Actors who were never the same after a role

Acting can be an all-consuming craft. But these actors, dedicated to giving their all, took it a step too far. Though these critically-acclaimed, often award-winning performances are a delight to watch, the experience of preparing for and recovering from them changed the actors forever.

Isabelle Adjani, Possession

Any horror buff knows the subway scene in Andrzej Zulawski's 1981 Possession to be one of the most horrifying, shocking moments of body horror to vomit all over the silver screen. (And if you haven't seen the film, buckle up, you're in for a treat.) 

Isabelle Adjani won a César Award for her performance of Anna, but the intense physical and emotional demands of the role made for an extremely difficult recuperation. Adjani later told a French magazine that it took her "years of therapy" to get Anna out of her system, and that she would never again attempt another role like it.

Adrien Brody, The Pianist

Though Brody's physical transformation for 2002's The Pianist is obvious, the actor has also discussed the enormous mental and emotional strain of the role of Holocaust survivor pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2003. 

To prepare, he told the BBC, he gave up his apartment, sold his car, disconnected his phones, and moved to Europe. But it was the emotional effect of starvation that he found the most surprising and difficult challenge to deal with. 

"I've experienced loss, I've experienced sadness in my life, but I didn't know the desperation that comes with hunger," he said. There were moments when he wasn't sure he'd get out of the experience with his sanity intact, saying it took a year and a half "to settle back into things."

Johnny Depp, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

When Johnny Depp was approached with the project of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, he jumped at the chance to portray Hunter S. Thompson, one of his heroes and a fellow Kentuckian. To prepare, Depp basically moved into Thompson's basement, to study his mannerisms and lifestyle. 

By the time filming began, Depp's uncanny portrayal had the cast and crew worried that he was in over his head. Depp and his costar Benicio Del Toro were so committed to their performances that fans might wonder if they were in fact actually tripping on acid. Even a year after shooting had wrapped, Depp was still in full Thompson-mode. Depp and Thompson remained close friends until Thompson's suicide in 2005, when Depp allegedly paid $3 million dollars to shoot Thompson's cremains out of a cannon.

Val Kilmer, The Doors

To play rock legend Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone's 1991 movie The Doors, Kilmer started with the music, learning how to sing 50 of the band's songs. He reportedly spent hours in the studio poring over Morrison's vocal performances and watching endless footage of Morrison's interviews to get a sense of his personality and mannerisms. 

On set, the cast and crew referred to him as Jim, and many claimed by the end of filming they were unable to tell the difference between Morrison's singing voice and Kilmer's. But when filming ended, Kilmer claimed he had to go to therapy to get Jim out of his system. Rock producer Paul Rothchild, who knew Morrison, claimed that Kilmer "knows Jim Morrison better than Jim ever knew himself."

Colin Firth, The King's Speech

The King's Speech is an Oscar winning film where Colin Firth plays the future King of England, George VI and has to give a number of speeches in addition to a number of other royal duties. Because a film about man giving a flawless speech to an excited crowd of millions and then retiring to his giant castle to high five everyone he knows would be kind of boring, the film has a villain of sorts in the form of a near-debilitating stammer that ruins nearly every speech George VI gives until he hires a vocal coach. In real life George VI's suffered from an almost identical speech impediment and never really ever got over it.

Firth worked closely with a voice coach and watched recordings of George VI speaking to better emulate both his vocal shortcomings as well as his physical mannerisms and nervous tics when stammering. Firth immersed himself so deeply in the role that he admitted in an interview that he still occasionally lapsed into the stammer when speaking casually, even briefly stammering during the interview itself. It's worth noting that this happened in May of 2011, a full eight months after the film premiered in September of the previous year. 

Judging by how flawlessly he enunciated every syllable in Kingsman: The Secret Service while punching people in the neck with his gun in 2014, we're assuming that Firth has since gotten over the stammer.

