15 Roles That Shattered Actors’ Mental Health

There’s no contesting how glamorous Hollywood is. However, beyond all the glitz and glamor lie stories of actors who struggle with the psychological toll their roles have on them; some characters, after all, dive deep into the deepest depths of the human psyche, pushing actors to push beyond their limits. These actors are undoubtedly stars who sparkle both day and night, but remember that they’re still human; they go through hardships and struggles, too!

Evan Peters as Tate Langdon in American Horror Story

Image Credit: FX Networks

Numerous accounts say that filming anything related to the horror genre can bring about evil or negative vibes on set, and this is precisely what happened when Evan Peters was acting in American Horror Story. Peters had to portray several complex characters as part of his journey in American Horror Story, and unfortunately, most of them were pretty brutal roles that demanded a lot from him; they were not only physically challenging but also emotionally and mentally draining. He said in an interview, “I’m goofy, I’m silly, I like to have fun, I don’t like to yell and scream; I actually hate it. I think it’s disgusting and really awful, and it’s been a challenge for me.”

Janet Leigh as Marion Crane in Psycho

Image Credit: Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures

In Psycho (1960), Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh, died in the shower after she was brutally stabbed to death. Slash Film explains, “Leigh would later speak to Ed Gross about filming this scene, discussing how its storyboard was thoroughly mapped and admitting that she never looked at showers the same way ever again.” In an interview, Janet Leigh said, “I stopped taking showers, and I only take baths, and when I’m someplace where I can only take a bath, I make sure the doors and windows of the house are locked. I also leave the bathroom door open and the shower curtain open; I’m always facing the door, watching, no matter where the shower head is.”

Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers in Black Swan

Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Nina Sayers has several issues, such as OCD, obsession with dancing, perfectionism, as well as an eating disorder. To portray the character right, Natalie Portman had to push her limits to embody the same characteristics Sayers had. Aside from the mental effects Black Swan had on her, there were also some very obvious physical ones, such as losing 20 pounds off of her already small, slim build.

LaKeith Stanfield as William O’Neal in Judas and the Black Messiah

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

LaKeith Stanfield has had many roles that would have affected his mental health, such as Get Out, Atlanta, Sorry to Bother You, and more. However, none was as taxing as his role in Judas and the Black Messiah. In the movie, he played an FBI informant tasked with assassinating the Black Panther Party chairman. It was so troubling for him that he even revealed that he had to find a therapist after filming.

Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes in Misery

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures

Misery is another masterpiece from the great Stephen King. Here, Kathy Bates played Annie Wilkes—a nurse by training who is also bipolar, sadomasochistic, and possibly schizophrenic. Given these qualities that Kathy Bates had to portray, it’s easy to understand how she’d be left traumatized and perhaps needing help after filming. After all, it’s one thing to watch these kinds of things go on versus having to actually do them.

Uzo Aduba as Suzanne Warren in Orange Is the New Black

Image Credit: Netflix

Uzo Aduba played Suzanne Warren in Orange Is the New Black and one of the main things she’s known for is her “crazy eyes.” Suzanne Warren is a complicated character to play, and Aduba captured and embodied her perfectly. However, it did come with a price: Uzo Aduba found it hard to slip out of character after filming.

Jay Robinson as Caligula in The Robe and Demetrius and the Gladiators

Image Credit: 20th Century Studios

Jay Robinson was an actor who rose to fame in the 1950s after he starred in the biblical epic The Robe and its sequel Demetrius and the Gladiators. He played the role of the mad Roman emperor, Caligula, and though there is no definitive proof that his role in the movies pushed him to a downward spiral, his career took a turn for the worse after he was arrested for drug possession. The Los Angeles Times shares, “He said years later that frustration at being typecast led to his drug use. ‘I lost everything in Hollywood,’ Robinson told The Times.”

Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrance in The Shining

Image Credit: Warner Bros., Columbia Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Lumiere Pictures and Television

The Shining is a quintessential Hollywood horror movie, and Shelley Duvall’s acting and on-screen presence are some of the things that made the movie what it is today. However, The Shining also took a toll on her—physically, emotionally, and mentally—mainly because of the director’s, Stanely Kubrick’s, treatment of her. Slash Film explains, “Kubrick made Duvall and Nicholson shoot the scene in a record-setting 127 takes, something that horror fans love to spout off as a fun bit of trivia; the result of the constant takes were Duvall’s hands were shredded raw from gripping the bat for such a prolonged period of time, her voice was hoarse from crying, her eyes became swollen, and she left the set completely dehydrated. The moments we see on screen of Duvall crying in pain, fear, and exhaustion were not acting but an actor delivering lines while enduring a trauma response.”

