Hollywood stars have been known to lose and gain weight in order to transform for their roles… but changing a number on the scale is far from the only drastic measure actors have taken to bring their characters to life.
Austin Butler has become the latest famous name to make headlines over his acting process after the Elvis actor revealed he didn’t see his family for three years to portray the King of Rock.
The 31-year-old actor had roughly a year and a half to prepare before they started filming Baz Luhrmann’s biopic about Elvis Presley, and often went for months without speaking to friends during the filming process.
However, the actor’s dedication is blown out of the water by the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio who famously slept in animal carcasses while working on his Oscar-winning role in The Revenant.
Other stars such as Kate Winslet has trained to learn impressive new skills in order to bring their films to life, with the actress holding her breath for an impressive seven minutes underwater while filming Avatar: The Way of Water.
Indeed, the cast of Top Gun: Maverick underwent training on how to operate fighter jets so they could film scenes from the blockbuster flick up in the actual aircrafts.
Here, FEMAIL reveals just how far actors have been willing to go while working on their famous films.
Austin Butler: Didn’t see his family for three years while making Elvis
Austin Butler didn’t see his family for three years while preparing and starring in his role as the King of Rock and Roll in the musical-drama Elvis
The actor also didn’t speak to friends for months, and when he did, he would also speak in the music legend’s voice
Butler (right) had a year and a half to prepare for the role and says Elvis (pictured left in 1968) would be the ‘only thing’ he ever thought about
Austin Butler didn’t see his family for three years while preparing and starring in his role as the King of Rock and Roll in the musical-drama Elvis.
Sitting down with Janelle Monáe for Variety, the 31-year-old shared the depths he went to in order to get into character of the legendary singer Elvis Presley.
Austin had roughly a year and a half to prepare before they started filming Baz Luhrmann’s biopic and during that time he kept himself in a complete Elvis bubble.
Not only would Elvis be the ‘only thing’ Austin ever thought about, he would also speak in his voice because ‘this is what it takes’.
Speaking to Monáe, he said: ‘During Elvis, I didn’t see my family for about three years. I was off in New York prepping with Baz and then I went to Australia.
‘I had months where I wouldn’t talk to anybody – and when I did, the only thing I was ever thinking about was Elvis.
‘It’s the only thing I was focused on. I was speaking in his voice the whole time, so then I talk to my sister and she’s got to listen to that and she’s like “what are you doing?” So I just had to be focused and yeah. This is what it takes.’
Luhrmann’s film documents Presley’s meteoric rise to superstardom in the 1950s and explores the music legend’s complex relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks).
Following the film’s release, Austin received rave reviews for his portrayal with The Daily Mail’s film critic Brian Viner praising him for steering away from ‘caricature’ in his performance, instead perfecting Elvis’ signature raspy voice and hip-thrusting dance moves.
Kate Winslet: Learned to hold her breath for seven minutes for Avatar: The Way of Water
Kate Winslet learnt how to free-dive for her role in Avatar: The Way of Water
The actress has admitted she thought she’d died when she resurfaced after spending seven minutes underwater during filming for Avatar 2
In 2020, Avatar producer Jon Landau shared a snap of Winslet displaying her impressive free-diving skills, during filming for the sequel in New Zealand in 2018
Kate Winslet reunited with Titanic director James Cameron for the second Avatar film, and once again the pair spent a lot of time working with water.
While the 46-year-old actress previously ended up getting hypothermia when she first worked with Cameron, she had a better experience on The Way of Water set and picked up an impressive new skill.
For her role as a character named Ronal – one of the underwater beings closely related to the Na’vi – the actress learnt how to free-dive.
‘I had to learn how to free-dive to play that role in Avatar, and that was just incredible. My longest breath hold was seven minutes and 14 seconds, like crazy, crazy stuff,’ Winslet told The Hollywood Reporter.
Winslet was apparently particularly delighted to beat Tom Cruise, who famously performs his own stunts and managed a six-minute free dive while making Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation in 2015.
She shot her role on the New Zealand set in 2018 and had to train hard in order to stay underwater so the director could film using motion caption technology at Stone Street Studios, a complex of four purpose-built, state-of-the-art sound stages in Wellington.
