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15 Times Stars Took Method Acting Too Far

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For some actors, just looking the part isn't always enough. Here are several who took method acting to the extreme.

1. Adrien Brody // The Pianist (2002)

Brody dropped 30 pounds in order to portray Holocaust survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist, and actually learned to play piano, practicing four hours a day. After that, most actors would have called it a day. Instead, Brody decided he needed to feel as lost as Szpilman did after he was forced out of the life he knew: "I gave up my apartment, I sold my car, I disconnected the phones, and I left," Brody told the BBC. "I took two bags and my keyboard and moved to Europe." (Not surprisingly, his frustrated girlfriend at the time dumped him.) His sacrifices paid off in the form of a 2003 Oscar for Best Actor.

2. The cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)


The cast of the Best Picture-winning film, including Jack Nicholson, lived at the psychiatric ward where the movie was shot, interacting with real patients and undergoing group therapy sessions—some of which director Milos Forman filmed without their knowledge.

3. Sylvester Stallone // Rocky IV (1985)


While filming Rocky IV, Stallone asked co-star Dolph Lundgren—a.k.a. Ivan Drago—to try and "really" knock him out. "Bad idea," Stallone later recalled. "Later that night my blood pressure goes up to 260, I go to the hospital, they put me in an emergency jet, and fly me back to America. Next thing I know I’m in intensive care for five days with nuns walking around. He hit my heart so hard that it banged against my ribs and started to swell, and that usually happens in car accidents. So I was hit by a truck!”

4. Christian Bale // The Machinist (2004)


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The six-foot-tall Bale famously dropped 60 pounds to play a severe insomniac in this psychological thriller—and, within six weeks, gained it all back for his role in Batman Begins. His Machinist co-star Michael Ironside has suggested that Bale might not have gone to such extreme lengths had screenwriter Scott Kosar taken the time to alter his script. "The writer is only about five-foot-six, and he put his own weights in," Ironside said. "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."

5. Billy Bob Thornton // Sling Blade (1996)


Thornton depended on an unusual—and painful—method to nail his character Karl's signature shuffle: The actor placed crushed glass inside his shoes, forcing him to limp around. He earned an Oscar nomination for the role.

6. Val Kilmer // The Doors (1991)


To score the part of Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone's The Doors, Kilmer spent thousands of dollars producing an eight-minute music video of him singing the rocker's songs. Once he booked the gig, Kilmer memorized 50 Doors songs, and even (allegedly) wore Morrison's clothes and frequented his favorite Hollywood hangouts. The actor also spent hundreds of hours interrogating Paul Rothchild, a producer for the iconic rock band and a consultant on the film. At the end of production, Rothchild said that Kilmer "knows Jim Morrison better than Jim ever knew himself. He's nailed—to the extent that The Doors themselves had difficulty telling whether it was Val singing or Jim singing. Early on, I'd bring them into a recording studio and I randomly switched Val and Jim and they guessed wrong 80 percent of the time.''

7. Nicolas Cage // Birdy (1984)


In order to physically feel the pain his Vietnam vet character might have, Cage had a few teeth pulled—without anesthesia. He also spent five weeks with his face wrapped in bandages. "The reactions on the street were brutal," Cage told The Telegraph. "Men and women laughing, kids staring. And when I took the bandages off, my skin was all infected because of acne and ingrowing hairs."

8. Robert De Niro // Taxi Driver (1976)


De Niro actually got his cab driver's license while prepping for his role in the Martin Scorsese classic. The Oscar winner worked 12-hour shifts, and would reportedly pick up passengers around New York City during breaks from shooting.

9. Halle Berry // Jungle Fever (1991)


Berry was set on getting inside the head of the drug addict she played in Spike Lee's 1991 film. The actress visited a crack den as part of her research, and didn't bathe for two weeks. ''It's true,'' she told Wendy Williams in 2012. ''Ask Sam Jackson! He had to get a whiff of it.''

10. Jamie Dornan // The Fall (2013)

Dornan, who plays a serial killer on the chilling Netflix series, wanted to experience the thrill of the chase. So, "On the tube … I, like, followed a woman off the train one day to see what it felt like to pursue someone like that," Dornan has said. Keeping his distance, the actor followed her for several blocks.

