Actors Hiding In Plain Sight

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Actors Hiding In Plain Sight

During the course of Jonathan Glazer’s critically acclaimed sci-fi masterpiece Under the Skin, leading lady Scarlett Johansson drives around Glasgow and engages with several non-actor types who have absolutely no idea they’re part of a film.

To celebrate its release on digital platforms on July 7th and on Blu-ray & DVD on 14th July, 2014, we’re taking a look at other actors who have hidden in plain sight, all for the sake of their art…

Scarlett Johansson – Under the Skin (2013)

Johansson takes the lead in Jonathan Glazers visually stunning sci-fi drama, playing an alien in human form, preying on men in Glasgow. During filming, Johansson drove around Glasgow in a white transit van, looking for men who were alone. Although some key scenes used actors, the majority involved unknowing members of the public. Johansson approached them (hidden cameras were installed in the van), and after the ‘scene’ the crew approached the men to ask if they would consent to the footage being used.

Robert de Niro- Taxi Driver (1976)

Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece starred Robert De Niro in an iconic role as the disturbed insomniac taxi driver, Travis Bickle. De Niro obtained a taxi drivers licence and worked twelve hour days, driving passengers around New York for a month prior to filming. Despite having already won an Oscar for The Godfather: Part Two at the time, De Niro maintains that whilst working as a taxi driver, he was only recognised once.

Daniel Day- Lewis – My Left Foot (1989)

Daniel Day-Lewis starred in this true story of Irish cerebral palsy sufferer Christy Brown. Paralysed and written off as helpless, Brown refused to give up, and using his left foot (the only part of his body not affected) he learnt to write, and eventually became a well-known author and artist. To prepare for the challenging role, Day-Lewis spent eight weeks in a cerebral palsy clinic in Dublin, learning to speak as Brown did, and how to write and draw with his left foot. He said of the experience- “Films don’t begin only when the camera starts rolling,”

Tom Cruise- Collateral (2004)

When preparing for his role as a professional assassin, Cruise quickly realised that the ability to go unnoticed was a vital requirement of the job- and something he had virtually no experience of. To learn how to blend in, he dressed up like a FedEx worker and delivered packages to a busy LA marketplace, all while trying to avoid being recognised. He was able to deliver all the packages, interact with customers, and have a full conversation with someone, all without being recognised once.

Sir Ian Mckellen – Waiting for Godot (2010)

A slightly unusual addition, as Mckellen didn’t actually intend to hide. He was taking a break from rehearsals at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne, and crouched by the stage door.  Playing the tramp Estragon meant he was looking less dapper than usual, and a passer-by, failing to recognise the actor, promptly dropped $1 into his hat. Mckellen was completely taken aback by the incident – and he attempted to repeat it the next day- earning another $2 in the process.

Christian Bale- Out of the Furnace (2013)

Christian Bale starred in Scott Cooper’s thriller as steelworker Russell Baze, struggling to protect his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) from a murky underworld led by ruthless drug dealer, Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson). Bale famously worked in a steel mill to prepare for the role, and as such, knew how to work all the equipment during filming- meaning he didn’t need a stuntman.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena- End of Watch (2012)

As part of their training for this fly-on-the-wall police drama, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña spent five months doing 12-hour ride-alongs with on-duty LAPD officers. Gyllenhaal in particular had a baptism of fire- on his first trip with the officers he witnessed a murder. They were both also given taser electro-shocks as a part of their research, as is a mandatory requirement in police training in LA.

Under the Skin is available on digital platforms on July 7th and on Blu-ray & DVD on 14th July, 2014.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.


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