Winslet did this for a role as a character named Ronal (left) – one of the underwater beings closely related to the Na’vi
Reflecting on filming on the Graham Norton Show, Winslet stated: ‘It is a sport and I trained every single day for three weeks.
‘It was an extraordinary experience and I loved it and got really good at it. I am so proud that I was brave enough to learn something new in my 40s. As a woman I felt so great about it and it made me feel really powerful.’
In an interview with Observer Magazine, Winslet said it was ‘wonderful’ being underwater for such a long period of time even though she knew how dangerous it could be.
She explained: ‘God, it’s just wonderful. Your mind completely drifts off. You can’t think about anything, you can’t make lists in your head, you’re just looking at the bubbles underneath you… My first words [when I resurfaced] were, ”Am I dead?” Yes, I thought I’d died.’
In October 2020, Avatar producer Jon Landau shared a snap of Winslet displaying her impressive free-diving skills, during filming for the sequel in New Zealand in 2018.
Winslet was apparently particularly delighted to beat Tom Cruise, who famously performs his own stunts and managed a six-minute free dive while making Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation in 2015.
Miles Teller: Underwent rigorous Navy fighter jet training for Top Gun: Maverick
Miles Teller underwent a full Aviation Survival Training Curriculum before going up in the US Navy F-18 for Top Gun: Maverick
Tom Cruise (second left) insisted on real flying scenes with no CGI work so Teller (pictured with Cruise, Jennifer Connelly and Jon Hamm) and other member of the cast had to work up to being able to fly in the supersonic jets
Miles Teller and the rest of the Top Gun: Maverick cast underwent a full Aviation Survival Training Curriculum before going up in the US Navy F-18 for the hit film.
They worked up to the supersonic jets over many months after Tom Cruise insisted on real flying scenes with no CGI work. The actor even said in numerous interviews that he refused to even talk about a Top Gun sequel unless they flew in real planes.
Speaking to Total Film magazine, Teller recalled: ‘We were all mini Toms making this movie. He put us through… I’ll just call it a “Tom Cruise boot camp”.
‘For the stunts and stuff that Tom does in movies, it’s usually a very specific type of training. You’re not just going into the gym and lifting some weights. We did flight training for three months before we started filming… We got put through the wringer.’
The film’s aerial coordinator, Kevin LaRosa Jr. worked with Cruise to put together an intense flight program that began with the cast flying in a smaller aircraft.
‘We started with the Cessna 172 and we took them through basic flying. This allowed them to see what it was like to take off, land and know where to look and put their hands,’ LaRosa. Jr. explained to Variety. That starter plane was chosen because it also allowed the actors to get a feel of what a small g-force felt like.
Once the actors were comfortable with that, they graduated to the next level and it was onto the aerobatic airplane, the Extra 300. The exercise built up their G-tolerance as LaRosa Jr. stated: ‘We built them up to the point where they were mainly not getting sick.’
Teller recalled in one interview: ‘We did flight training for three months before we started filming… We got put through the wringer’
Next was the L-39 Albatross which ‘allowed them to experience a fighter trainer jet’. At which point, they graduated to aviators before finally getting into the F/A-18.
After Cruise and others spoke in numerous interviews about how they went through months of training to be able to handle G-Forces and say their lines in the film without passing out or vomiting, it was revealed they still had a little help for the final scenes.
Veteran producer Jerry Bruckheimer later confirmed that although they had clearance to put Cruise and other actors in the F-18s, they were merely passengers in the cockpit during filming.
Bruckheimer said that Cruise had filed a request to be allowed to fly the plane, but was denied clearance by the Navy – presumably on the grounds that the $70 million plane was simply too expensive to be entrusted someone who is not actually a fighter pilot.
In Top Gun: Maverick he flies other planes and is seen apparently flying the Super Hornet via cameras installed – but experience Navy pilots are holding the stick.
Natalie Portman: Trained with a pro ballet dancer for a year before filming Black Swan
Natalie Portman trained with former New York City Ballet dancer Mary Helen Bowers for up to eight hours a day, six days a week for a year ahead of shooting Black Swan
Portman had been determined to try and execute [her future husband] Benjamin Millepied’s complex choreography in the film herself
For her Oscar-winning turn as a troubled ballerina in Black Swan, Natalie Portman did all she could be able to portray a professional dancer.
