VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu
WRITTEN BY: Don Ekama
Sometimes an actor gets so close to a character that they're never the same. Welcome to MsMojo, for this list, we'll be looking at the most daunting movie performances that deeply traumatized actors and left them with lasting scars. Our countdown includes Janet Leigh, Dakota Johnson, Jim Carrey, and more!
Top 10 Actors Who Were Never the Same After a Role
Welcome to MsMojo, for this list, we’ll be looking at the most daunting movie performances that deeply traumatized actors and left them with lasting scars.
#10: Jim Carrey
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000)
Today, Ron Howard’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is a classic holiday movie, thanks in large part to Jim Carrey’s captivating performance as the titular creature. However, getting into make-up for the character was so grueling that it nearly made Carrey quit. On the first day of shooting, the process reportedly took eight-and-a-half hours, which sent Carrey into a violent rage and made him ask to be fired. His increasing frustration affected the crew, leading his personal make-up artist to temporarily quit. In the end, a specialist experienced in training CIA operatives was brought in to help Carrey cope. The arduous process clearly wasn’t in vain, as the film eventually won the Academy Award for Best Makeup.
#9: Dakota Johnson
After rising to prominence with the provocative “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy, Dakota Johnson landed the lead role in Luca Guadagnino’s “Suspiria” remake. Johnson played Susie, a young American woman obsessed with a German dance school who gradually discovers their dark secrets. As bizarre as the 2018 film was, the production process proved equally demanding. Johnson revealed that the role was so taxing that she had to seek therapy after filming concluded. Surprisingly, the impact wasn’t solely psychological, it was apparently also physical. Johnson recounted that during the shooting, they had to stay in an abandoned hotel which was rigged with telephone poles, leaving them at constant risk of electric shock.
#8: Bob Hoskins
“Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988)
Helmed by visionary director Robert Zemeckis, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” was groundbreaking for its seamless blend of live-action and animation. Playing the lead human role, Bob Hoskins was required to interact with cartoon characters that were non-existent during shooting. He apparently had to hallucinate the toons in order to give a believable performance. Despite the impressive on-screen outcome, this process significantly affected Hoskins. The toll was so great that the actor continued to experience hallucinations long after filming concluded, leading him to take a year-long hiatus from acting. This might have contributed to Hoskins’ initial reluctance to sign on for a proposed sequel to the movie, before he passed away in 2014.
#7: Jim Caviezel
“The Passion of the Christ” (2004)
Even before filming on “The Passion of the Christ” began, Jim Caviezel knew that the role would have lasting consequences. Just after securing the lead, director Mel Gibson reportedly tried to talk Caviezel out of it, saying it would hurt his career. Apparently, Gibson’s concerns were valid. According to Caviezel, his opportunities in Hollywood dwindled after “The Passion of the Christ” was released, leaving him feeling shunned by the industry. But the repercussions weren’t confined to his career alone, Caviezel’s physical health also suffered. During production, he reportedly endured a dislocated shoulder, lightning strike and even suffered hypothermia and pneumonia. Despite facing these challenges in the first film, Caviezel has committed to a sequel.
#6: Adrien Brody
“The Pianist” (2002)
For his remarkable turn as Polish composer Władysław Szpilman in “The Pianist,” Adrien Brody became the youngest person to win the Oscar for Best Actor. But all of that acclaim seemed to come at a price. Brody has been very open about the transformation he underwent to portray the part. He reportedly relinquished his apartment and car, isolated himself from society and lost 30 pounds. These sacrifices took a toll on him - both physically and emotionally - leaving Brody grappling with depression for about a year after production wrapped. As a result, the actor turned down the lead role in Werner Herzog’s “Rescue Dawn,” which eventually went to Christian Bale, as he didn’t think he had fully recovered.
#5: Janet Leigh
Arguably one of the most recognizable moments in movie history, the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” has given many nightmares. But it may surprise you to know that even some involved in making the film were haunted by it, notably Janet Leigh. The actress admitted that after watching the gory scene, it had such a profound impact on her that she stopped taking showers. Perhaps fearing a reenactment by another knife-wielding, wig-wearing motel owner, Leigh switched to taking only baths. When that option wasn’t available, she would take extra precautions like ensuring the doors were locked and keeping the shower curtain open. Considering the circumstances, we can’t say we blame her. Better safe than sorry.
#4: Bill Skarsgård
Bill Skarsgård had big shoes to fill when he signed on to play Pennywise in the 2017 adaptation of Stephen King’s “It”. The Swedish actor fully immersed himself in the role, delivering a chilling performance that won significant acclaim. However, even after taking off the clown costume, it appears Pennywise lingered in Skarsgård’s psyche. The actor admitted he struggled to detach from the character, which he referred to as his most physically and mentally exhausting up to that point. Strikingly, Pennywise repeatedly haunted his dreams after filming, morphing into different forms every night. If Skarsgård aimed to permanently free himself of the character’s grasp, perhaps stepping right back into its shoes for the sequel wasn’t the best approach.
#3: Shelley Duvall
“The Shining” (1980)
When Stanley Kubrick personally selected Shelley Duvall for his adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Shining,” little did she know the lasting impact it would have on her life. Throughout the lengthy shoot, Duvall and Kubrick continuously sparred, as the director relentlessly pushed her way beyond her limits in pursuit of an authentic performance. Perhaps most infamous was the grueling baseball bat scene, which demanded a record-breaking 127 takes from Duvall. The then-young actress was under so much pressure that she would cry everyday just thinking about what was ahead and eventually began losing her hair. Even decades after the 56-week shoot concluded, Duvall still seems to carry the scars with her.
#2: Isabelle Adjani
Andrzej Żuławski’s 1981 psychological horror “Possession” stars Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill as a couple whose failing marriage unveils a series of sinister truths. The role won Adjani her first César Award, as well as the Best Actress title at the Cannes Film Festival. Despite this success, Adjani considers herself a survivor for making it through the production alive. Especially considering that she allegedly tried to take her own life after the film was released. But even after surviving that attempt, it still took Adjani years before she was finally free from the shackles of the character, Anna. Even her co-star Sam Neill has admitted that he “only just escaped that film with my sanity barely intact”.
#1: Heath Ledger
“The Dark Knight” (2008)
Fans were excited when “The Dark Knight,” the second installment in Christopher Nolan’s superhero trilogy hit theaters in July of 2008. But sadly, not everyone involved in bringing the film to life would live to see its release. Just six months prior, Heath Ledger, who starred as the Joker, passed on from an accidental drug overdose. It’s been widely reported that Ledger went down a deep, dark hole to accurately portray what he referred to as a “psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy”. The process reportedly led him to suffer from insomnia and develop a reliance on sleeping pills. Ultimately, it was a combination of sedatives and prescription drugs that led to Ledger’s untimely death.
What acting role were YOU never the same after watching? Let us know in the comments below.