Sacrificing for the Screen

Julie Derhak, Staff Writer

From minor to major roles, actors will stop at nothing to achieve their character’s aura, even if it means threatening their health.

In the 2004 film, The Machinist, Christian Bale dropped his weight from 173 pounds to 110 pounds to better personify his character. Bale now holds the record of actor weight loss (63 Ibs), due to a diet consisting of one can of tuna and an apple a day. Right after The Machinist, Bale had to quickly buff up for his role in Batman, but the extreme weight loss doesn’t stop there. For the highly anticipated Les Miserables movie, Anne Hathaway reported to have lost 25 pounds of her already thin figure for her role of Fantine, a job that took only 13 days to shoot.

Elizabeth Banks, known for her recent role in the Hunger Games as Effie Trinket, underwent transformations….minus the starving part. She sandpapered her skin and added latex to show that her character had undertaken lots of plastic surgery. The makeup and outfits were complicated and uncomfortable; even the elaborate nails limited Banks’s abilities to do simple tasks.

Daniel-Day Lewis in his phenomenal role of Abraham Lincoln went to great lengths to prep for his character. He read over 100 books about the 16th President, lost some weight, and spent nearly a year before shooting with the makeup artist to achieve the dark, solemn, physical look of Honest Abe.

Getting into character is no exception for Bingham actors. Michelle Robbins, the theatre teacher at Bingham, encourages her actors to research their character and to get a feel for the part.

“The relation with other roles is very important and it influences the character. How actors act to one another on stage plays a big part with their character,” said Ms. Robbins.

She discourages becoming a character, along with extreme practices of method acting, as actors are meant only to portray a character. Method acting is a strategy that involves the actor recreating the thoughts and emotions of their character and is often practiced off set. Heath Ledger’s intensity for his role in The Dark Night as the Joker is a bit over the top, even for method acting. Ledger locked himself in a hotel room for about a month to prepare for his character. He also suffered from insomnia, paranoia, and panic attacks during the shooting of the film.

Becoming anorexic or embodying a mental illness isn’t necessary to become a great actor; reading up and researching goes a long way to capture the audience.