10 Actors Who Almost Died Because Of Intense Method Acting

9. John Hurt Almost Suffocates Playing John Merrick - The Elephant Man

elephant man
Universal Pictures

Arguably David Lynch's greatest movie ever, The Elephant Man features wonderful British actor John Hurt as real life "freakshow" John Merrick, whose grotesque appearance gave him a lifetime of pain and suffering - two emotions that Hurt went about experiencing, too, when he donned the make-up that allowed him to look like Merrick.

During the filming of The Elephant Man, Hurt's make-up was so extensive - and so heavy - that he risked suffocating to death if he laid down flat whilst wearing it. According to a few sources, Hurt nearly died a couple of times during the filming of the movie, when he forgot that he had to remain upright if he wanted to remain alive.

Ironic, given that the real John Merrick reportedly died in exactly this manner. "I think they finally managed to make me hate acting," Hurt apparently told his wife during the shoot. No wonder he lobbied to work alternate days.


Sam Hill is an ardent cinephile and has been writing about film professionally since 2008. He harbours a particular fondness for western and sci-fi movies.