For some actors, staying in character even after the director yells “cut” can have interesting real-world consequences. When they lose themselves inside a character, it can make for some jaw-dropping performances, and some shocking behind-the-scenes tales.
While method acting began as a way to harness personal experiences and emotions in order to play a part more convincingly, in recent years it’s become almost synonymous with drastic physical transformations. In one prominent example, Christian Bale made headlines and jeopardized his health when he lost a jaw-dropping 63 pounds to play the insomnia-plagued Trevor Reznik in 2004’s The Machinist. For weeks before filming began, Bale survived on just an apple and a can of tuna a day. He used a photo of an emaciated Hank Williams, taken three months before the musician’s death, as his inspiration.
According to costar Michael Ironside, the drastic diet wasn’t even necessary. The screenwriter for the movie had put some example weights into the script based on his own height. When the much-taller Bale saw the figures, he decided to go for those instead of something more realistic for his larger frame. Ironside explained:
After filming wrapped, Bale bulked up again, gaining 109 pounds in just six months for his next role in Batman Begins.
In the 1980s, Val Kilmer had made something of a name for himself with his roles in Top Gun and Willow, but he hadn’t really had a chance yet to show off his Juilliard training with a weightier role. That all changed when Kilmer was cast to play singer Jim Morrison in the 1991 biopic The Doors. Before he even got the role, the actor spent thousands of dollars to produce a music video of himself as Morrison in a bid to impress director Oliver Stone. Keep watching the video to see all the actors who went too far for a role!
Christian Bale – The Machinist | 0:00
Val Kilmer – The Doors | 1:25
Hilary Swank – Boys Don’t Cry | 2:34
Jared Leto – Suicide Squad | 4:00
Sylvester Stallone – Rocky IV | 5:16
Shia LaBeouf – Fury | 6:05
Jamie Foxx – Ray | 7:03
Tom Hanks – Cast Away | 8:02
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club | 9:04
Natalie Portman – Black Swan | 10:05
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