It’s just unbelievable that Sophie Turner had to shoot such Game of Thrones scenes when she was only 15 years old.
Below are what 27 performers shared about some of their most traumatic roles and how it impacted them afterwards. WARNING: Spoilers ahead!
Sexual assault, eating problems, and PTSD are also mentioned.
1. Sophie Turner, portraying Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones, was one of the latest instances. Turner mentioned how she learned coping methods such as having fun between takes to avoid being traumatized, in an interview earlier this year.
However, the actress also claimed, “I’m sure I’ll exhibit some symptoms of trauma down the road. At that age, I don’t think I could comprehend a lot of the scene matter.” Turner was cast in the series when she was 15 years old. She had to film some of the series’ most painful scenes, involving her character being assaulted.
2. Tom Hanks in Cast Away is an older example. Hanks portrayed a man alone on a barren island in the movie. The individual becomes so lonely that he calls a volleyball “Wilson” and interacts with it.
Hanks admitted that he had nearly gone insane when the film was about to be wrapped, in a recent interview with Graham Bensinger. “When Wilson was born, I had dialogue with him, and I heard his dialogue in my head. I did go crazy ’cause I never had a day off. I never had a shot off; I was never off camera for anything. It was…the whole movie was like, point and shoot. I don’t even recall hearing ‘Action’ and ‘Cut.'”
3. In 2017, Daniel Day-Lewis stunned the world by announcing his withdrawal from acting. According to W Magazine, his ultimate movie, Phantom Thread, had enveloped him in ” such a depression that he would be prompted to publicly announce his retirement from acting.”
“Paul [the film’s director] and I laughed a lot before we made the movie. And then we stopped laughing because we were both overwhelmed by a sense of sadness,” Day-Lewis shared. “That took us by surprise: We didn’t realize what we had given birth to. It was hard to live with. And still is.”
4. Leonardo DiCaprio described his shooting experience of Shutter Island as “traumatic,” calling it “one of the most intense, hardcore filming experiences I’ve ever had as we explored what the mentally ill had to face in the days when mental hospitals were called insane asylums. … I went to places and unearthed some things that I didn’t think I was capable of. It was like an emotional layer cake that just kept getting deeper and deeper.”
DiCaprio went on, “It took me back to the one time I really remembered my dreams, because I usually don’t. But when I used a nicotine patch when I was trying to quit smoking, I did have bloodcurdling nightmares of mass murders, and I woke up in the middle of the night and had to take the patches off. I guess I had moments like that in the film.”
5. Lady Gaga remained in character for 9 months for her part in House of Gucci. She also drew on her own trauma history in the part, to the point where her own experiences merged with those of her character.
Ridley Scott, the director, was concerned that she was “traumatizing herself,” but Gaga responded, “I already have. I’ve already been through this anyway. I might as well give it to you.” She claimed she needed a mental nurse with her at the wrap of the movie in order to feel “safer” and that she “brought the darkness with me home because [Patrizia’s] life was dark.”
“I don’t think that any actor should push themselves to that limit,” she then said. Gaga added that she has a “romantic relationship with suffering for your art that [she] developed as a young girl, and it just sometimes goes too far. And when it does go too far, it can be hard to reel it in on your own.”
6. Despite the fact that Hannah Montana was a family-friendly show, Miley Cyrus says it created her a “identity crisis.” “I had gone from being a character almost as often as I was myself. And actually, the concept of the show is that when you’re this character, when you have this alter ego, you’re valuable. You’ve got millions of fans, you’re the biggest star in the world. And then the concept was that when I looked like myself, when I didn’t have the wig on anymore, no one cared about me, I wasn’t a star anymore. So that was drilled into my head,” she clarified.
“I really had to break that. And I think that’s maybe why I almost created a characterized version of myself at times, in the way of being aware of how other people see me. I never created a character where it wasn’t me, but I was aware of how people saw me, and I maybe played into it a little bit,” Cyrus went on to talk about her persona after the show is finished.
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Cyrus has also discussed how the costumes and make-up took their toll on her, most likely resulting in body dysmorphia. “I’m this fragile little girl playing a 16-year-old in a wig and a ton of makeup. It was like Toddlers & Tiaras. I had fucking flippers.” She claimed that after years of being “made attractive” and forced to look like someone she wasn’t, she had no idea who she was when it was over.
