The Witches (1990)
The Movie: Creepy Roald Dahl adaptation, with Anjelica Huston on terrifying form as a child-hating hex-hurler.
The Extreme Performance: Huston shows us beauty really is only skin deep, enduring horrendous prosthetics to transform into the Grand High Witch – warts and all. Wonder if it’s a comment on surface-level beauty in Hollywood?
Patch Adams (1998)
The Movie: Wretched family drama about a joy-spreading doctor who helped patients by making them laugh..
The Extreme Performance: Not just extremely annoying, but also extremely well-researched, as it happens. Robin Williams helped prepare for his role by spending months performing as a clown for sick children. We almost feel guilty we hate the movie.
Jungle Fever (1991)
The Movie: A married architect’s affair is exposed, prompting different reactions from his family and friends.
The Extreme Performance: Halle Berry made her debut as a crack addict in Spike Lee’s gritty drama. We’re not sure how many friends she made on set, though – to get into character she decided not to wash for two weeks. Phew.
The Movie: Biographical comedy about criminal Mark ‘Chopper’ Read, based on his own memoirs.
The Extreme Performance: Eric Bana’s usually svelte form disappeared under a fair amount of extra weight for Chopper . He piled on the pounds with a little help from junk food, which he chowed down on for four weeks.
The Godfather Part II (1974)
The Movie: Francis Ford Coppola’s superior second Godfather film, set in 1920s New York.
The Extreme Performance: Robert De Niro, one of the most reliably extreme actors of his generation, spent four months learning to speak the Sicilian dialect for the film. Which beats having your teeth busted in.
Music Of The Heart (1999)
The Movie: A schoolteacher takes it upon herself to teach Harlem kids how to play the violin.
The Extreme Performance: Extremely time-consuming if nothing else. Meryl Streep practiced the violin for six hours a day over eight weeks for the film.
Mrs Doubtfire (1993)
The Movie: Family comedy starring Robin Williams as the titular house keeper, who’s actually a man.
The Extreme Performance: Robin Williams transforms himself into a pension-grabbing nanny, boobs and all. It took over four hours of prosthetic-applying to accomplish. Apparently Williams tested out the credibility of the costume by going into an adult bookstore and buying something smutty – without even raising an eyebrow.
Dr Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)
The Movie: Stanley Kubrick’s much-loved comedy about a mad general who attempts to orchestrate a nuclear holocaust.
The Extreme Performance: Or, more specifically, performances. Peter Sellers turned himself into a living legend by taking on numerous iconic characters in this classic – something he’d tested out beforehand in 1959’s The Mouse That Roared.
The Movie: Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) is fired from his firm when it’s revealed he has AIDS, prompting him to file a lawsuit.
The Extreme Performance: Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington went in different directions weight-wise for Philadelphia . Hanks starved himself in order to lose almost 30lb. Meanwhile, Washington was asked to put on a bit of extra flab – and would taunt Hanks by scoffing chocolate bars in front of him.
The Crucible (1996)
The Movie: Based on the Arthur Miller play about a 17 century woman who’s accused of being a witch.
The Extreme Performance: Anti-Method man Daniel Day-Lewis skipped over rub-on tattoos and just went ahead and got some real ones for this performance. Doesn’t he know tattoos are for life, not just for movies?
Man On The Moon (1999)
The Movie: Biographical comedy about stand-up funnyman Andy Kaufman.
The Extreme Performance: Jim Carrey went from Pet Detective to personality defective in this biopic, staying in character as Andy Kaufman for the whole filming schedule. Not everybody enjoyed it – both his girlfriend and co-workers got pretty sick of it pretty fast.
Cast Away (2000)
The Movie: A FedEx executive crash lands on a desert island and must adapt or die.
The Extreme Performance: Tom Hanks signed away a year of his life for Robert Zemeckis’ drama. The actor stockpiled 50lb before filming, then after much of the film had been shot, the crew went on hiatus for 12 months while Hanks lost the weight and grew his hair out.
