Why Some Acting Roles Should Come with a Health Warning

It's easy to look at the celebrity lifestyles, the red carpets and the awards, not to mention the million pound paychecks, and believe that acting has to be one of the cushiest jobs going—once you've become a star. After all, there are enough special effects teams and stunt doubles at the ready to keep you safe, right? And if truth be told, the director and the audience are only asking you to 'pretend' for a couple of weeks. So, what could be easier?

But actually, this isn't always true. Sometimes, the actors who really make a name for themselves have to risk more than most people to get there. In this article, we're focussing on the darker, grittier side of the film industry and we'll give you some really edgy examples of when actors have literally put their health, their sanity and sometimes even their lives on the line.

 

Risking Your Neck

Sure, actors may just have to pretend to be daring adventurers, soldiers, or fictional heroes. But they're specifically being asked to pretend they're doing the most daring, risky things those characters have ever done in their lives. And even though there are stunt doubles ready to handle the major jobs, even the smaller scenes can put stars in harm's way.

 

The world of Star Wars may be fuelled by CG, but when sets are constructed from scratch, accidents happen—like when a hydraulic door closed on Harrison Ford while filming The Force Awakens. As if that wasn't bad enough, director JJ Abrams learned his lesson coming to Ford's rescue—injuring his own back trying to raise the door.

 

The stories of Hollywood injuries on set are delivered every day, from Brad Pitt actually tearing his Achilles heel while playing Achilles, or Michael J Fox really selling being hanged in Back to the Future 3 … by actually being choked. But sometimes the injuries can be a bit more serious. Charlize Theron has made a name for herself as a star who can throw some punches, but when a backflip while filming Aeon Flux almost paralysed her, she swore to never do anything dangerous enough for a stunt double to be called in—a decision that worked in her favour in Mad Max: Fury Road.

 

Risking Your Life

Sprained ankles and cracked ribs are one thing, but it seems that acting is a deadlier profession than most of us realise—or at least it can be. It's hard to believe that even action star, Jason Stratham could have kept his cool while filming Expendables 3, driving a truck with faulty brakes off a pier, crashing into the water and sinking instantly. He could have drowned, but at least it would have been quick, which is more than you can say for some other A-list actors who have come close to death.

 

Stratham's Expendables co-star, Sylvester Stallone learned that fiction and fact can blur together while filming fight scenes with Dolph Lundgren for Rocky 4. After being instructed not to hold back, Lundgren delivered a punch straight to Stallone's chest. Stallone knew something was wrong immediately and rushed to the hospital to discover that his heart had started to swell from the blow. It could have proven fatal, but weeks of bed rest kept the slugger in the fight. So much for movie magic.

 

Still, it's probably George Clooney who puts the idea that acting is easy to bed. While other leading men risk their lives in stunts, like Tom Cruise dangling from a real skyscraper in Mission Impossible, Clooney had his brush with death after filming the 2005 drama, Syriana. After seriously injuring his back during an interrogation scene, weeks of headaches followed—including a serious panic when spinal fluid began leaking from his nose. Clooney has admitted that in the weeks spent in a hospital bed, unable to move and crippled by headaches, he seriously considered taking his own life.

 

Risking Your Health

The stories of actors dropping weight or gaining muscle for a role are well known by all film fans. But it's still hard to believe the limits that some actors pushed their bodies to in preparation for a role. Robert de Niro set a high bar with Raging Bull, training to become a completely real boxer to play Jake LaMotta—before gaining 60 lbs to play him in his later years.

 

That's a number beaten by another famous method actor, Jared Leto, who gained a whopping 67 lbs to play John Lennon's killer in Chapter 27. He put on the pounds by sticking to a diet of microwaved ice cream mixed with olive oil, among other foods, and developed gout in the process, saying he'll never again put his body through that kind of trauma.

 

It's not only about the weight, of course, but the extra measures taken to deliver the best performance; sacrificing your own health to do it—and hoping that the audience will even notice the difference. Ashton Kutcher learned that copying Apple founder's Steve Jobs' all-fruit diet was a bad way to get into character when he wound up in a hospital just days before filming was set to begin.

 

On the superhero side of things, Hugh Jackman has turned heads and stunned audiences with his ripped physique as X-Man, Wolverine, but even that is not all workouts and dieting. To get the shredded, veiny look he wanted, Jackson had to go days without water to thin out his skin and he suffered from blistering headaches as a result.

 

Was it all really worth it?

From our point of view, the jury is still out. But, what do you think? Are these intense character studies and death-defying stunts and injuries proof that being an actor isn't all it's cracked up to be? Or would you be willing to have a brush or two with death if it meant appearing on the big screen? We expect that most film fans would say it's worth it. But some of the actors mentioned above might disagree. Let us know in the comments. And whatever you're watching, happy viewing!

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