Kate Winslet as Hanna Schmitz in The Reader

Image Credit: The Weinstein Company, Senator Film

The Holocaust is genuinely one of the most haunting events in the history of humankind, and imagine having to play a character directly involved in it. This was what Kate Winslet had to face when she acted as Hanna Schmitz in The Reader. The research she did on the Holocaust had a lasting effect on her, especially since the role she was trying to portray was complicit in the death of hundreds of Jewish women and children. In an interview, Kate Winslet said, “Once you see documentary footage of the camp, you read anything on the Holocaust, you can never unsee those things, you can never unhear, un-read them; I’m still absolutely haunted and traumatized by so much of what I saw during the preparation process.”

Isabelle Adjani as Anna and Helen in Possession

Image Credit: Gaumont

Isabelle Adjani is one of the greatest actresses of our time, and while Possession is one of her best movies to date, there’s no denying the mental stress it gave her. One of her most thought-provoking scenes was when she suffered a strange, demonic, horrific miscarriage wherein she completely lost control of her mind and body. There were rumors that Isabelle Adjani was pushed to try to commit suicide because of her role, and the director, Andrzej Żuławski, later confirmed this to be true.

Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck in Joker

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Joker is Batman’s most well-known adversary—he’s so famous that he even got multiple movies made just about him, one of which is Joker, which Joaquin Phoenix starred in. He had to lose 52 pounds to get into his role, and this transformation obviously took a toll on him! Eventually, Joaquin Phoenix got so obsessed with losing weight that he developed a disorder for it. He said in an interview, “And, as it turns out, that then affects your psychology; you start to go mad when you lose that amount of weight in that amount of time.”

Bob Hoskins as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios

You’d think a movie such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit is funny and light. Well, it’s all fun and games until cast members, such as Bob Hoskins, who played Eddie Valiant, start developing mental health issues because of it. Daily Express explains, “British actor Bob Hoskins was driven to the brink of insanity by his role in the 1988 movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He spent months suffering from hallucinations of cartoon characters from the movie.”

Adrien Brody as Władysław Szpilman in The Pianist

Image Credit: Focus Features

Adrien Brody received the Academy Award for Best Actor, and he got this after portraying Władysław Szpilman in The Pianist. This award was well-deserved, and the movie is beyond amazing. However, Adrien Brody had to lose weight—around 30 pounds—to play this role, and, like Joaquin Phoenix, the sudden loss in weight took a toll on his mental health. He said in an interview, “I’ve experienced loss, I’ve experienced sadness in my life, but I didn’t know the desperation that comes with hunger; I was depressed for a year after The Pianist, and I don’t suffer from that, generally.”

Anne Hathaway as Fantine in Les Misérables

Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Anne Hathaway is another famous Hollywood personality who went through some problems after losing a lot of weight for a role. In 2012, she played Fantine in Les Misérables, which required her to lose around 25 pounds, as Fantine is a French seamstress-turned-prostitute. Cinemablend shares, “She also spoke about how this took some joy away from her Oscar win in 2013. The actress said she was still coming back from the intense weight loss when she appeared on the award show, along with dealing with a bit of an identity crisis following her recent 30th birthday and marriage to her current husband.”

Tom Holland as Danny Sullivan in The Crowded Room

Image Credit: Apple Studios

While some actors encountered mental health problems due to the physical changes they had to do for their roles, it was entirely psychological for Tom Holland when he acted as Danny Sullivan in The Crowded Room. To him, filming this movie was an incredibly difficult experience, even pushing him to take a one-year hiatus from work. In fact, Holland revealed that he even considered shaving off all the hair on his head, as he felt that this could have been his way of dissociating himself from the role he played.

Author: Karen Danao


Karen is a writer and also a marketing and advertising professional. Beyond the keyboard and the screen, she is someone who’s out to enjoy every bit that life has to offer!

Poetry, philosophy, history, and movies are all topics she loves writing about! However, her true passion is in traveling, photography, and finding common ground to which everyone from different cultures can relate.