7 Famous Actors Who Lost Their Minds Getting Into Character
Some actors are slaves to their art. They'll sacrifice their bodies, their relationships, and their sanity just to make their performances more convincing and result in a more memorable film, like when John Cusack lost a bunch of weight to deliver a more accurate portrayal of Edgar Allan Poe in The Raven, a movie about Edgar Allan Poe solving mysteries, which is a thing Edgar Allan Poe never did.
But this single-minded pursuit of the perfect performance can easily result in things getting way out of hand, like the time ...
Nicolas Cage Dressed Up Like A Ghost Wizard To Get Into Character
Nicolas Cage is a man who needs absolutely no introduction; he's reaching that Mike Tyson level of dubious fame wherein no story you hear about him is too unbelievable to be true. To wit -- on the set of Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance, Cage wanted to make sure he channeled the titular flaming-skull-headed spirit juuuust right. So, knowing that his head was going to be replaced with CGI and not wanting that to undermine the intensity of his performance, he coated his face in corpse paint and blanketed himself in a costume covered in Egyptian symbols and magical amulets while screaming wordless fury into the mouths of his castmates.
"I'm just a huge Outkast fan."
It's an acting technique called Nouveau Shamanic, and it's based on ancient African performers who would undergo extreme preparation for their craft, including literally running themselves through fire. For those wondering why you've never heard of this ancient technique before now: It's because it was 100 percent invented by Nicolas Cage.
Not a scene from the film.
While speaking about his historical-yet-utterly-make-believe acting method, Cage sagely pointed out that, "Today you're called psychotic if you do that [dress up like a fucking psychopath and behave in a psychotic manner], but it's all semantics." He also admitted that his co-workers seemed afraid of him, but that their fear only made his performance stronger. Which we suppose is probably true, because if there's one thing we've learned about Nicolas Cage, it's that his performances thrive on the terrified confusion of everyone around him.
Johnny Depp Lived In Hunter S. Thompson's Basement And Replicated Every Aspect Of His Behavior
Johnny Depp is generally not known as a method actor, as his recent performances have typically consisted of silly voices and confusing makeup. That said, Depp spent years painstakingly creating his rendition of Hunter S. Thompson for Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Depp took to living in Thompson's basement, digging through his manuscripts, interrogating him about his life, and recording those conversations, presumably for personal reference and a sense that the recordings would later be subpoenaed as evidence.
Also, not a scene from the film.
Depp slept and smoked next to barrels of gunpowder that Thompson kept in his house for some unspecified reason (furthermore, Thompson didn't actually tell Depp about the gunpowder until well after Depp should've accidentally blown up the house with an errant cigarette ash). They woke up every day at 9 p.m. and went to bed at 5 in the afternoon. Depp even let Thompson shave his head, after Thompson decided that the haircut the film's costume department had given him wasn't authentic enough.
After living in Thompson's basement for an undisclosed amount of time, Depp took Thompson's red convertible and drove to Las Vegas to meet with director Terry Gilliam, wearing Thompson's clothes that hadn't been washed in 30 years. And he may or may not have done a bunch of drugs. Depp doesn't actually admit to consuming all of the insanity that his portrayal of Thompson does in the film, but he claims to have been true to the character while remaining "very responsible."
"Don't worry; it's not real acid ... it's liquid peyote."
Ashton Kutcher Hospitalized Himself For A Steve Jobs Movie No One Saw
When Ashton Kutcher played the kooky fruit lovin' entrepreneur Steve Jobs in the 2013 biopic Jobs, the first of many Steve Jobs films that audiences couldn't give less of a shit about, Kutcher decided that he would replicate Jobs' personal diet to help him embody the tech pioneer. For an entire month, Kutcher became a fruitarian -- a person whose only sustenance is fruit, the diet Jobs himself was reportedly obsessed with.
Nooow we see it.
As you may have guessed, a diet wherein you exclusively eat fruit is a colossally bad idea. See, eating nothing but fruit overloads your body with sugar while depriving you of things like protein, fat, calcium, and iron, which are all things you desperately need to remain functionally alive. Kutcher discovered this folly two days before the movie was set to begin filming, when he ended up in the emergency room, doubled over in pain and presumably suffering from numerous vitamin deficiencies and a marked decrease in bone density. Steve Jobs may have been a genius, but it turns out there isn't a huge amount of overlap in the Venn diagram of "nutritionists" and "guys who make expensive toys for rich people."
Pay attention to the sign behind you, dumbass.
Val Kilmer Tried To Become Jim Morrison For The Doors
When he was cast to play Jim Morrison in the film The Doors, Val Kilmer wanted to make sure his performance was as authentic as possible, so he took the time to learn a few of Morrison's songs, which is completely reasonable. Where the story gets all Val Kilmery is right around the moment he decided to learn a whopping 50 of Morrison's songs for the film.
Which is 49 more Doors songs than anyone needs to hear.
What movie in history has 50 goddamn songs on the soundtrack? Fucking musicals don't have that much music in them. At any rate, the final version of The Doors contains only 15 songs, which means that Val Kilmer spent countless hours carefully rehearsing 35 songs for absolutely no reason.
Kilmer was just as obsessive when it came to getting inside Morrison's head. He would incessantly badger the film's music producer, Paul Rothchild, to tell him how Morrison would behave in any given situation, because Rothchild had produced virtually all of The Doors' albums and had known Morrison personally. But, Val Kilmer being Val Kilmer, he wanted to know how Morrison would react in completely innocuous situations that had nothing to do with anything in the film, like how Morrison would've responded to a waiter at dinner, or which ass cheek Morrison preferred to lift when laying conscious-expanding farts (citation needed).
