5 Actors That Got Into Character In The Dumbest Ways Imaginable

For some performers, acting is pretty straightforward: figure out your character, say your lines, go home. For others, it is a long, creepy, bizarre ass journey down a rabbit hole that they seem a little too happy to take. Like when ...

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5
Shia LaBeouf Tattooed His Entire Chest And Once Dropped Acid On Set

Permanently altering your body to meet the artistic vision of the dude that directed Suicide Squad and Bright might sound unreasonable, but you're (almost certainly) not Shia LaBeouf. For David Ayer's movie The Tax Collector, LaBeouf got his entire torso tatted up with the third-place winner in a lowrider trunk mural competition. 

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Yes, that's a woman lovingly holding a clown with the word "Creeper" (his character's name) inked right underneath. There's just ... a lot going on here. Why not use a temporary tattoo, as any other actor would? Well, this is Shia, who cut his face, refused to bathe, and had a tooth pulled for his last David Ayer movie, so we're probably lucky that he didn't just actually join a drug cartel for this one.

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Speaking of drugs, there was that time when he tripped balls on set. In a scene in the mostly-forgotten 2013 flick Charlie Countryman, Charlie, played by Shia LaBeouf, gets high. Shia, being Shia, wanted to do it like his heroes would -- like Sean Penn, say, who Shia looked up to for being really strapped in the electric chair in Dead Man Walking. "'I want it to be like there's a gun against my head," he said. Yep, he would really take those drugs, and apparently, nothing would stop him.

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And nothing did. Shia told director Fredrik Bond that he was, "Going to go out on a limb and push the envelope," so when the time came to shoot that scene, he dropped acid on the set. The result was predictably (to everyone but Shia) awful. Co-star Rupert Grint later said that Shia stripped naked, wrecked the set, and hallucinated an owl (maybe he suddenly thought he was in Harry Potter). It was so bad that Grint says, if "anything will make you not do drugs, it's watching that." But the icing on this ridiculous cake is that he took the wrong drug. In the film, Charlie takes a special kind of ecstasy called "Carpathian ecstasy." Why Shia took acid is a mystery whose answer is a secret only he and that dream owl know.

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NSFW

4
Jason Schwartzman Wore His Character's Girlfriend's Panties And Perfume

For Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Jason Schwartzman devised a fairly elaborate idea of what happened to his character, the evil-ex Gideon Graves, just before seeing him in the movie. In the story Schwartzman came up with, Gideon flew from New York to Toronto with only a carry-on bag, and he wore no underwear on the flight (because Gideon often goes commando, according to Schwartzman) -- as a result, Gideon has no underwear to wear. Yes, we realize this all seems dumb and pointless, but please be patient, and you'll see it's merely dumb. Anyway, he gets back with his ex, Ramona, and they spend the night. The next morning, he wears her underwear.

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The way Schwartzman sees it, that's a key aspect of Gideon's character: he's a very possessive guy and, now that he has her again, he's going to put on her panties to prove that he owns her. And he's going to wear her perfume, too.

Universal Pictures
He drew the line at the hairstyle.
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The result of this extensive backstory building is that Schwartzman wore silk panties and ladies' perfume on set every day to get into character. He asked the costume department to get him red silk panties and must have been very pleasantly surprised later when he got back to his dressing room to find 20 different pairs of red silk panties. He probably enjoyed the variety because he wore a pair every day while filming.

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And that includes the fight scene at the end, where it turned out to be a somewhat unfortunate choice. 

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While doing a stunt, Schwartzman ripped his pants entirely in the back, exposing his whale tail. Schwartzman then told director Edgar Wright, "I've got to go, because I've got something quite sexy on." To our great disappointment, Wright did not find a way to work this into the movie.

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3
For Iron Man 2, Mickey Rourke Went To Russia For A Few Weeks To Learn About Being In Prison

Mickey Rourke's character in Iron Man 2, Ivan Vanko, spent 20 years in prison. So, naturally, Mickey Rourke decided he should do some research, and he flew off to Moscow for a few weeks to do just that, without even telling the director, Jon Favreau. It's not clear if Favreau would have disapproved or if Rourke just didn't care, but either way, Rourke clearly thought it was super important to talk to actual Russian guards and convicts for this movie.

