25 Actors Who Either Went Really Overboard Or Really Slacked Off In Preparing For A Role

We all remember the school days when we used to prepare endlessly before every exam. And you also remember that there was also someone else who did absolutely no studying whatsoever. Well, in Hollywood, actors and actresses fit into either one of those two categories: those who took preparing for a role to the extreme, and those who were woefully underprepared before shooting.
Indeed, there are actors who go through extremely dangerous and risky processes before filming to get into a character’s psyche. Some spent time learning skills or a new langue that their character required. Others meet with real-life people who represent the characters they play. On the other hand, there are also stars who did nothing and they even had no clue what the movie is about.
Read on to find out which celebrities bust a gut to make their characters incredibly real, and which ones didn't. In either case, it's sure that their performances won't be soon forgotten!

#1 Overprepared – Lady Gaga, House of Gucci

Source: MGM

Lady Gaga left no stone unturned when preparing for her role as Patrizia Reggiani in "House of Gucci". She spent a year and a half speaking with an Italian accent and began to look at everything with dollar signs in her eyes. Additionally, to properly grasp her character's cunning attitude, she studied clips about foxes and panthers on YouTube. In an interview, the star told how she “started to live in a way whereby anything that I looked at, anything that I touched, I started to take notice of where and when I could see money.”

#2 Underprepared – Hugh Jackman, X-Men

Source: Twentieth Century Fox

When the first film in the "X-Men" franchise was filming, Dougray Scott was originally cast as Wolverine. After a few weeks, Hugh Jackman took his position. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Jackman was woefully unprepared for the part. He had never read any comic books and hadn't yet worked out at a gym to bulk up. He even posted on Twitter in 2020, “When the studio called and asked if I could get in shape to play Wolverine in three weeks I might have over-promised! But wouldn’t you have too?”

#3 Overprepared – Brie Larson, Room

Source: A24

In preparing for her Oscar-winning role in Room, Brie Larson clearly put in the effort. The movie tells the story of a mother imprisoned in a small shack with her kid. So what did Larson do? The actress said that she spent a full month at home because she want to know what it was like to be held captive. She wrote a journal and created collages throughout that period, just like her character did with her son, an actor who Larson made a point of getting to know before filming.

#4 Underprepared – Billy Burke, Twilight

Source: Summit Entertainment

Billy Burke played Charlie, Bella's father, in the "Twilight" series. But it seems like the actor was underprepared to take on the role. He had never read the novels and had no idea what "Twilight" was. He took the role because director Catherine Hardwick requested to have him in the film. He said, “I had no idea what "Twilight" was, at all. Catherine Hardwicke had seen a movie that I did a number of years ago… and she requested to have me in. I didn’t really have a clue that the movie would have that much success, but I had an idea that it would do something.”

#5 Overprepared – Richard Gere, Time Out Of Mind

Source: IFC Films

Richard Gere portrayed a homeless New Yorker in "Time Out of Mind", and he really worked hard to make the role lively. Prior to shooting, the actor had worked with the Coalition for Homeless for years, talking to and listening to homeless individuals to learn about their experiences living on the streets. He obviously over-prepared, and it paid off.

#6 Underprepared – Michael Gambon, Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban

Source: Warner Bros.

In "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", actor Michael Gambon played perfectly the iconic role of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore. But it turns out that the actor just strolled on set without so much as reading the book series. Gambon thinks there was no point in reading the books as he was “playing with [screenwriter] Steve Kloves’ words” and not what was written in the novels.

#7 Overprepared – Christopher Lee, The Lord of the Rings

Source: New Line Cinema

Christopher Lee’s performance as the wicked wizard Saruman in "The Lord of the Rings" impressed the audiences. So, it should come not be surprising that the renowned British actor was quite well-prepared for his role. In fact, he was a huge fan of "The Lord of the Rings". Not only did Lee reread the trilogy each year, but he took it upon himself to write a personal letter to Peter Jackson, asking for a part in the movie. He eventually received the role of the wicked wizard Saruman.

#8 Underprepared – Michael J. Fox, Back To The Future

Source: Universal Studios

It might be hard to imagine anyone else playing Marty McFly's iconic character in "Back to the Future," but it wasn't Michael J. Fox at first. Marty was portrayed by Eric Stolz before Fox entered the film. Eventually, a recasting happened, and Fox came onto the set weeks into filming. Needless to say, he didn't thoroughly prepare for the role, despite the fact that it led to a timeless character and film.

#9 Overprepared – Dustin Hoffman, Marathon Man

Source: Paramount Pictures

Actor Dustin Hoffman went a touch crazy in his preparation for his portrayal as Thomas "Babe" Levy. Hoffman decided to stay awake for 72 hours to realistically portray a sleep-deprived man! When his co-star Laurence Olivie heard about the extreme method acting, he said to Hoffman, “My dear boy, why don’t you just try acting?”

#10 Underprepared – Ewan McGregor, Beauty And The Beast

Source: Walt Disney Pictures

Ewan McGregor, who played Lumiere in "Beauty and the Beast", seriously underprepared for the role. For those who saw the movie, McGregor didn't put much effort into honing his voice to express a French accent correctly. His Scottish accent frequently came through, making every scene his character was in strange and uncomfortable.

#11 Overprepared – Jennifer Hudson, Respect

Source: MGM

When it came to prepping for her part as soul singer Aretha Franklin in the film "Respect", singer Jennifer Hudson spared no effort. Hudson spent several years meeting with Franklin on a weekly basis in order to truly understand him. In addition, Hudson watched old clips of Franklin performing, hiring a vocal and movement expert to ensure she was accurately portraying the legend.

