What Are The Craziest Skills Actors Learned For A Film?

Even though Hollywood stars are amongst the richest people in the world, being a professional actor isn’t as simple as it seems. Apart from the endless scripts they have to memorize, actors and actresses must often learn specific talents or skills for some of their roles. From flying a plane to practicing kung fu, some of your favorite stars have had to do pretty crazy stuff for the roles they’re most famous for. Don’t miss this list, and make sure you don’t miss #11, #7, and #4!

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#22. Adrien Brody Learned Piano

Adrien Brody landed his first major acting role in the 1996 film Bullet, but he gave his most brilliant performance in the WWII drama film The Pianist. In this movie, Brody portrays a Jewish musician who cheats death in Poland during the Nazi invasion.

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I’m pretty sure you figured that Brody wasn’t the one who really played the piano in the scenes. Well, you’d be surprised to know that Brody studied piano for several months just for this film and managed to become quite a versatile player. Even though the movie does include a few shots of a professional pianist’s hands, most of the time Brody was the one playing.

#21. Channing Tatum Learned Tap Dancing

When directors Joel and Ethan Coen were casting for their comedy film Hail, Caesar!, they knew they had to give Channing Tatum a call. The American heartthrob had already displayed some of his enviable dance moves in previous films, so he was just right for the role of Burt Gurney.

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But even though Chanum had received extensive dance training for previous films, he had never learned how to tap dance! Therefore, to shoot one of the scenes, the actor had to attend tap dance classes for three whole months. “It’s the most I’ve ever prepared for a six-minute sequence“, he confessed in an interview.

#20. Laurence Fishburne Learned Kung Fu

You all remember the 1999 sci-fi classic The Matrix, right? Like any action movie, The Matrix contains an endless number of fighting scenes, some of which are pretty impressive! Well, have you ever asked yourself how the actors managed to shoot such vibrant scenes?

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To add credibility to the fighting scenes, actor Laurence Fishburne had to take kung fu classes for four months since he had never trained in martial arts before. He has claimed that the training was pretty intense, but he enjoyed it nonetheless. For another Matrix actor, slide to #15!

#19. Margot Robbie Learned Gymnastics

Most superhero films are all about the fighting scenes, so playing the role of a superhero can be quite a challenge! Take Margot Robbie, for instance. To embody the comic book character Harley Quinn and to impersonate her strength and agility, she had to learn gymnastics.

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Robbie went through a strict training in gymnastics for six months to strengthen her body and to master a few tricks, such as how to backflip and tumble. It was thanks to such training that her performance was praised by critics and fans alike.

#18. Michelle Pfieffer Learned To Wield A Whip

Michelle Pfieffer became one of film history’s most memorable female villains after her role as Catwoman in the 1992 superhero film Batman Returns. Hers was a very physical role, so logically, she had to put up with a strict diet and a harsh exercise regime.

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But apart from that, Pfieffer had to learn how to use a whip. Nearly 3 decades later, Pfieffer confessed in an Instagram post that she still has the whip she used to shoot the scenes and she uploaded a video showing off her skills for her fans. “Just like riding a bike“, she commented.

#17. Meryl Streep Learned To Play Electric Guitar

Meryl Streep is a true chameleon – is there any role that she can’t play? When she took a role in the 2015 musical comedy Ricki and the Flashshe already had 18 Academy Award nominations behind her back, but nonetheless, playing the role posed a great challenge for her. Can you guess why?

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To play the role of lead character Ricki, Streep had to learn how to play the electric guitar. And hey, only a total pro can learn how to master an instrument in her mid-sixties! I seriously doubt she regrets the effort, as she received lessons from no less than Neil Young!

#16. Natalie Portman Learned Ballet

Natalie Portman left us awestruck with her outstanding performance in the psychological thriller Black Swan, so much so that it earned her her first Academy Award for Best Actress. She plays the role of a professional dancer who wins the lead role in the famous ballet Swan Lake. But wait a moment… she had never danced ballet in her life!

