Movie List

10 Actors Who Almost Went Crazy in Their Roles

June 21, 2017
7 min read

For a dedicated actor, playing a character isn’t a job. It is his life. He isn’t himself for the duration of the shooting and it is imperative for him to maintain the status quo. With the blossoming of method acting in the industry, actors losing themselves in their characters has become a common notion. Pervading amidst artists through the radiant Marlon Brando since the 1950’s, it has furthered both in intensity, and absurdity. The new wave of thespians take their work with utmost sincerity and seriousness. At times, too serious. Their descent into madness and the bewildering environs of their characters is ambivalently scary and exciting. It is this exhilaration and edge of the things stuff that keeps our faith in the great traditions of acting. Following is the list of actors who almost went crazy while paying a role. Happy reading!

10. Malcom McDowell (‘A Clockwork Orange’)

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Kubrick gave full access and liberties to the actor to play with the character. The results were both petrifying and orgasmic. Playing a character, held together by copious amounts of crazy glue, McDowell improvised almost all his scenes. The sheer vagueness of his character’s personality took a toll on his personal life, and almost made the two a facsimile. His bezerk seizures at night forced the actor to start therapy and limit his sanity through medication. From suffering temporary blindness on set, to bearing excruciating pain by sitting up during the scene in the picture, McDowell certainly gave his all for the character.

9. Nicolas Cage (‘Birdy’)

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Cage’s weird fetishes for asserting challenging roles make him a treasured commodity. His penchant for playing outlandish and oddball characters has often given us unbelievable stories. One such anecdote comes from the sets of the 1984 war drama, ‘Birdy’. He played Al Cumbato, a disgruntled and disfigured soldier, who through a sequences of flashbacks depicts his traumatic tale in the war. For the scenes in which Al’s face is swathed in bandages, Cage lost 15 pounds and had four of his teeth pulled out for giving a realistic look. And he kept the bandages for a staggering 8 weeks, the duration of filming.

8. Adrien Brody (‘The Pianist’)

He still remains the youngest actor to have won the Oscar of Best Actor. And by the time you end this, you’ll know why. He plays a Jewish pianist, Spizlman, who gets caught up in Hitler’s tirade and “final solution”. Separated from his family, and basically having lost everything in his life, Brody mirrored his character’s situation in his real life. Abdicating his apartment, his car, and his bank accounts. Literally, selling everything! Above that, he also ended a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend, and stayed away from family for three months. The scene you see above, that isn’t acting. *chills down the spine*

7. Johnny Depp (‘Fear and loathing in Las Vegas’)

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It still eludes me why people don’t regard this as Depp’s finest work. He is one of the actors who doesn’t need an invitation to blow some pot. This was something that was required for the character, and guess what, he did it! Hunter Thompson’s alter-ego seemed like encapsulated in Depp’s body during the film, and even continues today. Depp was in reality stoned for half the movie, blew off millions of his won money, and even acted as a mule to create the atmosphere to play it in. His mind-numbing efforts certainly paid off, as the film enjoys a cult status now, and showed the world Depp is more than just sex walking on a stick.

6. Christian Bale (‘The Machinist’)

His inclusion in the list was forseable to say the least. You wouldn’t have had to be a rigor to prophecize his inclusion. Going bat-shit crazy for almost all his roles, Bale outdid himself with his performance and emaciated body in ‘The Machinist’. Playing an insomniac-hallucinating machinist Trevor, Bale famished himself and lost about 60 pounds for the film. And if that wasn’t enough, he didn’t sleep for two straight weeks to formally become Trevor. He overdid the transformation by isolating himself from the world for two months. Things like this is why movies are what they are. Truly splendid.

5. Joaquin Phoenix (‘I’m Still here’)

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He is as crazy as they come. His repertoire and stunning body of work include one of the greatest character enhancements and transformations in Freddie Quell. He charaded the world and hoaxed them into believing he had given up acting and had become a pop star. The mockumentary, which eventually turned out to be unplanned and a faux, ‘I’m Still Here’ turned the screw on crazy, and sent the world into bewilderment. Playing the part of a disheveled and downward-spiraling actor completely out of control. The actor took the character into the public sphere and the director stuck to the story that he was simply documenting Phoenix’s new career path into rapping. it included making an appearance on David Letterman and even confusing him.

4. Jared Leto (‘Suicide Squad’)

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Simply put, this was the worst Joker rendition on screen, but through no fault of the actor, who reveled in the little time he got. The under-used Joker character became a sham in the towering shadows of his successors. But the way Leto prepared for the part was an apotheosis of dedication. He stayed in character for the duration of the production, and sent a dead rat to Margot Robbie. The rest of the cast wasn’t spared, to who he sent dead pigs, among other crazy shit. Smith reveals he is yet to meet Leto, and the only exchange of words happened between ‘Action!’ and ‘Cut!’. Wow. Only if he was used correctly.

3. Shia LeBouf (‘Fury’)

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LeBouf is a lot like Arvind Kejriwal. If not for their antics and public gimmicks, the two would have been at the acmes of their respective professions. An inherently gifted actor, LeBouf is grossly over talented, and underly devoid of common sense. His visceral yet pragmatic performances have always managed to catch our eyes, and ‘Fury’ was no different. I believe it is better you hear it from him. His official statement will seem crazy, because it is.

“David (Ayer, director) told us right from the gate: ‘I need you to give me everything.’ So the day after I got the job, I joined the US National Guard. I was baptised – accepted Christ in my heart – tattooed my surrender and became a chaplain’s assistant to Captain Yates for the 41st Infantry. I spent a month living on a forward operating base. Then I linked up with my cast and went to Fort Irwin. I pulled my tooth out, knifed my face up and spent days watching horses die. I didn’t bathe for four months.”

2. Heath Ledger (‘The Dark Knight’)

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It was a toss up between him and the other guy, and after the announcement today, it was always going to be the latter. Ledger became the first actor to have won the Oscar posthumously. He was Joker for the entire duration of filming, and perhaps accented into heaven in the same character. Secluding himself in a hotel room for six months, doing his own make-up and hair, and being the Joker, he left no stone unturned. He improvised many scenes, the most famous being the slow-clapping in the jail, which made the actors around him petrified of him. He asked Bale to punch him with full force in the interrogation scene to get a realistic sense of the Joker’s position. Oh, how the world misses one of the greatest actors of our generation.

1. Daniel Day Lewis (Basically every movie)

I literally couldn’t hold back tears when I heard Day Lewis was retiring. It has left a void that can never be filled. His cinematic genius and immense dedication to his roles makes him the greatest actor living. If I start listing the things he has done for almost all the roles he portrayed, the article will seem like a novel. Do read his Wikipedia page. You’ll be stunned. Broken nose, broken ribs, broken legs, deformed spine. What not. The upcoming ‘Phantom Threads’ will be the last one featuring him in a lead role. Into the breach once more my dear friends!

Read More: Actors Who Won an Oscar For Their Debut Performances

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