#12 Underprepared – Sabrina Carpenter, Work It

Source: Netflix

Even though Sabrina Carpenter is experienced in acting, the dancing sequences in the Netflix film "Work It" were a little challenging for her. Although her character is technically learning to dance, Carpenter herself didn't learn before filming began and that was evident on screen, especially when compared to her dance-ready co-stars.

#13 Overprepared – Daniel Day-Lewis, My Left Foot

Source: Palace Pictures

To get ready for his role as an Irish man born with cerebral palsy in "My Left Foot", actor Daniel Day-Lewis did extensive research and acting methods. Day-Lewis would visit clinics and talk to people who were crippled, and while on set, he would seat in his wheelchair. There is a reason why he won the Academy Award for Best Actor!

#14 Underprepared – Ewan McGregor, Emma

Source: Miramax Films

Actor Ewan McGregor said in an interview that the movie "Emma" wasn't among his greatest. Because he wanted to do something entirely different from "Trainspotting", he decided to play Frank Churchill. He didn’t even read the Jane Austen novel the film is based on, research that many other actors would take upon themselves to do before production.

#15 Overprepared – Robert Pattinson, Good Time

Source: A24

In preparing for "Good Time", Robert Pattinson went a bit overboard, but it paid off because the movie earned rave reviews. To prepare for his grimy bank robber role, Pattinson decided to reside in a Harlem basement, the same one shown in the film. He said “I never opened my curtains, didn’t change the sheets the entire time I was there, for those two months, and I would just sleep in my clothes.”

#16 Underprepared – Tom Hardy, Bronson

Source: Vertigo Films

Tom Hardy leaped at the chance to play the criminal Charles Bronson in the movie "Bronson". Unfortunately, at least in the eyes of the actual Bronson, he was a little unprepared. The convicted felon was unimpressed with Hardy's body when they first met and did not want the actor to play him in a movie.

#17 Overprepared – Charlize Theron, Monster

Source: Netflix

For her role in "Monster", Charlize Theron received the Best Actress Oscar. Her thorough preparation for the role was definitely the key to the award. She put on 30 pounds in order to prepare for her real-life role as serial murderer Aileen Wuornos!

#18 Underprepared – Paul Bettany, Iron Man

Source: Walt Disney Pictures

While Tony Stark's AI sidekick Jarvis—later known as Vision—is a beloved character in the MCU, fans may be surprised to find that actor Paul Bettany was woefully unprepared for the part. Bettany did not read any Marvel comics to prepare for his role. He essentially just appeared in the recording booth and said his lines without any context.

#19 Overprepared – Tom Cruise, Interview With The Vampire

Source: Warner Bros.

Tom Cruise went above and above to prepare for his role as Lestat de Lioncourt in "Interview with the Vampire" in an effort to disprove author Anne Rice's assessment of his casting. Cruise decided to read every one of Rice's books, lose a lot of weight, live a luxurious lifestyle in Paris, and even learn the piano. In the end, Rice recanted her statement and said she believed the actor did a fantastic job in the part.

#20 Underprepared – James McAvoy, X-Men: First Class

Source: Twentieth Century Fox

In "X-Men: First Class", James McAvoy did a fantastic job portraying the teenage Professor X. He made a huge assumption that can qualify as the actor being unprepared for the role. McAvoy anticipated that he would have a bald head as Patrick Stewart did. Therefore, he shaved his head! It turned out that this was untrue and the studio actually wanted him to have hair.

#21 Overprepared – Demi Moore, G.I. Jane

Source: Buena Vista Pictures

When it came to playing the lead in "G.I. Jane", Demi Moore gave it her all. Moore took it upon herself to train with a former Navy SEAL, suffering the difficult training sessions to get physically and emotionally ready for the stunt-heavy role. In an interview, Moore said, “I could have come in and asked to let the stuntwoman do the obstacle course. But I felt I would have walked away having missed an opportunity experiencing, first-hand, what these people actually go through in training.”

#22 Underprepared – Marlon Brando, Apocalypse Now

Source: Universal Pictures

Marlon Brando was very unprepared for his role when he arrived on the "Apocalypse Now" set. Not only did he arrive over 100 pounds overweight, but he also had no idea who he was playing because he hadn't even read the screenplay.

#23 Overprepared – Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Source: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Natalie Portman's thorough preparation for the character of Nina in "Black Swan" explained why she was awarded Best Actress. Portman underwent months of intensive training to prepare for the role of a ballerina. During an interview, Portman said, “There were some nights that I thought I literally was going to die. 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.”

#24 Underprepared – Peter Weller, Robocop

Source: Twentieth Century Fox

It's true that Peter Weller's lack of preparation in "Robocop" isn't technically his fault, but he's still not ready for the role. To get ready for his role, Weller wanted to wear his robot suit for a few weeks to get used to moving in it. Unfortunately, the costume didn't arrive in time for Weller to practice his movements. For adjusting to the suit, production actually stopped for a few days.

#25 Overprepared – Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

Source: Neon

Margot Robbie put a lot of effort into her portrayal of Tonya Harding in "I, Tonya". In addition to talking with the former figure skater, Robbie spent hours practicing on the ice to hone skills that others spend years perfecting. In an interview, Robbie said, “Learning to skate from scratch as an actor is a whole different ball game because you have a limited amount of time to master [a skill] that has taken years to develop as a competitive skater.”
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