8 Method Actors Who Nearly Died Making Famous Movies

“Going method” colloquially often just means going to the extremes to give the best performance possible. Some actors almost went too far..

Brogan Morris

Contributor

Gangs of New York

Miramax

Nicolas Cage, he of sound mind and the Nouveau Shamanic school of acting, once said: “There’s a fine line between the Method actor and the schizophrenic.” Many would say he’s not far off.

Method acting means immersion in a role to strip away the artifice of the classical acting style (which, essentially, is pretending to do or feel things you look like you’re doing or feeling), but ‘Method’ in the strictest sense emphasises the use of sense memory – utilising personal experience to invest a role with honesty. But ‘method acting’, in the modern day, has come to be used as a catch-all term for both internal and external practices used by actors, as they strive to better live the experiences of the character and bring realism to the scene. “Going method” colloquially often just means going to the extremes to give the best performance possible.

This can include everything from Idris Elba spending a night in a Robben Island prison cell to get inside the head of Nelson Mandela, all the way to Shia LaBeouf dropping acid to play Charlie Countryman. Sometimes, it can be dangerous – production shut down on Raging Bull temporarily because Scorsese was so concerned about Robert De Niro, after the actor’s rapid weight gain resulted in laboured breathing (and various other health concerns). Other times, getting too deep into a role can be almost fatal – here are eight such examples.