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September 28, 2020 9:34 pm

10 Actors, Great and Small, Who Sacrificed for Their Roles

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Christian Bale Asim Bharwani [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Actors who want to have a chance to get great roles and tell great stories have to be ready to put their bodies on the line. Sometimes, these are big sacrifices, and sometimes they’re small sacrifices, but actors step up, just the same.

Big Sacrifices

Sometimes, actors take risks that put themselves in physical danger.

Robert De Niro In Cape Fear, De Niro wanted his ex-con character Max Cady to have convincingly terrible teeth, so he paid a dentist $5000 to wreck them. Then he paid $20,000 to have them fixed after the movie.

Christian Bale For The Machinist, Bale lost 65 pounds, about a third of his normal weight, and a dangerous amount for the six-foot man. Weight loss is a pretty common sacrifice, and Tom Hanks, Natalie Portman, and Matthew McConaughey have all done this notably in recent years.

Charlize Theron In Monster, Theron put on 30 pounds for her role, which was clearly more than her body was meant to weigh because it transformed her appearance. Other stars who put on weight for roles are most notably men, such as Bale and George Clooney, but Renee Zellweger gained 25 pounds for Bridget Jones’ Diary.

Wallace Reid Back when actors had little power or protection on the set, they were more likely to have sacrifices thrust on them. Shooting on location for The Valley of Giants, Reid was injured, so to keep him performing a studio doctor gave him shots of morphine, which led to an addiction that killed him in 1923.

Daniel Day-Lewis In order to stay in character for My Left Foot, Day-Lewis acted paralyzed for two weeks. Staying hunched down in his wheelchair for this long led to two broken ribs for the actor.

Little Sacrifices

Not all actors are out there breaking ribs, taking morphine to get through a scene, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t recognize their roles.

Halle Berry didn’t bathe for two weeks before Jungle Fever. While that doesn’t seem comfortable, I have known a lot of stoners who go longer than that!

Jonah Hill had to wear an uncomfortable set of false teeth for The Wolf of Wall Street that made him talk with a lisp. In order to overcome the lisp, he called customer service lines to practice talking with the denture. Nobody likes talking to customer service, but I bet a lot of people who signed up for Obamacare logged more phone hours than he did!

Jared Leto In order to stay in character as a transvestite in Dallas Buyers Club, Leto wore high heels every day on the set. I’m sure every woman in Hollywood is reserving her tiniest violin to play for him.

Roddy McDowall For Planet of the Apes, McDowall and his fellow actors had to eat in front of mirrors so they could avoid damaging their extensive makeup between shots. Hey, it could’ve been worse–he could’ve had to eat looking at his own face in the mirror! (I kid, I kid. McDowall is one of my favorite character actors, not only for the Planet of the Apes series, but for Fright Night and his incomparable voice work in The Pirates of Dark Water, Batman: The Animated Series, and personal favorite The Black Hole. And he’s pretty handsome in his way.)

Frank Sinatra Making the crossover from musician to actor is tough, and you have to expect you’re going to have to earn your stripes. By eating cheesecake! Sinatra hated cheesecake, but in Guys and Dolls, his character Nathan Detroit has to eat it in a scene. Marlon Brando knew that he hated it and intentionally muffed the scene nine times. After the ninth mistake, Sinatra reportedly stabbed the table with his fork and yelled, “These f**king New York actors! How much cheesecake do you think I can eat?”

So the next time you see somebody getting beat up in the press for their big payday, remember that’s not money for nothing. Some of them had to eat cheesecake to earn it.

 

Dr. Matthew B. Candelaria (PhD, U of Kansas 2006) is a lover of film from the silent era forward. He only has two real complaints about films: the rising cost of ticket prices and that there are too many good ones to see in a lifetime.

Dr. Matthew B. Candelaria (PhD, U of Kansas 2006) is a lover of film from the silent era forward. He only has two real complaints about films: the rising cost of ticket prices and that there are too many good ones to see in a lifetime.

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