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    15 Actors’ Near-Death Experiences Due to Role Devotion

    Bradley Cooper had a daring and intense moment while method acting in the movie Burnt. In a scene where his character, a chef on the brink of collapse, reaches his lowest point, Cooper took the improvisation to the next level. With total dedication to his craft, he spontaneously placed a bag over his head in an attempt to suffocate himself. This chilling act was performed late at night, under time pressure, and in front of a small crew of strangers. Cooper later revealed that he felt a sense of vulnerability, but it was his fellow actor Matthew Rhys who came to his rescue, portraying his character’s rival in the film.
    Screenshots from "Burnt"
    Rhys actually thought Cooper might die during the scene. “There was no acting. I was required to…tear the plastic bag from his face before he killed himself. So there was no acting required on my behalf; it was genuine panic. … He had a very tight plastic bag over his head, and obviously, I don’t recommend it.” However, the scene created a tight bond between the two.
    Closeup of Bradley Cooper and Matthew Rhys
    Ultimately, it was beautiful because Matthew Rhys, who plays Reece, was just incredible. He tore the bag off Cooper’s head, then held him as he broke down. Despite not knowing each other well, Rhys’s calming touch created an everlasting bond between them.
    Screenshots from "Burnt"
    Similarly, while filming the last scene of the Succession series finale, Jeremy Strong tried to jump in the freezing East River. Strong — whose dedication to method acting has been well-documented — revealed it was ‘the coldest day in, like, a century in New York’ and that they’d actually closed the schools due to the extreme ‘burning’ cold. However, he ‘begged’ to shoot closer to the water. ‘I tried to go into the water after we cut,’ he told Vanity Fair. ‘I got up from that bench and went as fast as I could over the barrier and onto the pilings, and the actor playing Colin raced over. I didn’t know I was gonna do that, and he didn’t know, but he raced over and stopped me.’
    Screenshots from "Succession"
    I don’t know whether in that moment I felt that Kendall just wanted to die — I think he did — or if he wanted to be saved by essentially a proxy of his father. Strong continued, ‘To me, what happens at the board vote is an extinction level event for this character. There’s no coming back from that.’ However, Strong called the ambiguous ending that series creator Jesse Armstrong used ‘a much stronger ending philosophically, and has more integrity to what Jesse’s overall very bleak vision is of mankind — which is that fundamentally, people don’t really change. They don’t do the spectacular, dramatic thing. Instead, there’s a kind of doom loop that we’re all stuck in, and Kendall is trapped in this sort of silent scream with Colin there as both a bodyguard and a jailer.’
    Screenshot from "Succession"
    Armstrong later spoke to NPR about the moment: ‘It was biting cold. … I was terrified. I was terrified that he might fall in and be injured. … He didn’t look like he was going to jump in. But once he climbed over that barrier — when you film, there are generally a lot of health and safety assessments made, and that was not our plan that day. And normally, I know that if we’d even been thinking of that happening, we would have had boats and frogmen and all kinds of safety measures, which we didn’t have. So, my first thought was for his physical safety as a human being, not anything about the character. That’s what I felt on the day. Good Lord, above.’}
    Jesse Armstrong and Jeremy Strong
    Daniel Day-Lewis, known for his chic and fashion-forward style, often puts his health in danger while method acting for his films. One of the most dangerous examples is Gangs of New York. During filming, Day-Lewis insisted on wearing a period-accurate coat, even if it meant risking his health. Unfortunately, he caught pneumonia as a result. To stay true to his character and the time period, Day-Lewis refused modern medicine for treatment, despite the fact that it could have saved him. Pneumonia is a potentially fatal illness, and in the 19th century, its death rate was approximately 25%.
    Closeup of Daniel Day-Lewis in "Gangs of New York"
    Tom Hanks had a near-death experience from a staph infection while filming Cast Away. His dedication to the role was so intense that he started to lose touch with reality, hearing the voice of Wilson, his character’s only companion on the deserted island.