The actress trained with former New York City Ballet dancer Mary Helen Bowers for up to eight hours a day, six days a week for a year ahead of shooting the celebrated film.
Having previously studied ballet as a child, Portman had been determined to try and execute [her future husband] Benjamin Millepied’s complex choreography in the film herself.
Bowers helped Portman get into dancing shape by getting her to also add endurance exercises, cross-training and swimming alongside her dance training.
Ultimately, it was revealed that the star had still used a dance double in the film, however, many still appreciate the star’s dedication to the role.
Indeed, she even broke her rib at one point during filming. Overall, the role left her physically and emotionally drained as she told Entertainment Weekly: ‘There were some nights that I thought I literally was going to die.
‘It was the first time I understood how you could get so wrapped up in a role that it could sort of take you down.’
Leonardo DiCaprio: Slept in an animal carcass while filming The Revenant
Leonardo DiCaprio slept in animal carcasses on the grueling set of his 2015 movie, The Revenant
The actor admitted he was forced to do ‘some of the most difficult things’ he’s ever done during the intense nine-month shoot in Canada and Argentina
Leonardo DiCaprio revealed he slept in animal carcasses on the grueling set of his 2015 movie, The Revenant.
The actor plays a fur trapper that sets out on a path of vengeance against his hunting team who left him for dead after a bear mauling in the film, and went to great lengths in order to bring the film to life.
Speaking to Yahoo! Movies, he admitted he was forced to do ‘some of the most difficult things’ he’s ever done during the intense nine-month shoot in Canada and Argentina.
‘I can name 30 or 40 sequences that were some of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do,’ he recalled. ‘Whether it’s going in and out of frozen rivers, or sleeping in animal carcasses, or what I ate on set. [I was] enduring freezing cold and possible hypothermia constantly.’
DiCaprio also confirmed that a lot of his horrified reactions in the film were genuine as he continued: ‘I certainly don’t eat raw bison liver on a regular basis. When you see the movie, you’ll see my reaction to it, because Alejandro [González Iñárritu, the director] kept it in. It says it all. It was an instinctive reaction.’
However, the film star made it clear he had no regrets about signing on to start in the film alongside Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson.
He said: ‘It’s going to be one of the most unique film-going experiences that audiences have seen in modern times.’
Thankfully, his hard work paid off as he walked away with his first ever Oscar win for Best Actor in 2016.
Jamie Foxx: Glued his eyes shut to play blind music legend Ray Charles in the biopic Ray
In order to play blind music legend Ray Charles in Ray, Jamie Foxx agreed to wear prosthetic eyelids that were glued over his eyes to help mimic Charles’ blindness
The actor – who won an Oscar for the role – lost 30 pounds by fasting for a full week while doing daily workouts and sticking to a strict diet
Another Best Actor Academy Award winner that went the extra mile for his film role is Jamie Foxx.
In order to play blind music legend Ray Charles in Ray, the actor lost 30 pounds by fasting for a full week while doing daily workouts and sticking to a strict diet.
However, the biggest challenge came when he agreed to wear prosthetic eyelids that were glued over his eyes to help mimic Charles’ blindness.
Director Taylor Hackford had wanted Foxx to embrace the darkness Charles endured in his life.
This initially caused the actor to have panic attacks in the early weeks of shooting as he struggled to acclimate to the claustrophobia of having no sight.
Foxx told the New York Times: ‘Imagine having your eyes glued shut for 14 hours a day. That’s your jail sentence.’
In addition, crew members would sometimes leave him on set, forgetting he couldn’t see or leave him alone, at lunch for example, without any way for him to return to set on his own.
If that wasn’t enough, Foxx also learned to play all of the piano parts in the film.
Lady Gaga: Only spoke in an Italian accent for nine months while filming House of Gucci
Lady Gaga decided to speak in an Italian accent at home for nine months while filming for House of Gucci
Lady Gaga also revealed she dyed her hair to stay in character as Patrizia Reggianni (pictured with co-star Adam Driver)
Lady Gaga went to incredible lengths for her portrayal of Patrizia Reggianni during filming for House of Gucci, speaking in an Italian accent at home for nine months.
