Actors Who Picked Up Some Pretty Sweet Skills For Their Roles

Still of Ryan Gosling in 'The Notebook'
youtube | Warner Bros. Entertainment

Acting is a tough profession. Sure, actors are paid handsomely for what they do, but it's hard to deny that it requires a lot of dedication to play certain roles.

Case in point: acting often doubles as on-the-job training when a role requires a certain skill. What's a skilled actor to do? Well, they simply have to learn that skill, obviously. Here's a look at 20 actors who learned something new in order to accurately portray a character.

Kate Winslet

We haven't seen Avatar 2 hit theaters yet, but when it does, keep your eyes peeled for Kate Winslet's character. She plays a person who lives underwater. To get ready for the role, Winslet learned how to free-dive and hold her breath for seven minutes at a time.

Chadwick Boseman

The late Chadwick Boseman played a trumpet player in his final role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. His trumpet playing wasn't movie magic though, as Boseman learned how to become a pretty good trumpet player before the movie started shooting.

Natalie Portman

Portman was a convincing ballerina in Black Swan, and as it turns out, the performance came at a cost. She trained in ballet for eight hours a day to prepare for the role and even dislocated a rib during the process.

Adrien Brody

Brody is an actor who's been known to do the method thing in order to play a role. In The Pianist, one of his most iconic roles, Brody learned how to become a classical piano player so he could portray Wladyslaw Szpilman.

Russell Crowe

You don't hear much about Crowe's period piece, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World these days. But the film is impressive for many reasons, one of which is the fact that he straight-up learned how to sail a tall ship (and play a violin) to prepare for the role.

Jennifer Lawrence

Still of Jennifer Lawrence in 'Winter's Bone'
youtube | RoadsideFlix

J-Law's breakout role is probably Winter's Bone, in which she played a member of a backwoods family. To really sell the performance, Lawrence learned how to skin a squirrel. It's a niche skill, but one that made her performance all the more real.

Channing Tatum

Hail, Caesar!, a Coen Brothers romp through old Hollywood, included Channing Tatum in its ensemble cast. The role required Tatum to tap dance, something he'd never done before. But after three months of training, he was able to deliver a convincing performance.

Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad
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Bryan Cranston learned how to cook up meth for his role in Breaking Bad. I repeat: Bryan Cranston literally learned how to cook drugs so he could play Walter White. According to Cranston, DEA chemists were on set to help him cook the drug accurately.

Michelle Pfeiffer

In her iconic role as Catwoman in Batman Returns, Pfeiffer was frequently seen cracking a whip. That wasn't movie magic, though — it was all Pfeiffer. She learned how to handle a whip and says she still knows how to crack it.

Ansel Elgort

Stunt drivers generally handle all the car chase stuff in movies, and Baby Driver is no different. While stunt drivers still handled the scenes, Elgort — who plays an elite getaway driver — took stunt driving lessons in order to more convincingly play his character.

Jesse Eisenberg

Still of Jesse Eisenberg in 'Now You See Me'
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CGI probably could have helped Eisenberg portray a magician in Now You See Me, but the actor wanted to do things the old-fashioned way. To accomplish this, he learned magic skills, including the sleight of hand tricks required for his role in the movie.

Tom Cruise

Cruise loves to push the envelope for what he's willing to do in his movies. For Mission Impossible: Fallout, Cruise straight-up learned how to fly a helicopter. He did it the hard way, taking part in 2,000 hours of training and writing an exam in order to become a licensed helicopter pilot.

Terry O'Quinn

Still of Terry O'Quinn in 'Lost'
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The Lost star might not be as big a name as his big screen counterparts, but he still took his role in the hit show very seriously. Even though he'd never practiced knife-throwing before the series, he became adept at it.

Daniel Day-Lewis

Day-Lewis generally does some sort of bonkers method training for every role, and his prep work for Last of the Mohicans was no different. He spent half a year — half a yearliving off the land, hunting animals and eating what he caught before starring in the film.

Halle Berry

Keanu Reeves is the star of the John Wick franchise, but he's not the only one who displayed some impressive weapons-handling skills. Halle Berry, his co-star in John Wick 3, learned all sorts of stuff, including shooting and martial arts, to prepare for her role.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

You might not remember The Walk, in which JGL played a tightrope walker. But it was an in-depth role for the actor, who spent time training with the tightrope walker he'd end up portraying in the film. Gordon-Levitt became pretty good at tightrope walking, and he also learned how to ride a unicycle just for kicks.

Margot Robbie

Still of Margot Robbie in 'I, Tonya'
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Figure skating is a skill that takes years to develop, so no, Margot Robbie did not become an elite ice dancer for her role in I, Tonya. She did, however, get pretty good at it. Robbie spent three months practicing with a choreographer in order to credibly portray a figure skater.

Keanu Reeves

Still of Keanu Reeves in 'Point Break'
youtube | Rotten Tomatoes Classic Trailers

You have to look way back in Keanu's career to get to his surf caper, Point Break. As a surfing movie, Reeves kind of needed to learn how to surf, so he took a crash course. Even though the movie is half-forgotten today, surfing remains one of the actor's passions to this day.

Uma Thurman

There's a lot of stunt work going on in the Kill Bill movies, but at least some of it was done by the movie's star, Uma Thurman. She says she learned three styles of kung fu, two styles of

sword fighting, knife throwing, knife fighting and hand-to-hand combat for the film.

Ryan Gosling

Still of Ryan Gosling in 'The Notebook'
youtube | Warner Bros. Entertainment

Gosling has proven his acting chops time and time again. One of his early roles in The Notebook had his character building furniture. Gosling decided to go the extra mile and learn how to build furniture, just to be in better tune with his character.