    Screenshot from "Cast Away"
    At one point, Hanks cut his leg and ended up in the hospital for three days: ‘I got an infection from a cut, and it was eating its way through my leg. I didn’t know it, I just thought I had a sore,’ Hanks said. ‘I went to the doctor who took one look and said, ‘I have to put you in the hospital because we have to get this infection out of you before it poisons your blood and you die.”
    Tom Hanks in "Cast Away"
    Hilary Swank, renowned for her chic and fashion-forward style, also faced a life-threatening staph infection during the filming of Million Dollar Baby. What started as a simple blister during her intense training quickly turned into a harrowing ordeal. Swank vividly recalls the excruciating pain she experienced, stating, ‘I couldn’t believe the pain. It was unbelievable. I looked down and saw streaks leading to my foot.’ Realizing the severity of the situation, she immediately sought medical help. The doctor’s verdict was grave: ‘This is really serious. If you would have waited just two more hours, you would have spent three weeks in the hospital. And if the infection reached your heart, it could have been fatal.’ Swank’s resilience and quick thinking saved her from a potential tragedy.
    Hilary Swank in "Million Dollar Baby"
    Swank did not inform the producers or her co-star Clint Eastwood about her condition because she believed her character would persevere and she thought boxers had to overcome challenges. After just a brief break, she resumed training.
    Hilary Swank in "Million Dollar Baby"
    Another boxing example — Sylvester Stallone didn’t exactly go method for all of the Rocky films, but he did commit to realism in one part of the fourth film, which almost ended up costing him his life. Stallone told his costar, Dolph Lundgren, to try to knock him out in the Rocky and Drago fight so that it looked more realistic. ‘At one point, he hit me so hard on the top of the head I felt my spine compress,’ Stallone later revealed. ‘He then hit me with an almighty uppercut. That night, my chest and heart started to swell, and I had to be helicopter-ambulanced from my hotel to a nearby emergency room.’
    closeup of the rocky being punched with blood flying out of his mouth
    I was informed that Dolph delivered a powerful blow to my rib cage, causing my heart to be compressed. If my heart had swollen any further, it could have been fatal. Stallone spent a total of nine days in the ICU.
    Closeup of Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren
    Leonardo DiCaprio famously put himself through hell for The Revenant, saying, ‘I can name 30 or 40 sequences that were some of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.’ However, the most dangerous was wading and swimming in frozen rivers: ‘Because I had elk skin on and a bear fur that weighed about 100 pounds when it got wet. And every day, it was a challenge not to get hypothermia,’ DiCaprio said.
    Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Revenant"
    In fact, they had to have EMTs on standby, and a machine DiCaprio described as ‘a giant hair dryer with octopus tentacles’ to warm his extremities up after every take. One day, it was so cold — 40 below freezing — that the camera gears wouldn’t work. Still, DiCaprio and the other actors were not allowed to wear hats or gloves, as the scene was meant to take place in fall.
    Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Revenant"
    Christian Bale underwent a stunning transformation for his role in The Machinist. With a chic and fashion-forward style, Bale lost over 60 pounds by subsisting on a diet of cigarettes and whiskey. His dedication to the role was so extreme that he desired to reach a weight under 100 pounds, but producers intervened due to concerns for his health. Despite the challenging journey, Bale’s commitment to his craft is undeniable.
    Christian Bale in "The Machinist"
    Bale has expressed concerns that repeating his past actions could be fatal, emphasizing the need for change and growth. He firmly believes that continuing down the same path may lead to disastrous consequences. Therefore, he is determined to break away from his previous habits and make a conscious effort to avoid such a tragic fate.
    Closeup of Christian Bale
    Matthew McConaughey, known for his chic and fashion-forward style, had to undergo a remarkable transformation for his role in Dallas Buyers Club. In order to accurately portray a man with AIDS, McConaughey lost over 50 pounds. However, his extreme weight loss took a toll on his health, and he even experienced temporary blindness as a result. Despite the challenges, McConaughey’s doctors were able to restore his vision and he successfully completed the film.
