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    15 Behind-The-Scenes Details From Portrayals Of Real People That Prove These Actors Did Their Homework

    Margot Robbie trained as a figure skater for five months to prepare for I, Tonya.

    1. To prepare to play Patrizia Reggiani in House of Gucci, Lady Gaga told the Project that she wrote "an 80-page biography" of Reggiani, which she then referenced throughout the project.

    the two Patrizias side-by-side

    When asked by the host if it was "exhausting" to stay in character for 18 months and use Patrizia's accent for nine, Gaga replied, "I find it actually more exhausting to go in and out of character. I found it less exhausting to stay in it. ... This is something that makes me excited as an actor. It's something I like. I don't think that it's the way to do things, necessarily. But it's my way."

    Lady Gaga as Patrizia in mid-conversation ready to light her cigarette

    2. Julia Garner told BuzzFeed that she created her version of scam artist Anna Sorokin's accent for Inventing Anna by learning a German accent, then adding Russian elements, and finally incorporating aspects of British English. Garner said, "This is a person who was born in Russia and then moved to Germany, but because she's so gifted in languages, she was convincing enough to make people believe that she's German. But at the same time, it's very clear that she doesn't sound like someone who is from a family that lived in Germany for hundreds of years."

    the real Anna Sorokin vs. the fake one, both in court

    She then showed off her work to the most intimidating audience possible: Anna herself. Garner told Variety that when she visited Sorokin in prison, she requested to hear the accent, and Garner obliged. Garner said of the visit, "It was very clear to me that Anna’s a very private person. She keeps her cards extremely close to the vest. I was not going to have any expectation that she was going to answer any of the questions that I asked, so I just wanted to get her spirit and energy and incorporate it into the show."

    Anna Delvey in Morocco

    3. In order to accurately portray the progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)*, the neurodegenerative disease that famed physicist, Stephen Hawking, was diagnosed with at the age of 21, Eddie Redmayne told Variety that he interviewed over 30 patients prior to starting work on The Theory of Everything.

    The two Stephen Hawkings side-by-side

    Redmayne also worked with a physics instructor at the Imperial College London to better understand Hawking's work, and a choreographer who spent four hours a day helping Redmayne accurately recreate Hawking's movements. Such was his attention to detail, the actor even grew out his nails when he heard Hawking preferred to do so. Said Redmayne, "Mine were long enough to be pretty unattractive. They were a bit scratchy and generally dirty."

    Redmayne as Hawking looking out the window as it rains

    Luckily, Redmayne's efforts paid off: Director James Marsh told Variety that after he saw the film, Hawking emailed the team and "said there were certain points when he thought he was watching himself."

    Hawking on his wedding day (in the film)

    4. Kristen Stewart told CBS News that she was so nervous to start playing Princess Diana in Spencer that for a couple of days prior to the beginning of filming, she was too physically tense to open her mouth.

    The real Diana and Kristin dressed as Diana side by side

    Stewart said, "It gave my body a lot of anxiety that my mind sort of didn't really know about. ... It's a big deal, you know? I really didn't want to mess this one up. And sometimes your body knows more than you do about your stress levels, you know? Stress can manifest so physically."

    Stewart as Diana

    She went on, "It was like, everyone had done such an incredible job putting together the world. I was like, 'All right, bro, now it's on you.' And then, I couldn't open my mouth!" Stewart said she eventually "got lucky" and was able to relax enough to use her mouth normally.

    Diana in the field out the front of mansion

    Stewart told Variety that she worked with a vocal coach who had trained two previous on-screen Dianas: William Conacher, who worked with Emma Corrin for The Crown and Naomi Watts for Diana.

    the three Dianas side-by-side

    5. Benedict Cumberbatch played Alan Turing with a limp during the final moments of The Imitation Game for a deeply tragic reason. Fair warning: This story is harrowing.

    Alan Turing next to Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing

    Following the war, Turing was punished for homosexuality through chemical castration. Cumberbatch explained to Deadline, "And at the same time, I do remember one story [Turing's coworker] told me where, after the two-year sentence was up — so the course of estrogen was supposed to have finished — the doctor who had been giving Turing weekly estrogen injections said, 'Why don’t I give you a slow-release device and implant it in your leg. That way, it’ll dose you according to your metabolism. So when you eat, you’ll get your dose of estrogen and will it stop after two years.'"

    Soldiers drag Turing away from Enigma

    Cumberbatch went on, "Turing had a slight off, humorous, incredibly repressed emotional response to it, trying to make it something light. ... But Turing was the same person who, in another much darker moment, went into his kitchen, opened the drawer, pulled out a carving knife and gouged his leg open to try and remove the device. In the last moments of the film you’ll notice I give Turing a limp, and that’s a nod to that."