She stated in one interview: ‘I started in the voice six months before we started shooting and I stayed in it for the whole of filming, which I am sure was super annoying for Adam [Driver]. For me I thought it was harder to go in and out, so I stayed in character.’
The star then told British Vogue: ‘I lived as her [Reggiani] for a year and a half. And I spoke with an accent for nine months of that. I never broke. I stayed with her.’
Lady Gaga also revealed she dyed her hair to stay in character: ‘It was nearly impossible for me to speak in the accent as a blonde. I instantly had to dye my hair.’
During another interview with Australian TV show The Sunday Project, the singer insisted that it wasn’t ‘exhausting’ to stick with the accent – even when speaking with her own mother Cynthia Germanotta.
Gaga, real name Stefani Germanotta, explained: ‘Well no, I actually find it more exhausting to go in and out of character. I found it less exhausting to stay in it.’
The hitmaker added with a laugh that she won’t be following these methods when she has a child.
‘I lived inside of the character and inside this world of the Gucci’s for so long because I love art,’ she went on to say. ‘I love the nature of the type of acting that I like to do, and I stayed with her so that when I was off-set or on-set it was this fluid life.
‘This is something that makes me excited as an actor. It’s something I like. I don’t think that it’s the way to do things necessarily, but it’s my way.’
Despite her attempts, Lady Gaga’s efforts at perfecting the Italian pronunciation was recently panned by the movie’s dialect coach.
Italian actress Francesca De Martini spoke to The Daily Beast about the Bad Romance singer’s transformation into Patrizia, who famously hired a hitman to murder her ex-husband, Maurizio Gucci, in 1995.
Clearly unconvinced, De Martini, who auditioned for roles in the movie before coming back as a vocal coach, said of the star: ‘I feel bad saying this, but her accent is not exactly an Italian accent, it sounds more Russian.’
Shia LaBeouf: Pulled out a tooth and cut his face with a knife while filming Fury
Shia LaBeouf refrained from bathing for four months during filming and even pulled out a tooth for his film, Fury
The actor stunned his co-star Logan Lerman when he also repeatedly slashed his own face while shooting the film (pictured with Brad Pitt and Jon Bernthal)
Shia LaBeouf has become known for his method acting, however his prep work for 2014 flick, Fury, was one that left fans shocked.
In order to portray his character Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan Fury in the war movie, LaBeouf joined the U.S. National Guard, got baptized, got a tattoo, and became a chaplain’s assistant to Captain Yates for the 41st Infantry.
He then took things further by living on a base for a whole month, refrained from bathing for four months during filming and even pulled out a tooth.
Speaking to Jimmy Kimmel about his tooth, the actor explained: ‘I got it removed for the movie. I put a fake one in. That was a real mission getting it taken out, because it’s not like you can go to some dentist… and go in there, like, ”Hey, I wanna get this tooth taken out.”
‘They’re like, ”You wanna do what? That doesn’t make any medical sense at all”. I found a guy in Reseda next to a Radio Shack and he didn’t ask too many questions.’
He later later revealed more about his prep in a Dazed interview as he stated: ‘I pulled my tooth out, knifed my face up, and spent days watching horses die’.
The actor stunned his co-star Logan Lerman when he also repeatedly slashed his own face while shooting the film.
‘Then he walks out into the hallway and says, “Hey man, wanna see something fun? Check this out…” and he takes out a knife and cuts his face. And for the whole movie he kept opening these cuts on his face. That’s all real,’ Lerman stated to Britain’s GQ magazine.
LaBeouf also learned to operate the tank to an expert level and insisted on staying in control of the vehicle even when he wasn’t needed on set.
Lerman added: ‘He really spent every moment on that set. He’s the guy operating the turret in every shot, even when you don’t need to be in there as an actor. You know, you can have somebody else inside. But he was there, for every shot.’