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Portman had to attend ballet classes both before and during the film. She found this process quite stressful and physically demanding, as she gained 20 pounds and dislocated a rib during rehearsal. Even though she used a double for some of the hardest dancing sequences, she excelled at the dancing scenes.

#15. Keanu Reaves Learned Tactical Firearms

Keanu Reeves has starred in dozens of successful movies, though he is most famous for his role in the sci-fi action film The Matrix. But nearly a decade before Matrix was released, he played legendary murderer John Wick in Point Break.

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Reeves went to great lengths to excel in his role, and the fact that he learned tactical firearms proves my point. As crazy as it sounds, he was trained in Taran Tactical Innovations by LA SWAT, and thanks to them, he learned how to reload and shoot multiple targets with different firearms.

#14. Emilia Clarke And Jason Momoa Learned Dothraki

Producing a fantasy film or TV series is definitely not as simple as it sounds. Coming up with plotlines, settings, and outfits that are weird enough to surprise the audience can be really tough. But you wanna hear something really weird? For the fantasy series Game of Thrones, Emilia Clark and Jason Momoa had to learn their own fictional language!

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Clark and Momoa had to speak in Dothraki, a made-up language, during several of their scenes. Even though the writers could’ve easily made them speak nonsense, they made the actors learn the verb-subject agreement of the dialogue so that they could speak it fluently. They took things too seriously, didn’t they?

#13. Daniel Day-Lewis Learned To Build Canoes

Three-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the most talented actors out there, and he is known for going to great lengths to accurately portray his characters. When he took the role of hunter and tracker Nathaniel Poe in the action-drama film The Last of the Mohicans, he mastered the most unusual skills.

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Day-Lewis spent nearly six months learning to live off the land just to prepare for his role. In fact, during the making of the film, he refused all sort of catering and only ate the animals he had hunted. He also learned to make his own canoes out of wood. What can’t he do, one may wonder?

#12. Jessie Eisenberg Learned Magic

If you’re into heist films, then you should really give Now You See Me a shot! The film revolves around the lives of a group of thieves who resort to magic tricks and other sorts of stage magic illusions to swindle their victims.

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For the filming of the movie, lead actor Jessie Eisenberg had to master a few tricks of his own. For example, he picked up quite a few card tricks which he would perform on the rest of the crew in the time between takes.

#11. Olivia Munn Learned Swordplay

If you’re a true Marvel fan, then I’m pretty sure you’ve watched all of the X-Men films, including X-Men: Apocalypse. The character who stole the spotlight in this film was Psyloche, a ninja with mutant powers played by Olivia Munn. Well, Munn took her role seriously, and here’s why.

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Munn wanted to learn how to wield a katana sword, so she went through intensive sword training for half a year. As a result of the training plus the strict bodyweight exercise she went through, the actress lost over 12 pounds. Now that’s what I call work commitment!

#10. Robert Downey Jr. Learned To Play The Violin

In 1992, Robert Downey Jr. played the role of Chaplin, in the biopic of the same name. But while many people questioned his casting, he was willing to prove the world wrong and worked hard to excel in his performance.

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It turns out that Chaplin was not only a comedian and filmmaker but also a talented violinist. Therefore, Downey took several months of violin lessons and even learned to play the instrument with his left hand, given that Chaplin was left-handed.

#9. Jennifer Lawrence Learned Archery

Before becoming the icon she is today, Jennifer Lawrence started her career by starring in the dystopian franchise The Hunger Games. But to play the character Katniss, Lawrence had to learn how to use the bow.

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Lawrence took archery lessons from no other than the 5-time Olympic professional archer Khatuna Lorig. The films were so popular that it actually boosted the popularity of the sport itself. All ’cause of Lawrence!

#8. Tom Cruise Held His Breath For Six Minutes

American actor Tom Cruise has done some pretty crazy stuff throughout his acting career. If you’ve watched all the Mission: Impossible franchise, then you’ll know that the actor has performed his fair share of stunts. But one of the stunts he did in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation will leave you in awe.

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One of the scenes was shot underwater, and Cruise had to hold his breath for 6 whole minutes! To do so, the actor had to train with a diving specialist, who taught him special techniques that would help him hold his breath longer. It’s lucky that the filmmakers managed to shoot this scene in just one take!

