During the filming of the big budget Bible flick Noah, Emma Watson inadvertently became a method actor. Director David Aronofsky of Black Swan fame banned all plastic water bottles from the set to better align with the films environmental message, but this turned out badly for Watson. "Everything we used had to be recycled or recyclable. Having no water bottles on set at five in the morning, when you're exhausted and delirious, wasn't ideal," the actress told said. "I was so tired one morning I picked up a mug from my trailer and drank some stagnant water that had been there for the duration – so three months. I was so ill."
But the worst part wasn't even that Watson drank 3-month old water, but that Aronofsky was less than concerned. Watson informed the director the next day that she didn't think she could film due to her illness and he told her, "Use it for the scene." Watson says she thought the director was joking but the deadly silence of the crew and cast proved otherwise.
This method acting experience was a first for Watson, but she follows in a long line of actors who go to extreme lengths to produce the perfect scene. Though they perhaps do it more willingly than accidentally, the tradition of method acting dates back to the 1920s. Here are eight of the craziest method actors to date:
1. TOM HANKS
For his role in Cast Away, Hanks first bulked up 55 pounds and then had to lose all the weight to play both the healthy FedEx worker and his marooned counterpart. In addition to the weight gain and loss, Hanks didn't shave for weeks; that crazy beard in the movie is 100% real.
2. SHIA LABEOUF
Basically his whole life has become a form of method acting, but it all seemed to start when he took on a role for the movie Nymphomaniac. It was then that he got into his character so much that he actually took LSD for a scene. Turns out the drug that was written in the script was actually ecstasy, which makes me think LaBeouf just wanted a reason to take acid, but I digress. Frederik Bond, the director of the film, said he wasn't told of the extent to which LaBeouf wanted to take his character, but that LaBeouf did say, "that he was going to go out on a limb and push the envelope. He said he wants to make this like they did in the '70s," Bond said. "He was like, 'I want it to be like there's a gun against my head.'"
3. JARED LETO
Leto dropped to 112 pounds to play an HIV-stricken character in this year's Oscar nominated flick Dallas Buyers Club. Of the transformation Leto said, “I was like, ‘Man they did a great job, I’m lookin’ real sick.’ And then I got a hot towel and put it on my face again and then I washed it again and I realize that it wasn’t the makeup anymore, it was just my face.”
4. TIPPI HEDREN
In another case of accidental method acting. Hedren's role in The Birds cost her a little more than she bargained for. Instead of the promised mechanical birds being used in the scene where she gets attacked, live birds were used. She recalled the traumatic event years later:
"Everybody had lied to me, and on the Monday morning, as we were going to start the scene, the assistant director came in and looked at the floor and the walls and the ceiling, then blurted out: “The mechanical birds don’t work, so we have to use real ones,” and then he ran out. When I got to the set I found out there had never been any intention to use mechanical birds because a cage had been built around the door where I was supposed to come in, and there were boxes of ravens, gulls and pigeons that bird trainers wearing gauntlets up to their shoulders hurled at me, one after the other, for a week.
You can see the scene here:
5. HEATH LEDGER
You can't talk about method acting without mentioning Ledger's work as the Joker in The Dark Knight. On set Ledger refused to talk to anyone out of character and a crew member said of the actor's intense dedication to the role:
"If you tried to communicate with him normally instead of The Joker, he would just ignore you. He would often come to the set to hang out even on his days off, freaking everyone out. Towards the end of filming, he was warned by people that he had gone too far."
6. DANIEL DAY-LEWIS
For his role as Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, Day-Lewis got as deep into character as he could get both at the suggestion of Spielberg and his own desire to bring the character to life. For the duration of filming the actor spoke in the president's accent both on and off set and insisted on being addressed as Mr. President at all times. Additionally he signed 'Abe' at the end of his texts to co-star Sally Field.
7. MARLON BRANDO
Brando is one of the original method actors and for his role in The Men spent a month in an army hospital to best portray a paraplegic veteran. LIFE writer Theodore Strauss who was profiling Brando's life wrote about the actor's intensity saying:
“First of all he insisted on living with the paraplegics in Birmingham Veterans Hospital during the four weeks before production began. This, he felt, was necessary to giving a completely knowledgeable and valid performance in his role. At the hospital he was given a bed in a 32-bed ward, where he was treated almost like any other patient.”
8. ADRIEN BRODY
For his role in The Pianist, the actor took to playing the instrument four hours a day and also sought to rid his life of his usual comforts to truly get into his character who had lost his family and home. "I gave up my apartment, I sold my car, I disconnected the phones, and I left," Brody said. "I took two bags and my keyboard and moved to Europe."
Image: Paramount Pictures; 20th Century Fox; Central Partnership; Warner Bros, Walt Disney Studios; United Artists; Focus Features