In Hollywood, there are two kinds of actors. The kind that can act when the camera is on them, and the kind who don’t stop acting until they’ve done DVD commentary. While not every thespian in the business is Kurt Lazarus, there are still more than enough Hollywood actors who will go that extra mile to put on a convincing performance. Here’s four of them.
Andy Serkis cripples himself
When Hollywood needs an actor who can get physical in a movie without the need to actually have his real face seen, Andy Serkis is the man for the job. Lord Of The Rings, King Kong and the new Planet Of The Apes films are such examples of his motion capture genius.
The thing is, Serkis is actually a damn good actor when he doesn’t have a dozen ping pong balls stuck to his face, with a level of dedication equal to the work he spends on set pretending to be an ape. In 2010, Serkis played rock legend Ian Drury in Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, a performance that required him to emulate the hard booze and narcotics lifestyle of the performer. As well as his crippling polio that Drury had suffered from since childbirth.
That meant that Serkis had to wear leg braces for an entire year, only exercised the right side of his body in order to better translate the lopsided gait of Drury and mess his back up with results that were almost disastrous for an actor who makes a living being physical.
Adrien Brody gives it all up to learn piano
Despite the fact that he happens to be wanted for getting frisky with a lady who was perhaps too young for him, Roman Polanski is the kind of director that every actor dreams of working with at least once in their career. Adrien Brody got that chance, when he was cast as the lead actor in The Pianist, a role that would take from unknown to household name.
It’s a touching movie, a tale of a Jew in World War 2 who loses everything but his passion for playing the piano. So how did Brody prepare for such a performance? By giving it all up. His house, his money, his girlfriend, his car…everything. That kind of dedication gave Brody the exact sense of what it felt like to lose everything, so you can bet that when you see him in The Pianist, those tears of his are pretty damn real.
Also, take notice of the time that Brody was hammering out some sweet Chopin on the ivory keys. Those aren’t stunt hands. That Brody himself, who practiced day and night to nail the skills he needed for the movie.
Christian Bale and his yo-yo diets
Christian Bale is known for pretty much two things. One of those things is that he was Batman. The other is that he makes life hell for any production crew who don’t do a proper job, mate. But if you had to add a third category to that list, it’d be the insane lengths that Bale goes to for various physical roles. In The Machinist, Bale lost a dangerous amount of weight in order to portray skinny insomniac Trevor Reznik, a total of 54 kilograms to be exact.
Fresh off of the hot buzz of that performance, Bale would add all his weight and then some back on for Batman Begins, bulking up so damn much in fact that the production crew began referring to the film as Fatman Begins. Bale would then lose all of that muscle again for Rescue Dawn, a movie wherein he played a POW during the American-Vietnam conflict, before regaining considerable muscle mass for The Dark Knight.
And then losing more of it for The Fighter. You might start to notice a pattern here, as the former Batman is either doing push-downs or sit-ups when it comes to preparing for a movie.
Daniel Day Lewis is beyond dedicated
Any film starring Daniel Day Lewis is most likely going to be one that has several Oscar nominations attached to it. After all, Day-Lewis is just that damn good of an actor. But his actual performances aren’t exactly a dime a dozen. Day-Lewis is like the Anti-Christopher Walken, an actor who carefully chooses his roles instead of diving headfirst into movies that require a pocket watch to be shoved up his rectum, researching and planning for months and years at a time.
In My Left Foot for example, Day-Lewis would refuse to leave his wheelchair between takes as the paralysed Cerebral Palsy sufferer Christy Brown. In fact, Day-Lewis would spend the entire shoot of the film in character, refusing to break from his performance. In Last Of The Mohicans, Day-Lewis would actually spend time learning to hunt and trap animals, live off of the land, skin his captured prey and generally wander the American landscape with a rifle on his back and possible insanity in his head.
Day-Lewis took things a step further in Gangs Of New York as Bill The Butcher, learning how to slice and dice meat while refusing to take any medication for his pneumonia that he contracted from the ice cold sets that the film was made on, due to the fact that such medicine wasn’t available back then.
Too extreme? Quite possibly yes. But it earned the mad thespian several Oscars.
Last Updated: August 7, 2014