"Like if Jim squeaked one out right now, how many bubbles are we talking? Five? Seven?"
Kilmer was so obsessed with creating a believable portrayal of Jim Morrison that, by the end of filming, he had everyone on set referring to him as "Jim," all of the time. Kilmer insists he only ever asked director Oliver Stone to do this, because he felt Stone was treating Jim Morrison like a mythical character rather than a person who had actually existed, and so he thought that having Stone call him "Jim" would break him of this habit. This is a line of logic that makes sense only to Val Kilmer. Regardless of whether Kilmer's recollection of this thunderously pretentious request is true, the result was that the film's crew started ignoring him completely.
When Kilmer went to Stone, demanding to know what he'd done to offend them, Stone pointed out that they were only doing what Kilmer had asked -- they were treating him like the self-indulgent singer of an up-and-coming rock band, instead of a self-indulgent world-famous movie star.
Daniel Day-Lewis Refuses To Break Character And Lived In The Wilderness For Half A Year
Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the most notorious method actors who has ever lived, because he consistently does batshit crazy things to get into character for his roles. For example, when preparing for his role as Abraham Lincoln in the 2012 film ... um, Lincoln, Day-Lewis inhabited his interpretation of Honest Abe 24/7. He would tell water cooler jokes about the Civil War as if it were currently being covered on CNN. He also insisted on speaking in his carefully crafted Abraham Lincoln voice at all times, regardless of whether he was rehearsing a scene or talking about the most recent episode of Mad Men.
Day-Lewis would even send text messages to his co-star Sally Field, who played Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd, as if Abraham Lincoln was the one sending the messages. He made sure all of his texts used the language and grammar of Civil War-era America, which Field would then have to attempt to reciprocate, despite the fact that people from the mid-19th century would chew their own lips off in helpless insanity after laying eyes on an iPhone 6.
"Fine, whatever, just stop sending me 'historically accurate' dick pics."
When Day-Lewis played Nathaniel Poe in Last Of The Mohicans, he decided his character would not be believable to any audience unless he spent six months living in the woods, which he fucking did. During that time, he learned to hunt and skin animals to feed and clothe himself, and he even taught himself how to build a goddamned canoe, because Daniel Day-Lewis is a tap-dancing maniac.
Shia LaBeouf Cut His Face And Refused To Bathe For Fury
It takes a lot to hold your own on-screen with accomplished actors like Brad Pitt, Michael Pena, or even the perpetually intimidating Jon Bernthal, what with his intense brooding and head-rubbing. Surely Shia LaBeouf felt like a scraggly freshman on the set of Fury while in the presence of such silver-screen powerhouses. Rather than resign himself to a quietly understated supporting performance, Shia amped up his game. In order to get into the mindset of a cagey World War II tank soldier, he made it his mission to remain as smelly as possible for the entire shoot.
You can almost smell this picture.
LaBeouf went four months without showering in order to experience what he imagined working on a tank crew in the 1940s must have been like. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast was subjected to Shia's intense method acting as well, being forced to inhale it for hours on end while stuffed in a cramped tank with an unwashed Sam Witwicky.
LaBeouf didn't stop there, though. In order to shape the perfect character, he claims, he became Christian, spent a month on an army base, and "spent days watching horses die." How the fuck did he arrange that last experience? Is that a YouTube channel? Did he just buy a bunch of horses and sit in an empty room as handlers brought them in one by one, executing them in front of his eyes as he slowly nodded his head and took notes?
Of course, Shia wasn't content to just smell the part and inhabit the part within the ricocheting madness of his own skull -- he wanted to look like a jaded soldier, too. So, doing what any reasonable person would do, he pulled out one of his own teeth and cut his face open in front of his castmates, who by that point were so unsettled by his antics that he was banished to a separate bed and breakfast for the duration of the shoot.
Jared Leto Got Way Too Into The Joker
Regardless of how you feel about the upcoming film based on DC's suddenly notorious Suicide Squad, Jared Leto is so goddamned excited to be playing The Joker that his preparation techniques are actually psychotic. To clarify, we don't mean "psychotic" in a hyperbolic sense -- the bullshit he pulled while working on that movie is the kind of stuff typically found in the FBI profile of a freeway killer.
In addition to dressing like a homeless experimental musician, Leto sent disturbing gifts to his fellow cast members in order to capture the spirit of the Clown Prince Of Crime. He sent some bullets to Will Smith and a bunch of creepy love letters and a live rat to Margot Robbie, who has the dubious honor of playing The Joker's main squeeze, Harley Quinn. Leto's gambit of doling out presents that could easily be misconstrued as warnings didn't stop there -- he sent the entire cast a video of him with a dead pig. Amazingly, he found time in between all this important preparation work to take a Buffalo Bill selfie and put it on the Internet to delight Suicide Squad fans the world over.
"Having the makeup on already really lets me put full focus into the 'Goodbye Horses' dance."
The film is supposed to be so dark and emotionally traumatizing that the producers provided the cast with access to an on-set therapist to console them between takes, which seems to suggest that they have forgotten they are supposed to be making a comic book fantasy and not Shoah. Although, considering everything we've just discussed, maybe the therapist is there to help the cast cope with Jared Leto.
Carolyn gets into 140 characters on Twitter.
It's hard to disagree with the notion that all actors are at least a little bit crazy. Like, for example, Marlon Brando's demand for a bucket hat and a dwarf on set. For that and more, check out The 5 Most Hilarious Actor Meltdowns Behind Famous Movies. Or see why Audrey Hepburn and Julia Child were also crazy, but in the "could destroy you in a second" sense of the word in 11 Celebrities Who Were Secretly Total Badasses.
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