11. & 12. Shia LaBeouf //The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman (2013) & Fury (2014)


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When LaBeouf heard that his Charlie Countryman character dropped acid during a scene, he wanted to make his big-screen portrayal of the act as realistic as possible. In order to prep, LaBeouf took LSD, filmed his trip, and sent the video off to co-star Evan Rachel Wood for feedback.

The day after he got his role as a WWII soldier in Fury, "I joined the U.S. National Guard," LaBeouf told Dazed magazine. "I was baptized—accepted Christ in my heart—tattooed my surrender and became a chaplain’s assistant to Captain Yates for the 41st infantry. I spent a month living on a forward operating base. Then I linked up with my cast and went to Fort Irwin. I pulled my tooth out, knifed my face up, and spent days watching horses die. I didn’t bathe for four months.”

13., 14. & 15. Daniel Day-Lewis // The Crucible (1996), Gangs of New York (2002) & Lincoln (2012)


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For his role in The Crucible, Day-Lewis committed to living on the set, which was a replica of a colonial village—meaning there was no electricity or running water. He also built his own 17th-century house, using only the tools America's settlers would have had available to them at the time.

The three-time Oscar-winner's devotion to his craft nearly cost him his health on Scorsese's Gangs of New York, when Day-Lewis refused to wear a modern-day winter coat on set during filming and caught pneumonia. (To portray Bill the Butcher, he also flew in a British butcher to teach him how to cut up carcasses. No big deal.)

For Lincoln, he refused to break character—period. Day-Lewis walked, talked, and even texted as Honest Abe, according to his co-star Sally Field. "I never met him. Never. I met him as Mr. Lincoln. He met me as Molly, as he called her," Field said. "After I got the role, there were seven months before we began to shoot and he would text me all the time, in character. I would have to then answer back in the language of the time, which was really hard to figure out, but great fun."

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Every New Movie, TV Series, and Special Coming to Netflix in May
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Netflix is making way for loads of laughs in its library in May, with a handful of original comedy specials (Steve Martin, Martin Short, Carol Burnett, Tig Notaro, and John Mulvaney will all be there), plus the long-awaited return of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Here’s every new movie, TV series, and special making its way to Netflix in May.

MAY 1

27: Gone Too Soon

A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana

Amelie

Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures: Season 1

Beautiful Girls

Darc

God's Own Country

Hachi: A Dog's Tale

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous Live at Radio City

Mr. Woodcock

My Perfect Romance

Pocoyo & Cars

Pocoyo & The Space Circus

Queens of Comedy: Season 1

Reasonable Doubt

Red Dragon

Scream 2

Shrek

Simon: Season 1

Sliding Doors

Sometimes

The Bourne Ultimatum

The Carter Effect

The Clapper

The Reaping

The Strange Name Movie

Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V: Season 2

MAY 2

Jailbreak

MAY 4

A Little Help with Carol Burnett

Anon

Busted!: Season 1

Dear White People: Volume 2

End Game

Forgive Us Our Debts

Kong: King of the Apes: Season 2

Manhunt

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Tina Fey

No Estoy Loca

The Rain: Season 1

MAY 5

Faces Places

MAY 6

The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale

MAY 8

Desolation

Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives

MAY 9

Dirty Girl

MAY 11

Bill Nye Saves the World: Season 3

Evil Genius: the True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist

Spirit Riding Free: Season 5

The Kissing Booth

The Who Was? Show: Season 1

MAY 13

Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife

MAY 14

The Phantom of the Opera

MAY 15

Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce: Season 4

Grand Designs: Seasons 13 - 14

Only God Forgives

The Game 365: Seasons 15 - 16

MAY 16

89

Mamma Mia!

The 40-Year-Old Virgin

The Kingdom

Wanted

MAY 18

Cargo

Catching Feelings

Inspector Gadget: Season 4

MAY 19

Bridge to Terabithia

Disney’s Scandal: Season 7

Small Town Crime

MAY 20

Some Kind of Beautiful

MAY 21

Señora Acero: Season 4

MAY 22

Mob Psycho 100: Season 1

Shooter: Season 2

Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 2

Tig Notaro Happy To Be Here

MAY 23

Explained

MAY 24

Fauda: Season 2

Survivors Guide to Prison

MAY 25

Ibiza

Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life

The Toys That Made Us: Season 2

Trollhunters: Part 3

MAY 26

Sara's Notebook

MAY 27

The Break with Michelle Wolf

MAY 29

Disney·Pixar's Coco

MAY 30

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 4

MAY 31

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Howard Stern

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20 Best Docuseries You Can Stream Right Now
A scene from Wild Wild Country (2018)
A scene from Wild Wild Country (2018)
Netflix

If your main interests are true crime and cooking, you’re in the middle of a Renaissance Age. The Michelangelos of nonfiction are consistently bringing stellar storytelling to twisty tales of murder and mayhem as well as luxurious shots of food prepared by the most creative culinary minds.

