


True to his character's job in Taxi Driver, Robert De Niro worked fifteen hour days for a month driving cabs as preparation for this role. He also studied mental illness to have a better understanding of his character's instability. 

His commitment affected other actors involved in the movie, including a young Jodie Foster. De Niro would regularly phone her up and suggest they have coffee together. They would then rehearse the diner scene over and over to the point where Foster got bored, but still De Niro would insist they continue rehearsing.


The Master was a controversial movie upon its release, with many see comparisons between 'The Cause' featured in the movie and the Church of Scientology. Controversy aside, the movie featured some of the greatest actors of this generation at the top of their form, with Joaquin Phoenix earning a third Academy Award nomination.

Phoenix's character required him to speak out the side of his mouth, so Phoenix had his dentist attach metal plates to his teeth with rubber bands to hold them shut. The rubber bands weren't strong enough to hold his mouth shut, so he removed them. But the metal plates, complete with screws that slightly cut up the inside of his cheek, were enough of a constant reminder that it allowed him to play that aspect of the character.


The TV movie James Dean was originally going to have James Dean played by either Leonardo DiCaprio, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, or Johnny Depp before they settled on a then-unknown James Franco. His incredible performance in the movie let him break into more mainstream films and become the big star he is today.

To prepare for the role as James Dean, Franco immersed himself in Dean's lifestyle, including smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, playing guitar, riding motorcycles, and playing the bongos.


Ralph Fiennes had to gain 28 pounds to portray the terrifying Amon Goeth in Schindler's List.

How did he do it? By consuming copious amounts of Guinness.

His appearance was so uncanny that people who had met the real Amon Goeth were terrified when they met Fiennes.


Probably the actor most famous for the lengths he goes for his roles, Daniel Day-Lewis had some wild things happen while he was Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York.

In one scene, Leonardo DiCaprio broke his nose during a fight scene. Day-Lewis didn't break character at all, and they continued to film the scene despite the injury.

While learning his character, Day-Lewis would listen to music by Eminem to help channel the character's anger.

Day-Lewis had a prosthetic glass put over his eye to simulate the fake eye of the real Bill the Butcher. To add a little flare to his performance, Day-Lewis learned how to tap the glass with the tip of a knife without blinking.

Finally, Day-Lewis went out to dinner with Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese one night, and refused to break character. The waitress was terrified to go near him.


Trainspotting is one of the greatest movies made in the past few decades, and really portrayed the highs and horrors of drug abuse. It also was the first major roles for the now all-star cast of Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller, and Robert Carlyle.

Ewan McGregor did extensive research for the role, including reading books about crack and heroin and visiting the Calton Athletic Recovery Group, an organisation of recovering heroin addicts, and chatting with people about addiction. He was taught how to cook up heroin with a spoon using glucose powder. 

McGregor considered injecting heroin to better understand the character, but eventually decided against it.


Charlize Theron was barely recognizable in her role as serial killer Aileen Wuornos, which won her the Academy Award for Best Actress.

To transform herself into the character, Theron gained 30 pounds before filming and wore prosthetic teeth throughout the shoot.


In what turned out to be the performance that finally won him the Academy Award for Best Actor, Leonardo DiCaprio's performance in The Revenant was one of the most demanding roles of any actor in modern history.

DiCaprio opted to eat a raw slab of bison liver (even though he is a vegetarian) because the fake meat wasn't real enough. He also learned how to fire a musket, build campfires, speak two different Native American languages, and studied ancient healing techniques with a doctor.


In one of the most iconic performances of his career, Dustin Hoffman spent lots of time researching for the role of Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man.

Hoffman spent a year working with autistic men and their families to understand their complex relationships. Also, when he was a jobbing actor, he had worked in a psychiatric care home, and drew from his experiences then for the film.


Sir Anthony Hopkins' performance as Hannibal in The Silence of the Lambs is one of the most terrifying and unnerving performances in movie history. Despite only appearing on screen for a little over 16 minutes, he captures the entire movie.

Sir Anthony Hopkins dived into the mind of a serial killer by studying files of serial killers. Also, he visited prisons, and studied convicted murderers, and was present during some court hearings concerning gruesome murderers and serial killings.

To get Lecter's physical characteristics down, Hopkins studied reptiles. Reptiles only blink when they want to, and do it very consciously, which Hopkins incorporated into his performance.


Sean Penn's role in I Am Sam is one of the more committed performances in recent memory.

To prepare his character, Penn visited L.A. Goal, a center in Los Angeles for people who are mentally disabled, and spent time with them. He was also given more freedom to improvise on set to help dive into the mind of his character.


Long before his days as Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr earned an Academy Award nomination for his role as Charlie Chaplin in the biopic Chaplin

Not only was his resemblance uncanny, but Downey Jr learned a whole slew of new skills to capture Chaplin's essence, including  learning how to play the violin and tennis left-handed. He also had a personal coach in order to help him imitate Charlie Chaplin's posture and way of carrying himself.

Downey Jr said that while preparing for the movie, he watched all of Charlie Chaplin's movies. When asked what how he felt about them, he said, "They scared the hell out of me."


Edward Norton's preparation for the controversial part in American History X involved gaining over 30 pounds of muscle and shaving his head to achieve the Neo-Nazi look.


The committed, powerful performance of Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo earned rave reviews and her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

Mara's preparation for the role of Lisbeth Salander included losing a substantial amount of weight in order to give her character a bony appearance, even though director David Fincher didn't ask this of her. She also got intoxicated one night and and took pictures of herself in her hung-over state to convince the studio that she was the right look for the role.

On top of that, all the piercings that Salander has in the movie are real; Mara had a series of sessions where she got all the piercings in her ears, nose, eyebrows, lips and nipple. She has since stated that she kept the nipple piercing for future roles, as it was extremely painful to get done and not something she would want to redo.



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When you're a kid most adults will tell you one thing or another is "cool" and "fun." Odds are you're too young to form any kind of opinion on the matter one way or another. You're a kid, right? You don't know what you're eating for breakfast. However, when you get older and form that larger worldview, you realize that yeah, maybe that one time when you were a kid actually wasn't fun.

These are those stories.

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