The Movie: Fist-flying biopic that recounts the life of boxing champ Muhammad Ali.
The Extreme Performance: Will Smith trained for six hours a day in order to get himself a genuine boxer’s body, and put on a staggering 35lb in order to get in line with Muhammad Ali’s 220lb.
Marathon Man (1976)
The Movie: A history graduate finds himself swept up into a deadly conspiracy.
The Extreme Performance: “Why not try acting? It’s a lot easier,” said Laurence Olivier to Dustin Hoffman, who trained for Marathon Man by running four miles a day. Hoffman even reportedly ran half a mile prior to scenes that required him to be panting…
The Fighter (2010)
The Movie: Oscar-grabbing biopic of boxer ‘Irish’ Micky Ward.
The Extreme Performance: Always one for going to extremes, Christian Bale shed all of his Batman muscle in order to play skinny-as-a-beanpole drug addict Dick Eklund in David O. Russell’s seminal biopic.
Cop Land (1997)
The Movie: Crime saga about a small-town sheriff who discovers big-time corruption in New Jersey.
The Extreme Performance: Sly Stallone waved goodbye to the six pack and said hello to the flab as he packed on the pounds for his role as a middle-aged cop. He found it tough. “I didn't realise the psychological impact of gaining that amount of weight in a short amount of time - and also giving up the safety net of having a body that you've worked to keep in shape.”
12 Monkeys (1995)
The Movie: Futuristic sci-fi in which a man claiming to be from the future is banged up in a mental institute.
The Extreme Performance: How do you find out what it’s like to live in an asylum? Well, live in an asylum - which is exactly what Brad Pitt did to get in character for 12 Monkeys . He only stayed a day, of course.
The Movie: Saucy drama based on the life of ‘70s supermodel Gia Carangi.
The Extreme Performance: Angelina Jolie proved she was taking her first big role seriously when she went Method with Gia . She kept herself isolated and in character as a model suffering from AIDS.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
The Movie: Boxing drama directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Hilary Swank as a wannabe pugilist.
The Extreme Performance: Swank’s rigorous training schedule saw her shed 20lb. Not only that, but she was almost hospitalised for three weeks after a blister from training got infected – something she kept secret from Eastwood. The training was worth it, though. “That's part of my job,” she says. “If I'm going to play a boxer, I better look like a boxer.”
The Boxer (1997)
The Movie: Fourteen years after being imprisoned for his ties to the IRA, a boxer returns home to slip on the gloves once more.
The Extreme Performance: Daniel Day-Lewis spent 18 whole months training with former world champion Barry Mcguigan. He got so good that Mcguigan admitted the actor could’ve gone professional.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
The Movie: A conclave of actors shooting an action war movie end up in the middle of a real war.
The Extreme Performance: Robert Downey Jr transformed himself into a black man to play Kirk Lazarus in this explosive comedy. Like the character he was playing, Downey Jr’s a Method man, and stayed in character throughout filming.
Rescue Dawn (2007)
The Movie: War drama from director Werner Herzog, based on the true story of pilot Dieter Dengler.
Th e Extreme Performance: Christian Bale proved he’s not above anything when he ate maggots for real. Sadly, he’s since refused to try other stomach-churning delicacies on I’m A Celebrity…
Sling Blade (1996)
The Movie: Drama following Karl Childers (Billy Bob Thornton), who attempts to start life anew after leaving hospital.
The Extreme Performance: Thornton put crushed glass in his shoes to ensure that his character’s halting steps would be as consistent as possible.
Black Swan (2010)
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.
Last Of The Mohicans (1992)
The Movie: Michael Mann’s gripping drama about a trio of trappers caught in the French and Indian War.
The Extreme Performance: Good old Daniel Day-Lewis. Not content with just, y’know, acting out the role of Nathaniel Hawkeye, he lived out in the wild for six whole months before filming, surviving off the land. Is there anything this man can’t do?
