From the outside, acting does not look like a complicated profession. The common misconception with acting is that it is just the art of learning lines and delivering them convincingly. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. An actor needs intense preparation for each role. While this mostly pays off, sometimes a role leaves an artist with severe mental trauma. Here are a few stars who opened up about being mentally affected by their roles.
Joaquin Phoenix in Joker
Actor Joaquin Phoenix might have won a Best Actor Academy Award for this film, but it also severely impacted his mental health. Phoenix talked about having to lose 23 kilos in a short amount of time. “The first thing was the weight loss, that’s really what I started with. As it turns out, that impacts your psychology, and you really start to go mad when you lose that much weight in that amount of time," he said in an interview. He also said that exploring a different aspect to his character was also mentally difficult.
Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables
Anne Hathaway, too, won a Best Actress in a Supporting Role as Fantine in Les Miserables. However, she had a very hard time recovering from the character. Hathaway had to eat lettuce and oatmeal paste for months to get in the physicality of the character. “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. It took me weeks till I felt like myself again," she said.
Before his untimely death from accidental drug overdose in January 2008, Heath Ledger gave an interview to New York Times promoting his film I’m Not There. In the interview, he talked about playing Joker in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight. He described the character as a “psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.” He also admitted that playing Joker had led to his insomnia. “Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night. I couldn’t stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going,” he said,
Kate Winslet in The Reader
The 2008 film The Reader, where Kate Winslet played a woman on trial for being a Nazi guard during World War II impacted the actress mentally. She said it took her a lot of time to let go of the character. “It’s like I’ve escaped from a serious car accident and need to understand what has just happened,” she said, adding, “When I leave a character, I have to analyse the trance through which I have just passed. It can take me several months to say goodbye to them."
Adrien Brody in The Pianist
Adrien Brody has always managed to deliver unforgettable performances, but his most acclaimed one till date is that of a musician and holocaust survivor in Roman Polanski’s The Pianist. In an interview in 2017, Brody admitted to still being haunted by the experience, more than a decade and half later. He said, “I was depressed for a year after The Pianist. And I don’t suffer from that, generally. It wasn’t just a depression; it was a mourning. I was very disturbed by what I embraced [in making that film], and of the awareness that it opened up in me. But how much these things take from you changes project to project.”