Being a professional actor is harder than it looks. You might think it’s simple to get up there and pretend to be somebody else, but to do the job effectively, just pretending isn’t enough; the best actors and actresses immerse themselves in the role and, in a way, become the person they’re portraying. Doing that often requires a serious amount of preparation.
The actors on our list have made headlines for the measures they’ve taken to prepare themselves for a role, and transform into a character. They’ve had to sacrifice their lifestyle, comfort and even relationships to get into the mindset of somebody else. Their training has been intense, starting early in the morning and ending late at night for months. And looking back, we can see what a difference that preparation made for the final product.
The training they undertake helps them to look so authentic that, sometimes, you forget you’re watching an actor! After putting in the hard work, these celebrities have won accolades, gone down in history and done justice to the characters they were portraying.
If you want to be an actor, you have to be serious about getting into character. Could you put up with some of the conditions that these people did?
18 Emma Stone Had To Seriously Bulk Up To Play A Tennis Legend
Pro-athletes have a certain look about them—it obviously depends on the sport they play, but they all have fit figures with a healthy amount of muscle. So in order to play the iconic tennis player Billie Jean King, actress Emma Stone put in a lot of effort to put on some muscle!
In an interview with USA Today, Jason Walsh, her trainer, confessed that he put Emma through a grueling strength training routine. He upped her calorie intake with protein-rich shakes and even had her deadlifting up to 185 lbs.! It’s clear that Emma was serious about the role and doing justice to Billie Jean King, and now most likely has an understanding and appreciation for what professional athletes have to put their bodies through in order to become the best.
17 Hilary Swank Bandaged Up Her Body To Prepare To Play A Transgendered Boy
Playing the role of a real person must always come with a certain amount of pressure, but we bet that pressure is amplified when the person you’re portraying was the victim of a tragedy. In that case, being accurate in your interpretation is super important.
When Hilary Swank took on the role of transgendered teen Brandon Teena for Boys Don’t Cry, she spent some time before filming completely bandaged up to give the illusion of a male figure. Though this must have been tough, she was so adamant about it that people even allegedly mistook her for her brother! Going through the process might have been uncomfortable, but it helped Hilary get into the correct mindset to portray someone like Brandon and understand his struggles a little more.
16 Halle Berry Spent Time Around People With Serious Struggles And Didn't Shower For Ten Days
We now associate Halle Berry with glamorous roles like Catwoman, but there was a time when she was doing roles that were far less glitzy. In fact, her very first film role is a perfect example: when she appeared in Jungle Fever alongside Samuel L. Jackson, Halle had to play a troubled addict whose personal hygiene was questionable.
While she could have still bathed and the audience wouldn’t have known the difference, she wanted to make her portrayal as authentic as possible, and so she decided to refrain from showering during her entire ten days on set. Though being physically dirty might not have been obvious to those watching the film, it was important to Halle that she felt unclean and uncomfortable to really get into the character properly.
15 Mara Rooney Changed Her Look Drastically, Including Dying Her Hair And Getting Pierced
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a major success, and much of that can be attributed to the fantastic acting of Mara Rooney. But there was more than just talent that went into making Lisbeth Salander come to life—Mara also had to be made up to look the part, which in turn helped her get into character.
She was required to crop and dye her hair black, in addition to bleaching her eyebrows. The character of Lisbeth had a lot of piercings and so—you guessed it!—Mara wanted to get all of them. “Because of all the tattoos and the makeup and the piercings, and the physical transformations my body has to go through, it would always feel sort of like I was in costume, even if I was naked,” the star revealed.
14 Navy SEALS Were Brought In To Train Demi Moore For G.I. Jane
You might think your personal trainer is scary, but we’re guessing that getting into shape with Navy SEALS is ten times scarier! For her starring role of Jordan O’Neil in G.I. Jane, Demi Moore had to transform her body and build up quite a bit of strength. The frequent training that she went through was led by none another than former Navy SEALS.
It’s true that Demi could have just skipped all of that and allowed a stuntwoman to do all of the hard work, but again, that might have posed some serious obstacles when it came to getting into character. “…I felt I would have walked away having missed an opportunity experiencing, first-hand, what these people actually go through in training,” she said. “It's the whole reason for doing this film in the first place.”
13 Cara Delevingne Got Weird In The Woods To Prepare For Suicide Squad
The role of Enchantress in Suicide Squad is somewhat eccentric, and so naturally, Cara Delevingne had to do quite a bit of work to get in touch with her. While she didn’t have to run through obstacle courses or adhere to a crazily strict diet, she did have to let loose.