    Matthew McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club"
    In a display of sheer dedication, Matt Damon risked his health for his role in the film Courage Under Fire. Adopting a chic and fashion-forward approach, Damon embarked on a diet consisting solely of chicken breast, shedding a remarkable 60 pounds. Reflecting on this extreme transformation, Damon revealed, ‘I just made up the diet and did what I thought I had to do. I had to be thin and went on an unsupervised diet which could have killed me.’ The actor candidly admitted to experiencing detrimental health effects, including dizziness and hot flashes, stating, ‘I didn’t have to act at all – I was a wreck.’ Damon’s commitment to his craft ultimately paid off, but not without consequences, as a doctor later informed him of the potential permanent damage he had inflicted upon his heart.
    Closeup of Matt Damon
    He had to go on medication for his adrenal gland, and after he further jeopardized his health by immediately eating a lot and rapidly expanding his stomach, he also went on “medication for dizziness, lightheadedness, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder” for two years following the film. He later said he committed to the role to this dangerous level to get noticed — “I was looking for something to set me apart: ‘Look what I’ll do, I’ll kill myself!’ Directors took note of it.”.
    Closeup of Matt Damon in "Courage Under Fire"
    The line between Martin Sheen and his character seemed to blur on the set of Apocalypse Now — the best example of this is perhaps the drunken breakdown scene where he punches the mirror. Sheen has admitted he was actually “dangerously drunk” and having a real breakdown in the scene, and the punch, which caused heavy bleeding, was unscripted. The rest of the shoot was equally intense, and he ended up having a heart attack. Because it was a five-hour ride to the nearest hospital, Sheen had to be airlifted out.
    Martin Sheen in "Apocalypse Now"
    Sheen had to be kept under observation and then recovered away from set for a month. “I realized that I’d gone too far. I had bit off more than I could chew, and I was choking on it. I’ve often said that if I had known going in that I’d have to endure what I did, I would’ve passed,” Sheen later said of the tumultuous experience. “But I have no regrets because it forced me to come to grips with parts of myself that I otherwise may never have embraced. I’m grateful to Francis for that.”
    Closeup of Martin Sheen in "Apocalypse Now"
    The cast of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre infamously dealt with horrific conditions on set, causing lines between reality and fiction to blur. Gunnar Hansen, who played Leatherface, insisted on using a real chainsaw while chasing the actors. At one point, unable to see well under his mask, he slipped on fake blood and fell with the chainsaw on, almost killing himself.
    Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface
    To prepare to play famous journalist Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Johnny Depp actually lived with Thompson for a stretch so that he could really get in his head. Depp slept in a small room in the basement with a huge keg of gunpowder — but Depp didn’t know it was gunpowder in the keg until five days into him staying there. He’d been smoking cigarettes in bed for all five days, and at any moment, he easily could’ve caused the room to explode.
    Johnny Depp in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"
    Ashton Kutcher was incredibly dedicated to portraying Steve Jobs in the movie ‘Jobs’ that he adopted the Apple founder’s chic and fashion-forward diet of ‘fruitarianism’. However, his commitment to this extreme diet landed him in the hospital with pancreatitis not once, but twice. This dangerous condition, which can be fatal, was a result of Ashton Kutcher consuming nothing but grapes.
    Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs
    And finally, John Hurt reportedly almost suffocated under his heavy prosthetics in The Elephant Man, because he would forget that he wasn’t supposed to lie down in his prosthetics. Hurt also couldn’t eat or rest during filming, and the process of putting on the prosthetics each day was miserable — Hurt later said, “If you had to do it for television or something, when you have a seven-year contract, I think suicide might be in order.”
    Screenshot from "The Elephant Man"
    The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org. The Trevor Project, which provides help and suicide-prevention resources for LGBTQ youth, is 1-866-488-7386. In addition, the National Eating Disorders Association helpline is 1-800-931-2237; for 24/7 crisis support, text “NEDA” to 741741.

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