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Smelly Shia LaBeouf and the maddest method acting

From Billy Bob Thornton walking on crushed glass to Robert De Niro driving the streets of New York in a taxi, here is some of Hollywood's strangest acting techniques...

Published: Monday, 6th January 2014 at 2:40 pm

Have some pity for Shia LaBeouf's co-stars on the set of his new World War II flick Fury - the 27-year-old actor, known for his extreme method acting, reportedly took the decision to stay stinky during filming in Oxfordshire. According to a "source" speaking to the Mail Online, Shia refused to shower for weeks on end in order to "better understand how his character would have felt living in the trenches." Hmm.


Now, while this "source" sounds somewhat dubious, Shia is no stranger to madcap methods when it comes to preparing for his film roles. The former child star has come a long way since his Even Stevens days, reportedly taking acid to better understand ihis character in The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman and having sex on camera for a scene in Lars von Trier flick Nymphomaniac. 

But Shia isn't the only actor to employ extreme techniques to get into character. He's in illustrious company, with Oscar-winning actors Daniel Day Lewis, Adrien Brody and Robert De Niro all known for taking up some downright bizarre habits in aid of a good performance. We've collected together some of the strangest...

Sally Field

The veteran American actress won herself a nod from the Academy last year for her portrayal of Mary Todd - the US president's other half - in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. The partnership saw her appear opposite one of the acting fraternity's best known method men Daniel Day Lewis and Sally has since revealed she never met her British co-star out of character. Instead the pair enjoyed a relationship via text as Abraham Lincoln and his wife. The mobile phone may have been 200-odd years ahead of the time, but Field recalls, "After I got the role, there were seven months before we began to shoot and he would text me all the time, in character. I would have to then answer back in the language of the time, which was really hard to figure out, but great fun."

Anne Hathaway

31-year-old actress Anne Hathaway may have won the genetic lottery with her youthful looks but the Les Misérables actress struggles to look convincingly old and haggard on camera. We're struggling to sympathise. But she has come up with an unconventional means of transforming her fresh complexion... hitting the bottle the night before. After appearing too young on camera, Hathaway once suggested to her co-stars that getting drunk would "make us a little tired and have a little less energy so we look older." It worked and now she swears by it. A pretty handy excuse for partying on a school night. 

Robert De Niro

Did you know the star of Taxi Driver perfected his "You talkin' to me?" twang by obtaining his own cab licence and embarking on 12 hour shifts on the streets of New York? De Niro showed true commitment to Travis Bickle by ferrying customers across the city in the weeks leading up to filming. By this point in his career, he'd already starred in Scorcese's Mean Streets and landed his first Oscar for Vito Corleone in The Godfather II so he no doubt made many a New Yorker's day. Take a look at his taxi licence... 

Renee Zellweger

And speaking of unsolicited work experience, Renee Zellwegger did more than pile on the weight for her two appearances as tragic singleton Bridget Jones. The American actress went incognito to do a three-week stint as an intern in a London publishing firm - the home of Bridget Jones herself. Zellwegger remodelled herself as Bridget Cavendish and passed under the radar as she answered phones, cold-called literary editors and put in the hours next to the photocopier. No word on whether there were any Daniel Cleavers lurking around the office... 

Adrien Brody

The American actor gave his all to the role that made his name. Literally. After winning the part of Jewish pianist and composer Władysław Szpilman in Roman Polanski's World War II drama, Brody gave up his apartment, sold his car, disconnected his phone and with just two bags and a keyboard in tow, uprooted to Europe. Along with losing a shedload of weight to play the emaciated musician living in wartime Warsaw, Brody also spent four hours a day learning the piano. A mammoth effort but his reward was an Oscar making him the sole sub-30 recipient of a best actor gong. 

Michelle Williams

It's a brave actress who dares to play Marilyn Monroe but Michelle Williams portrayed the tragic Hollywood starlet to great acclaim in 2011's My Week With Marilyn. One special trick in particular helped her recreate the American actress and her trademark wiggle. During an interview, Williams revealed she had tied a belt around her knees to help her mimic Monroe's famous strut which she described as "like a balloon is attached to her breast bone, her back is arched, almost like she’s offering—I hate to get graphic—sex from behind. There’s a tilt in her rump. She’s making an entrance and making an exit." Did she master it? Judge for yourself...

Billy Bob Thornton

Another walk, another bizarre trick - although Billy Bob Thornton's means of mastering murderer and psychiatric patient Karl Childers' shuffle in 1996's Sling Blade sounds downright bonkers. Instead of relying on his acting, the 58-year-old had crushed glass placed in his shoes for each shot - so every time you see the poor bloke taking a step, he's essentially destroying his feet. Nevertheless, he was soon shuffling down the red carpet at the Oscars after receiving a best actor nomination. We're not sure we'd have made the same sacrifice... 



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