Lupita Nyong’o: Trained underwater to film scenes in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Lupita Nyong’o revealed the intense underwater training she went through to reprise her role as Nakia in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
The 39-year-old could be seen swimming, crawling and walking underwater as she carried weights in each hand in a TikTok video
Lupita Nyong’o left fans stunned when she revealed the intense underwater training she went through to reprise her role as Nakia in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
About half of Wakanda Forever’s scenes take place underwater, thanks to the addition of new antagonist Namor (Tenoch Huerta), who rules the secretive deep-sea land of Talokan.
She posted a TikTok video shared in which the 39-year-old could be seen swimming underwater as she carried weights in each hand.
Set to one of the tracks featured in the movie, Con La Brisa by Foudeqush and Ludwig Göransson, Nyong’o then starts to crawl and walk underwater using the same workout equipment in each hand.
‘How I trained to swim in Wakanda Forever,’ Nyong’o wrote at the beginning of the video.
After she made her way out of the water to rest by the side of the pool, she added: ‘I felt like a crawfish. Swimming down to Talokan was not as easy as it looked!
‘Safely supervised by @XPT Life and #MarkRobertsFitness #wakandaforever #blackpanther #talokan #underwater #fittok #behindthescenes’.
Nyong’o and her Wakanda Forever costar Angela Bassett also told Variety that they were not particularly skilled in the water before shooting the film.
‘You know, Black girls have this history with water and their hair,’ Bassett told the outlet. ‘Some of us can’t swim all that well, because it’s going to mess up that press and curl. It’s a whole thing.’
‘Before we started this film, I knew how to swim, but I wasn’t a confident swimmer,’ Nyong’o added. ‘I didn’t need to swim in public, that’s for sure. That’s a lifelong skill that I now have.’
Both actresses trained to the point where they could both hold their breath underwater for about two minutes, per Variety, which noted that cast member Mabel Cadena could hold her breath underwater for around six-and-a-half minutes.
Adrien Brody: Gave up his apartment so he could experience his character’s discomfort for The Pianist
Adrien Brody chose to sell his car and give up his apartment so he could move to Europe after he signed on to play Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist
Brody, who won an Oscar for the role, also went on a crash diet and lost 30 pounds in six weeks, weighing 130 pounds at his lightest during shooting
When Adrien Brody signed on to play Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist, he chose to sell his car and give up his apartment so he could move to Europe.
He left home with only two bags and traveled around with such minimal belongings so he could become more familiar with the discomfort his character dealt with.
The film is based on the autobiography of Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, who was playing Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp minor live on the air in a Warsaw radio station when the first German bombs fell.
The acclaimed Polish Jewish musician is seen facing a series of struggles after losing contact with his family during the Second World War.
Brody, who won an Oscar for the role, also went on a crash diet and lost 30 pounds in six weeks, weighing 130 pounds at his lightest during shooting.
‘There is an emptiness that comes with really starving that I hadn’t experienced, he told BBC. ‘I couldn’t have acted that without knowing it. I’ve experienced loss, I’ve experienced sadness in my life, but I didn’t know the desperation that comes with hunger.’
The dedicated star also took piano and dialect lessons for the role.
Daniel Day-Lewis: Stayed in his wheelchair during filming for My Left Foot
Daniel Day-Lewis’ dedication was made clear when playing Christy Brown in My Left Foot when he refused to leave his prop wheelchair and insisted on being carried around by the crew
He broke a rib during filming, but also won his first Best Actor Academy Award for the role
Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the most famous method actors in the business and his dedication was made clear when playing Christy Brown in My Left Foot.
The actor played an Irish writer and painter, who was born with cerebral palsy and could only control movement in his left foot.
After spending time with disabled patients at the Sanymount School Clinic as research, Day-Lewis refused to leave his prop wheelchair and insisted on being carried around and spoon-fed by the crew.
He would reportedly insist on ‘visiting restaurants in a wheelchair’ and ‘had to be lifted across the lighting cables each day to reach the set.’
‘I have always been intrigued by these lives I have never experienced,’ he told The Independent. ‘And I love the pure pleasure of doing the work, no matter if that work involves some kind of discomfort.’
He broke a rib during filming, but also won the first his of three Best Actor Academy Awards so it’s safe to assume that the pain was worth it for the star.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk