10 Actors Who Went Through Hell To Win An Oscar

Some actors really run the gauntlet to get the gold.

Dallas Buyers Club Matthew McConaughey
Focus Features

"And the Academy Award goes to..." Surely there's no sentence any film actor is more eager to hear their own name at the end of. And many of them will go to tremendous lengths to make that dream a reality.

It's one thing to just read the script, learn your lines, and perform the role accordingly. There are plenty of actors who'll insist that's all that ever needs to be done, and some have wound up with Oscars to their name having followed that very approach: Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs, for instance.

However, in order to really sell a performance to the voters at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (to give them their full title), you can't beat a nice, juicy story about the levels of behind the scenes torment an actor subjected themselves to for the sake of the role.

Intensive, traumatic research; learning, and mastering, an entirely new skill from the ground up; gaining or losing a potentially dangerous amount of weight. These are the things that most spectacularly declare an actor's dedication to their craft.

We might very well debate how essential such measures really are in all instances, and whether any of it would amount to much were the performers in question not already sufficiently talented.

But there's no denying a lot of it sounds very impressive, both to Joe Bloggs on the street, and the Oscar voters in the Hollywood hills.

10. Robert De Niro - Raging Bull

Dallas Buyers Club Matthew McConaughey
United Artists

Anytime we talk about the extreme lengths some actors will go to for the sake of an Oscar-worthy performance, this is always the one that comes up - and with good reason.

Back in 1981, Robert De Niro already had one Oscar - Best Supporting Actor, for The Godfather Part II in 1975 - plus two Best Actor nominations for Taxi Driver and The Deer Hunter.

However, it was Raging Bull that finally won the then-37 year old actor the big award. The role of real-life boxer Jake LaMotta naturally required De Niro to train hard, winding up in the best physical shape of his career.

However, what makes Raging Bull truly legendary is that director Martin Scorcese halted production on the film to allow De Niro to get totally out of shape for the later scenes, centred on the older, post-retirement LaMotta.

De Niro duly ate his way across Italy and France for four months and wound up almost unrecognisable, having ballooned from 145 pounds to 215 pounds.

Even so, all this is surely just the window dressing on a truly fantastic performance. Despite three further nominations in the years since, De Niro hasn't won another Oscar as of yet.


Ben Bussey hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.