Vampires Kiss (1988)
The Movie: Sharp-toothed black comedy about a publisher who thinks he’s going insane after he gets bitten.
The Extreme Performance: Anything Christian Bale can do, crazy ol’ Nic Cage can do better. Whereas Bale scoffed maggots in Rescue Dawn , Cage dined out on live cockroaches in Vampire's Kiss .
American Psycho (2000)
The Movie: Adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ scathing satire about a serial killer who’s a business exec by day.
The Extreme Performance: Christian Bale took his body modification one step further for American Psycho , getting his (very British) teeth ‘fixed’ and whitened, and undergoing a punishing workout regime to attain the perfect bod.
My Left Foot (1989)
The Movie: The true story of cerebral palsy-sufferer Christy Brown, who learnt to paint and write with his left foot.
The Extreme Performance: Day-Lewis remained wheelchair bound between takes, resulting in two broken ribs from being continuously hunched over. Hardcore.
The Pianist (2002)
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.”
All Things Fall Apart (2011)
The Movie: Ray Liotta and 50 Cent star in this sporting drama about a college footballer.
The Extreme Performance: Rapper 50 Cent went the Christian Bale route and shed 25lb for his role. He accomplished it by going on a liquid diet, and running on the treadmill for three hours a day.
Boys Dont Cry (1999)
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.
Bridget Joness Diary (2001)
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 unrecognised, and kept a picture of then-beau Jim Carrey on her desk. Creepy.
Courage Under Fire (1996)
The Movie: Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan take the lead in this drama about a US Army Officer.
The Extreme Performance: Extreme dieting was the name of the game for Matt Damon, who went the whole hog and lost 41lb. “I just thought my character needed to look a little gaunt,” he says. “Unfortunately, I nearly ruined my health.”
Gangs Of New York (2002)
The Movie: Historical crime drama in which the brilliantly-named Amsterdam Vallon (Leo DiCaprio) seeks revenge against the man who killed his father.
The Extreme Performance: Daniel Day-Lewis risked his own health when he refused to wear modern coats during filming despite freezing temperatures, arguing they wouldn’t have existed back in the day. He was diagnosed with pneumonia on set. Oh, and he also trained as a butcher…
The Movie: Charlize Theron stars in the true story of Aileen Wuornos, a serial killer prostitute.
The Extreme Performance: Theron bagged herself an Oscar for her transformation into Wuornos. She gained 14lb for the role by stuffing her face full of junk food, and then famously underwent a rigorous ‘uglification’ process via prosthetics.
The Machinist (2004)
The Movie: Harrowing drama about an industrial worker who starts to doubt his own sanity after not sleeping for a year.
The Extreme Performance: Christian Bale goes for the jugular and loses a third of his body weight for this eye-opening drama. The results are genuinely horrifying, and it comes as no surprise that such speedy weight loss was a danger to the actor’s health.
Raging Bull (1980)
T he Movie: Martin Scorsese’s hard-hitting look at the life of a one-time boxing great.
The Extreme Performance: Four years after showing off his skinny physique in Taxi Driver , Robert De Niro piled on 27lb to play Jake La Motta.
He even accidentally broke one of Joe Pesci’s ribs when he hit the actor in the side. The shot is still in the film.
Soul Man (1986)
The Movie: Goofy ‘80s comedy following a rich teen who pretends to be black in a bid for a scholarship.
The Extreme Performance: Extreme in all the wrong ways, Soul Man makes for uncomfortable viewing outside of the insane '80s.
Five years later, Lenny Henry would play a black man forced to pretend to be white to escape from the mob in True Identity , which was almost exactly as awkward as Soul Man .
And the less said about White Chicks the better. Mainly because it's White Chicks .
Taxi Driver (1976)
The Movie: Uneasy slow-burn drama about an ex-Vietnam vet who’s now working as a cab driver.
