The 5 Craziest Ways Famous Actors Got Into Character (Pt. 2)
Method actors be crazy. Everybody knows that Christopher Walken devours six live doves before each take, and that Daniel Day-Lewis owns and makes liberal use of a time machine to research all of his roles. But there's nothing that says method acting always pays off: Sometimes you fall in love with a role, take a big gamble and sacrifice huge parts of your time, life, and career to living in that role, and then end up starring in Hope Floats.
Here are a few actors who went all out for the part when, in all honesty, they probably could have showed up in their pajamas to read straight from the teleprompter and achieved the same results. (We call that the Sean Connery School of Acting.)
Jamie Foxx Has Cosmetic Surgery for a Movie Nobody Saw
If you were suddenly ripped from your old life in the 1990s and dropped into the present day, you would probably pine for the more innocent time of colorful pants and Roller Blades. You would also go completely mad and surely be institutionalized. While staring at the screen of the communal room's television in a drugged haze, you might also be very surprised to learn that Jamie Foxx, the guy who played cross-eyed, buck-toothed Wanda from In Living Color, turned out to be a hardcore method actor.
And the reason Eddie Murphy keeps the company he does.
For instance, in his performance as blind musician Ray Charles in Ray, Foxx wore prosthetics over his eyes to blind himself for real and had to employ assistants to guide him around the set. Foxx won an Oscar for the role, then leaped into his next project with equal vigor: This time he was playing schizophrenic cellist Nathaniel Ayers in The Soloist. The problem was that Foxx was a fine hunk of suave man-meat, gently cured and grilled to perfection by decades of Hollywood trainers, while Ayers was a mentally unstable homeless dude. To more fully embody his part, Foxx visited a dentist in order to have his teeth chiseled down and made crooked, which probably violated every single tenet of the Dentist's Code.
Foxx reportedly earned three Strawberry Shortcake toothbrushes for being such a good patient.
Unfortunately, the extreme levels of dedication didn't work out as well for The Soloist as it did for Ray. The film was a financial bomb, getting back only half of its $60 million budget. If only he'd pursed his lips and crossed his eyes like Wanda, maybe he could've saved himself some needless torment.
Adrien Brody Nearly Drives Himself Insane for a Low-Budget Thriller
We've already talked about the insane level of commitment that Adrien Brody displayed in preparing for his role in The Pianist. What we haven't mentioned is the insane commitment that he put into one of his lesser-known roles, the lead in The Jacket, a movie about a ... time-traveling straitjacket.
What happened to the good old days of realistic phone booth-based time travel?
No, really. This isn't like when we say that Die Hard was the true story of how Bruce Willis invented freedom -- "time-traveling straitjacket" is a fair and accurate synopsis of the film. In it, Brody plays an amnesiac committed to a mental institution -- probably one of those crappy "free" ones, seeing as how their method of treatment was to put him in a straitjacket and shove him into a sensory deprivation chamber. (Because the crippling claustrophobia and isolation will obviously make him less insane.) Inside the chamber, Brody physically teleports to the future and has some Back to the Future-style adventures where he presumably narrowly avoids banging his own mom.
The adorable toddler from the past, though? Fair game.
This might sound like the kind of role that an acclaimed actor picks up because he's bored and needs a new swimming pool, but Brody went crazy for it. Literally. He spent excessive amounts of time locked inside an actual sensory deprivation chamber: a soundproof, lightproof box that can trigger hallucinations, paranoia, and depression within 15 minutes. And Brody spent up to two hours at a time in these insanity tanks, all in the name of research.
Being masturbated by tiny interdimensional pirate gremlins works best in the dark.
Between takes, when his colleagues were off grabbing coffee and a croissant, you could find Brody spending more time in the chamber. When he wasn't locked in the self-imposed SHU, he was voluntarily being tied up in a straitjacket and left lying on a gurney, where we're assuming he was relentlessly tormented by bored interns (hey, it's what we'd do). Unfortunately, it didn't really matter how dedicated he was to the craft, because the finished film received mixed reviews and failed to recover its budget, thwarting his opportunity to make out with Halle Berry at the Academy Awards again.
Parker Posey Mangles a Face-Hole for a Faux Dogumentary
Best in Show is an improvisational comedy from the creators of This Is Spinal Tap about neurotic contestants at a dog show. It's a fantastic flick, but at its heart it's just a bunch of comedians bouncing off of each other, making silly jokes around a loose premise. It isn't exactly the kind of role you'd expect an actor to intentionally fuck up their own mouth for in the pursuit of authenticity.
The dogs, on the other hand, are used to it.
But then there's Parker Posey, who played one of the pretentious dog owners. Director Christopher Guest thought it would be funny if she and her husband had braces, so they fitted the actors with prop braces supported by retainers. This gave them a slight lisp when they talked, which everyone thought was pretty funny, so they immediately moved on -- but not Posey. It just wasn't realistic enough, dammit! How is the audience expected to believe these dog jokes if the corrective dental tools aren't even real?
"Catherine O'Hara made herself look like a poodle -- this is the least I could do."
So Posey went ahead and had actual braces installed. It's worth mentioning that this was right after she had undergone a bad root canal. Getting the braces required her to have a cap put on the exposed nerve, which involved some pretty extreme pain. All so that she could more convincingly portray corrective dentistry in a movie about Eugene Levy riffing on the names of dog breeds.
"He is NOT a Labrador reliever, I don't care how many trailers he's shit in!"
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.
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."
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.