Back in 1976 when Dustin Hoffman was making Marathon Man he had a scene in which his character hadn’t slept for three days. To properly portray his character’s exhaustion, Hoffman also stayed awake for 72 hours and showed up on set looking suitably fatigued and weary.
Famously, his co-star and British thespian Laurence Olivier quizzed Hoffman on his technique and asked him, “My dear boy, why don’t you just try acting?” Meows aside, Olivier’s remark to Hoffman’s approach shows there is two kinds of actors.
Some are happier hopping into their character when needed but able to shake them off after a long, hard day’s filming. Other actors, however, prefer to take the method acting route – learning all they can about their characters and immersing themselves so much that they practically become them.
Often, this involves taking some pretty drastic measures, like literally staying in character for the entire shoot of a movie...
10. Jared Leto – Suicide Squad
Prior to his role as the Joker in Suicide Squad, Jared Leto was no stranger to diving deep into his characters. He’s done the extreme weight loss and gain shtick, gaining over four stone to play overweight Beatle assassin Mark David Chapman in Chapter 27 and getting gout for his troubles.
He later lost over two stone to play an HIV-positive trans woman in Dallas Buyers Club, though was rewarded with an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor that time rather than gout. While extreme, these processes Leto went through weren’t really hurting anybody but himself.
On the set of Suicide Squad, however, everybody felt the full effects of Jared in Joker mode. Throughout filming Leto never broke character prompting his co-star Will Smith to say, "I’ve never actually met Jared Leto. We worked together for six months and we’ve never exchanged a word outside of ‘Action’ and ‘Cut!’”
That’s par for the course with method acting but Leto’s technique of staying character involved some pretty weird behaviour including sending his castmates some questionable ‘gifts’ in keeping with the Joker’s personality.
Will Smith got bullets and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje got a “sticky Playboy magazine” while Margot Robbie was given a live rat. Amongst the other bizarre and creepy gifts Leto bestowed upon cast and crew were condoms (unused contrary to rumours), anal beads and a dead pig. Charming.
In the end, it turned out most of Leto’s scenes in Suicide Squad ended up on the cutting room floor and all that unhinged effort was for naught.