Actors have the best job in the world because they get to play make-believe for a living and some even get paid millions if they’re good enough. That said, putting in a solid performance in a Hollywood movie is no easy feat.
Indeed, while acting may come easily to the majority of A-list stars, the mental toll of certain performances can cause their overall well-being to dwindle long after the project has finished.
Here, we take a look at 10 actors who were never the same after taking on these demanding roles.
1. Heath Ledger- The Dark Knight
The late Australian actor became an icon immediately after his death from an accidental subscription pill overdose, and that was thanks to his spine-chilling portrayal of Christopher Nolan’s The Joker in the second installment of his Batman series, The Dark Knight.
After his death, the media speculated what precisely the role did to the talented actor, who was forced to go to some pretty dark places to get a true feeling of the Joker’s malevolent outlook on life.
Thus to climb into such a personality and immerse himself in it completely, Ledger isolated himself during the whole filming process to get a true idea of what it must be like to be a psychopath. Most nights, he would average two hours of sleep, and would even turn up to set on his days off in character! Towards the end of filming, he was told that his behavior had gone too far.
2. Johnny Depp- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Johnny Depp was a long-term admirer of gonzo-journalist Hunter. S. Thompson so jumped at the chance to star in the movie adaptation of his rip-roaring, hedonistic memoir, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
A fellow Kentuckian, the pair bonded instantly, and along with co-star Benicia Del Toro, partied to the extreme, so much so that Depp inhabited the role with such ease, crew weren’t sure at times if he was acting or merely being himself.
However, when filming wrapped, it is thought Depp just couldn’t shake the extremes he went to, and years on, it appears his love for hard partying has now played a negative role in his personal life, with ex-wife Amber Heard filing for divorce due to his alcoholism and fits of rage among other things.
3. Linda Blair- The Exorcist
The fact that the film’s lead was mentally scarred after the filming process speaks volumes about a film many have dubbed the scariest movie of all time.
While not aware of the story’s themes when filming (Blair had initially viewed it as a work of fiction when on-set) it later became apparent that the film was more than your usual horror flick.
“I didn’t realize then that it dealt with anything in reality, and so when the press kept asking me about all the devil stuff, it just kept adding to the pressure I was under, and it was just an awful thing to go through as a teenager,” Blair said in an interview years later.
4. Anne Hathaway- Les Miserables
While not being liked by many ( we don’t actually know why) Anne Hathaway at least proved that her acting chops were beyond doubt when she won plaudits for her stark, pathos-fuelled portrayal of Fantine in the live-action adaptation of the popular musical, Les Miserables.
The role required the actress to shave her head and lose a considerable amount of weight, which inevitably impacted on Hathaway’s mind off the set.
She’s even been quoted in one interview saying “I was in such a state of deprivation—physical and emotional. When I got home, I couldn’t react to the chaos of the world without being overwhelmed.”
5. Hugh Laurie- House
The British actor was one of America's highest-paid TV actors when he portrayed the grumpy, though highly endearing Dr. House on the show's namesake.
However, being a non-American meant that Laurie had to go the extra mile to prove he could pull the role off, and he did that to significant effect, with the director of the pilot, Bryan Singer, quoted as saying" You see, that's why I wanted an American actor."
House was also characterized by a perpetual limp, and towards the end of the series, Laurie became so accustomed to walking that way that he began walking with one himself in 2015!
6. Adrien Brody- The Pianist
Adrien Brody put in the performance of his life as a Jewish pianist fleeing Nazi-occupied Poland. The role won the actor an Academy Award for Best Lead Actor, but the part wasn't without its difficulties.
To get into the character's mind, Brody wanted to put himself in the shoes of a person who has to give up everything to survive, so decided to cut things off with his then-girlfriend, sell his apartment, keep his mobile phone turned off for weeks and even starved himself to near-death.
The visceral performance Brody puts in certainly encapsulates the emotions of the movie's protagonist. However, due to his rigorous preparation, Brody admitted that it took a year and a half “to settle back into things.”
7. Tippi Hedren- The Birds
Alfred Hitchcock wasn't one to do things by the book which was what made him such a legendary auteur, and he proved this on the set of his esteemed horror flick, The Birds, much to lead actress Tippi Hedren's horror.
To put it mildly, Hedren was terrorized during the filming process, and at one point was attacked by a flock of doves- just like her character was in the movie. Yes, those birds weren't props, they were the real deal.
Unsurprisingly, Hedren described acting in the film as "brutal" and is believed to have warded off constant advances from Hitchcock, both on and off the set.
8. Isabelle Adjani- Possession
Any horror fan will tell you that Isabelle Adjani's infamous subway scene in the 1981 movie Possession is among the most disturbing scenes in the history of cinema, so it's understandable that the actress was never truly herself after filming finished.
According to Adjani, it took her “years of therapy” to get over playing her role, and she also admitted in an interview with the same publication that she will never go this far for any future parts.
9. Janet Leigh- Psycho
The second Alfred Hitchcock film to appear on our list, Psycho was undoubtedly a tour de force in horror and was one of the first of its kind to introduce the genre to a generation unaccustomed to graphic imagery and screaming, semi-naked women.
The woman in question, was, of course, Janet Leigh, an actress who is considered an icon in Hollywood's vast canon of performers, though it is her role in the movie, Psycho that changed her life off-screen forever.
Even if you are yet to see the movie, you are probably aware of the iconic shower scene, which sees Leigh's character slashed to death by a knife-wielding murderer. After filming, Leigh developed a phobia of showers and would only ever take baths. She also made sure the curtain was open at all times and faced the door to make sure she was in complete control of her surroundings.
10. Keanu Reeves- The Matrix
Keanu Reeves has had many ups and downs in his personal life (remember the "Sad Keanu" memes?), but it was during the filming of the first Matrix movie that the actor's girlfriend, Jennifer Syme, gave birth to a stillborn baby. To add insult to injury, Syme then died in a car crash shortly after the couple broke up because of the shared trauma of the stillborn child.
After Reeves's losses, his Matrix co-stars also started to die. First to go was Aaliyah (who played Zee ), then Gloria Foster, who played the role of The Oracle. Eventually, all these tragedies caused Reeves to go off the rails a bit, which culminated in a near-fatal motorbike accident. On top of this (yes, there's actually more) he then returned to hospital after a foot injury on-set while his sister's relapse in her struggle with leukemia almost cost her her life.
Thankfully, Keanu's sister came through, and the movie went on to achieve worldwide success, and to this day remains one of Hollywood's most esteemed modern-day films.