7. Zac Efron had trouble splitting himself from the role of serial Ted Bundy when he came home after filming scenes for the movie Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. Zac said in an interview with Daily Mail, “It was almost impossible. I’d like to say that I did it successfully, but I couldn’t.”
8. Costar Lily Collins struggled with her role as Bundy’s partner Elizabeth in the film, but more during the pre-production stage than during filming. “I actually had an awful time in prep for it,” she admitted. “I woke up every single night at 3 or 4 a.m. for a month. I was woken up with visions of destruction around rooms, logs, and broken glass.”
9. In order to play Arthur Fleck in the film Joker, Joaquin Phoenix had to shed 52 pounds and says the focus on his weight drove him to develop disordered thinking.
“Once you reach the target weight, everything changes. Like, so much of what’s difficult is waking up every day and being obsessed over like 0.3 pounds. Right? And you really develop, like, a disorder.” He further added that dropping that much weight “affects your psychology. You start to go mad.”
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10. Michael B. Jordan claimed he separated himself and “did whatever [he] felt [he] needed to do” to prepare for the part of Killmonger in Black Panther, but he didn’t have an exit strategy.
He later said that everything had caught up with him and that he had difficulty returning to his usual life and personality. “Readjusting to people caring about me, getting that love that I shut out,” he said. “I shut out love, I didn’t want love. I wanted to be in this lonely place as long as I could.” He then tried therapy, which he thought was quite beneficial. “Everyone needs to unpack and talk.”
11. Kate Winslet received an Academy Award for her performance in The Reader as an ex-Nazi camp worker. “I am still coming to terms with the whole experience of having played Hannah. I really, genuinely am,” Winslet discussed her role with HuffPost.
“We wrapped on July 12, and I sort of walked away like some car crash victim who somehow hadn’t been hurt on the outside, but I felt like I couldn’t speak [about it]. It was truly overwhelming. I really went somewhere. I was in some kind of a trance. And I’m still coming to terms with all of it. I’m so blown away by the movie.”
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12. Natalie Portman claims she was physically and emotionally exhausted after shooting Black Swan: “It was the first time I understood how you could get so wrapped up in a role that it could sort of take you down.”
She also spoke about her weight loss and role preparation., “There were some nights that I thought I literally was going to die.” She later admitted that she “probably should have gone therapy” after filming because she was “spent” when she started filming Thor.
13. According to Vice, Alex Wolff’s role in Hereditary has been attached to him. “When I started talking about it, all these flashes with all this disturbing shit I went through sort of came back in a flood. It kept me up at night, to where I got into a habit of emotional masochism to the point of just trying to take in every negative feeling I could draw from. I forced it upon myself rather than the opposite of what you’d usually do in life, which is sit on the heater until it starts to burn, and you jump up immediately,” he said.
“I had to do the exact opposite of that and absorb the pain and let it burn,” Wolff went on. “It’s a reverse emotional thing. It’s hard to describe eloquently; it’s just a feeling. I don’t think you can go through something like this and not have some sort of PTSD afterward.”
14. The notorious sexual assault scene of the character Bobby in Deliverance, in which one of the offenders shouts, “Squeal like a pig,” tormented Ned Beatty for many years simply because people kept repeating the phrase at him.
The sequence appeared to take a toll on everyone involved, with costar Burt Reynolds claiming that it was he, not director John Boorman, who brought the scene to a halt after it had been stretched to its limits.
Afterward, Chris Dickey, the son of James Dickey, the writer for the movie, stated that “Ned [Beatty] tried to snap back out of character, to relax. But it wasn’t working. And that day, and for the rest of the time he was in north Georgia, he seemed to have changed, as if whatever sadness or insecurity he’d covered up before as a man, as Ned Beatty, just couldn’t be contained anymore.” Beatty, on the other hand, said that he was “happy” to have been a part of the tale, even writing an op-ed about the event and men’s reactions to rape victims.
