Ed Harris has been in several dozen movies you've seen (The Truman Show, A Beautiful Mind, The Rock, A History of Violence, The Firm, The Abyss, and 80 others), but he virtually never turns up in the lead role. That doesn't mean that he doesn't take his method acting serious as hell.
In Pollock, which he also directed, Harris played the world-famous painter Jackson Pollock during the final years of his life. Harris not only spent 10 years working on the film, but made sure to literally become Pollock in every way imaginable. He gained 30 pounds, took up painting in Pollock's trademark drip style (by building a whole art studio in his house), and even smoked Camel cigarettes, the artist's favorite brand. Basically, he stopped just short of devouring Pollock's heart to absorb his soul.
"No, no, I ate it to gain his strength."
That's just the way Harris is -- he kind of has to live it. In A History of Violence, where he plays the villain, Harris wasn't one to let something like "not even being on set" take him out of character. While at a press conference for the movie, a reporter asked him, "What is violence?" His bafflingly furious response (in which he started pounding on the desk and flinging small objects) left everyone silent for a few seconds, thinking, "Shit, that escalated quickly."
And it's not like he's always going for an Oscar here -- while on the set of The Rock, one of the most Michael Bay Michael Bay movies ever, Harris was so mentally involved with his character that he simply refused to stop acting like a hardened, pissed-off war vet. Not only did he refer to Bay as "sir" at all times, but he even managed to make the other people around him refer to him in the same way. And while messing up a take can be frustrating for any actor, Harris absolutely lost his shit whenever he flubbed his lines. Not because he was just a big drama queen, but because that is exactly the kind of rage someone like his character would've had.
Today, Robert De Niro tends to land a lot of comedy roles, playing a parody version of the badass he used to be. But he deserves the rest. At the beginning of his career, he was Martin Scorsese's golden boy, and together they churned out some of the greatest films of all time, such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas. That shit came at a price.
First of all, to prepare for Taxi Driver, De Niro actually got a hack cab license and ferried people around New York in full 12-hour shifts, despite the fact that the film was as much about actual cab driving as Game of Thrones is about feudal economics.
"I disagree with your views of Keynesian wage inflation!"
Then, for Raging Bull, De Niro played the role of real-life boxer Jake LaMotta. To make sure the scenes where he beat people close to death were accurate, he trained his ass off almost every day, sometimes with LaMotta himself. De Niro was so intense with his training that he ended up breaking LaMotta's ribs and teeth. Remember, LaMotta was the actual professional boxer.
The real crazy part came after the ass-kicking scenes were shot. For four months, production on the film stopped so De Niro could focus on portraying the fatter, older version of LaMotta by becoming a fatter, older version of himself. During that time, he just ate himself silly, binging on meat, pasta, and anything else that would help him pack on well over 60 pounds of fat.
That's nothing compared to the brutal regimen Martin Lawrence puts himself through.
But perhaps the biggest bit of unreal dedication came with The Untouchables, where De Niro played infamous crime lord Al Capone. Playing the Chicago kingpin called for De Niro to gain weight once again, but he outright demanded that every physical detail of his character be authentic. He had a tailor in Little Italy craft him a handmade wardrobe of Prohibition-era clothing, right down to the silk underwear that Capone would have worn while beating guys' heads in with a baseball bat. This despite the fact that said undergarments never once appeared onscreen. Thankfully.
If you aren't finished with celebrity insanity yet, then check out 4 Great Artists Who Make it Really Hard Not To Hate Them. Or read about 7 Iconic Characters They Saved from The Cutting Room Floor.
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