7 weird methods actors have used to portray their iconic characters

7. Bill Skarsgård: Soda Water, burping, and Pennywise

In an interview with Variety’s Playback podcast, Bill Skarsgård opened up about how he prepared for his role as Stephen King’s iconic shape-shifting monster, Pennywise, in the film ‘IT’.

According to the actor, in order to become his own version of every child’s worst nightmare, he chugged copious amounts of soda water so that his voice would take on an ominous burpy and croaky sound. In fact, he chugged so much of the carbonated beverage that his stomach began to act up – leading to the perfect shot for the iconic drain scene.

“I was drinking a lot of soda water because I wanted involuntary burps to come up and it does something to your voice too. So I was chugging soda water to get those kinds of involuntary things,” said Skarsgård.

“…my stomach started acting up and weird, and I’m like oh no this doesn’t feel good at all. And we were at the end of the day and I knew we’ve gotten some good stuff but I didn’t feel like I had nailed the whole thing.  I was feeling uncomfortable, sweaty and dizzy, and I had been doing the scene so many times. We had it all set up, we move in closer and Andy [director: Andy Muschietti] wanted the closest setup and we start shooting it. And that take is 90% of what you see in the film. Because something happened there where I completely lost myself in the performance, I didn’t think of anything and the burps just started happening when they should and everything just started going perfectly. And the minute before I felt like I was going to shit my pants or something because I felt so strange and my stomach was so upset. “

The actor also admitted that he took some Pennywise inspiration from the animal kingdom, by borrowing characteristics from hyenas and bears.

6. Michael C. Hall: following people who walk alone for Dexter 

In an interview with Vulture, Michael C. Hall (who plays the titular character Dexter in the bloody Showtime series) revealed that he followed strangers in order to get into the mindset of a serial killer.

“[Laughs.] I pretended to stalk people. I wasn’t actively stalking people, but I did follow them. If there was somebody alone, I’d follow them around, just to see what it felt like — no syringe, though. Maybe go down on the subway and stay a car away. Try not to get noticed, just to see what it felt like,” said Hall

The character Dexter is well known for his murderous vigilantism, where he takes the law into his own hands by slicing into other murderers.

When asked by Vulture if he ever got caught following people, Hall replied:

No. I never got caught. I know! [Laughs.] The key was distance: Don’t get too close, and if you feel like you might be spotted, relocate, cross the street. It was pretty easy, especially if it’s the busy part of the day. I learned if you’re out and about, you’re probably being followed by someone — so don’t go down those deserted alleyways! It was kind of creepy. I creeped myself out.

5. Cara Delevingne: getting naked in the woods for Suicide Squad 

In an interview with W Magazine, Cara Delevingne revealed how she scored the role of the mystical ‘Enchantress’ in the hyped-film Suicide Squad – and what she did afterwards. (Spoiler: it involves nudity, woods, and howling like a wolf.)

“…I met the director, David Ayer, at a hotel in London on a dark and stormy night. He didn’t tell me anything about the movie. Instead, he showed me pictures of these amazing, enlightened, powerful, but very evil women. He spoke to me about addiction and mental illness, which are things I find very, very interesting. The next time I met David was at his house in L.A. He asked me to read a scene from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I love that play and had acted in it at school when I was 17, so I was excited. Somehow, when we were doing the scene, I became livid. I hadn’t felt rage like that in years. And then I got the part! There still wasn’t a script, but David asked me to go and try and find a forest and, if it was a full moon, get naked and walk through the woods with my feet in the mud, which I did. There wasn’t a full moon, but I howled like a wolf. It would have been really funny if someone had seen me.”

While Suicide Squad received its fair share of negative reviews, there is no denying that Delevingne went to pretty impressive and potentially embarrassing lengths to get ready for her role.

4.  Christian Bale: looses weight for The Machinist

To prepare for his role in the 2004 thriller The Machinist, Christian Bale risked his life, loosing a sickly amount of weight. The actor shed 63 pounds (28 kg), with his total weight plummeting to a shocking 121 pounds (54 kg).

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Michael Ironside revealed that Bale’s dramatic weight-loss was due to a typo.

According to the interview, the writer behind ‘The Machinist’ had written the part for someone significantly shorter but hadn’t adjusted the weight description in the script to reflect Bale’s six-foot stature — while Bale didn’t need to loose the weight, he was raring to take on a challenge.

