#2. James Franco Does Not "Pretend" in Any of His Movies
James Franco is more than just a pretty face. He puts an absurd amount of dedication into his roles, which you might not realize, since you've probably only seen him gettin' high and giggling with Seth Rogen, or gettin' high and trying to kill Spider-Man (we just naturally assume all of his characters are perpetually blazed). Some examples:
In his first prominent role, playing James Dean in the creatively titled television biopic James Dean, Franco channeled the soul of the Hollywood legend by taking up a two-packs-a-day smoking habit (he was formerly a non-smoker) and learning how to ride a motorcycle. Keep in mind, this was a made-for-TV movie, meaning that it was determined at the outset that only about 15 people would ever see it, and half of them would have it on as background noise while they played Internet on the couch.
Wait, filtered? You non-committing hack.
In his next film, Sonny, Franco portrayed a male prostitute. To prepare, he befriended an actual gigolo and wound up accompanying his mentor on one of his "gigs," which we're sure the client was pretty stoked about.
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Free Franco with every hand job!
In his first big-time role, City by the Sea, Franco played Robert De Niro's drug-addicted, homeless son. He prepared for this by spending time as a homeless person, sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles and begging for money. We're not sure how nobody noticed that; there must be some awfully handsome bums in LA. Franco hasn't let up on his dedication, either. For a role in one of his more recent films, Flyboys, he actually obtained a pilot's license and learned how to fly loop-de-loops in World War I-era biplanes. Hey, sometimes you get a bum role ... and sometimes you get a bitchin' stunt pilot role.
"I bought it myself with all that panhandling money suckers practically threw at me."
#1. Andy Serkis Cripples Himself for a Year
Andy Serkis is Hollywood's go-to guy when they need someone to act the holy shit out of a role but don't want to look at his face. His most famous parts have been Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, Caesar the chimpanzee in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and King Kong in some movie we forgot the title of. Wuthering Heights, maybe.
Heathcliff sure is hairier than Emily Bronte made him out to be.
You may only know him through motion capture, but Serkis also does live-action roles. Given the level of dedication he put into playing a bitter and jaded giant ape, it should come as no surprise that he pulls out all the stops for his more human characters, like in 2010, when he played punk rock icon Ian Dury in Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll.
And immediately turned him into Gollum.
Dury came down with a nasty case of polio during his youth and walked with an extreme limp for the rest of his life. He had to wear a set of leg braces just to get around. Serkis (who basically hobbles in all of his films anyway) went beyond just practicing a limp. He prepared for the role by donning leg braces for an entire year, while also working out only the right side of his body, so as to more accurately physically emulate Dury's lopsided muscle distribution. The ordeal further aggravated his bad back and prompted a "weird little muscle" to appear in his groin. Maybe you could spin an extra groin muscle as a net positive, but a bad back is a huge deal, especially for a guy as physical as Serkis. And it was all for a movie that made less than a quarter of its estimated budget.
Tragically, the satanic horn-hair/beard combo was forever lost to anonymity.
We're mostly measuring the success or failure of these films by profit margins alone, and that's a little jaded of us. We know that's not the only source of value for a piece of art. In this case, Dury was an idol of Serkis', and so the project was more about the personal experience for him. On the other hand, we think Joan of Arc was pretty badass, but we're not going to light ourselves on fire just to get into her headspace.
Peter Chung would like to give a shout out to his boo, Jess. Help him pretend he has friends and follow him on Instagram. Also, buy his friend's awesome game, Ascendant, and help to provide Liberty in North Korea. Two totally separate but worthwhile things.
Related Reading: While we're at it, Jared Leto gained like a whole Jared Leto's worth of weight for his role in a movie nobody fucking saw. Weirdly enough, Tom Cruise actually spent time as a Fedex driver for his role in the movie Collateral. But really, the greatest actors on earth are pro wrestlers. And this article proves it.