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12 Times Actors Learned Incredible Things for a Role

Oftentimes, actors are faced with situations that require their character to be skilled at something that they themselves have never learned to do. While there are some tricks to ace a role despite this detail, like the use of stunt doubles, some actors see situations like this as an opportunity to pick up a new skill.

Bright Side does not agree with the phrase, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” So, we hope that the actors mentioned in this article will prove to you that you can learn any skill at any age.

1. Keanu Reeves learned to surf for Point Break.

The cast of the movie, Point Break, all had to learn how to surf in order to play their roles well. According to the actor-surfer, Dennis Jarvis, who gave the cast their lessons, Keanu Reeves “definitely hadn’t surfed” before taking on the role. However, he aced the lessons and liked surfing so much that Jarvis built him a custom board, so Reeves could surf off-screen as well.

2. Jesse Eisenberg learned the fundamentals of magic for Now You See Me.

Jesse Eisenberg played the role of a magician in the 2013 movie, Now You See Me, and he actually learned the basic principles of magic for the role. The actors said he found the things he learned extremely useful while performing all different kinds of tricks, and not necessarily the magic-related ones.

3. Joseph Gordon-Levitt learned how to walk the high wire for The Walk.

Not only did the actor learn how to walk the tightrope in just 8 days for his movie, The Walk, but he was also taught by Philippe Petit, the man he was portraying in the movie. In fact, Petit insisted that he be the one to teach Gordon-Levitt that skill, and while the deadline of 8 days seemed pretty ambitious for the actor, he succeeded against all odds.

4. Natalie Portman trained how to perform ballet for 5 hours a day ahead of filming Black Swan.

As the actress herself admitted, she overestimated her own ballet skills when she first got cast to act in Black Swan. Because she had some prior experience as a kid, she thought she could pull it off, but that was not the case. To make up for her lack of recent training, she spent at least 5 hours a day practicing in her free time. The work she put in paid off, as she won an Oscar for her performance.

5. Mahershala Ali learned to play piano for Green Book.

Since Green Book is a movie about a musician named Donald Shirley, it was always the plan to have the lead actor learn how to play the piano. Mahershala Ali, who got the role, showed incredible dedication to the process of learning — the composer who trained him recalls that they were supposed to practice for 1 hour during one of the first sessions, but ended up staying for 3, as the actor wanted to make sure he had everything correct. By the end of the lessons, he learned how to play a few melodies.

6. Tom Cruise spent an accrued 2,000 flying hours learning how to fly a plane just for one scene in Mission Impossible: Fallout.

Tom Cruise usually does his own stunts, and flying an airplane in the sixth installment of the Mission Impossible film series was no exception. According to the aerial assistant who trained him, pilots usually need to train 8 hours a day for 3 months in order to become novice pilots, but Cruise did everything he could to catch up to speed quickly and accrued 2,000 flying hours in a short time. Not only that, but he also learned how to perform one of the harder maneuvers, a corkscrew dive.

7. Rachel Weisz learned how to play 4 instruments for just 1 role.

Rachel Weisz’s role in The Brothers Bloom required her to play the accordion, banjo, violin, and guitar, so the actress had to learn how to play all 4 of these instruments. The movie was filmed in Serbia, so Weisz had to take accordion lessons from a Serbian teacher who knew no English; there was some struggle with the language barrier as well. The actress learned how to play the other instruments all by herself, as she spent hours learning the chords.

8. Jon Favreau learned how to cook Cuban BBQ for Chef.

Jon Favreau was the star, writer, and director of the 2014 movie, Chef, but he said he “would do the movie only if it looked absolutely real.” That’s why he learned how to cook professionally from a food truck owner. It was a challenge, as the actor said that when you are working in real-life conditions, nobody cares that you’re a beginner, and you have to learn a lot of things on the spot.

9. Kate Winslet learned how to free-dive for Avatar 2.

While Avatar 2 is yet to be released, there are already a few things known about the movie, and one of them is that Kate Winslet not only learned how to free-dive for it, but she also learned how to hold her breath underwater for over 7 minutes.

10. Ryan Gosling learned how to build furniture for his role in The Notebook.

Ryan Gosling proved once again that he is a method actor by learning how to build furniture from scratch, just like his character, Noah, in The Notebook. The actor made friends with a local cabinetmaker, and together they built Adirondack chairs that the viewers can see in the movie. The actor also built a table that was used as a prop in the movie as well.

11. Riz Ahmed learned American Sign Language for his role in Sound of Metal.

Riz Ahmed’s character in Sound of Metal gradually loses his hearing, so to prepare for the role, the actor spent 7 months learning American Sign Language. He said that he tried to reach a near-fluent level in ASL out of respect for the community. Ahmed also noted that his ASL coach and the deaf community helped him understand the real meaning of listening and having a conversation.

12. Margot Robbie learned to mimic an Olympian-level figure skater for I, Tonya.

Margot Robbie’s skating coach for I, Tonya noted that it’s hard to start skating from scratch, especially when you have a limited amount of time before shooting. Luckily, the actress had a great work ethic and was able to pull it off — she practiced 4 days a week for 3 months before filming began.

Have you ever seen an unconvincing portrayal of a certain skill in a movie? Do you think it’s part of an actor’s job to pick up new skills for their roles?

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