Hugh Laurie, House

During the casting process of House the producers famously explained that they wanted a "quintessentially American actor" to play the eponymous Dr. House shortly before hiring British actor Hugh Laurie. Laurie apparently got the role because his American accent on his audition tape was so convincing nobody realized he was British to the point Bryan Singer (the director of the pilot episode) is said to have pointed to the tape and said, "See, this is what I want: an American guy."

To this end, Laurie also really went for it when it came to walking with a limp to portray the cane-using House. So much so, the actor still walked with a limp in 2015 after eight straight years of pretending to need one on set. Laurie reportedly attempted to ease the load on his leg by occasionally switching which leg had a limp, something he claims nobody ever noticed or called him on during filming or in the years since show ended. 

Apparently Laurie's acting is so good he can make people overlook both his British-ness and the fact he didn't always limp with the same leg despite that being a defining aspect of the character.

Sarah Paulson, The People vs. O.J. Simpson and American Horror Story

Sarah Paulson had a pretty rough time in 2016. Sure she had starring roles on The People vs. O.J. Simpson and American Horror Story, but both roles required her to smoke. Kind of a problem when in real life, Paulson doesn't smoke. Or at least she didn't until she started lighting up multiple times a day on set.

In an interview with Stephen Colbert, the actress admitted that after the initial disgust of smoking for the first time wore off, she began to crave cigarettes for real, becoming impatient to film scenes where she had to smoke. In some circles this would be called "method acting" since the person Paulson was portraying (Marcia Clark) was a well-known chain-smoker in real life, however it's also known as being addicted to cigarettes.

Paulson described the whole ordeal as "a real situation", which is code for something that would ordinarily be a problem for someone who isn't as a successful actress who can pay someone to slap cigarettes out of their mouth after filming wrapped to curb the addiction.

Bob Hoskins, Who Framed Roger Rabbit

It's arguable that Bob Hoskins' most famous and loved role is that of the alcoholic gumshoe PI Eddie Valiant in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Along with pretending to have an awesome name during production, Hoskins also had to spend hours per day for eight months talking to and acting alongside fictional characters who weren't really there.

Hoskins would later note that he "learn[ed] how to hallucinate" that Roger and the other characters he starred alongside were actually there to cope with the dissonance of constantly hearing their voices but never seeing them while filming. When shooting finally ended Hoskins found himself constantly talking to himself and even hallucinating that Roger was sitting in the same room for months afterwards, prompting his doctor to advise him to take a much needed break from acting.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, various roles

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a curious man because, despite living and working in America and even running a small part of it for a few years, he still speaks with the same thick Austrian accent that endeared him to us when he was punching out the Predator in the '80s. This particular quirk of the Governator's life has mystified and perplexed fans for years because surely by now Schwarzenegger has been in America long enough to lose his accent.

Well apparently he has. In an interview with The Daily Mail following the release of Terminator Genisys the T-800 revealed that he's perfectly capable of speaking English sans his accent but doesn't because fans expect him to speak like he does in all his movies. This makes sense as in his own autobiography, Schwarzenegger notes that he had hours of personal lessons with acclaimed dialect coach, Robert Easton shortly after coming to America to learn how to enunciate more clearly.

It would appear then that Schwarzenegger's accent is a charade he maintains for fans and that he could speak without it if he really wanted to, but doesn't because his voice has become as much a part of his image as his physique. It's hard to even be mad at Schwarzenegger for this apparent deception because let's face it, if any one of us had an excuse to talk with an accent makes everything he says sound like a kick-ass one-liner from an action movie, we'd take it.

Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Ledger's performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight was so chilling that it landed him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor—tragically, it was a posthumous award, as Ledger had died of an accidental drug overdose in January 2008. 

In the years that followed his premature death, rumors swirled that the preparation for the dark role had contributed to Ledger's demise. Before filming began, Ledger put himself in strict isolation, keeping a diary of disturbing images to enter "the realm of a psychopath." Even when he wasn't on the set, Ledger was still struggling to shake the Joker. "…I probably slept two hours a night," he told The New York Times. In fact, it was a mixture of painkillers and sedatives that ultimately caused Ledger's death.