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15. The famous Psycho scene in which Janet Leigh’s character, Marion, is stabbed to death in the shower left a lasting impression on her. She even stopped taking showers and started taking baths instead.
If that wasn’t an option, “I make sure the doors and windows of the house are locked. I also leave the bathroom door open and shower curtain open. I’m always facing the door, watching, no matter where the showerhead is,” Leigh explained.
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16. Anne Hathaway, who won an Academy Award for her part as Fantine in Les Misérables, described filming the role (and the significant weight loss required for it) as “a break with reality.”
“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,” Hathaway added.
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17. In It (Chapters One and Two), Bill Skarsgård likened playing horror villain Pennywise to being in a bad relationship. After filming, he was relieved to be free of the persona, but he also described being at home and having “weird and intense Pennywise dreams” every night.
18. After her debut appearance as Jen on Dead to Me, Christina Applegate claimed that the show, which deals with grief and murder, prompted her to reach therapy, particularly because it brought up her personal loss experiences.
“It tapped into some stuff that I had to face. It was cathartic. I don’t know if [it was] therapeutic. … Did I start therapy after the show? Yes, absolutely,” Applegate responded.
19. Dakota Johnson remarked that playing Suzy in Suspiria ” fucked me up so much that I had to go to therapy,” citing the difficult filming conditions in a forsaken hotel on a mountainside.
She then shared, “I find sometimes when I work on a project and — I don’t have any shame in this — I’m a very porous person and I absorb a lot of people’s feelings. When you’re working sometimes with dark subject matter, it can stay with you, and then to talk to somebody really nice about it afterwards is a really nice way to move on from the project.”
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20. Mandy Patinkin famously departed his position as Jason Gideon on Criminal Minds due to dissatisfaction with the show’s content. Patinkin shared, “I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality.”
21. In the hybrid live-action–animated picture Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Bob Hoskins played Eddie. Acting alongside cartoon figures was risky since he had “taught” himself to hallucinate in order to imitate the fictional animals.
“In the end, it screwed up my brain,” he said. “I would be sitting, talking normally, and suddenly a weasel would creep out of the wall at me.” After doctors advised him to take a break from acting for a few months, he didn’t act for a year.
22. Kyle Richards was only eight years old when she played Lindsey for Halloween. It wasn’t the filming of the movie that upset Richards, but rather seeing herself in it: “I had no idea what I was in for. Seeing it for the first time all pieced together was a very, very different movie. It was just really scary, and I really did sleep with my mom until I was 15 years old after that. I was terrified,” she said.
“I think that’s what sealed the deal for me to get out of horror films. After seeing myself in that, I was always thinking there was someone hiding behind the drapes or outside my windows or under my bed, so I would just sleep holding my mom’s arm the entire night,” Richards said.
23. When LaKeith Stanfield portrayed Bill in Judas and the Black Messiah, he claimed he had problems isolating his emotions from his character’s, citing a poisoning scene in which he thought he was truly poisoning Fred Hampton.
“Sometimes your body thinks that’s real, everything you’re putting it through. It’s no wonder I’ve been feeling so stressed out and having panic attacks. I realized going forward, before I step into something like that again, maybe have a therapist,” he said.
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24. In The Pianist, Adrien Brody portrayed Holocaust survivor Wadysaw Szpilman. Brody stated it took him nearly six months to “settle back into things” after spending months preparing by studying piano four hours a day, selling all of his items, starving himself, and reading Szpilman’s memoirs to immerse himself in the Holocaust.
He even said that “there were times when I was concerned that I might not be able to get out of it sane, because I didn’t realize how far it had taken me.”
25. To play Lou in Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal had to drop 30 pounds. He shared, “Physically, it showed itself, but chemically and mentally, I think it was even a more fascinating journey. It became a struggle for me.” Jake also added that he character continues to emerge in his nightmares, despite later claiming that he doesn’t believe in nightmares and that dreams are simply ways to connect with yourself.
26. For his portrayal as eccentric comedian Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon, Jim Carrey went full Method, to the point where he struggled to return to himself after shooting.
“I was looking back at myself and going, What the hell do I believe?” he said. “That was a process.” However, he said it also helped him shed expectations of who he was supposed to be in a sort of “death.”