But these aren’t the only genres that documentary series are tackling. There’s a host of history, arts, travel, and more at your streaming fingertips. When you want to take a break from puzzling out who’s been wrongfully imprisoned, that is.

Here are the 20 best docuseries to watch right now, so start streaming.

1. WILD WILD COUNTRY (2018)

What happens when an Indian guru with thousands of American followers sets up shop near a small town in Oregon with the intent to create a commune? Incredibly sourced, this documentary that touches on every major civic issue—from religious liberty to voting rights—should be your new obsession. When you choose a side, be prepared to switch. Multiple times.

Where to watch it: Netflix

2. FLINT TOWN (2018)

If your heart is broken by what’s going on in Flint, Michigan, be prepared to have that pain magnified and complicated. The filmmakers behind this provocative series were embedded with police in Flint to offer us a glimpse at the area’s local struggles and national attention from November 2015 through early 2017.

Where to watch it: Netflix

3. MAKERS: WOMEN WHO MAKE AMERICA (2013)

Narrated by Meryl Streep, this three-part series covers a half-century of American experience from the earliest days of second-wave feminism through Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court nomination in the 1990s. Ellen DeGeneres, Condoleezza Rice, Sally Ride, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and more are featured, and the series got six more episodes in a second season.

Where to watch it: Makers.com

4. THE JINX (2015)

After the massive success of Serial in 2014, a one-two punch of true crime docuseries landed the following year. One was the immensely captivating study of power, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, which chronicled the bizarre, tangled web of the real estate mogul who was suspected of several murders. The show, which could be measured in jaw-drops per hour, both registered real life and uniquely affected it.

Where to watch it: HBO

5. MAKING A MURDERER (2015)

The second major true crime phenom of 2015 was 10 years in the making. Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos uncovered the unthinkable story of Steven Avery, a man wrongfully convicted of sexual assault who was later convicted of murdering a different woman, Teresa Halbach. Not just a magnifying glass on the justice system and a potential small town conspiracy, it’s also a display of how stories can successfully get our blood boiling.

Where to watch it: Netflix

6. WORMWOOD (2017)

Speaking of good conspiracies: documentary titan Errol Morris turns his keen eye to a CIA project that’s as famous as it is unknown—MKUltra. A Cold War-era mind control experiment. LSD and hypnosis. The mysterious death of a scientist. His son’s 60-year search for answers. Morris brings his incisive eye to the hunt.

Where to watch it: Netflix

7. FIVE CAME BACK (2017)

Based on Mark Harris’s superlative book, this historical doc features filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro discussing the WWII-era work of predecessors John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. Also narrated by Meryl Streep, it looks at how the war shaped the directors and how they shaped the war. As a bonus, Netflix has the war-time documentaries featured in the film available to stream.

Where to watch it: Netflix

8. THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY (2011)

If you can’t afford film school, and your local college won’t let you audit any more courses, Mark Cousins’s 915-minute history is the next best thing. Unrivaled in its scope, watching it is like having a charming encyclopedia discuss its favorite movies. Yes, at 15-episodes it’s sprawling, so, yes, you should watch it all in one go. Carve out a weekend and be ready to take notes on all the movies you want to watch afterward.

Where to watch it: Sundance Now

9. UGLY DELICIOUS (2018)

David Chang, the host of the first season of The Mind of a Chef, has returned with a cultural mash-up disguised as a foodie show. What does it mean for pizza to be “authentic”? What do Korea and the American South have in common? With his casual charm in tow, Chang and a variety of special guests explore people through the food we love to eat as an artifact that brings us all together.

Where to watch it: Netflix

10. JAZZ (2000)

A legend of nonfiction, Ken Burns has more than a few docuseries available to stream, including long-form explorations of the Civil War and baseball. His 10-episode series on jazz exhaustively tracks nearly a century of the formation and evolution of the musical style across the United States. You’ll wanna mark off a big section of the calendar and crank up the volume.

