Painful Movie Roles That Changed Actors Forever

With so much technology, well-thought-out stunts, and other precautions used on film sets, it’s almost unheard of that actors are severely injured or scarred while making films. However, sometimes things go array when you least expect it. Furthermore, scarring is not always physical. Many actors use method acting or get deeply involved in the psyche of their terrifying characters which leave them forever changed.

Here are 20 painful movie roles that have been excruciating either mentally or physically for the actors who took them on.

1. Shelly Duvall — The Shining

Shelly Duvall in 'The Shining'.

The Shining | Warner Bros.

We all know how haunting and terrifying Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is. Based on the novel by Stephen King and starring Jack Nicholson, the film follows Nicholson’s character Jack who takes his wife (Shelly Duvall) and son to an isolated hotel in Colorado to finish his book. However, Jack soon loses his grip on reality, and his wife and son are left to fight for their lives. Kubrick was a notoriously difficult director, and for Duvall, the experience working on the film was hell.

Kubrick tormented Duvall on set, told the rest of the cast and crew to stay away from her, and he diminished her acting skills regularly. In an interview with the late Roger Ebert, Duvall once said,

Jack Nicholson’s character had to be crazy and angry all the time. And in my character, I had to cry 12 hours a day, all day long, the last nine months straight, five or six days a week. I was there a year and a month, and there must be something to Primal Scream therapy because after the day was over and I’d cried for my 12 hours, I went home very contented. It had a very calming effect. During the day I would have been absolutely miserable. After all that work, hardly anyone even criticized my performance in it, even to mention it, it seemed like. The reviews were all about Kubrick like I wasn’t there.

Next: The A-lister who broke his back

2. George Clooney — Syriana

Bob Barnes speaks while looking upwards in front of a house.

Syriana | Warner Bros.

Though no one knew it at the time, George Clooney nearly died on the set of Syriana. In fact, the A-list actor actually broke his back. Thinking he would never be able to walk again, he got to a very dark place. He recalled vividly contemplating suicide while he laid in his hospital bed.

He later spoke about it saying, “I was lying in a hospital bed with an IV in my arm, unable to move, having these headaches where it feels like you’re having a stroke, and for a short three-week period, I started to think, ‘I may have to do something drastic about this’ … but I never thought I’d get there.”

Next: The star who literally became a tortured rock star 

3. Val Kilmer — The Doors

Val Kimer in 'The Doors' speaking to a woman.

The Doors | Tri-Star Pictures

To become the infamous Jim Morrison, the lead singer of The Doors, Val Kilmer went deep into the late singer’s psyche. In fact, things got so harrowing after the actor spent months living, acting, and speaking like Morrison that even The Doors band members couldn’t tell their voices apart.

After filming was complete, Kilmer had to go into intensive therapy to bring himself back to reality.

Next: The starlet whose movie magic almost failed her 

4. Isla Fisher — Now You See Me

Now You See Me | Summit Entertainment

We all remember the magician-centered film Now You See Me, with all of those sensational tricks and magic moves. However, things weren’t so magical for Isla Fisher. In the film, Fisher’s character Hensley is submerged in a tank of water for quite some time, and she is supposed to be able to release herself. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned.

Fisher revealed, “My chain got stuck. I had to really swim to the bottom; I couldn’t get up. Everyone thought I was acting fabulously. I was actually drowning. No one realized I was actually struggling.”

Luckily, the safety latch was pulled, but it took a while for the crew even to realize that Fisher was in real danger.

Next: The legend who was haunted by a psycho

5. Janet Leigh — Psycho

Marion reaching forward while in the shower.

Psycho | Paramount Pictures

Legendary director Alfred Hitchcock was the master of horror and suspense — so much so that generations later we all remember that infamous scene in Pshyco when Marion Crane played by Janet Leigh gets stabbed to death in the shower by Norman Bates. The scene will forever be a significant part of popular culture, but apparently, it left Leigh scarred for life.

After the film, Leigh refused to take showers at home. When she had no other choice, she got super creative. In 1995 she told The New York Times, “I’d make sure the doors and windows of the house are locked, and I leave the bathroom door open and shower curtain open. I’m always facing the door, watching, no matter where the shower head is.”

Talk about trauma.

