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20 Most Extreme Movie Performances Of All Time

03 July 2013 | Features, Other Lists | by David Zou

extreme movie performances

If you have seen any Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro or Daniel Day-Lewis movies, you know what method acting is. It’s a technique first developed by Lee Strasberg that encourages actors to use personal experiences to identify with their characters.

Here are 20 of the most extreme cases of actors completely submerging themselves for a role, making the rest of our work ethics seem “just okay” by comparison.


20. Black Swan


The Movie: Mind-bending ballet flick that nabbed Natalie Portman an Oscar.

The Extreme Performance: A press furore engulfed Portman’s transformation into a ballerina for Darren Aronofsky’s dark drama, as her dance doubles claimed they did most of the work. Still, there’s no doubting the actress’ dedication – she lost 20lb for the role, swam a mile a day, dislocated a rib during filming and underwent exhaustive ballet training.


19. The Pianist


The Movie: War-torn Oscar-winner about a Polish Jewish musician.

The Extreme Performance: Adrien Brody netted himself an Oscar for the torture he endured losing weight for The Pianist. “I had to go on a pretty extreme diet in which I lost 30 pounds in about 6 weeks,” he says. “I’m about 6’1! and I was pretty slim at 160, so it was a pretty startling transformation.”


18. Boys Don’t Cry


The Movie: Romantic drama about Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank), a man born in a woman’s body.

The Extreme Performance: Before she went tough as a boxer, Swank spent a whole month living as a man in preparation for Boys Don’t Cry. She taped her chest down and put socks in her trousers to achieve the desired effect.


17. Bridget Jones’s Diary


The Movie: Romantic drama, inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, about a lonely London singleton.

The Extreme Performance: Stick-thin Renée Zellweger immersed herself so much in the role of Bridget Jones that as well as gaining 25lb for the role, she took a job at a publishing house in Britain. She used an alias, apparently went unrecognized, and kept a picture of then-beau Jim Carrey on her desk. Creepy.

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  • Lee Canestrini

    No Joaquin Phoenix? No Michael Fassbender?

  • Tim Green

    where the fuck is pee-wee Herman?

  • Iam_Sparticus

    Felicity Huffman in Trans America playing a man wanting to switch to a woman. She lowered her voice an octave and utilized a prosthetic penis.