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9 Actors Who Almost Overprepared For A Role And 8 That Wayyyy Underprepared

Did Leo really need to do that, though?

1. Let's start with one of the most extreme examples. To prepare for his role in The Revenant, Leonardo DiCaprio literally slept inside animal carcasses.

Leonardo in the Revenant
20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

He camped out in the wilderness, went for swims in frozen rivers, and ate raw bison.

His preparation was worth it — his performance was lauded, and he ended up winning his first Oscar for the role.

Leonardo holding an Oscar
Jason Merritt / Getty Images

2. In contrast, Michael Gambon, who replaced Richard Harris's beloved version of Dumbledore in the third Harry Potter film, didn't even read any of the books prior to appearing in the series.

Gambon as Dumbledore
Warner Brothers / courtesy Everett Collection

"No point in reading the books because you're playing with [screenwriter] Steve Kloves' words," Gambon said. Many have criticized his version of Dumbledore as being too harsh, especially after an infamous scene in the fourth film where Dumbledore asks Harry whether he's put his name in the goblet of fire.

Warner Bros.

In the book, Dumbledore asks this calmly. In the film, he sprints at Harry, jostles him, and screams this.

Gambon brought up the fact that Ralph Fiennes and Alan Rickman didn't read the books either. However, Fiennes actually did — he just hadn't read them yet when he was offered the part. And considering the arguments he had about his character, his conversations with JKR, and his acclaimed performance, I don't think it's fair to say Rickman didn't prepare for his role.

Warner Brothers / courtesy Everett Collection

3. In contrast, Christopher Lee was probably one of the MOST prepared actors for a fantasy series. He was a massive Lord of the Rings fan who reread the books annually when he was cast as Saruman in the films.

Saruman
New Line Cinema / Courtesy Everett Collection

Lee was the only actor in the series to have actually met Tolkien. He had always wanted to star in the films, and even took wizard acting roles to prove he would be a good pick. In addition, he sent photos of himself dressed as a wizard to Peter Jackson.

Christopher Lee
Mike Marsland / WireImage via Getty Images

4. This one isn't entirely his fault, but Chistopher Plummer was barely able to do any preparation for his role as real-life figure J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World. The film was basically complete in early November when it was announced that Plummer would replace Kevin Spacey in the role after Spacey was accused of sexual assault.

Aidan Monaghan /TriStar Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection, Giles Keyte /TriStar Pictures/ Courtesy Everett Collection

Plummer filmed his part in nine days, starting November 20, just weeks after he nabbed the role. He knew very little about the Getty family, and didn't really research him. "I really followed the script and Ridley’s suggestions, which weren’t many because there wasn’t much time," Plummer told the Hollywood Reporter.

Plummer in the film
Tristar Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

He confessed that he found it difficult to remember his lines. He also didn't watch footage of Spacey in the role for any help, though this was because he didn't want to replicate Spacey's performance, and barely saw any other pieces of the movie.

Despite his lack of preparation, Plummer's performance was critically acclaimed, and he became the oldest person ever nominated for an Oscar when he received a nod for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.

Plummer at the Oscars
Kevin Mazur / WireImage via Getty Images

5. To prepare for her role as a captive young mother in Room, Brie Larson spent a month inside her house. She met with psychologists to learn about the trauma of captivity, wrote diary entries for her character, and made collages in character.

Brie Larson in Room
A24 / courtesy Everett Collection

Larson hung out with onscreen son Jacob Tremblay in the weeks prior to filming, making the toys that appeared onscreen, improvising on the set, and playing Legos with him before bed.

Jacob and Brie together
Angela Weiss / Getty Images for Screen Actors Guild Foundation

Her hard work paid off – she won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2016.

Brie holding her Oscar
Christopher Polk / Getty Images

6. Ewan McGregor didn't read Jane Austen's book Emma before starring in the film version as Frank Churchill.

Jane and Frank in the film
Miramax / Courtesy Everett Collection

He called the film the worst thing he'd done work-wise, saying he wasn't very good in it, and admitted he only took the role because he "thought [he] should be seen to be doing something different from Trainspotting."

Ewan on a red carpet
Jon Kopaloff / Getty Images

7. One rather infamous preparation for a role comes from Jared Leto in Suicide Squad. To prepare to play the Joker, Leto sent strange gifts to other cast members (like a live rat), and avoided interacting with them. He brought a dead hog to set to "create a dynamic, to create an element of surprise, of spontaneity, and to really break down any kind of walls that may be there" because the Joker, in his opinion, didn't respect people's boundaries.

Jared as the Joker clutching someone's face
Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection

According to Viola Davis, he actually sent "henchmen" or lackeys to deliver his gifts.

He stalked drug lords on Instagram to get inspiration for the part, and met with “people who had committed horrendous crimes…people who have been institutionalized for great periods of time.” He even practiced his Joker laugh around Manhattan.

Jared at the film's premiere
Derek Storm/Everett Collection

It's also been reported that after filming a scene in a prison, he asked to be locked there overnight. 