Next: The man who nearly drowned in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

6. Viggo Mortenson — The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Viggo Mortenson in 'Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers'.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers | New Line Cinema

Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy was super intricate. From the storyline to the sets and the costuming, everything took a ton of money, energy, and effort to organize. Unfortunately, that meant the actors were weighed down with a lot — literally.

In one particular scene, Viggo Mortenson, who played Aragorn, almost drowned. His character had been shot in the back with arrows, so Mortenson had to lie face down in the river and float. However, the crew didn’t realize how strong the river’s current actually was. With the current and his heavy costume, Mortenson was taken under.

Next: The action star who drove a truck into a sea 

7. Jason Statham — The Expendables 3  

The Expendables 3 | Lionsgate

Back in 2013, Jason Statham accidentally drove a semi truck into the Black Sea. The horrible incident was revealed by his co-star, Terry Crews, on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.

Crews said, “We were doing a stunt, and Jason Statham was driving the truck.  He gets in the truck; we’re in Varna in Bulgaria, on the edge of the Black Sea. He literally is supposed to stop the truck; we get out, we shoot, the whole thing. The truck doesn’t stop. The truck goes over the dock, into the Black Sea with Jason Statham driving.”

Luckily, Statham was able to free himself before he drowned.

Next: A movie star who was nearly hanged

8. Michael J. Fox — Back to the Future III

Michael J. Fox in 'Back to The Future III'.

Back to the Future III | Universal Pictures

Michael J. Fox had already played Marty McFly twice before the third Back to the Future came around, but apparently, the third time wasn’t exactly the charm. In the movie, Marty gets strung up in the town’s square. For the scene, Fox had to stand on a box with a noose around his neck. It should have been fairly straightforward; however, director Robert Zemeckis wanted to take away the box to make it look more realistic.

Unfortunately, during the third take, Fox got hanged for real. In his autobiography Lucky Man, Fox recalled, “I swung unconscious at the end of the rope for several seconds before Bob Zemeckis, fan of me though he was, realized even I wasn’t that good of an actor.”

Next: The comedian who talked to cartoons 

9. Bob Hoskins — Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Bob Hoskins being hugged by Roger Rabbit as Jessica Rabbit peeks from a car.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? | Buena Vista Pictures

In the 1988 classic, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the legendary Bob Hoskins’ acts with a ton of cartoons. This meant that for the majority of the film, he’s acting against no one at all. Though the film turned out perfectly, that type of work nearly drove Hoskins insane.

To make the film look as realistic as possible, Hoskins trained himself to see the characters even when they weren’t there. Unfortunately, it worked a bit too well, and he began to hallucinate when he wasn’t on set. In the end, his doctors ordered him to take a year off after filming was complete.

Next: The actress who nearly became a casualty in The Hunger Games

10. Jennifer Lawrence — The Hunger Games

Katniss Evergreen crouches while wearing a black jacket and carrying arrows.

Hunger Games | Lionsgate Films

If we’re honest, The Hunger Games looked terrifying AF without even thinking about what was happening on set. With hybrid wasps, killer monkeys, fires, and other psychological tortures, it’s no wonder Jennifer Lawrence was just hanging on by a thread. While filming one of the movies, the Oscar winner almost suffocated.

In one scene, Lawrence was running through a tunnel when a fog machine malfunctioned, causing the tunnel to completely fill with smoke. Apparently, the actress was barely able to escape before suffocating.

Next: A man who was consumed with the Joker 

11. Heath Ledger — The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger in 'The Dark Knight'.

The Dark Knight | Warner Bros.

There are many legendary portrayals of the infamous DC villain, the Joker. However, the most captivating performance of the psychotic mastermind was given by Heath Ledger in the 2008 film, The Dark Knight.

The late actor won an Oscar for his performance, but as a result of playing the crazed clown, he hardly ever slept.

Next: The movie that gave an actor a heart attack

12. Martin Sheen — Apocalypse Now

Martin Sheen wearing camouflage clothing in 'Apocalypse Now'.

Apocalypse Now | United Artists

There has perhaps never been a film set as harrowing as Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Not only was the film way over budget and over schedule, actors nearly died in the hot jungles of Vietnam. In fact, Martin Sheen had a heart attack while filming and had to crawl to get help.

With dead bodies, cocaine binges, and so much more, it was a pretty catastrophic filming experience.

Next: An actress who was just miserable 

13. Anne Hathaway — Les Miserables

Anne Hathaway looking to the side and smiling in 'Les Miserables'.

