I know how to analyze or direct movies at a certain level. I have no idea how actors and actress’s do what they do, particularly on a professional level both on stage as well as at the movies. Some simply have it while others fall into the perfect role. As I always say, never blame actors if the movie is piss poor. It is on the producers and directors. Some times an actor goes hard in the paint and recreates themselves. Here are 10 Performances by Actors Who Went to Extremes. This list is about recreating ones self from top to bottom. No rating of the overall film here.
10. Christian Bale (“The Machinist”) 2004:
Several actors/actresses have gotten skinny for a movie. Christian Bale went crazy with how emaciated he was able to become. for “The Machinist”. Bale plays an industrial worker who has not been able to sleep for more than a year. The secret behind his insomnia involves an extreme tragedy that his character Trevor does not know how to overcome. Seeing Bale shirtless is so alarming as the man looks like a skeleton while cooking in his apartment kitchen. “The Machinist” is not a masterpiece by any means, but Christian Bale buys into the character far beyond what an actor should be expected to do.
9. Charlize Theron (“Monster”) 2003:
Charlize Theron is a classical Hollywood beauty. One certainly could not decipher that after seeing “Monster”. Based on a true story, Theron plays real life serial killer Aileen Waurnos, a Daytona Beach prostitute struggling to survive as she is picked up underneath bridges. A switch flips in Waurnos’ head as she goes on a killing spree of a-holes who pick up women on the side of the road for a BJ. Charlize looks nothing like her ‘GOING TO THE OSCARS’ self and embraces this character full tilt. Brilliant performance.
8. Robert DeNiro (“Raging Bull”) 1980:
When it comes to biopics, rarely does an actor holistically embody a historic figure. Robert DeNiro did just that when he won an Oscar portraying legendary boxer Jake LaMotta in Martin Scorsese’s black & white biopic. DeNiro went through far more than gaining/losing weight. His three boxing scenes in which the camera continues to get closer per match are claustrophobic and the actors are truly hitting each other. Robert was really hitting his co-stars played by Cathy Moriarty (his wife) and Joe Pesci (his brother), throughout the course of this phenomenal masterpiece. The icing on the cake is when DeNiro is arrested and he literally hits his hands into a concrete wall until they are bleeding. Was not a Hollywood trick, ‘Bobby D’ actually did that. Talk about committing.
7. Emmanuelle Rivera (“Amour”) 2012:
Trying to portray what going through amnesia on screen is a tall task. The disease is complex beyond science. Perhaps the best interoperation I have seen at the cinema is legendary French actress Emmanuelle Rivera with her turn in “Amour” An old couple has lived a full life together as husband and wife. Husband Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is watching the love of his life slowly fall into the final black hole of her life. Rivera puts on an amazing yet quiet performance, highlighted by one of the best piano solos ever. The moment her character just freezes is utterly amazing.
6. Denis Lavant (“Holy Mptprs”) 2012:
French performance artist Denis Levant does some of the most surreal artistic work in the world that is part of the new millennium. Levant’s apex at this point has got to be “Holy Motors”. A surreal trip through all facets of movie making, “Holy Motors” has a brand new adventure every 10 minutes. From strange CGI green screen sequences to musical numbers, Levant goes through the gamut of the history of film. My personal favorite sequence is the ‘Entreacte’ in which a full band is lead by a man armed with an accordion. “Holy Motors” is something else, and it would not be possible without the work of Denis Levant.
5. Natalie Portman (“Jackie”) 2016:
Capturing a historical character is a unique challenge. To play one so famous, yet so enigmatic, is especially tough. In Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jacqueline Kennedy, she transforms herself, captures every nuance of the famous First Lady as she deals with her husband’s assassination. “Jackie” not only kept things together, but led a nation thru their own horror and grief to securing her husband’s legacy. Portman certainly captures that level of class in the film.
4. Heath Ledger (“The Dark Knight”) 2008:
Everybody thought Heath Ledger was going to be a terrible choice for ‘The Joker’ in the second installment of director Christopher Nolan’s recreation of the ‘Batman’ series. Welp, all of us were unbelievably wrong. Ledger went full tilt with his interpretation of the famous villain. From the opening heist to his sliding down a pile of money, it was clear Ledger’s version of the purple guy that wears makeup was no joke, pun intended. All one has to do is watch the interrogation scene with him and Batman and the obvious brilliance is clear.
3. Tom Hanks (“Cast Away”) 2000
How Tom Hanks did not win his third Oscar for this one is beyond me. “Cast Away” is essentially a one-man show with Hanks stranded on a deserted island after a FedEx plane goes down. The only thing keeping his character going is a bloody volleyball, with a handprint, named ‘Wilson’. Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis decided to spend a year between filming in order for Tom to grow a Gandalf style beard and lose forty pounds. The weight loss is not the key with “Castaway”. Hanks makes this movie a classic in his portrayal of what being stranded would truly be like.
2. Gary Oldman (“Sid and Nancy”) 1986:
Few actors can pull off being a true chameleon. Gary Oldman is one such performer. So many different portrayals Oldman has had, including his Oscar winning performance playing Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour”. For me, I go way back to his portrayal to his take on the legendary punk rocker in “Sid and Nancy”. Oldman is able to find the brilliance that was Sid Vicious from The Sex Pistols while also keeping some form of sanity along the way. Similar to many rock stars, Vicious was a drug addict nutcase. Oldman portrays the genius with a level of humanity that normal people can at least attempt to accept.
1. Daniel Day-Lewis (“My Left Foot”) 1989:
Talk about method acting. Daniel Day-Lewis is the greatest method actor of my millennial lifetime. He is my Marlon Brando. Good or bad movie wise, Day-Lewis always goes all in. Hard to top “My Left Foot”. Based on the true story of Irish painter Christy Brown, Day-Lewis plays a child savant painter who is unable to use his hands due to cerebral palsy. Somehow this amazing man figures out how to paint. That would be with his foot. Daniel Day-Lewis goes to extremes here as he is literally crawling up and down stairwells with getting into the bed becoming a task. Still, the mind is there and the genius cannot be contained.