The Extreme Performance: De Niro worked for a month as a taxi driver in preparation for his role as Travis Bickle, putting in 12 hour days. He also studied mental illness, and based Bickle’s movements on that of a crab’s.
The Movie: Comedy pseudo-doc following fictional character Borat, who travels from Kazakhstan to America.
The Extreme Performance: Sacha Baron Cohen pushes the boundaries of taste and decency in an attempt to expose America’s ugly underbelly. He stayed in character the entire time.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
The Movie: Ground-breaking sequel in which future saviour of mankind John Connor is targeted by a deadly new Terminator (Robert Patrick).
The Extreme Performance: Linda Hamilton went from poofy-haired wallflower in The Terminator to ball-busting warrior in T2 . She trained for 13 weeks, three hours a day with former Israeli commando Uzi Gal. Her training included lifting weights, Judo and learning to pick locks. It was so extreme that she refused to do it all again for T3 .
The Movie: True-life story of New York cop Serpico, who uncovered police corruption in the Big Apple.
The Extreme Performance: Al Pacino got so into his role as the undercover cop that he actually pulled a truck driver over for exhaust fume pollution and tried to put the guy in cuffs. He also invited the real Serpico to live with him in New York just before filming.
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Movie: Second part of Chris Nolan’s Bat trilogy, in which The Dark Knight faces The Joker.
The Extreme Performance: Heath Ledger lived alone in a hotel room concocting every little twitch and idiosyncrasy of The Joker’s unique physicality. He even kept a diary in which he recorded The Joker’s thoughts and feelings.
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
The Movie: A Hollywood screenwriter heads to Las Vegas where he intends to drink until he’s dead.
The Extreme Performance: Ever the boundary pusher, Nicolas Cage filmed himself while drunk, then studied the results in order to give his performance an authentic edge. Wonder what happened to those tapes…
Rocky IV (1985)
The Movie: Boxing champ Rocky Balboa (Sly Stallone) goes up against Soviet giant Drago (Dolph Lundgren).
The Extreme Performance: Stallone didn’t want to go about Rocky IV half-cocked, insisting that the blows dealt during the boxing scenes were for real. The result? Lundgren’s blows gave Stallone heart and rib problems – albeit temporarily.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Movie: Definitive Vietnam war movie from Francis Ford Coppola.
The Extreme Performance: Martin Sheen took his character’s alcohol-fuzzy behaviour a little too far when he got drunk for real while filming. The infamous scene in the hotel room sees a drunk Sheen put his fist through a mirror…
The Brown Bunny (2003)
The Movie: A lonely biker makes his way across America for a motorcycle competition, finding solace in the arms of numerous women.
The Extreme Performance: Chloe Sevigny blurred the lines between reality and fiction when she got down on her knees to perform oral sex on Vincent Gallo – for real. The result? She lost her agency contract, but got mega famous. Brave girl.
The Jacket (2005)
The Movie: Drama in which a Gulf war veteran is committed to an asylum where he’s subjected to all kinds of nasty experiments.
The Extreme Performance: Adrien Brody risked his own sanity when he voluntarily got locked into a mortuary drawer for hours while donning a straightjacket. As you do. Has he never heard of just acting?
Cape Fear (1991)
The Movie: Unsettling remake about an escaped rapist who stalks the family of the lawyer who failed to stop him going to prison.
The Extreme Performance: Robert De Niro was so dedicated to his role that he paid a dentist $5,000 to near-destroy his teeth – all to attain that ‘been in prison a while’ look. He spent a further $20,000 fixing them…
The Movie: Extreme, bloody drama about a man mysteriously held captive for 15 years, only to be released and tasked with finding his kidnapper in five days.
The Extreme Performance: Min-sik Choi went all out here. The scene in which he burns himself to count down the years was done for real, and the actor even chowed down on live octopods. Not helping matters were his Buddhist beliefs, meaning he had to pray for forgiveness after each take.