Do you know what else Tom Cruise did for one of his roles? Slide to #5!

#7. Demi Moore Trained Like A Navy S.E.A.L.

Demi Moore catapulted to fame after her role in the heart-wrenching drama film Ghost, but as the years went by she wanted to delve into other genres. When she landed her role in the action film G.I. Jane, she went to great lengths to be taken seriously.

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Moore had to portray the first female member in the Navy S.E.A.L., which meant she had to be in great shape. Thus, she decided to train in a Navy S.E.A.L. boot camp for a couple of months. The training involved miles of running and many one-armed push-ups on a daily basis. Go Demi!

#6. Joseph Gordon-Levitt Walked A Highwire

In 2015, American actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt starred in The Walk, a biopic about tightrope walker Phillipe Petit and his famous highwire walk 200 feet above ground between the Twin Towers. Gordon-Levitt had to go through intense physical training and learn to walk across the wire.

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Of course, the actor didn’t actually walk a highwire 1,350 feet off the ground as Petit did in real life, but we should still give him some credit! Here’s another fun fact: Petit himself was the one who trained the actor! Allegedly, Gordon-Hewitt learned to do it after no more than two weeks of training!

#5. Tom Cruise Learned How To Fly A Helicopter

Learning how to drive a car is one thing, but a helicopter? Really? In one of the most thrilling scenes of the action spy film Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Tom Cruise is in a helicopter chase right in the middle of a snowy mountain range. And believe it or not, Cruise flew the helicopter himself!

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I know, hiring a professional pilot would’ve been way easier, but Cruise was up for the challenge. To shoot the scene, he underwent 2,000 flying hours in helicopter training. Cause, let’s face it, you can’t perform a downward spiral from one day to the other!

#4.  Bryan Cranston Learned How To Cook Meth

Bryan Cranston began acting during the 80s, but he became a worldwide icon after landing a role in the crime drama TV series Breaking Bad. Here, he portrays Walter White, a former chemistry teacher and meth dealer.

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As crazy as it seems, Cranston and his co-star Aaron Paul actually had to learn how to make methamphetamine. As he confessed in an interview, chemists from the Drug Enforcement Administration showed them the process involved in the drug-making. But don’t worry, they didn’t use the actual chemical ingredients when shooting the scenes, although the measurements and technique were real!

#3. Elizabeth Reaser Learned To Embalm Bodies

OK, this is a creepy one. When Elizabeth Reaser auditioned for the Netflix horror TV series The Haunting of Hill House, I’m pretty sure she didn’t think the producers and director would take things so far. As scary as it sounds, she had to learn how to embalm bodies.

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Firstly, Reaser had to watch several real-life embalming tapes over and over again. But then, producers took things to the next level. They believed that being exposed to corpses being prepared for burial would help the actress get into character. Thus, they had a mortician train her. Let’s just hope she doesn’t need to put her hands inside a dead body ever again!

#2. Dennis Quaid Got A Pilot’s License

In 1983, American actor Dennis Quaid portrayed astronaut and pilot Captain Gordon Cooper in the famous biopic The Right Stuff. But Quaid likes to take things seriously, and as he portrayed a real-life Air Force pilot, he was determined to become a pilot himself.

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Quaid took several months of flying lessons in the Van Nuys Airport until he received a pilot’s license. As a matter of fact, he enjoyed flying planes so much that it became one of his main hobbies after the movie. It’s also worth mentioning that this skill helped him out in future films such as Flight of the Phoenix.

#1. Rooney Mara Learned Computer Hacking

Based on the best-selling novels of the same name, the psychological crime film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo tells the story of a computer hacker who goes missing. When Rooney Mara auditioned for the role, little did she know that she would actually have to learn computer hacking!

Photo: Courtesy of Hollywood Reporter

To do so, she signed up for different computer training courses. Apart from that, she also learned how to ride a motorcycle and skateboarding. Her Academy Award nomination was the least she deserved!

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    Hernán Tamargo

    Teacher. Political Scientist. Writer. Feminist... and much more!

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