Not Exactly a Stretch: The Easiest Acting Roles Ever

Not Exactly a Stretch: The Easiest Acting Roles Ever

Some actors have to torture themselves to get into character. For Marathon Man, Dustin Hoffman stayed up all night for two days just so he could look tired enough for a certain scene. All of the principal actors in Saving Private Ryan except for Matt Damon went through six days of Army training, so they would resent Damon on screen. We won't even tell you what Ned Beatty, Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds had to go through to prepare for Deliverance.

However, for some actors it' a little easier to prepare for a role because, well, they're basically playing themselves. Here's six actors who were in character long before they actually got the roles.

R. Lee Ermey as Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket

The Role: A loud, terrifying, tough-as-nails drill instructor.

Why this wasn't a stretch:
You remember Lewis Gosset Jr.' badass drill sergeant from An Officer and a Gentleman? Well R. Lee Ermey was the guy who coached Gossett Jr. on the role. Stanley Kubrick then hired Ermey, a retired drill instructor himself, to do the same thing with Full Metal Jacket. After hearing Ermey spew a sphincter-clinching string of obscenities in rehearsal, Kubrick decided to hire him to play the role instead.

Did we mention that he also let him write his own dialogue?

The result was Sgt. Hartman, a thundering insult machine that could destroy a man' will with the sheer force of his words, most of which involved accusations of sodomy. Hartman could mold a man' soul into Silly Putty, pick it up, flatten it out with his bare hands and use it to copy "Marmaduke."

R. Lee Ermey is Sgt. Hartman, always will be, and God help the man who disagrees. Or not, because God's afraid of him, too.

John Belushi as Robert "Bluto" Blutarsky in National Lampoon's Animal House

The Role: A raucous, hard-partying slob.

Why this wasn't a stretch:
From what we've heard of his personal life, the Animal House crew could have gotten all the footage they needed just by following Belushi around for his usual Wednesday night. We suspect the only reason they didn't was because they needed him to tone it down to make the character believable.

Director John Landis talked about the first time he invited Belushi to his hotel room to meet about the film. According to Landis, Belushi burst in the door "like a tornado," picked up the phone and ordered enough food and alcohol for 20 people. So, yeah, watching him play Bluto, you don't get the feeling that in between scenes Belushi was off in the corner, in the lotus position, softly reading to his cast mates from the Book of Mormon.

There's a reason every fraternity in America has that poster of Belushi in his "College" sweatshirt, chugging a bottle of Jack Daniels. He was the patron saint of college partiers. Unfortunately, Belushi' own real-life tragic end served as a reminder to a generation of frat guys: that shit you were doing at 22 isn't so funny at age 33.

Courtney Love as Althea Leasure Flynt in The People vs. Larry Flynt

The Role: A drugged-up, foul-mouthed skank.

Why this wasn't a stretch:
Courtney Love has repeatedly shocked the world, mostly by continuing to stay alive year after year. She hasn't been sober for a public appearance since 1984.

In her defense, Love spent her childhood getting juggled around in the custody of foster homes and state child services like a live grenade, landing in various hippie communes and, at one point, New Zealand. She then (predictably) became a stripper and later got into music. While questing for her seat on the punk-queen throne, Love met her soulmate, heroin. She would then marry Kurt Cobain. By 2005, after multiple arrests and an overdose, a court had to practically load her into a giant slingshot and shoot her into rehab.

So why was Love tapped to play Althea, the wife of human porn factory Larry Flynt? Well, Althea grew up an orphan, then became a stripper, then picked up a crippling drug habit, then got married to a prominent figure in the industry ... see a pattern here? Althea had porn (she co-published Hustler) instead of ... whatever Courtney Love has. But otherwise, if the dates had worked out right, we'd have thought Courtney Love was Althea' reincarnated soul.

Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm, aka The Thing in Fantastic Four

The Role: A sensible everyman turned hulking monster.

Why this wasn't a stretch:
For one thing, look at him up there. We're going to estimate that turning Chiklis into The Thing required about, oh, 8 minutes in the makeup chair. But just as startling as Chiklis' appearance (well, almost as startling) is how closely the actor' life parallels the role.

In Fantastic Four, The Thing started out as pilot Ben Grimm, who was deformed by an accidental exposure to cosmic rays. After struggling with his grotesque appearance, he remade himself as a crime fighter.

Michael Chiklis, meanwhile, started out as a cuddly father figure in a series of TV shows and bit parts. He lost his hair due to an accident (seriously-his hair follicles died in his 20s after a bad reaction to grease paint on his scalp). After struggling with his hideous appearance, as well as his fears that he was going to turn into Jim Belushi, Chiklis remade himself with a six-month workout regimen and a shaved head. He then became a crime fighter (as detective Vic Mackey on The Shield).

To get into character for Fantastic Four, Chiklis needed only to wake up in the morning and look in the mirror. Or, walk down the street and listen to the screams of terrified children.

A Wilson volleyball as Wilson the Volleyball in Cast Away

The Role: A Wilson volleyball.

Why this wasn't a stretch: It was already a Wilson volleyball.

Mel Gibson and Gary Busey as Detective Riggs and Mr. Joshua in Lethal Weapon

The roles: A psychotic cop and a psychotic hit man.

Why this wasn't a stretch:
He' a cop on the edge, suicidal, eyes brimming with madness. His prey is a murderous madman who kills for an international crime syndicate. Audiences in 1987 were riveted by the performances, both of them portraying human-ticking time bombs, desperately clinging to sanity by a single, ragged fingernail.

Well, it turned out it wasn't an act. Look at their eyes up there. Each piercing us with a chilling stare that gazes into a world only they can see. And, when we turn off the cameras...

Same thing.

Both men' budding cases of mental illness bloomed fully over the next two decades, in ways that have been alternately entertaining and terrifying. Mel has been helped along by his rampant alcoholism, Busey by a traumatic motorcycle accident. Who' crazier now? We think Busey makes a pretty good case:

And while Mel ranted against the Jews during his drunk driving arrest, Busey went all-out and starred in Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, a Turkish movie about a Jewish conspiracy to steal human organs.

Who' going to be the first to snap and take hostages? We're betting Busey. And in a twist of grotesque irony, it'll somehow be up to Mel Gibson to stop him.

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