20 of the Most Extreme Method Actors

I’m sure most of us would like to think that we put our all into our careers. However, when it comes to gaining or losing a substantial amount of weight to the extreme that some of the actors have below, I think I would have to draw the line.

1. Christian Bale – The Machinist (2004).

One of the most infamous method acting stints of recent times, Christian Bale actually want as far as to lose 63 lbs in order to portray the troubled insomniac Trevor Reznik most effectively.

Christian Bale method acting

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2. Christian Bale – The Fighter (2010).

Going from one extreme to the other is certainly a forte of Christian Bale’s and never was there more of a transition than when he went from the buff build of the notorious Batman all the way down to the size of tragic drug addict and former boxer Dicky Eklund in The Fighter.

Christian Bale The Fighter

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3. Charlize Theron – Monster (2003).

Altering her appearance so drastically certainly helped Charlize Theron to portray her role as Aileen Wuornos in Monster. A role that was played so well that she later went on to win an Oscar for Best Actress.

Charlize Theron Monster

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4. Jared Leto – Chapter 27 (2007).

Jared Leto has recently admitted that the weight gain he undertook for Chapter 27 – a shocking 67 lbs – was so extreme that he actually developed gout.

Jared Leto Chapter 27

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5. Jared Leto – Dallas Buyer’s Club (2013).

In an opposing extreme, Leto then went on to lose a shocking 40 lbs for 2013 film Dallas Buyer’s Club. Thank goodness it earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Jared Leto Dallas Buyer's Club

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6. Matthew McConaughey  – Dallas Buyer’s Club (2013).

Speaking of Dallas Buyer’s Club, it is impossible to side-step the acting genius of Matthew McConaughey who was also crowned Best Actor at the 2014 Oscars. But this achievement didn’t come without its challenges – apparently when Matthew got down to his lowest weight of 9.5 stone he actually started to partially lose his sight.

Matthew McConaughey

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7. Renée Zellweger – Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001).

One would normally presume that being paid millions of dollars to gain 20 lbs for a movie role would be absolute bliss but apparently not the case for Renée Zellweger who has now refused to undergo the transition again for the third movie. Apparently the affects of yo-yoing like this can be absolutely catastrophic to your health and her doctors have advised against doing it for a third time. Although, in my personal opinion I think she actually looked better as Bridget!

Renee Zellweger

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8. Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight (2008).

One of the most notorious method acting stints of recent history, Heath Ledger’s dedication to his role as ‘The Joker’ – which included being holed up in his apartment for months on end living on 2 hours sleep a night – is what many believe lead to his untimely demise.

Heath Ledger Joker

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9. Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011).

Although not taking the same path as her method-acting counterparts, some would consider Rooney Mara’s dedication just as extreme from the fact that she decided to get four real piercings for her role as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – on her face no less.

Rooney Mara method acting

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10. Daniel Day Lewis – Lincoln (2012).

Known for his acting prowess, Daniel Day Lewis didn’t fall short of his reputation as an extreme method actor on set of 2012 film Lincoln, not allowing anyone to address him as anything other than “Mr President” and definitely not in a British accent that could throw him off.

Daniel Day Lewis

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11. Hilary Swank – Million Dollar Baby (2004).

Hilary Swank certainly went above and beyond what was expected of her to play the role of female boxer Maggie Fitzgerald, gaining an astonishing 19 lbs of muscle density compared to the 10 that the director originally requested. Luckily this dedication was another one deemed Oscar-worthy by the academy.

Hilary Swank Million Dollar Baby

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12. Robert De Niro – Taxi Driver (1976).

Taking his preparation for Taxi Driver to the next level, Robert De Niro actually managed to pose as a real taxi driver and ferry people around New York none the wiser.

Robert De Niro

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13. Natalie Portman – Black Swan (2010).

Who would have thought it possible for the already tiny Natalie Portman to lose a further 20 lbs and not be on death’s door? But alas, somehow this fact is true and she sunk to her smallest ever frame in order to portray the crazed ballerina Nina in Black Swan.

Natalie Portman Black Swan

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14. Joaquin Phoenix – I’m Still Here (2010).

In what should have been the greatest method acting stint in history, Joaquin Phoenix dedicated two years of his life to making the public believe he was experiencing a real life meltdown, whilst at the same time launching a career in hip hop. But the problem was, it seemed that no one ever really quite ‘got it’, with the film proving a failure among critics.

Joaquin Pheonix method acting

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15. Shia Lebeouf – Nymphomaniac (2013).

One of the more bizarre Hollywood method acting stories, it was widely reported that Shia Labeouf would be having (real life) sex with his onscreen partner Stacy Martin. The world was outraged at the story they had kept up in the film’s build up, which later came out to be untrue.

Shia LaBeouf method actor

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16. Adrien Brody – The Pianist (2002).

Not only did Adrien Brody drop an astonishing 30 lbs to play Holocaust survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist, he also learnt to play the piano, gave up his apartment, sold his car and endeavoured to recreate his entire life to feel closer to his troubled character.

Adrien Brody Method actor

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17. Chris Hemsworth – Heart of the Sea (2015).

Inspired by the classic tale of Moby Dick, Heart of the Sea sees a shipwrecked Chris Hemsworth left stranded and starving. In order to portray this convincingly, the usually buff actor had to lose 30 lbs. We definitely prefer Thor!

Chris Hemsworth method acting

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18. Edward Norton – American History X (1998).

Famous for his method acting, one of Edward Norton’s most notorious preparations was to play neo-Nazi Derek Vinyard in American History X, a role which saw him gain 30 lbs and train rigorously in the gym every day for three months.

Ed Norton method actor

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19. Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler (2014).

Although not the most an actor has ever been known to lose, Gyllenhaal’s 20-lb weight loss – which he undertook for 2014 Nightcrawler – is still chilling to look back on and gained him much critical acclaim.

Jake Gyllenhaal method actor

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20. Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables (2012).

Taking on the role of the tragically starved Fantine was never going to be an easy role. But by all accounts the lengths that Anne Hathaway had to go to to lose 25 lbs were so excruciating that she has very commendably refused to reveal how she did it, so that it won’t inspire copy-cat behaviour in young girls.

Anne Hathaway Method Actress

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