RANKED! Actors Who Made The Biggest Sacrifices For A Role
Making movies isn’t always sunshine and cotton candy (unless you’re making Caddy Shack IV). And though actors are hired in essence to play make-believe, sometimes the craft of acting or the needs of the production can push things to become all too real. From dangerous stunts to dramatic physical changes, insane production environments to psychological trauma, actors are constantly sacrificing themselves for the roles they play — and all so we can have something entertaining to watch while we munch our popcorn and soda. Today we celebrate the greatest sacrifices ever made by an actor in pursuit of the perfect performance.
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12. Margaret Qualley
Margaret Qualley couldn’t shave her armpits for a whole month during the filming of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Just imagine what swampy pits she faced while filming in the sweltering heat of Death Valley. OK, that may not be the biggest sacrifice in the scheme of things, but we’re just getting started.
11. Margot Robbie
Robbie hit herself in the face with the ugly stick three times a day for three months to prepare for her lead role in 2017's I, Tonya. Not only that, she trained 5-8 hours a day to learn to glide like a world-class figure skater. That meant lots of spills and bruises where she spent as much time on ice off the the ice, as she did on the ice, if that makes any sense.
10. Every Cast Member From The Film 'Roar'
Here's an idea for a movie: Take a bunch of wild African lions, stick them in a house with people, and wait for nature's vengeance. That's pretty much the gist of this 1970s film starring Melanie Griffith and her wacky parents. The production was such a disaster (and wrought with lion-related injuries) that the film took forty years to come out. And even then, it went straight to DVD (in Germany).
9. Rob McElhenney
He may not be a movie star, but the physical transformation of McElhenney's character Mac on It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia deserves major kudos. Before our very eyes, McElhenney ballooned himself to pure obesity then chiseled his way back to ripped, all for the sake of keeping things interesting. That deserves a slow clap.
8. Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman trained eight hours a day for months to prepare for the lead role in Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s ode to Swan Lake, and a haunting portrait of the dangers of obsession and perfection. During the process, Portman lost over 20 pounds, prompting her to say she felt like she was dying.
7. Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro has a reputation as one of the greatest method actors of all time. To prepare for his role in Taxi Driver, he spent a month driving taxis around New York for 12 hours a day. But that's nothing compared to the lengths he traveled to portray Jake LaMotta in the 1980 classic, Raging Bull. De Niro trained under LaMotta himself, going so far as to enter the ring professionally three times before filming even began, to learn what it meant to punch and be punched. The training paid off. De Niro went on to win two of the three bouts before snagging the Oscar for Best Actor.
6. Mickey Rourke
Making a pretend movie about a pretend sport seems like a pretty harmless endeavor. But Mickey Rourke, the genius that he is, went the other direction with it. When wrestling scenes called for fake razors and fake blood, Rourke delivered real razors and real blood. He put himself through the ringer and came out looking like a plate of mashed potatoes.
5. Leonardo DiCaprio
After Kate Winslet spent hours in frigid cold waters, DiCaprio (ever the competitive actor), one-upped his Titanic co-star by spending months in freezing conditions during the filming of The Revenant. How many actors willingly subject themselves to constant hypothermia, bear assaults, and climbing inside the carcass of a dead horse to make a movie? No wonder he won an Oscar for it.
4. Jackie Chan
International action star and stuntman extraordinaire Jackie Chan deserves a category of his own. The greatest onscreen clown since Buster Keaton, Chan has raised the bar of action hero to unbelievable heights, sacrificing his body along the way to bring us the thrills we've come to expect from the master of the pratfall.
3. Christian Bale
Bale recently transformed himself to get into the skin (and fat) of former Vice President Dick Cheney for 2018's Vice. But the scariest transformation Bale ever undertook was for his role in a little film called The Machinist. Bale lost so much weight in such a short amount of time, his doctors warned him that he was basically killing himself. The result is a startling image that completely wrecks your sense of well-being before the first line is even uttered.
2. Martin Sheen
Back in the 1970s, Hollywood made movies where not only animals got hurt, but people as well. Realism, grit, and die-hard filmmaking were the soup du jour. And Apocalypse Now was nothing but a slog fest through the soups of the Vietnam War. With the production suffering from typhoons, accidental deaths on set, cost overruns, and myriad other vexations, the stress on the cast and crew was so incredible, actor Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack. He managed to drag himself from his hotel room to a hospital, but the effects of his mental and physical breakdown lasted a decade. The insanity of the production comes through in the film, a nightmarish glimpse into the heart of darkness.
1. Heath Ledger
Rumor has it that playing the part of the Joker in 2008's The Dark Knight was so psychologically haunting for Ledger, he never recovered. Six months before the film even hit theaters, Ledger was found dead in his New York apartment from an accidental drug overdose. Though his performance was absolutely brilliant, the world would have traded a lesser performance for a longer-lasting Ledger. It was a cautionary tale for actors not to sacrifice everything for the sake of art.