10 Actors who have gone to the Extremes of Method Acting

By Ankit Patel

Christian Bale


Christian Bale is known for putting on and shedding weight for several roles, most recently for the Dick Cheney biopic Backseat, for which he also shaved his head. The upcoming movie is directed by The Big Short director Adam McKay and Steve Carell will play Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The prep to play the Bush-era VP is decidedly less grueling that when he famously lost 65 pounds for 2004’s The Machinist: He told Variety that, to bulk up, “I’ve just been eating a lot of pies.”

Margot Robbie
Robbie stunned viewers with her transformation in 2017 into disgraced professional ice-skater Tonya Harding for I, Tonya. Not only were makeup, some prosthetics, and some very ‘80s wigs used to make the blonde Australian bombshell appear more like Harding; Robbie trained for five months, five days a week, four hours a day on the ice rink learning to ice-skate before filming. She did get a herniated disk in her neck from her training; her next feat will be to age by about three decades for her role in Mary Queen of Scots.

Robert Pattinson
Somehow heartthrob Robert Pattinson was able to go unnoticed while working at a car wash and taking the New York City subway while preparing for his critically acclaimed role in the Safdie brothers’ Good Time, as a would-be thief. He also “literally lived in the same basement apartment [as the character] in Harlem. I never opened my curtains, didn’t change the sheets the entire time I was there, for those two months, and I would just sleep in my clothes.

John Krasinski
The beloved Office actor transformed into a cut special ops soldier for 13 Hours, about the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. krasinki told Yahoo! News that he and the other actors went through vigorous training from former Navy SEALS: “We learned how to fire a whole variety of different weapons and learned how to maneuver through rooms with lights, without lights. We learned how to maneuver through buildings on fire . . . we did all that sort of training. Physically, it was an extremely intense workout.”

Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio’s grizzly turn in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant may have brought him one step closer to Oscar gold, but it nearly killed the actor in the process. “I can name 30 or 40 sequences that were some of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do,” DiCaprio has said. “Whether it’s going in and out of frozen rivers, or sleeping in animal carcasses, or what I ate on set. [I was] enduring freezing cold and possible hypothermia constantly.” In a cover story for Wired, the actor remarked, “If a cat has nine lives, I think I’ve used a few.” You know what they say, Leo: “You learn to take life as it comes at you . . . to make each day count.”Here’s to that Oscar!

Chris Hemsworth
After filming Ron Howard’s whaling epic, In the Heart of the Sea, Chris Hemsworth was a shell of his former hammer-wielding self. Last month, the Thor star tweeted out a photo to show just how much the 500-calorie-a-day diet changed his appearance. “Just tried a new diet/training program called Lost at Sea,” he wrote. “Wouldn’t recommend it.” Hemsworth spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the difficulty of the extreme dietary restrictions. “When you’re already starting off lean, it’s brutal to chew through that kind of weight. Every pound feels like a kilogram,” he said. “We kind of went insane, weighing ourselves every day. We all felt like a bunch of supermodels, trying to get down in weight for a show or something,” Hemsworth added. “That’s all we spoke about. You’ve got 15 burly blokes on the sea and all we talked about was our diet and who’d lost more weight and who’s looking really skinny. It’s ridiculous!”

Shia LeBeouf
For his role in 2014’s Fury, LeBeouf was as committed as could be. He told Dazaed: “ 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 U.S. National Guard. I was baptized—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

Daniel Day-Lewis
The three-time Oscar winner is famous for his method acting. For The Last Of The Mohicans, he built canoes; for The Unbearable Lightness of Being, he taught himself Czech. Most famously, however, in 1989’s My Left Foot, in which he played an Irishman with cerebral palsy, Lewis did not leave his character’s wheelchair, and crew members were required to spoon-feed him. He also adopted his character’s slumped posture, which eventually caused two of his ribs to break.

Heath Ledger
In order to prepare for his turn as the deranged Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, the actor went to pretty extreme lengths. “I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices—it was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh.”

Adrien Brody
For his Oscar-winning role, Brody worked to inhabit the life of Holocaust survivor and real-life concert pianist Wladyslaw Szipilman.“I gave up my apartment, I sold my car, I disconnected the phones, and I left,” he said. “I took two bags and my keyboard and moved to Europe.”

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