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10 Actors who went to extremes for movie roles


Pain is temporary, film is forever. But even so...


Oscar-winning Christian Bale has blasted the critic who questioned his emaciated appearance in The Fighter (2010), observing that he would like to ‘p*** on the guy’s shoes’ because his attitude was ‘patronising.’ The critic enraged him by describing his role as ‘one of his trademark weight loss parts'. Welshman Bale was right to give the man it with both barrels - well, he is a crack-addicted former boxer in the movie, so he’s hardly likely to look like Jack Black.

Brooding Bale isn’t the only actor to go to extremes to nail the part. To some actors, acting is about more than simply showing up and reading the script.

10. Mickey Rourke

Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler

Mickey Rourke is just one in a long line of stars willing to put up with some pain for some box office game. The star of The Wrestler (2008) is planning to learn Welsh and have some teeth removed so he can convincingly play gay Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas, one of the few openly gay sport stars. His agent told the Australian Daily Telegraph ‘He is going to get rid of his two front teeth - he will be taking them out. He really wants to throw himself into rugby and learn as quickly as he can.’ Rourke read about Thomas on a flight and got in touch, telling him his story would make a great movie. Shooting will begin in 2012.

9. Halle Berry

Halle Berry - Jungle Juice

Berry’s big screen break in Jungle Juice (1991) might not go down in the annals of movie history as the best film ever made, but boy did the actress get down and dirty for the role. She admitted to not bathing for a whole month so she could play a crack addict alongside such Hollywood luminaries as Samuel L Jackson and Wesley Snipes in the Spike Lee movie. And, the girl did her research. She visited a crack den, along with a police officer. 'I had no idea what this world of crack cocaine was, what this life was, so I had to go in and see it because I don't think at that time it was anything you could read about,’ she revealed.

8. Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum - The Eagle

What could be more eye wateringly painful than having boiling water poured down your wet suit and ending up with scorched scrotum? In the case of Tatum, who was filming the Roman epic The Eagle (2011) in chilly Scotland (note – the movie was originally called The Eagle of the Ninth, which is the name of the novel it’s based on), it was so unnecessary, because the assistant should have cooled the water down first, duh. ‘It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life,’ he later said, after confirming that his wounds had healed. No one knows what happened to the assistant. Bet they were in hot water. Sorry, it was too good to miss.

7. Malcolm McDowell

Malcolm McDowell - A Clockwork Orange

Would you be willing to have your eyes pinned open, using some metal contraption, which you suspect may well have been used as an instrument of torture? McDowell’s day of reckoning was for the infamous A Clockwork Orange scene, where McDowell's character was being brainwashed. And, what a gruesome scene it was too. The poor actor ended up with a scratched cornea and temporary blindness. That’ll teach McDowell to star in a Stanley Kubrick flick. By comparison, modern stars are such wimps.

6. Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro - Raging Bull

De Niro is another actor who doesn’t think acting simply means playing a part and reading your lines. Noted for his method acting, when he played Jake LaMotta in the 1980’s Oscar winner, he ensured he did the legend proud by learning to box and putting on enough weight to look the part. Warning - if you have a dental phobia, please look away now. For Cape Fear (1991), probably his most loathsome role yet, he ground down his teeth to play the raping psychopath. He also worked as a cab driver for weeks for his role in the Scorsese classic Taxi Driver (1976). But it is probably for Raging Bull that his commitment to the craft will most be remembered.

5. Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman in 'Black Swan'

Justified by Oscar success, Black Swan wasn’t an easy movie for Portman to make. A tale of obsession, the elfin actress had to be pretty obsessed to play the role. She spent a year working her tutu off to play the delicate White Swan who slowly loses her mind and finds herself changing into the evil Black Swan. Six months before they started filming, Portman and co-star Mila Kunis (who plays the Black Swan) commenced their training to achieve the physiques of ballet dancers. The Star Wars actress trained for five hours every day, doing ballet, cross training and swimming. They were also put on a strict diet of 1200 calories a day. Director Darren Aronofsky has paid tribute to Portman’s performance. ‘She was able to pull it off. Except for the wide shots when she has to be en Pointe for a real long time, it's Natalie on screen.’

4. Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis in 'My Left Foot'

The notoriously picky actor (well, have you ever seen him in a bad movie?) hasn’t won two Oscars for nothing. To play the part of wheelchair-bound Christy Brown in My Left Foot (1989), the actor insisted that he stayed in a wheelchair even when they weren’t filming, because he wanted to experience what life was like for Cerebral palsy sufferer Christy. As a result of having to adopt a hunched over position for months during filming, the actor broke two ribs. There was gain from his pain though as he walked off with a well earned Best Actor Oscar and Brenda Fricker who played his mother, headed home with a Best Supporting Actress gong.

3. Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger in 'The Dark Knight'

Broken bones and bruises heal, but scars on the mind don’t. When The Dark Knight was released in 2008, all talk was not of who played Batman, it was of Heath Ledger’s deeply dark and disturbing portrayal of The Joker that won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. He immersed himself in the part by locking himself away alone in a hotel room for six long weeks until he had perfected the posture and the voice. No one can honestly tell whether playing such a dark character contributed to the actor’s untimely death after an accidental prescription drugs overdose, but the one thing that’s sure is the image of Ledger as The Joker is an iconic one that will haunt our nightmares for years to come and this is a great tribute to an actor who still had so many roles to play.

2. Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks - Cast Away

Hollywood royalty, Hanks isn’t one to skimp when it comes to preparation, especially in a show stopping role as in Cast Away – who could believe one man trying to keep a grip on his sanity by talking to a volleyball called Wilson could be so entrancing? As Chuck Noland, Hanks had to survive alone on an island for four years until he made his escape using a large plastic sheet from a portable toilet and turning it into a makeshift craft. Hanks has a habit of having to shrink for his roles (hence Big and another show-stopping turn in Philadelphia) and Cast Away was no different. He lost 55 pounds and grew his hair and a beard to play the part of the cast away. Uncomfortable enough, you would think, but no: he also had to spend weeks up to his neck in water. What a trooper. The experience made him ill: ‘Just before we left the island I had a little sore on my knee and something got inside there. We left Fiji on the Friday and by the Sunday my leg was twice its normal size.’

1. Christian Bale

Christian Bale in The Machinist

Who else but Bale could come top our extreme acting chart? When it comes to getting into character this guy is pure hardcore. Who can forget his haunted appearance in the brooding thriller The Machinist (2004)? He didn’t just play a haunted factory worker who hadn’t slept for a year; he became him. Painfully thin to the point where he looked like a walking corpse, we weren’t watching a movie; we were watching someone’s descent into the bowels of hell. Other actors are simply are not in the same league when it comes to dedication.

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