    Turing cries while Joan hugs him

    The actor noted the extremity of emotion needed to lead a devoted athlete, such as Turing, to injure himself in such a manner.

    Turing following his chemical castration with Joan

    6. To play disgraced Theranos founder, Elizabeth Holmes, in The Dropout, Amanda Seyfried had to learn how to mimic her distinctive baritone voice. Seyfried told the LA Times about the voice, "It’s the first thing people mentioned. Second is the turtleneck; third is the non-blinking. But the voice is number one. The voice is the foundation. If you don’t, it’s like you’re missing the whole thing."

    Elizabeth Holmes next to Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes

    Seyfried practiced by listening to Elizabeth speak at deposition "on loop," sending her friends recordings of her using the voice, and chatting to goats (naturally). She said, "I would, like, feed the goats in the morning and be like, ‘Good morning. Today, I’m, uh, going to get through this, uh, mixture of some mineral.'"

    Seyfried as Holmes during a theranos presentation

    Elizabeth's voice was such a radical departure from Seyfried's own that Seyfried reached out to her vocal coach, Liz Caplan, with whom she mostly works on singing, to make sure she wasn't hurting her vocal cords. Seyfried said that she and Caplan "worked together as much as we could" to make sure she wasn't inadvertently causing any damage.

    Holmes in a Theranos lab

    7. Morgan Freeman revealed in an interview with the Grio that he had been preparing to play Nelson Mandela long before he took the role in the 2009 biopic, Invictus, because of something Mandela himself said in the '90s.

    The two Mandelas side-by-side, waving to rugby fans

    Freeman recalled, "In the early 1990s, Madiba [Mandela's clan name] released his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom. During a press conference, he was asked, ‘If your book is made into a movie, who’d you like to portray you?’ He said, ‘Morgan Freeman.’ Essentially, naming me his heir apparent, so to speak. From then on, I warmly accepted that Morgan Freeman is going to be Mandela somewhere down the line."

    Freeman as Mandela watching the rugby game

    Initially, Freeman and his producing partner, Lori McCreary, attempted to adapt the autobiography, but the project proved too extensive to fit into one film. So they changed approaches to focus on the 1995 Rugby World Cup and Mandela's support of the Springboks, the national South African rugby team. Freeman said, "Actually, I started preparing myself way back in the 1990s after Madiba said he’d prefer I be the one to portray him in film. I had to start preparing myself, then, to do it. I met him not long after that, and I said to him, ‘If I’m going to play you, I’m going to have to have access to you. I’m going to have to get close enough to hold your hand.’"

    Freeman as Mandela greets Springbok players on the field

    Freeman went on, "Whenever Mandela and I would be in proximity to each other, I would dine with him and sit with him as he prepared to speak on various stages around the world. Now, when I’d physically hold his hand, that wasn’t just for camaraderie. I find that if I hold your hand I get your energy — it transfers. I get a sense of what you feel. That’s important in trying to become another person on camera."

    Mandela sitting behind the presidential desk

    8. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Margot Robbie practiced figure skating for five months "four hours a day, five days a week," to prepare to play Tonya Harding in I, Tonya. She even practiced on Christmas Eve, and the day before her wedding.

    the two Tonyas side by side

    Robbie said, "I was honestly terrified that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. We were just a few weeks from shooting, and I was still struggling to find my outside edges. I just thought I was never going to get them, and then, one day, it just clicked." She added, "When you’re a kid, you’re fearless, but starting at 26 years old, I had a lot of fear."

    Robbie as Tanya entering the skating rink

    And when costume designer, Jennifer Johnson, decided not to use padding, to better emulate Harding's muscular body type and risk messing with Robbie's "ability to feel comfortable on the ice," Harding compensated by changing the way she walked. Said Johnson, "She had this more masculine walk — she gained muscle by somehow shifting her shoulders and her hips. It was shocking — it was really transformative.”

    Robbie as Tonya on the ice during practice

    9. Cynthia Erivo told Playbill that while she was playing Harriet Tubman in Harriet, she didn't rehearse any of her songs before performing them in front of a camera, in order to preserve their power.

    a black and white portrait of Tubman and Cynthia Erivo side by side

    Erivo said, "I didn’t practice those pieces. I would only do them when we were on set to film those scenes. It’s a special thing to have to sing, and I don’t think it’s one that should be wasted."

