7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous Performances

In addition to the money, fame, and possibility of winning a nude, sword-wielding statue, what inspires actors to do what they do? Besides drugs? Where do they get the ideas that shape their greatest roles? As it turns out, that inspiration can be found in anything from a viral YouTube video to a sick cat, resulting in some of the most memorable performances of all time.

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7
Dr. Evil Was An Impression Of Lorne Michaels

You'll probably remember Austin Powers as that pretty funny movie that also ruined Halloween parties for a good 10 to 15 years. Along with the title role, Mike Myers played a number of other parts in the film (and franchise), but one of his most notable performances was as the villainous Dr. Evil.

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous PerformancesNew Line Cinema
Somehow, the sexiest character Mike Myers ever played.

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While the look of the character is obviously based on James Bond's arch-nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, his voice and mannerisms appear to be completely original. Well, almost original. And on that point, check out this interview with Myers' former boss, SNL producer Lorne Michaels.


You don't have to watch the whole thing; he doesn't threaten any world leaders or anything.

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On some of those phrases, you can sure see the influence. But there's more than the voice.

Remember the scene where Dr. Evil freaks out over not getting the laser-beam-wielding sharks he demanded? According to one anonymous SNL alumnus, "I've seen that conversation between Lorne and the set designer 500 times at 10:30 on Saturday night." Also, Michaels, like Dr. Evil, "ends everything by bringing his pinkie up and chewing the fingernail."

But the connections might go even deeper than that. For example, Dr. Evil ransoming the world for a surprisingly low one million dollars seems like a reference to the time Michaels went on SNL to offer the Beatles a paltry three grand to reunite.

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous PerformancesSNL Studios
Historical footnote: They did not accept.

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Allegedly, this pinkie-heavy performance was based on an impression fellow SNL alum Dana Carvey used to do, who was at least a little "pissed off" at Myers for cribbing it for his movie. Still, it's hard to "own" an impression of someone else, and Myers had the unique idea to use a Lorne Michaels impression for a villain in his movie ... oh, wait, no, the Kids In The Hall had already done that just the year before.

6
Andy Serkis Found Gollum's Voice After Watching His Cat Cough Up A Hairball

Andy Serkis captured the hearts of film lovers everywhere for his portrayal of Gollum in the Lord Of The Rings movies, winning a prestigious MTV Movie Award for his work.

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous PerformancesMTV Productions
As with most MTV Movie Awards, it would later be dropped in a volcano.

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But there was more to the performance than awkwardly squatting in a leotard -- he also came up with the voice for the character. To do this, Serkis turned to an unusual source of inspiration: his cat.

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous PerformancesNew Line Cinema
His first idea, a thick Jamaican patois, having already been ruled out by the producers.

Serkis reasoned that Gollum's voice should be "generated involuntarily," and while he was mulling over just what the fuck that actually meant, his cat wandered in and started hacking up a hairball. Serkis watched the unusual movements of the cat's body, at which point it started making what would become the Gollum sound. Then, like a regurgitated, hair-filled light bulb, Serkis got an idea.

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous PerformancesTaniaVdB/Pixabay, New Line Cinema
"I should lick my ass until I choke!"

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Considering this is how one of the most memorable characters in cinematic history was born, we should all be grateful that Serkis owned a cat, and not an angry parakeet or a diarrheal great dane.

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5
Ol' Dirty Bastard Was The Inspiration For A Russell Crowe Character

Russell Crowe has given a lot of great performances over the years, and for the most part, it's not hard to guess at what influenced them. For instance, his role in Gladiator probably owed a debt to Kirk Douglas in Spartacus, the part he played in Cinderella Man was based on a real-life boxer, and his Javert from Les Miserables was clearly inspired by an angry gust of wind blowing through a storm drain.

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous PerformancesUniversal Pictures
*Melodious honks and gurgles*

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But for (at least) one role, Crowe found inspiration in a seemingly impossible source: Ol' Dirty Bastard.

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous PerformancesInterscope Records
*Melodious honks and gurgles*

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It all went down in The Man With The Iron Fists, a kung fu movie directed by ODB's cousin Rza. Crowe plays an opium-loving British soldier named "Jack Knife" and according to Rza, Dirty was "the case study of the character." While getting Crowe to channel Ol' Dirty Bastard seems like the most bizarre impromptu seance ever attempted, Crowe was totally on board with Rza's wish to have ODB's "spirit in the film." It wasn't completely nonsensical, either; you can definitely see aspects of ODB's, uh, dirtiness, in parts of the character. For instance, the scene where Academy Award Winner Crowe uses a string of beads in his mouth to pleasure a woman in a bathtub:

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous PerformancesUniversal Pictures
*Melodious honks and gurgles*

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According to Rza, "that's an ODB tactic." We can assume a seasoned professional like Crowe was only too happy to have another dimension added to the tapestry of his character.

4
Leonardo DiCaprio Based His Wolf Of Wall Street Drug Scene On A Viral YouTube Video

The Wolf Of Wall Street is based on the memoir of real-life huckster Jordan Belfort, itself inspired by a suggestion from the guy who made Up In Smoke. One of the most memorable scenes in the movie finds DiCaprio out of his mind on quaaludes, trying to crawl into a Lamborghini. Don't try this at home:

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At the country club is fine, though.

You'd think to research this, DiCaprio might have just hired someone to stumble around his living room while he and some supermodels watched from atop a throne of Titanic VHS cassettes, but not so. Instead, DiCaprio did his research the same way you find adorable cat videos: he watched YouTube. That's right. In his efforts to win an Academy Award, DiCaprio spent hours watching a viral video of a severely inebriated man attempting to buy beer at a 7-11.