In an interview with W Magazine, the former model confessed that the director asked her to go to the forest, take off her clothes and walk with her bare feet in the mud beneath the full moon. She revealed that she actually did this, and although there wasn’t a full moon at the time, she howled like a wolf. “I would have been really funny if someone had seen me,” she said. That footage sure would have gone viral!
12 Heath Ledger Messed With His Own Mental Health To Play The Joker
The Joker has to be one of the most troubled characters out there, and not just anybody can do him justice. It takes someone with considerable talent, commitment and passion to really get it right, and that someone was the late Heath Ledger.
Six weeks before The Dark Knight began filming, Heath Ledger isolated himself in a hotel room in order to organically develop the gestures of the clown. While he was doing this preparation, it’s been reported that he turned to prescription medication and had a significant lack of sleep, which helped to get him into the disturbed state of the character. And while this ended up cementing his position as an acting legend, it had serious consequences on the mental health of the actor.
11 Lily James Basically Starved To Fit Into Cinderella's Corset
Most little girls have dreamed of being Cinderella at one point or another; we all saw the Disney animated version and dreamt of wearing that pale blue dress and fitting into those glass slippers. That dream actually came true for Lily James, who played the princess in Disney’s live-action remake of Cinderella. As it turns out, though, the dream was a little less glam in real life. As they tend to be.
The corset of that enchanting dress was so tight that Lily James reportedly couldn’t eat while she was wearing it. Basically, the corset restricted her stomach so much that she couldn’t actually digest her food properly, so if she did eat something before filming, she would make embarrassing digestive sounds in front of her co-star Richard Madden. She opted for a mostly liquid diet until the magical dress was a thing of the past.
10 For Les Mis, Anne Hathaway Dropped A Bunch Of Pounds And Shaved Her Head
With all the hype surrounding the film adaptation of the musical Les Miserables, it’s understandable that Anne Hathaway wanted to do her very best at portraying Fantine. The story is set in a troubled period, and (without spoiling it!) Fantine goes through quite a hard time, so the character would have been extremely thin and frail in reality. To get it right, Anne went on an extremely strict diet and shaved her head.
It was reported that the actress ate two minimal squares of dried oatmeal paste a day to lose the weight, and she now recognizes that she became obsessive about it. “The idea was to look near death,” she told Vogue. Anne still isn’t super comfortable talking about the exact measures she took because she doesn’t want to encourage eating disorders in her young fans.
9 Natalie Portman Got Training From A Real Ballerina Before Black Swan
If there’s one form of art that requires an enormous amount of dedication, pain, and sacrifice, it’s ballet. When Natalie Portman won the starring role in Black Swan, she knew she had to organize training from the best in the business to come across as a real ballerina. So for more than a year before shooting even started, the actress trained with Mary Helen Bowers, a former New York City Ballet dancer.
Natalie had studied ballet as a child, but she needed much more coaching to be ready for the role. She and Mary trained for eight hours a day, six days a week. In addition to that, Natalie also did swimming, cross-training and endurance exercises to help prepare her. In the end, she won an Academy Award for her performance, so we’re guessing it was all worth it!
8 Mila Kunis Lost A Significant Amount Of Weight And Thought She Looked Frail
It wasn’t just Natalie Portman who was serious about getting ready for Black Swan. Her co-star Mila Kunis underwent a whole new regime to get into shape to star opposite Natalie. While the changes certainly helped Mila to seem more like a real ballerina, she was open about how much she disliked her new body and thought it was too frail.
“… I would literally look at myself in the mirror and I was like, ‘Oh my god!’ I had no shape,” the actress admitted. “All you saw was the bone. I was like, ‘This is gross.’” Once filming was completed, Mila said that she enjoyed eating normally again, and had a great time feasting at places like In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles and Panda Express at the JFK airport.
7 In Addition To A Week Of Fasting, Jamie Foxx Wore Fake Eyelids That Blocked His Vision To Play Ray Charles
When you play a legend like Ray Charles, you’ve got to do some serious prep beforehand to make sure you get it right! Jamie Foxx first made himself look more like the iconic musician by losing weight through a week of fasting and daily workouts. But when it was time to get into Ray’s mindset, Jamie decided he wanted to know how it really felt to be blind.
