PHOTO: FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES / BLACK SWAN
When actor Charlie Hunnam left for five months to go shoot the upcoming film The Lost City of Z in Columbia, he promised to write his girlfriend, Morgana McNelis, a letter every day.
But when he got there he realized the mail system meant he wouldn't be able to keep that promise.
So Hunnam did what anyone would do. He decided to use that distance to help him get more method into his role as 19th-century explorer Percy Fawcett, and stopped writing altogether.
“Which obviously makes me sound like a total bastard, appropriately so,” Hunnam said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “But I was very apologetic.”
Very apologetic, for Hunnam, meant jewelry.
“I had the benefit of shooting in Colombia, where they have rather lovely and somewhat cheap emeralds,” Hunnam said. “My girlfriend is a jewelry designer, so I was able to come back with an appropriately sized gift. It didn’t remedy all of the trouble I was in, but it got me halfway there.”
Hunnam's attempt to throw himself into his character is intense (and in my opinion, ill-advised) but it's hardly the farthest an actor has gone to immerse him or herself in a role.
While filming Marathon Man, Dustin Hoffman famously told Laurence Olivier that he had stayed up for three straight days because his character was supposed to have been up for that amount of time.
"'Why don't you just try acting?" Olivier suggested.
Here are some other intense examples of method acting.
Natalie Portman in Black Swan
In the lead-up to shooting Black Swan, Natalie Portman was spending five to eight hours a day in rehearsal. She lost 20 pounds and dislocated a rib in the process.
“I think my body was kind of in emergency mode,” Portman said to The New York Times of that time in her life. “I’m not eating enough, I’m not getting enough sleep. I’m in complete physical distress.”
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant
Leonardo DiCaprio definitely earned his Oscar for his role in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant. It may have brought him one step closer to Oscar gold, but it nearly killed the actor in the process.
“I can name 30 or 40 sequences that were some of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do," DiCaprio told . "Whether it’s going in and out of frozen rivers, or sleeping in animal carcasses, or what I ate on set. [I was] enduring freezing cold and possible hypothermia constantly.”
Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables
For her Oscar-winning role as Fantine in the 2012 film adaptation of Les Misérables, Anne Hathaway lost 25 pounds, cut off all her hair, and became so immersed in her character she had a hard time returning to her normal life.
During an interview with Chelsea Handler on Chelsea Lately, Hathaway said the character affected her personality for a while. "I was dealing with a lot of darkness…[and] I needed to go further in to that negative place to play my character," she said.
Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot
Daniel Day-Lewis is famous for his method acting. While filming Lincoln (2012) he never broke character, insisting on everyone referring to him as Mr. President; for The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1998), he taught himself to speak Czech. And he lost 50 pounds and spent two days and nights in a prison cell without food or water for his role in In the Name of the Father (1993).
But Lewis's most famous method acting role is his Oscar-winning turn as an Irish man with cerebral palsy in My Left Foot (1989). During filming, Lewis didn't leave his character's wheelchair and required a crew member to spoon feed him his meals. He also adopted his characters posture as well which eventually led to two broken ribs.
Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
For her role in David Fincher's 2011 adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, actress Rooney Mara shaved part of and dyed her hair black, bleached her eyebrows, and got all of her character Lisbeth Salander's piercings—including a nipple piercing.
"I'm naked quite a lot in the movie," she told Allure about why the piercing was necessary. "And I thought, She has it in the book, and she should have it [in the movie]. Because of all the tattoos and the makeup and the piercings, and the physical transformations my body has to go through, it would always feel sort of like I was in costume, even if I was naked. It just felt like a good one to get—a necessary one to get."