Charlie Hunnam, American TV

Charlie Hunnam has played everything from a soccer hooligan to a giant robot pilot, and he's known for his extraordinarily convincing American accent, making him one of a handful of chameleonic British actors able to convincingly pass as American in his various roles.

Years of living in the States, however, took their toll on Hunnam's actual, real-life accent, and when he appeared on TV in 2013 to plug a movie on Conan, he spoke with a bizarre amalgamation of various American dialects that prompted confusion and mockery, especially in Hunnam's native U.K.

Hunnam spoke about this in 2017 when he admitted that his accent—or lack thereof—had gotten so bad that when he signed on to appear in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, he had to hire a dialect coach to re-learn how to speak with an English accent. Hunnam's slated to play a French convict next, so it's probably safe to say his accent is only going to get stranger.

Janet Leigh, Psycho

Janet Leigh is known primarily for one thing: playing the character who gets stabbed to death in a shower during Psycho. The scene terrified millions, including Leigh—after filming wrapped, she never felt comfortable in a shower again.

In interviews Leigh noted that she "stopped taking showers" after watching the scene. On the rare occasion she had to take a shower, she would only use it briefly while staring directly at the door—and she wouldn't even draw the shower curtain, meaning she was one of those people who left the floor all wet. Then again, maybe it was a deliberate move so if someone tried to break in and stab her to death, they'd slip first.

James Cromwell, Babe

James Cromwell is the kind of actor whose appearance is so distinctive most people know his face, but not his name. He scored one of his few leading film roles in 1995's Babe, in which he was upstaged by a talking pig—but it all worked out, given that it was not only a massive hit, but it changed Cromwell's life, turning him from a guy who occasionally flirted with vegetarianism into a vegan.

Cromwell has called the experience of making the film a turning point in his life, recalling in an interview with Vice that he was profoundly affected by seeing a small piglet react to being put onto a patch of grass. "When that little pig was put down on that big pitch and saw the blue sky and the green grass and the sea, that pig just took off," he recalled. "I said, I don't want any part of this. I am out."

Cromwell has been an ardent supporter of animal rights ever since—especially pigs, which understandably, now have a special place in his heart thanks to Babe and its sequel.

Christopher McDonald, Happy Gilmore

Christopher McDonald isn't exactly a household name, but his performance in Happy Gilmore is so memorable that generations of filmgoers can't look at a picture of his face without blurting out "Hey, it's Shooter McGavin!" That's just one role out of many in a solid career, but we're guessing McDonald doesn't mind being forever associated with the hot-headed golf pro.

As he told the A.V. Club, McDonald took the role basically because he enjoyed playing golf—and won a tournament shortly after being offered the script. Although he begged off initially, saying he wasn't eager to get back on a film set after shooting two movies back to back, being paid to play golf and hang out with Adam Sandler seemed like a pretty sweet deal.

According to McDonald, his "golf game got sick" during his time on the set, and as an added bonus, the fact that he's now synonymous with Shooter McGavin means he "basically get[s] to play golf for free for the rest of my life."

Most of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation

Few fictional outfits are as immediately recognizable as the Starfleet uniforms worn by the cast of the Star Trek franchise. During production of Star Trek: The Next Generation, producers updated the look of the famous duds by using the most high-tech material available at the time—spandex.

To achieve a sleek, futuristic appearance, the uniforms were intentionally made slightly too small—which looked great on camera, but not so much behind the scenes. Patrick Stewart especially disliked the uniform because it bunched around his midsection, causing him to constantly have to adjust it while filming—a move fans jokingly refer to as the Picard Maneuver. Another, not as easily observable problem is that the uniforms smelled—and caused back problems for much of the cast.

The damage likely would have been permanent if not for the intervention of Stewart's chiropractor, who told him to stop wearing the uniform. This prompted the costume department to undertake the redesign that resulted in a wool two-piece uniform that was more breathable—and less likely to cause crippling back pain.