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26 Actors Who Stay in Character Off Camera

Updated June 14, 2019 409.3k views26 items

This is a list of actors who stay in character off camera, loosely ranked by fame and popularity. Several famous actors and actresses use the technique of method acting to completely immerse themselves into a role. One actor stayed in character to the point that he took up his character's profession in his off hours and another actor only ate fruit in preparation for a role.

Who is the most famous actor who stays in character off camera? Angelina Jolie tops our list. Jolie got so into method acting for her film Gia that she told her then-husband Jonny Lee Miller that she would not speak to him during filming. "I'm alone; I'm dying; I'm gay; I'm not going to see you for weeks," she said.

Robert De Niro spent weeks driving a cab around New York City to prepare for his role in Taxi Driver. He also gained excessive weight and lived with his co-star Joe Pesci for his role in Raging Bull. Other actors known for staying in character off camera include Daniel Day Lewis, Kate Winslet, and Jim Carrey.

Do you think that these actors take their roles too seriously? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
  • Jared Leto

    Requiem for a Dream, Dallas Buyers Club
    Jared Leto would arrive on the set of The Dallas Buyers Club already dressed in drag for his role as Rayon.

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  • Dustin Hoffman

    Kramer vs. Kramer, Tootsie
    Dustin Hoffman is rumored to be tough to work with because he is always in character on the set. He even went as far as to deprive himself of sleep to get into the head of his character in Marathon Man.

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  • Kate Winslet

    Titanic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    Kate Winslet reportedly dove in to her role in The Reader to the point that she had trouble getting back to normal life. She said of the experience: "It's like I've escaped from a serious car accident and need to understand what has just happened."

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  • Daniel Day Lewis

    There Will Be Blood, Lincoln
    Daniel Day Lewis is probably the actor best known for staying in character off camera. Reportedly, he would send text messages as "Commander in Chief" and talk on the phone as Abraham Lincoln when he was filming Lincoln.

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  • Donald Glover

    Community, The Martian

    In the Atlanta episode "Teddy Perkins," Donald Glover took on the titular role. Glover insisted on acting in character day and night on set, even having cast and crew members call him Teddy. 


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  • Angelina Jolie

    Maleficent, Changeling
    Angelina Jolie got so into method acting for her film Gia that she told her then-husband, Johnny Lee Miller, that she would not speak to him during filming. "I'm alone; I'm dying; I'm gay; I'm not going to see you for weeks," she said.

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  • Jack Nicholson

    The Shining, The Departed
    Jack Nicholson has said, "There's probably no one who understands method acting better academically than I do, or actually uses it more in his work." He reportedly underwent shock therapy treatment in real life to better understand his character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

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  • Heath Ledger

    10 Things I Hate About You, A Knight's Tale
    It was rumored that Heath Ledger reportedly only spoke to people as the Joker when he was filming The Dark Knight. Although this has since proven to be untrue, it IS true that he spent a month locked in a hotel room practising for the role. He went over dialect, stance and even the inner workings of the characters' mind to the point where he could dip in and out of various character traits. He dove so deep into the madness of the character that he couldn't sleep.

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  • Michelle Williams

    Dawson's Creek, Blue Valentine
    Michelle Williams began preparation for her role as Marilyn Monroe on and off the set for her film Marilyn. She reportedly bound her legs together to develop Monroe's famous stride.

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  • Robin Williams

    Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society
    Robin Williams reportedly went around town as Mrs. Doubtfire to stay in character for the role.

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  • Nicolas Cage

    Leaving Las Vegas, National Treasure
    Nicolas Cage fully immersed himself in his role for Leaving Las Vegas, and the hard work paid off. Cage won an Academy Award for his performance.

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  • Jim Carrey

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Truman Show
    Jim Carrey may be known for his comedic roles, but he is a very serious actor. When he was filming the biopic Man in the Moon, he was always in character as Andy Kaufman or his sidekick Tony Clifton.

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  • Marlon Brando

    The Godfather, Apocalypse Now
    Marlon Brando is one of the most well-known practitioners of method acting. He reportedly spent months in bed at a hospital in order to prepare for his role as a paraplegic in The Man.

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  • Ashton Kutcher

    The Butterfly Effect, That '70s Show
    Ashton Kutcher stayed in character for Jobs to the point that he ended up in the hospital. To better understand his role as Steve Jobs, Kutcher adopted the Apple CEO's fruit-only diet. He said he "...went to the hospital like two days before we started shooting the movie. I was like doubled over in pain. My pancreas levels were completely out of whack."

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  • Robert De Niro

    Goodfellas, The Godfather: Part II
    Robert De Niro spent weeks driving a cab around New York City to prepare for his role in Taxi Driver. He also gained excessive weight and lived with his co-star, Joe Pesci, for his role in Raging Bull.

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  • Christian Bale

    The Dark Knight, The Prestige
    Christian Bale is so dedicated to method acting that he lost over 60 pounds for his role in The Machinist.

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  • Chloë Sevigny

    American Psycho, Boys Don't Cry
    Chole Sevigny was so dedicated to her role in the film The Brown Bunny that she actually performed a sex act on her co-star Vincent Gallo.

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  • Al Pacino

    The Godfather, Scarface
    Al Pacino got so into his role as a blind man for Scent of a Woman that he claimed he could not see anything on the set.

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  • James Dean

    Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden
    James Dean reportedly annoyed people with his excessive preparation and dedication to his roles. His work often paid off, and he was known to get scenes in one take.

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  • Adrien Brody

    The Pianist, The Grand Budapest Hotel
    Adrien Brody sold everything he owned and moved to Europe to get into character for The Pianist. He also deprived himself of food. He says, "There is an emptiness that comes with really starving that I hadn't experienced... I couldn't have acted that without knowing it."

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  • Marilyn Monroe

    Some Like It Hot, The Seven Year Itch
    Marilyn Monroe worked with method acting developer Lee Strasberg to hone her craft.

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  • Michael Caine considers himself to be a method actor. He says: "the rehearsals are the work; the performance is the relaxation."
  • Jane Fonda

    Nine to Five, Klute
    Jane Fonda was trained in method acting by the man who developed the technique, Lee Strasberg.

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  • Ed Harris

    A Beautiful Mind, Gravity
    Ed Harris built a painting studio at his home so that could completely become Jackson Pollack in the film Pollack. 

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  • Joaquin Phoenix

    Gladiator, Walk the Line
    Joaquin Phoenix always dives into a role, but he went all in for his 2010 mockumentary I'm Still Here. He appeared disheveled and confused during interviews and he successfully convinced people that he was losing his mind.

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