Based on the trailer for the movie Atomic Blonde, in which Charlize Theron plays an undercover agent investigating a murder during the Cold War, it’s clear the actress isn’t shy about kicking ass and taking names. What’s less clear, however, is everything she went through to master those perfect-looking kicks and punches. After all, that’s what a good actor does — make tough work look inherent and effortless.
Theron recently revealed that her experience working on the film was particularly hard on her body and mind. According to Variety, she sustained multiple injuries, including a twisted knee, bruised ribs and intense tooth pain from stress.
“It happened the first month of training,” Theron told the outlet. “I had severe tooth pain, which I never had in my entire life.” She ultimately ended up having an operation involving a root canal and implanting donor bone, all because she had been clenching so hard during training.
Theron’s far from the only actress who’s pushed her body to the limits for the sake of a role. Many other women have endured similarly serious injuries, some even life-threatening. Here are just a few of them.
1. Kate Winslet in Titanic
While most of the scenes shot in water in Titanic were done in temperature controlled pools, apparently it got a bit frigid when Rose went below decks to look for Jack. Kate Winslet’s reaction the first time Rose goes in up to her chest is real, and later on the actress even got pneumonia.
2. Isla Fisher in Now You See Me
Now You See Me may be about the art of illusion, but what happened to Isla Fisher on the set of the movie was very real. She admitted on Chelsea Lately that she had a harrowing experience while filming the water tank escape scene in the movie.
“My chain got stuck,” Fisher said, according to the Huffington Post. “I had to really swim to the bottom; I couldn’t get up. Everyone thought I was acting fabulously. I was actually drowning. No one realized I was actually struggling.”
3. Natalie Portman in Black Swan
Natalie Portman trained relentlessly for more than a year before starring in the ballet-centric thriller Black Swan. The goal was not only to have her move like a genuine ballerina, but look like one as well.
“There are such physical markers for ballet dancers,” her trainer Mary Helen Bowers told the New York Times. “We thought that was as important as being able to move.” As a result of this rigorous preparation both before and during filming, Portman lost a lot of weight, and injured herself regularly.
“I think my body was kind of in emergency mode,” Portman told the New York Times. “I’m not eating enough, I’m not getting enough sleep. I’m in complete physical distress.”
4. Meryl Streep in The River Wild
Believe it or not, Meryl Streep did most of her own stunts in the 1994 action-adventure movie The River Wild, which for the most part takes place on surging white rapids. On one particular shoot day, however, things went a little too far for the actress. She had been paddling in the raft all day when director Curtis Hanson asked her to do one last stunt. Unfortunately that’s when she was flipped out of the boat and dragged to the bottom of the river.
“I remember sinking down to the bottom with this powerful and freezing water pulling me in deeper,” Streep told the Orlando Sentinel. “My first thought was that if I died my husband would come to the set with a machete.”
Right after the terrifying experience, she told Hanson to believe her the next time she tells him she’s too tired to perform a stunt.
5. Diane Kruger in Inglourious Basterds
Remember that scene in Inglourious Basterds where Bridget von Hammersmark gets strangled by Colonel Landa, played by Christoph Waltz? Well, apparently director Quentin Tarantino didn’t trust Waltz to do a good enough job, so he stepped in to get the look he wanted. However, because he wanted it to look real, he actually did cut off her oxygen for a bit and continued until she almost passed out. But hey, at least the shot looked great, right?
6. Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary
There’s a reason Zellweger decided not to put on weight for the third installment of the Bridget Jones movies. During the first two films she put on 30 pounds, and while eating excessively for a role might sound like fun, it was a nightmare for her.
“It sounds like heaven,” she told the Daily Mail in 2007.
For two days it’s bliss and then you’re full, OK? And you can then indulge all your fantasies about over-eating. Fantasies about non-stop chocolate consumption or your fantasies about ordering the pizza and the spaghetti and the garlic bread.
Then after a week your glucose levels are going crazy. You’re up and down and all over the place. It doesn’t feel good, and no one wants to hear that, but it’s the truth.
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