12 Actors Who Are Famous for Staying in Character

Every time I see that Anne Hathaway is trending, I get a little nervous. I saw the Vanity Fair headline "Anne Hathaway Remembers Meryl Streep Icing Her Out on The Devil Wears Prada Set" and I thought, oh god Anne Hathaway is going to die. You do not mess with Meryl Streep. Alas, she was only talking about how Streep stayed in character as the icy boss Miranda Priestly on an off the Devil Wears Prada set. It may sound a little weird, but Streep is not the only actor to stay in character for a role. Many actors are willing to go to extremes for their craft. Like these 12.

Daniel Day Lewis

When Daniel Day Lewis filmed My Left Foot , he refused to leave his wheelchair and even broke two ribs from slumping over so much. He only left his wheelchair in between marks when shooting, but even then he was carried. He also refused to eat unless he was spoon fed. To prepare for the role, Day Lewis spent eight weeks at a clinic for cerebral palsy patients. His dedication paid off: he won the Oscar for that role.

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Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger delivered a truly terrifying performance as the Joker in the Dark Knight. He channeled that madness the entire time he was onset, refusing to talk to people who did not address him in character. Given the nature of the role, this understandably worried people on the set. When his diary from the Batman era went public, many people linked his deep involvement with this role to his death via accidental overdose. But of course, that is just speculation.

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Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix earned a lot of critical acclaim playing Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, a role that he took very seriously. He refused to talk to people unless they address him as JR, Cash’s real name. Phoenix later said, ”I’m embarrassed about it now,” and that it made him seem like a ”f—ing idiot.” I imagine that was really awkward on the set, given that there were many film advisers and family members on the set who knew the actual Johnny Cash.

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Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet got a lot of attention for her Academy Award-winning role in The Reader. Aside from being naked in a bath tub the entire time, she had the perfect German accent. Winslet wanted he accent to sound as realistic as possible she she spoke in it during the entire time of production, not just between takes, but even at home. Looks like that paid off pretty well for her.

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Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams played icon Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn. She listened to recordings of Marilyn Monroe interviews and read books about the star. Williams even tried to perfect the Marilyn Monroe strut by putting a belt around her knees when she walked. Ouch, but good for her.

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Shia LaBeouf

Shia LaBeouf seems crazy, but maybe there’s a method to the madness? Method acting that is. To play a moonshine drunk in Lawless, LaBeouf drank moonshine and let his reaction be filmed. To portray a character on acid in The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, he actually took acid. LaBeouf even let cameras film him having sex for the movie Nymphomaniac. Wow, that is some commitment.

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Robert De Niro

As one of the best actors of all time, it is no shock that Robert De Niro is committed to his craft. To prepare for his role in Taxi Driver , De Niro got a taxi cab license and practiced being an actual cab driver. I wish this was during our reality TV days so I could watch fans react to seeing the actor behind the wheel.

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Adrien Brody

For the film The Pianist, Adrien Brody went to the extreme to get into character. He learned how to play piano, of course. But to understand the loss felt by his character, a Holocaust survivor, he gave up his girlfriend, his car, his apartment, his phone, and other material possessions before moving to Europe. This is all on top of losing so much weight that he looked emaciated. Thank god he won pretty much every award ever for that performance. I also wonder how his agent and girlfriend dealt with the separation.

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Hilary Swank

To prepare for her role in Boys Don’t Cry , Hilary Swank cut her hair and lived her life in character for a month prior to filming. She dressed and acted like a boy in public to see what it was like. This role got Swank her first Oscar and it was deservedly so.

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Chloe Sevigny

In the movie Brown Bunny, Chloe Sevigny had unsimulated oral sex on screen. This caused a major controversy for Sevigny. Was this method acting? I don’t even know.

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Sally Field

Sally Field worked with Daniel Day Lewis on the film Lincoln in an ultimate collaboration between method actors. Sally Field said, “Daniel and I work exactly the same way. I always stay in character. You can’t go in and out of it. You have to stay in it, talk with the accent, you have to stay there. I have always done that.” She seems to have a point; this level of commitment produces high quality work.

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Tom Hardy

Apparently, it wasn’t easy for Charlize Theron to work with Tom Hardy on Mad Max: Fury Road. Perez Hilton revealed that sources said Theron was uncomfortable with his method acting: ”Professionally, they are doing a wonderful job, but in-between takes, Tom likes to stay in character and is constantly talking to himself and mumbling things.” Supposedly, Theron tried to talk to him during breaks, but that did not go so well with him sticking to his character.

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