Les Miserables | Universal Pictures

For her role in the stunning musical Les Miserables, Anne Hathaway lost an astounding 25 pounds to make her character, the starving and destitute Fantine, look as realistic as possible. However, the weight loss not only left her physically drained, but in emotional turmoil as well.

In fact, she was so drained that she was unable to deal with the real world. In 2012, Hathaway told Vogue that it was weeks and weeks before she was able to cope with life again.

Next: The actor who took method acting too far 

14. Johnny Depp — Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Johnny Depp standing in front of a car and smoking a cigarette as Thompson .

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Universal Pictures

For the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Johnny Depp had to step into the mind of legendary journalist and guns and drug enthusiast, Hunter S. Thompson. To prepare for the role, Depp spent months living in Thompson’s basement. He even slept near barrels of gunpowder.

Though it was not Depp’s most memorable movie role, he was so deeply embedded with Thompson’s quirks and mannerisms by the time the film ended, he had to “detox.”

Next: A Hollywood legend who was nearly trampled by camels

15. Peter O’Toole — Lawrence Of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia | Columbia Pictures

To this day, the 1962 historical epic, Lawrence Of Arabia, remains one of the most important films in movie history. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing on set. Peter O’Toole, who starred in the titular role, was nearly trampled to death by camels. He’d fallen off his camel and couldn’t get up because he injured his back during the fall.

Luckily, the camel he was riding stood directly over him and shielded him.

Next: This actress almost died on Quentin Tarantino’s set. 

16. Diane Kruger — Inglourious Basterds

Diane Kruger smoking a cigarette in 'Inglorious Basterds'.

Inglorious Basterds | Universal Pictures

Quentin Tarantino is a master filmmaker, but he’s also taken things too far in on set. In his 2009 film Inglourious Basterds, he nearly strangled actress Diane Kruger. In the movie, Kruger played Bridget von Hammersmark, and Tarantino didn’t want Kruger to be in any more danger than possible when her character was strangled. As a result, the Pulp Fiction director strangled her himself.

Unfortunately, he didn’t yell cut in time, and Kruger went unconscious and almost asphyxiated.

Next: This actress was tormented by birds. 

17. Tippi Hedren — The Birds

Birds on a playground.

The Birds | Universal Pictures

Though Hitchcock was a master filmmaker, but he wasn’t a very nice man. When filming The Birds, he tormented and manipulated actress Tippi Hedren. Both on and off set, Hitchcock subjected Hedren to sexual harassment, manipulation, and obsessive behavior.

He even lied to her and told her that he would be using mechanical birds instead of real birds for a scene. When all was said and done, Hedren was left bloodied, bruised, and emotionally scarred.

Next: A horror legend who was never the same

18. Isabella Adjani — Possession

Anna looks upward, afraid at what she's seeing.

Possession | Universal Pictures

Possession has one of the most gruesome scenes in horror film history, and it wasn’t done without scarring actress Isabella Adjani for life. In fact, Adjani was so tormented by her role in the movie that she was in therapy for many years after. She also refused to make a horror movie ever again.

Next: A man who nearly went blind

19. Malcolm McDowell — A Clockwork Orange

Alex is in headgear that is keeping his eyes open and he's yelling in 'A Clockwork Orange'.

A Clockwork Orange | Warner Bros.

Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian crime film, A Clockworld Orange, is so sexually violent and extreme that it’s nearly impossible to sit through. Of course, we can’t even imagine what being on set was like. We do know that Malcolm McDowell who played the main character Alex was left scarred for life. For whatever reason, McDowell permitted Kubrick to pin his eyes open for every single take.

Not only did McDowell suffer from excruciating pain, he was temporarily blinded and had a scratched cornea. We can’t even imagine the psychological scars that were left behind.

Next: A child star who was haunted for years

20. Kyle Richards — Halloween

Lindsey Wallace sits on a couch.

Halloween | Warner Bros.

Being a child actor is hard enough, but being in a horror movie takes it to an entirely new level. The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star was only 9 years old when Halloween premiered, and as a result, she became terrified that a serial killer monster was lurking behind her at all times.

She slept in the bed with her mother until she was 15 years old.

Follow Aramide Tinubu on Twitter @midnightrami.

Read more7 of Hollywood’s Biggest Myths About Horror Movies

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