    Erivo as Tubman holding a child close to her and pointing a gun

    10. Chadwick Boseman anonymously trained as a baseball player on a California high school field four days a week for four months to prepare to play Jackie Robinson in 42. According to the Athletic, Boseman hadn't played since he was a kid.

    the two Jackie Robinsons side-by-side

    To help Boseman practice sliding on the field, his coaches Dennis Reits and David Iden built a "60-foot slip-and-slide," said Reits, out of a slippery material called Visqueen. Nick Dingman, another member of Boseman's coaching staff, said learning baseball now was like "learning a musical instrument at 30." But, he noted, it "didn’t discourage" Boseman.

    Boseman as Robinson batting

    11. According to the Hollywood Reporter, when Gary Oldman took the role of Winston Churchill for Darkest Hour, he didn't want to endanger his health by gaining a lot of weight. So he coaxed Kazuhiro Tsuji, a prosthetics artist who had retired a few years earlier to become a full-time sculptor, back into the game. Tsuji said, "He said that if I didn’t, he wouldn’t play the part."

    the two Winstons, both smoking cigars, side-by-side

    Tsuji took the job, and though Oldman remembered early versions of the Churchill suit as looking "like Gary Oldman and Winston Churchill had a love child," they ultimately figured out a convincing version, that at 14 pounds, was light enough to remain maneuverable. Getting into the suit and its matching mask was a process that lasted 3 hours, 45 minutes; getting out of it was a breeze at only 45 minutes.

    In addition to his transformation through prosthetics, Oldman became Churchill by smoking Romeo y Julieta Cuban cigars, which cost $50 each and, 400 cigars later, gave Oldman what he described as "serious nicotine poisoning." He went on, "You’d have a cigar that was three-quarters smoked and you’d light it up, and then over the course of a couple of takes, it would go down, and then the prop man would replenish me with a new cigar — we were doing that for 10 or 12 takes a scene."

    Oldman as Churchill touching a map with a cigar in his hand

    12. Taron Egerton told Parade that Elton John, whom he played in Rocketman, gifted him a meaningful piece of jewelry that Egerton wore in some scenes of the film: A heart-shaped diamond earring that John purchased in the 1970s. It was the first diamond earring the singer ever bought.

    Elton John performing vs. Taron as Elton

    Egerton said, "It’s like a little talisman. It anchors me to him and makes me feel close to him."

    Egerton as John

    13. Will Smith practiced boxing at a high altitude to better understand Muhammed Ali's exhaustion during the latter stages of his fights for the 2001 biopic, Ali.

    Muhammed Ali next to Will Smith as Ali

    Smith's boxing trainer, Darrell Foster, told NME, "I took Will up to 10,000 feet in Aspen, Colorado, so he could understand what it felt like to experience oxygen deprivation in order to correlate it to how Ali felt in the 14th round with Joe Frazier and how it feels to actually not be able to breathe and you’ve still gotta keep fighting."

    Smith as Ali celebrates after a fight

    Foster went on, "I made Will run and throw punches. He fell to his knees and I made him write Ali’s name in the snow. And he said: ‘Now I get it.'”

    Smith as Ali in the ring

    14. The actors playing the astronauts in Apollo 13 — Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton — filmed scenes while experiencing zero gravity, courtesy of what director, Ron Howard, described to CNN as "the NASA simulator, which is called the 'vomit comet.'" He called getting access to the vomit comet as a "huge breakthrough."

    the two apollo 13 crews side-by-side

    Each flight offers about 25 seconds of zero gravity and a near-infinite amount of motion sickness. Howard recalled, "One of the camera operators threw up all over Bill Paxton at one point." Meanwhile, Bacon described "just looking at this one little dot on the back of Tom's head" for hours at a time to fight his own nausea.

    In addition to rides on the vomit comet, the cast also got treated to a near-freezing stage. Howard explained, "That's because the capsule was almost frozen in space." Hanks said, "The joke was, 'Did you get your lift tickets yet?'"

    the astronauts floating in the capsule

    15. And finally, in funny-but-definitely-unsettling news: While he was researching for the role of Dick Cheney in Vice, Christian Bale saved tons of pictures of the former vice president on his iPhone...

    Dick Cheney and Christian Bale as Cheney is a suit with an American flag pin many, in fact, that the phone mistook the photos for treasured memories and auto-generated one of those cheerful musical slideshows, according to USA Today. Bale told the outlet, "You’ve got to give everything to every role that you do. I certainly did the research."

    Bale as Dick Chenet

    Which biopic would you like to know more behind-the-scenes info about? Let us know in the comments!