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He visited Moscow's Butyrka prison where, he says, the guards were super friendly and took their time chatting with him. He tried on an 18th-century torture device designed to keep the victim awake (he was the first person to do that in 35 years, apparently), tried a cell bed, and checked out the prison's kitchen. He apparently loved the kitchen and said he'd love to work in a prison bakery if he ever did time since the smell of bread reminded him of childhood. (Rourke's mother was a Soviet gulag.)Rourke also talked to an ex-con that had been released after 12 years, learning a lot about Russian prison tattoos and their secret meanings. 

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Apparently, Rourke dove headfirst into Russian prison culture and tried to incorporate "the whole Russian philosophy" into his character. When he got back home, he took Russian lessons for 15 hours a week, for three months. It'd take him three weeks to learn two lines as, according to him, it's just "very hard to wrap an English tongue around" the language. Sadly, barely any of that hard work showed up in the final film.

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Because outside of action scenes, his character mostly makes bad-guy quips in Russian and occasionally twirls his chains menacingly. Which isn't Rourke's fault, or even Favreau's -- Marvel Studios just thought Ivan Vanko should be a simple cartoon villain, so they cut most of Rourke's performance from the movie. Rourke has been super, super angry about that ever since, and it's not hard to see why. You try wearing an elaborate torture device for nothing and see how you feel.

Paramount Pictures
And that's just on set.
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2
For Phantom Thread, Daniel Day-lewis Decided On Every Detail Of His Character's Wardrobe And Created A Couture Dress From Scratch

For ordinary actors, "getting into character" involves changing, say, their mannerisms and way of speaking. For Daniel Day-Lewis, it consists of the concept of murdering Daniel Day-Lewis and becoming Abe Lincoln/Daniel Plainview/Phillip M. LeftFoot. Consider what he did for Phantom Thread, a movie where he plays a fashion designer named Reynolds Woodcock: he decided on every detail of Woodcock's personal style and his house's decor. And we really do mean every detail, right down to Woodcock's pens.

It took way to many tries before we successfully wrote, "Woodcock's pens," instead of "Woodcock's penis," there.
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Starting (of course) with his wardrobe, Day-Lewis selected specific cashmere fabrics from an elite Savile Row tailor. Ready-to-wear clothing would obviously not do, as a rule -- but he made at least one exception: he ordered bishop purple socks from a store in Rome that specializes in selling items for Catholic clergy. He also picked out not just the pens Woodcock would use, but also the sketch pads and the things he kept on his nightstand, plus the specific breed of dogs he kept (lurchers).

That was just the start for Day-Lewis, because he also spent months learning the trade. He apprenticed under the head of the New York City Ballet's costume department, Marc Happel, and, once he was done, put his skills to the test by making a piece of couture fashion from scratch. He picked an incredibly complex Balenciaga dress to make. His biggest stumbling block was a piece of fabric in the armpit designed to make movement easier (for the small number of fashion nerds reading this: a gusset) -- he only got that right after a lot of trial and error.

Wikimedia Commons
It's the triangular thing in the armpit.
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Does his portrayal of Woodcock benefit that much from countless attempts at a gusset? No, absolutely not.

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For Avatar, Sam Worthington Ran Around With Nothing But A Jockstrap, A Wig, And A Bow And Arrow

Before they started shooting Avatar, James Cameron took the main cast on a camping trip in a Hawaii forest. It was supposed to be a way to let the actors get to know each other better, hear James Cameron's ideas about Pandora and the Na'vi, and get used to living in nature (even if it was just regular old Earth nature, not Pandora). Sigourney Weaver experienced how to act like a xenobotanist in the field, finding it "invaluable." Zoe Saldana learned about things like how close you need to be to the ground while running, and the difficulty of making a fire in the rain, calling it "the best kind of research that Jim could have provided for us." Sam Worthington ... had a different experience.

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He disappeared deep, deep into his character. He was running around the forest in a jockstrap, and a wig strapped on his head (just to make the whole effect more ridiculous, he was pasty white at the time). He also carried a bow and arrow, which he presumably did to help himself get into character, but the whole thing probably made him look like he left a very low-end Tarzan LARP and got lost.

20th Century Fox
At least he didn't hop with a tree branch between his legs to simulate dragon riding.
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At one point, he ran out onto a path where a guy was walking his poodle, and, for some reason, Worthington drew his bow and arrow at the poodle. James Cameron later described Worthington as "instinctively" drawing his bow and arrow and aiming at the poodle. We choose to describe it as "idiotically." In any case, the man walking the poodle asked Worthington, "What are you doing?" and Worthington said, "We're making a movie, mate!" Presumably, then having to explain that it wasn't a snuff film.

Top image: 20th Century Studios

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