“The writer is only about five-foot-six, and he put his own weights in,” Ironside told host Ricky Camilleri. “And then Chris did the film and Chris said, ‘No, don’t change the weights. I want to see if I make them.’ … So those weights he writes on the bathroom wall in the film are his actual weights in the film.”

3. Jared Leto: Gifts a dead pig and used condoms for his role as The Joker

It is no secret that Jared Leto is a method actor, but his on-set behaviour reached a whole new level of weird as he became The Joker in Suicide Squad. According to Leto’s Suicide Squad cast members, the star used questionable techniques and weird on-set behaviour to get into character, staying in his villainous persona the entire time.

According to Will Smith, the pair worked together for sixth months but never really spoke, “I’ve only ever met the Joker!”. While staying in character isn’t odd, Leto also reportedly used the role as an opportunity to send his cast members some really weird gifts, including giving Margot Robbie a live rat.

“At first I thought this was disgusting. But then after that… I was like, I’m not going to kill him,” Robbie told Jimmy Fallon. “So I ended up keeping him as a pet. I ended up getting him like a sweet little playpen, a slide, a hammock, and a leash because I wanted to take him to set and walk him around… But then our landlord at the place I was staying found out.” 

In addition to gifting live rodents, he sent his cast members, a dead pig, used condoms, anal beads and ‘nudie magazines’.

“He did some bad things, Jared Leto did. He gave some really horrific gifts,” said co-star Viola Davis to Vanity Fair. “He had a henchman who would come into the rehearsal room, and the henchman came in with a dead pig and plopped it on the table, and then he walked out. And that was our introduction into Jared Leto.”

2. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams: become a fake family for Blue Valentine 

In the 2010 independent drama, Blue Valentine, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams went above and beyond to make their on-screen fading relationship feel realistic, by sharing a home together and even celebrating fake holidays.

In the film Blue Valentine, Gosling and Williams play a married couple whose relationship has eroded over time. Once madly in love, the couple must decide whether they should try and make their relationship work.

“During the month, we tried to dismantle this thing that we had been building,” Gosling tells Fresh Air. “[Originally,] we all worked really hard to create this love story portion, when they’re falling in love. We wanted it to feel genuine and real and true. And we spent all of this time building it up, and then we had to tear it down.” “We also celebrated fake Christmas and put up Christmas trees, and baked birthday cakes and bought birthday presents, and went to Sears,” Gosling says. “We fought all day, and then we’d have to take [our characters’ daughter] Faith to the family fun park … whatever we could do to create real memories, so when it came time to shoot the [last] part of the film, we were drawing on real memories.”

1. Adrien Brody: Starving himself, Dumping his girlfriend, and giving up his possessions for The Pianist 

In possibly one of the most gruelling transformation processes of all time, Adrien Brody tested both his physical and mental health. 

“I gave up my apartment, I sold my car, I disconnected the phones, and I left,” he says. “I took two bags and my keyboard and moved to Europe.”

But giving up his personal belongings was only one step on his intense journey. The actor also broke up with his then-girlfriend and lost 30 pounds (13.6kg) through self-starvation.

“There is an emptiness that comes with really starving that I hadn’t experienced,” he says.”I couldn’t have acted that without knowing it. I’ve experienced loss, I’ve experienced sadness in my life, but I didn’t know the desperation that comes with hunger.”

The intensity of his transformation stuck with the Brody for quite some time after filming, causing him to slip into year-long depression.

“For a good year after, I was probably seriously depressed,” He told The Guardian.”There were severe transitions that I put myself through physically and emotionally… I shot it when I was 27, and that was my real awakening and entrance into adulthood, that responsibility, and awareness of my own good fortune that I had taken for granted.”

For those of you who have yet to see The Pianist, the film follows a Polish Jewish musician struggling to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II.

What are your favourite character transformation stories? 

Like it? Share with your friends!

7 weird methods actors have used to portray their iconic characters

log in

Become a part of our community!

reset password

Back to
log in
Choose A Format
Personality quiz
Series of questions that intends to reveal something about the personality
Trivia quiz
Series of questions with right and wrong answers that intends to check knowledge
Voting to make decisions or determine opinions
Formatted Text with Embeds and Visuals
The Classic Internet Listicles
Open List
Open List
Ranked List
Ranked List
Upload your own images to make custom memes
Youtube, Vimeo or Vine Embeds
Soundcloud or Mixcloud Embeds
Photo or GIF
GIF format