During filming, the actor wore prosthetic eyelids glued over his own which prevented him from seeing anything. This was uncomfortable and difficult, and it was reported that Jamie even had panic attacks in the beginning when crew members would leave him on set alone. In addition to all that effort, Jamie also learned and mastered all of the piano songs for the film to make sure his performance was as authentic as possible.
6 Charlize Theron Changed Up Her Whole Look To Play A Criminal And Was Unrecognizable
Many people thought that Charlize Theron wouldn’t be a good candidate to play the troubled criminal Aileen Wuornos, but she was so committed to doing it properly that when the film Monster was first released, audiences hardly recognized her.
In order to play Aileen, Charlize put on quite a few pounds and researched her extensively, so she could get all of her mannerisms and behaviors down. The makeup artists also deserve a special mention in this case, because they used their magic to help transform Charlize into the disturbed criminal. “I knew I had to transform my body to get myself into her physical skin–the way she moved in her body,” Charlize told Stumped. “I've tried very hard in my career to change and transform. But, I've never done anything like this.”
5 Michelle Williams Had To Learn To Walk With A Belt Around Her Knees To Play Marilyn
The pressure of playing an icon as famous as Marilyn Monroe must have been huge, but it was nothing that actress Michelle Williams couldn’t handle. Aside from relying on her undeniable talent, she wanted to make sure she was as prepared to play Marilyn as possible, and that came with quite a bit of work.
In order to get Marilyn’s breathy tone of voice just right, Michelle spent months just listening to the star talk in old interviews. To mimic the “wobble” that Marilyn had when she walked, Michelle even tied a belt around her knees. “There was a sort of a sense of figure eight to her walk,” Michelle explained. “It looked like she had a balloon attached to her breastbone …”
4 Renée Zellweger Jumped Up A Few Sizes For Bridget Jones's Diary
Renée Zellweger is probably the most famous case of an actress purposely putting on weight for a role rather than losing it. And while being paid to eat more than you usually do would be like a dream-come-true for some, it was still a sacrifice for an actress like Renée, who had to quickly get herself back into shape after filming in order to win more roles.
While Bridget Jones’s Diary was incredibly successful, and Renée must be proud of herself for her performance as Bridget, she later admitted that the public interested in her weight gain and subsequent weight loss made her uncomfortable. “When the film was coming out, the question I was asked the most was regarding my weight ... I was followed around Heathrow [Airport] by a guy who wanted to take a picture of my backside,” she told Vogue. “I don't understand the obsession.”
3 Beyoncé Lost Her Famous Curves To Play The Slim Deena Jones
Beyoncé is famous for her talent, her work ethic, her various successes and of course, her curves. While Queen B is known for promoting a healthy body image, fans were worried back in 2006 when she lost a dramatic amount of weight to star as Deena Jones in Dreamgirls.
In order to slim down to play the part, B reportedly went on a fast called the Master Cleanse. On this strict regime, she was allowed no food, and only drank lemonade with maple syrup and cayenne pepper. That would have taken some willpower! When filming wrapped, Beyoncé focused back on her music and returned to the size she normally is shortly after. She’s also made an effort to change her body for other acting projects too—the singer purposely put on weight to play the role of Etta James in Cadillac Records.
2 Leonardo DiCaprio Nearly Gave Himself Hypothermia For The Revenant
Some actors have to make serious sacrifices when they’re getting into the headspace of a particular character. One of the most extreme and recent cases is Leonardo DiCaprio, who went to all lengths to perfect his performance in The Revenant.
Throughout the shoot that continued for nine months, the actor did a number of things that you might say were beyond his comfort zone. He jumped in and out of freezing rivers, which put his health at risk, and pretended to sleep inside a horse. Though he could have opted for seared beef that looked like raw bison liver, he decided to eat the real thing on-screen so his reaction to it would be realistic. By the end of his experience, he knew a little more about what it feels like to brave it in the wild.
1 Kate Winslet Had To Speak In A German Accent At All Times Before Doing The Reader, Even With Her Kids
Most actors come across a project where they have to put on another accent at some point. Kate Winslet has mastered a lot of them in her career—American in Titanic, Australian in The Dressmaker, and German in The Reader. And each time she takes on a new accent, she is committed to getting it right.
When she was preparing for her role as Hanna Schmitz in The Reader, Kate put in the time to work with a real dialect coach who had her speaking in a very specific German accent, that was intended to make the audience forget that she had an accent at all (because the dialogue is really supposed to be in German, not German-accented English). To fully immerse herself in the accent, Kate spoke with it all the time, even when she was reading bedtime stories to her children at night.
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