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous Performances
Any one of us can be a hero.

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According to DiCaprio, the video was a huge inspiration for him, and he watched the video on loop in his preparation for the scene. Sadly for drunks everywhere, this didn't actually lead to an Oscar, but it's enough to make us wonder if he went back to this well again for his award winning performance in The Revenant, basing its performance on this shocking video.

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3
Michael Fassbender Played The Prometheus Android Like Greg Louganis

Prometheus had a lot of crazy shit going on, from the discovery of intact alien star maps on Earth, to spaceships resembling French pastries, all the way right up to the implication that Jesus was an alien. One of the film's highlights was Michael Fassbender's performance as David, the ship's pleasant yet deeply unsettling android.

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous Performances20th Century Fox
This is probably his least creepy scene in the film.

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So what inspired Fassbender to style his performance this way? The previous androids in the series? A deep study of the field of artificial intelligence? A conversation with some guy who drunkenly did the robot at his cousin's wedding? Nope, none of those. According to Fassbender, at least part of his performance was inspired by famed Olympic diver Greg Louganis.

While preparing for the role, the image of Louganis just popped into Fassbender's mind, as if his brain magically got ESPN Classic. In particular, it was the image of Louganis walking out onto the diving board that resonated with Fassbender -- Louganis's measured, stiff-armed steps shaped how the robotic David would carry himself.

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous PerformancesNBC Sports/20th Century Fox
In the final cut of the movie, the speedo was replaced with CGI.

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This is more than a weird inspiration, it's an incredibly improbable one. Fassbender would have been a kid growing up in Ireland when Louganis was in his prime, and it's not like old footage of Olympic divers is a heavily-trafficked area of the internet, so how did he even remember that? Can Greg Louganis even remember that? Perhaps it was the work of alien Jesus.

2
It Really Seems Like The New Lex Luthor Was Based On Max Landis

In Batman V Superman, Jesse Eisenberg chose to portray the character of Lex Luthor as a bizarre, greasy, hyperactive business mogul, kind of like Jim Carrey's Riddler drove his Riddlemobile into a bag of cocaine.

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous PerformancesWarner Bros.
A large bag.

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This is a far cry from Luthor's portrayal in the comics, so where did this characterization come from? Well, there's at least some evidence it was patterned after Max Landis, a screenwriter and the son of famed director John Landis. Max is somewhat infamous for his erratic personality -- opinionated, fast talking, and a little hyperactive would all be reasonable ways to describe him, and he at least seems convinced that he served as inspiration for the role:

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous PerformancesMax Landis/Twitter

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Although it is mostly just Landis floating this theory around for now, Eisenberg did work with Landis on a movie just before he took on the role of Lex Luthor. And if Landis did serve as the inspiration it would explain where some of more unique elements of this Lex came from, like the rapid talking and frantic mannerisms.

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous PerformancesMax Landis
And the hair.

But there's more. Like the fact that it might explain the emphasis this film places on Lex living in the shadow of a famous father. And there's another possible, sort of behind-the-scenes explanation: Landis is famous for sharing his own ideas about Superman, and notably took a big public shit on Man Of Steel a few years earlier. So "casting" him as the villain of the movie may be an elaborate "fuck you" from the filmmakers, if they were petty enough to do such a thing, and this is Hollywood, so yes, pettiness is a true possibility.

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However, Landis doesn't seem to have taken offense to it, and in fact has stated that it's "cool" to have an iconic villain based on him. And it's great that he's responded so positively, because we're not so sure we'd be cool with a bunch of our peers thinking our personality would be a great template for a cartoonish egomaniac.

1
Tony Montana Was A Combination Of A Panamanian Boxer and Meryl Streep

Al Pacino has appeared in dozens of incredible movies during his long career, but one of his most iconic roles was his performance as Tony Montana in the series of Scarface posters seen in dorm rooms throughout America.

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous PerformancesUniversal Pictures
Themselves based on some kind of movie.

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Scarface tells the story of Montana, a Cuban refugee who becomes a drug kingpin despite the tragic handicap of looking like a white man in grease paint. It was a big hit, as indeed would any movie about cocaine be in the 1980s. But what really made it work was Pacino's balls-out nutty performance -- equal parts intense and bombastic, it is easily the most imitable Pacino performance outside of the cartoon character he played in Scent Of A Woman. But where did it come from?

According to Pacino, he took some characteristics from Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran, who had "a certain lion in him."

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous PerformancesJ.D. Cuban /Allsport/Getty Images Sport
He left the facial hair, thankfully.

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And that makes complete sense. But here's where things get weird: Pacino also claims he based his performance on Meryl Streep, who, if we're being perfectly honest, seems like the least likely inspiration. What was it that the star of The Devil Wears Prada did to shape Pacino's portrayal of a murderous, drug-dealing psychopath? Two words: Sophie's Choice. Pacino greatly admired the intensity of Streep's portrayal of an immigrant "from another country and another world." And while the similarities between the roles don't immediately jump out at you, there are certain moments worthy of comparison.

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous PerformancesUniversal Pictures

7 Insane Ways Actors Got The Ideas For Famous PerformancesUniversal Pictures
The sweatier ones, specifically.

And, of course, the deleted scene wherein Tony Montana has to choose between his two pet tigers.

Also check out The 5 Craziest Ways Famous Actors Got Into Character and 7 Famous Actors Who Lost Their Minds Getting Into Character.

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