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10 Actors Who Faced Their Worst Fears During Filming

Some movie performances leave us in awe at how well actors embody their characters and live in the moment. In some cases, however, the fear we see on screen is very real and we might not even know it. What’s even more challenging is when actors need to overcome their own phobias to film a scene, and we applaud every single one of them.

We at Bright Side dove deep into actors’ struggles on set and gained a new level of admiration for their work.

1. Ryan Reynolds — claustrophobia in Buried

Reynolds shot the entire film in a confined space which triggered his claustrophobia and emotionally drained him. The struggle was worth it though as the movie turned out so realistic, viewers feel like they’re trapped in a box along with the main character.

He recalled the experience and said, “I just felt like I would never, ever, as long as I live, complain on a film set again after living through [the film]...It was tough, Buried was really, really tough, emotionally and physically. I left there changed.”

2. Salma Hayek — fear of snakes in From Dusk Till Dawn

Quentin Tarantino, who wrote the screenplay for From Dusk Till Dawn, had to trick Hayek into agreeing to film with a snake. Salma accepted the role without knowing this little detail and tried to refuse the demand due to her fear of snakes. Then Tarantino told her that Madonna agreed to do the dance and Hayek realized she couldn’t pass up on the opportunity.

In the end, Salma’s scene turned out iconic, and it wasn’t too scary for her because she had to be hypnotized to shoot it. She later said, “So it was good because I had to overcome my greatest fear. I had to go on trance to do the dance... And there was no choreography. It was improvised. Because you can’t choreograph a snake, we don’t know what she’s going to do!”

3. Sylvester Stallone — fear of heights in Cliffhanger

Turns out that the mighty Sly has a weakness after all and actually had to be tricked to do his role in Cliffhanger. The film’s director recalled how he dealt with Stallone: “When he first arrived in the Italian Alps...he looked up at this 11,000-foot peak that was in front of us. I said, ’That’s where our set is.’ And he’s like, ’So who’s going to go up there?’ I said, ’You are.’ He looks at me and he says, ’You gotta be kidding. I have a fear of heights. The highest I will ever go is the heels of my cowboy boots.’”

The director knew Stallone wouldn’t refuse to go up in front of the crew as it would’ve been embarrassing, and slowly made him go higher up the mountain. As a result, they shot at 13,000 feet and we got a thrilling movie thanks to Stallone’s bravery.

4. Uma Thurman — claustrophobia in Kill Bill, Volume 2

One of the most nail-biting scenes that came out of the Kill Bill movies was when Thurman’s character, The Bride, was buried alive and needed to get out using only her skills. As intense as the scene was for the viewers, it was no picnic for the actress either. Thurman suffers from claustrophobia but said that anyone would’ve been terrified in her shoes. “Well, I’m claustrophobic, but you don’t really have to be claustrophobic to fear being buried alive,” the actress said.

5. Rebel Wilson — fear of heights in Pitch Perfect 3

While Pitch Perfect 3, a movie about an acapella band, seems like the last film to contain complex stunts, Rebel Wilson can tell you that wasn’t the case. The actress had to repeatedly face her fear of heights while filming and it was nerve-racking.

Wilson recalled the experience: “I know I seem really tough but I am afraid of heights, that’s the one thing I’m afraid of. And I had to do this 20-foot jump 10 times. And each time I was petrified.”

6. Kristen Stewart — fear of riding horses in Snow White and the Huntsman

Stewart admitted that riding horses during the filming of Snow White and the Hunstman was a rather unpleasant experience for her. She explained that there’s something about horseriding that doesn’t sit well with her. “I never want to get back on a horse,” the actress said. “I love them. I think they’re beautiful. I love their energy. I love being around them. I love petting their soft little noses. I just hate telling them what to do.”

7. Matt Damon — fear of snakes in We Bought a Zoo

Scarlett Johansson exposed her We Bought a Zoo co-star when she revealed that she “was watching Matt Damon cry like a baby and rock back and forth when the snakes were spread all over the set.” She added: “He was pretty terrified. He was definitely sweating a bit, and maybe the sweat formed in the corner of his eye. I said, ‘Matt, these kids are practically juggling the snakes. Hold it together.’”

Damon admitted that Johansson’s story is true and explained, “I’m afraid of snakes. And I got bullied into interacting with them by Scarlett and the kids.”

8. Jennifer Aniston — fear of being underwater in Cake

Aniston’s fear of being submerged stems from her childhood when she drove her tricycle into a pool at the age of 5. She had to face this phobia during the filming of Cake, which featured a therapy scene of her character being underwater and it was a nightmare for Aniston. She said, “It took me 30 takes...I never will do that again.”

9. Jake Gyllenhaal — fear of ostriches in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Jake Gyllenhaal actually gained a fear he didn’t have before during his work on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. It was very challenging for the actor to do work with ostriches and he ended up being scared of them. “They would say, ‘Don’t make any noise around the ostriches. They’ll tear out your eyes and rip out your heart.’ So, I was naturally terrified,” explained the actor. “They look like they’re innocent, but they’re really not.”

Luckily for Gyllenhaal, he had to run away from the birds in that scene, so his fear came in handy. His co-star, Gemma Arterton, witnessed the entire thing and recalled, “He was really scared. He ran away, and the look on his face — it’s not acting. It’s real.”

10. Scarlett Johansson — fear of birds in We Bought a Zoo

Similarly to her co-star Matt Damon, Johansson didn’t have the easiest time while working on We Bought a Zoo. Turns out, the actress has ornithophobia and had to face it on set with many different animals and birds. She explained her fear: “Something about wings and beaks and the flapping. I’m terrified of them. That still hasn’t gone away. If they’d asked me to put a bird on my shoulder I would’ve done it, but it would’ve been hard.”

Do you have any of the aforementioned phobias? Share your experience of overcoming your fear with us!

Preview photo credit From Dusk Till Dawn / Miramax
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