Technically, the only criteria for winning an acting Oscar is to play a character really, really well in a movie. But Oscar history dictates that it doesn’t hurt to weave a tale of hardship during your Oscar campaign to really sell the idea that you deserve it more than that actor who merely, you know, acted. Whether it was eating raw bison liver, cross-dressing at their local grocery store, or having the crew spoon feed them lunch, you have to agree that these 11 actors pulled out all the stops to win their Oscars.
You wouldn’t believe what these actors had to do to win an Oscar
Leonardo DiCaprioTo play a trapper hell-bent on revenge during the eight-month shoot for The Revenant, DiCaprio endured such hardships as eating raw bison liver, not to mention freezing. “[I was] enduring freezing cold and possible hypothermia constantly,” he said. And by that he means they shot in Canada.Twentieth Century Fox
Adrian BrodyTo play the lead in The Pianist, the actor broke up with his girlfriend and went into months of self-imposed exile, in which he learned to play Chopin, and lost 29 pounds. “I was depressed for a year after The Pianist,” he recently said.Focus Features
George ClooneyWhile filming the 2005 political thriller Syriana, Clooney gained 35 pounds. That prep was the fun part compared to the traumatic accident he suffered while filming one of the movie’s torture scenes. Though initially believed to be a cracked skull, after consulting with Lisa Kudrow’s (yes, that Lisa Kudrow) neurologist brother, it was determined he had injured his spine. The condition was so serious, Clooney said he plotted his own suicide. He still suffers the side-effects to this day.Warner Bros
Al PacinoTo play a crotchety blind military vet in 1992’s Scent of a Woman, Pacino opted to not wear vision-blurring contacts out of concern they would damage his vision. He instead lulled himself into such a state of visual ambivalence that he fell into a bush and injured his cornea. “And the worst kind of eye injury is when plant life gets into your cornea,” he says. Now we know!Universal Pictures
Daniel Day-LewisDay-Lewis won his first of three Best Actor Oscars for his 1989 performance as a painter with cerebral palsy in My Left Foot. On set, Day-Lewis retained his paralyzed posture to the point of having staff push him around set in a wheelchair and spoon feed him.Miramax
Anne HathawayIn addition to chopping her hair and losing 25 pounds to get down to urchin weight for her role as Fantine in Les Miserables, Hathaway did 20 takes of tears to nail the perfect version of “I Dreamed A Dream.” Was the dream that she had a burger? Universal Pictures
Jennifer HudsonAnd I am telling you, I am not going…home for Christmas. While the rest of the Dreamgirls cast was dismissed from rehearsals for the Christmas break, the untested American Idol contestant was put through a full week of one-on-one rehearsals with director Bill Condon to bring her performance up to snuff. The extra homework paid off in Oscar gold.DreamWorks
Matthew McConaugheyMcConaughey lost 38 pounds to play an AIDS-afflicted Texan in Dallas Buyers Club, an impressive feat, or, as Tina Fey joked, “what actresses call being in a movie.”Focus Features
Jared LetoFrom the moment he auditioned over Skype for Dallas Buyers Club for director Jean-Marc Vallée, Leto was in character as the flamboyant trans grifter Rayon. He stayed that way throughout the shoot, including going to Whole Foods in his wig and lipstick.Focus Features
Patricia ArquetteDon’t talk to Arquette about long shoots: she spent 11 years off-and-on filming Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age epic Boyhood.IFC Productions
Natalie PortmanPortman spent months working on her ballet for her role in Black Swan, throwing herself into it so fully that she wound up marrying the choreographer, Benjamin Millepied.Fox Searchlight Pictures
The 90th annual telecast of the Academy Awards airs live on Sunday, March 4 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on CTV.