Where to watch it: Amazon

11. THE STAIRCASE (2004)

In 2001, author Michael Peterson reported to police that his wife had died after falling down a set of stairs, but police didn’t buy the story and charged him with her murder. Before the current true crime boom, before Serial and all the rest, there was Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s Peabody Award-winning docuseries following Peterson’s winding court case. The mystery at the heart of the trial and the unparalleled access Lestrade had to Peterson’s defense make this a must-see. (Netflix just announced that it will be releasing three new episodes of the series this summer.)

Where to watch it: Sundance Now

12. PLANET EARTH II (2016)

The sequel to the 2006 original is a real stunner. Narrated (naturally) by Sir David Attenborough, featuring music from Hans Zimmer, and boasting gorgeous photography of our immeasurably fascinating planet, this follow-up takes us through different terrains to see the life contained within. There are snow leopards in the mountains, a swimming sloth in the islands, and even langurs in our own urban jungle. Open your eyes wide to learn a lot or put it on in the background to zen out.

Where to watch it: Netflix

13. THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA (2009)

The cheapest way to visit Yosemite, Yellowstone, Muir Woods, and more. This Emmy-winning, six-part series is both a travelogue and a history lesson in conservation that takes up the argument of why these beautiful places should be preserved: to quote President Roosevelt, “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

Where to watch it: Amazon

14. CONFLICT (2015)

Experience the too-often-untold stories of conflict zones through the lenses of world class photographers like Nicole Tung, Donna Ferraro, and João Silva. This heart-testing, bias-obliterating series is unique in its views into dark places and eye toward hope.

Where to watch it: Netflix

15. LAST CHANCE U (2016)

Far more than a sports documentary, the story of the players at East Mississippi Community College will have you rooting for personal victories as much as the points on the scoreboard. Many of the outstanding players on the squad lost spots at Division I schools because of disciplinary infractions or failing academics, so they’re seeking redemption in a program that wants them to return to the big-name schools. There are two full seasons to binge and a third on the way.

Where to watch it: Netflix

16. VICE (2013)

Currently in its sixth season, the series is known for asking tough questions that need immediate answers and giving viewers a street-level view of everything from killing cancer to juvenile justice reform. Its confrontational style of gonzo provocation won’t be everyone’s cup of spiked tea, but it’s filling an important gap that used to be filled by major network investigative journalists. When they let their subjects—from child soldiers suffering PTSD after fighting for ISIS to coal miners in Appalachia—tell their stories, nonfiction magic happens.

Where to watch it: HBO

17. CHEF’S TABLE (2015)

From David Gelb, the documentarian behind Jiro Dreams of Sushi, this doc series is a backstage pass to the kitchens of the world’s most elite chefs. The teams at Osteria Francescana, Blue Hill, Alinea, Pujol, and more open their doors to share their process, culinary creativity, and, of course, dozens of delicious courses. No shame in licking your screen.

Where to watch it: Netflix

18. NOBU’S JAPAN (2014)

For those looking to learn more about culture while chowing down, world-renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa guides guest chefs to different regions of Japan to ingest the sights, sounds, and spirits of the area before crafting a dish inspired by the journey. History is the main course, with a healthy dash of culinary invention that honors tradition.

Where to watch it: Sundance Now

19. THE SYSTEM (2014)

Should a jury decide if a child is sentenced to life in jail without parole? How can you go to jail for 20 years for shooting your gun inside your own home to deter thieves? These are just two of the questions examined by this knockout series about the conflicts, outdated methods, and biases lurking in America’s criminal justice system. Insightful and infuriating, it makes a strong companion to Ava DuVernay’s 13th.

Where to watch it: Al Jazeera and Sundance Now

20. BOBBY KENNEDY FOR PRESIDENT (2018)

It won’t be available until April 27 (so close!), but it’s well worth adding to your queue. This four-part series utilizes a wealth of footage, including unseen personal videos, to share the tragic story of Robert F. Kennedy’s run for president in the context of an era riven by racial strife. Watching this socio-political memorial told by many who were there (including Marian Wright and Congressman John Lewis), it will be impossible not to draw connections to the current day and wonder: What if?

Where to watch it: Netflix

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