8. Another actor who never read the books for the films they starred in is Billy Burke, who portrayed Bella's dad, Charlie, in the Twilight films.

Billy as Charlie
Summit Entertainment

Burke says he doesn't "have the attention span" to finish a book, and that as most of the info in the books wouldn't be useful to him, he'd "rather not know" it. He'd actually never even heard of the books until he had a meeting with Catherine Hardwicke.

Burke at a Twilight premiere
Dee Cercone/Everett Collection

9. Daniel Day-Lewis is famous for method acting and going all out in preparing for his roles, but perhaps one of the most extreme examples is his preparation for Gangs of New York. He would literally walk around Rome in character and fight strangers.

Daniel in the film
Miramax / courtesy Everett Collection

In addition, he became an actual apprentice butcher. It must've worked, because he ended up getting nominated for an Oscar for his work.

Daniel on a red carpet
Jim Spellman / WireImage via Getty Images

10. While Hugh Jackman has certainly done plenty of prep work to play Wolverine in subsequent films, he wasn't able to do so for X-Men, the first X-Men film. This was because he was cast, replacing Dougray Scott, weeks into shooting. He had only three weeks to get in shape for the role. He had apparently never lifted a weight before.

Jackman as Logan in a promotional shot for X-Men
Joe Pugliese / TV Guide / 20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

Jackman was not a comic fan and had never read the X-Men comics or even heard of Wolverine. In fact, he didn't know a wolverine was a real animal.

Jackman on a red carpet
David M. Benett / Getty Images for Warner Bros

However, he has since read "pretty much all" the comics over the years.

11. One more recent example of an actor who REALLY prepared for their role is Lady Gaga in House of Gucci. First of all, she stayed in character for 18 months, even when the camera wasn't rolling, using the accent for nine of those months.

Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani
MGM / courtesy Everett Collection

Gaga watched videos of foxes and panthers in order to channel them for the role, and began to "live in a way whereby anything that [she] looked at, [she] started to take notice and where and when [she] could see money."

Lady Gaga on a red carpet
Amy Sussman / Getty Images

"I started to take photographs as well," she told British Vogue. "I have no evidence that Patrizia was a photographer, but I thought as an exercise, and finding her interests in life, that I would become a photographer, so I took my point-and-shoot camera everywhere that I went. I noticed that Patrizia loved beautiful things. If something wasn’t beautiful, I deleted it."

12. In contrast, Taika Waititi did basically no preparation for his role as Hitler in his film Jojo Rabbit. "I didn’t have to do any research, and I didn’t do any research. I didn’t base him on anything I’d seen about Hitler before," Waititi told Deadline, pointing out that he's not really portraying Hitler, but a child's imagined version of him.

Taika in the film as Hitler
Kimberly French / Fox Searchlight Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

"I just made him a version of myself that happened to have a bad haircut and a sh*tty little mustache. And a mediocre German accent," Waititi said, saying it'd be "too weird to play the actual Hitler."

Taika on a red carpet
Charley Gallay / Getty Images for AT&T Hello Lab Mentorship

13. Novelist Anne Rice was pretty famously unhappy with Tom Cruise's casting as Lestat in the film adaptation of her novel Interview With the Vampire. Cruise was apparently hurt by this critcism, and decided to not only carefully read the book, but to read all of Rice's books, learn piano, lose weight, and travel in Paris to try out a hedonistic lifestyle like Lestat's.

Cruise as Lestat
Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection

"I think Tom did a wonderful job, I really do," Rice would eventually say after seeing him in the film.

14. In comparison, Rafe Spall didn't read the War of the Worlds book before appearing in the BBC's TV version, though he did admit it was "another avenue that could aid" in his portrayal of the character. Even after filming, Spall still hasn't read the book.

Rafe as George in the war of the worlds
BBC

15. Jennifer Hudson was handpicked by Aretha Franklin to play her in a biopic years before her death. In fact, they met weekly for many years to talk about her past and the role.

Jennifer as Aretha
MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection

Hudson studied old videos and historical footage of Aretha performing, and worked with vocal and movement coaches to capture Aretha perfectly.

Jennifer Hudson
Amy Sussman / Getty Images for Deadline

16. Sabrina Carpenter played a teenager learning to dance in the Netflix teen movie Work It — and didn't learn the choreography.

Sabrina in the film
Elly Dassas / Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

However, this was actually for a reason. Her character was supposed to be struggling to learn to dance, so not knowing all the choreography helped make her look bad.

Sabrina on a red carpet
Jamie Mccarthy / Getty Images

17. And finally, Natalie Portman trained for over a year to portray a ballerina in Black Swan. For the first six months, she built up her strength with a few hours a day, then moved to practicing five hours a day, and later eight. She would spend 30 minutes a day just doing foot exercises.

Natalie in the film
Fox Searchlight / Courtesy Everett Collection

This all caused her toenails to fall off, and she even dislocated a rib while during a lift. "There were some nights that I thought I literally was going to die," Portman said of the experience. This all paid off – she won an Oscar for the role.

Natalie with her Oscar
Jason Merritt / Getty Images