By Jill Jackson
HOLLYWOOD … It’s amazing, the things actors will do to play a role. In her book “Hollywood Trivia Factory,” Aubrey Malone tells us that Faye Dunaway lost 20 pounds to look gaunt for her role in “Bonnie and Clyde.” She did it by hauling sandbags around and eating as little as possible to survive. And believe me, those cheekbones stood out. … Robert Duval got a job singing in a bar to prepare himself for his Oscar-winning role in “Tender Mercies.” … For her role in “Sophie’s Choice,” Meryl Streep learned to speak both Polish and German fluently. … To get into the mind of a deaf mute for her role in “Johnny Belinda,” Jane Wyman studied sign language and lip reading, and worked with the handicapped to familiarize herself with their daily routines. She also wore plastic earplugs on the set to block out all sound.
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Martin Sheen stayed drunk for two days for a scene in “Apocalypse Now,” and Dustin Hoffman stayed up all night to look tired for a scene in “Marathon Man,” which prompted co-star Sir Larry Olivier to ask, “Why don’t you try acting, my good man?” We aren’t told Hoffman’s answer.
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Brad Pitt actually had one of his front teeth chipped and shaved his head to look suitably menacing for “The Fight Club,” and since then Brad has shaved his head often, dieted to look gaunt and otherwise looked much like his handsome self. … Jon Voight spent five weeks learning to play basketball in a wheelchair for his role in “Coming Home.” … And Jack Lemmon really prepared himself for his role in “Days of Wine and Roses.” He attended AA meetings, went to hospitals to watch alcoholics drying out, and spent days going around in a straitjacket. … For his role as Ghandi in the movie of that name, Ben Kingsley lost 17 pounds, went bald, took up yoga and even learned how to spin thread. … And Warren Beatty actually learned Russian (and that ain’t easy) for his role in “Reds.” As you can see, acting isn’t all just smiling or crying into a camera.
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AND a few weird fashion foibles: Yul Brenner wore only black in the last years of his life. … Joan Collins wore a dress to a press conference made of all the newspaper stories that were written about her that year. … When Kirk Douglas was ready for his guests to go home, he would retire to his bedroom and return in his pajamas. … Mae West wore 10-inch heels. … John Wayne wore lifts in his shoes, and a corset. … Lana Turner once owned 698 pairs of shoes. I was not told who counted. … Believe it or not, it’s said that George Hamilton throws away socks after he has worn them once. This I find a bit difficult to believe.
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Actors will either gain or lose weight to play a role. Robert DeNiro put on 60 pounds to play Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull”; Gary Oldman lost so much weight for a role in “Sid and Nancy” that he had to be hospitalized. Jennifer Jason Leigh went down to 86 pounds to play an anorexic in “The Best Little Girl in the World,” and Shirley MacLaine put on 20 pounds to play Madame Sousatska.
© 2009 King Features Synd., Inc.