Method acting is a trend that only a few follow in today’s day and age. Although, sometimes these methods tend to freak out people close to the actors, and the crew, some actors like to completely immerse themselves in the character set on paper to the point that they unabashedly straddle the line between reality and fiction; sanity and insanity.

Here are 10 actors who pushed the envelope with their methods.

1. Heath Ledger locked himself up for weeks for The Dark Knight (2008).

Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight as the Joker shouldn’t come across as a surprise for this list. Considered as one of the greatest antagonist performances in modern cinema, Ledger prepared himself to play the character by isolating himself for weeks with a small journal in hand. Popular misconceptions related his subsequent death to this overboard method preparation, but that isn’t particularly true.

2. Robert De Niro ground down his teeth for Cape Fear (1991).

In a bid to maintain authenticity with the deranged and sociopathic character of Max Cady in Cape Fear, De Niro paid his dentist thousands of dollars to grind down his teeth to look like someone who spent a lot of time in prison. In fact, De Niro spent months studying the behaviour of sex offenders, to the point that director Martin Scorsese thought was a bit creepy. He would also send the director creepy voice messages as Cady, just to freak him out.

3. Nicolas Cage left his face plastered for 5 weeks for Birdy (1984).

Often regarded as one of the craziest actors in Hollywood, Cage’s preparation for the 1984 drama film Birdy was pretty loony in itself. The actor had four of his teeth removed to feel closer to the actor, and reports say that he shocked most of the crew out by leaving the facial bandages off camera as well, for five weeks straight. Most couldn’t tell when the role ended and where it began.

4. Joaquin Phoenix went on a year long, crazed hiatus for I’m Still Here (2010).

After the two-time Academy Award nominee decided to quit acting to pursue a career in hip hop, most people had no idea what was going on and had virtually written it off as a hoax. After about an year of completely bizarre behaviour and public appearances, Phoenix’s 2010 mockumentary I’m Still Here was released and declared to be staged. The actor later won an academy award for himself, so we can be sure he hasn’t lost it just yet.

5. Kate Winslet took months to recover from performing in The Reader (2008).

Kate Winslet’s performance as a Nazi concentration camp guard for the 2008 drama film The Reader did not only earn her her first and only academy award win, it also took a significant toll on the actress for the months following the movie’s completion. She’s said that it took months for her to fully break free of the part, comparing leaving the character behind to escaping a serious car accident.

6. Adrian Brody hungered and isolated himself for The Pianist (2002).

Brody gave it all he had, to be able to perform in Roman Polanski’s 2002 drama, The Pianist. Having mentioned that he felt that the desperation that comes out of hunger cannot be faked and has to be experienced, Brody hungered himself down to 130 pounds to pull off the emaciated look of a Holocaust survivor. He is reported to have said that his biggest fear was keeping his sanity and it took him over a year and a half to settle back into his normal life.

7. Jamie Dornan once followed a woman for five blocks preparing for The Fall (2006).

You probably remember the man from the more famous Fifty Shades Of Grey, but perhaps few of you knew that Jamie Dornan is also known for his immersive method acting antics. In order to help get himself in the mindset of a serial killer for the 2006 thriller The Fall, the actor reportedly confessed to following a woman off the train and pursuing her (from a distance) for several blocks. Creep alert!

8. Shia LaBeouf got a tooth pulled out and cut his own face for Fury (2014).

Shia LaBeouf would seem like a hard pick for this list, but the actor’s dedication toward playing a supporting role in WWII drama Fury had everyone concerned. The cast of the movie confirmed that LaBeouf had a tooth pulled out and cut his own face with a knife – not letting the wound close – so that he could stay in character. The actor was reported to have spent a lot of days watching horses die.

9. Jared Leto gifted all co-stars some really weird stuff in Suicide Squad (2016).

This is one for the records. Considering that Leto’s Joker has to follow in the footsteps of the widely acclaimed performance by Ledger, the actor’s preparation for the psychopathic Joker character for the upcoming Suicide Squad film left everyone a little scared. His decision to stay in character between takes might not be surprising, but the gifts he decided to send to his co-stars were. Which included a collection of bullets for Will Smith, and a live rat for Margot Robbie.

10. Daniel Day-Lewis loses his shit with pretty much every movie he’s acted in.

Now, here’s an actor who’s methods are by far some of the most dedicated and over the top. Daniel Day-Lewis’s performances – all of them – are keenly created by the actor submitting himself completely to the mindset of the character. Whether it was Bill Cutting from Gangs Of New York or Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood, his performances are as authentic as they come. In fact, Daniel seriously injured two of his ribs due to the posture he maintained sitting in a wheel chair in order to get into character for My Left Foot, which was hunched over and paralysed.


When genius meets lunacy.

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