Horror Actors Share The Projects That Left Them Scarred Afterwards

Ashley Hunte
A toy resembling Pennywise the Clown from It (2017).
Unsplash | Nong V

Watching a horror movie is a freaky experience in itself. So I can only imagine that the people who actually act in them must have it a lot worse.

The actors in this list opened up about their experiences working on different horror projects. It really makes you appreciate how much they had to go through to get these films done.

Note: Strong content warning for topics such as suicide.

Tippi Hedren in 'The Birds.'

Tippi Hendren in The Birds.
IMDb | Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions via IMDb

The Birds is incredibly infamous for a number of reasons, including the fact that the final scene uses live birds. But according to Hedren, the birds they were supposed to use were mechanical, until director Alfred Hitchcock swapped them out last-minute when they weren't working properly.

Hedren recalled being subjected to the live birds for five days of filming.

Tippi Hendren being attacked by birds in The Birds.
IMDb | Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions via IMDb

In "Tippi: A Memoir," Hedren wrote, "The birds were untied from me, and I just sat there on the floor, unable to move, and began sobbing from sheer exhaustion."

And this only begins to describe the sheer emotional trauma the actress faced on set.

Natalie Portman in 'Black Swan.'

Natalie Portman in Black Swan.
IMDb | Searchlight Pictures via IMDb

Though not strictly horror, the thriller film was still a very emotionally and physically taxing experience for Portman, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress for the film. She admitted that she probably should've gone to rehab to recover from Black Swan, instead of jumping right into filming Thor.

She also thought she might die during filming.

Natalie Portman as the titular Black Swan in the 2010 film.
IMDb | Searchlight Pictures via IMDb

In preparation for Black Swan, was asked to "get as small as possible" by losing 20 pounds. She also trained in dance, reportedly for up to eight hours a day.

Bill Skarsgård in 'It.'

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise from 2017's It.
IMDb | New Line Cinema via IMDb

Skarsgård played the 2017 adaptation's main villain, It, who took the appearance of Pennywise the Clown. The actor compared his experience as Pennywise to a destructive relationship, also stating that it was a lot of fun to portray the monster.

But that doesn't mean it wasn't a burden.

Pennywise the Clown, as seen in the 2017 adaptation of It.
IMDb | New Line Cinema via IMDb

Skarsgård stated that after filming wrapped, he began having nightmares of the character: "It was in the shape of either me dealing with him, sort of Pennywise as a separate entity of me, and then also me as Pennywise in circumstances that I didn’t appreciate."

Isabelle Adjani in 'Possession.'

Isabelle Adjani in Possession.
IMDb | Gaumont via IMDb

Adjani reportedly suffered a lot of psychological trauma from her time on set for the 1981 film. Director Andrezej Zulawski alleged that Adjani was so disturbed after viewing a screening for the film, she attempted suicide.

She later stated that she would never take on a role like that again.

Isabelle Adjani in the 1981 film Possession.
IMDb | Gaumont via IMDb

"[Possession] was quite an amazing film to do, but I got bruised, inside out," she said. "It was exciting to do. It was no bones broken, but it was like, 'How or why did I do that?' I don't think any other actress ever did two films with [Zulawski]."

Sam Neill in 'Possession.'

Sam Neill in Possession.
IMDb | Gaumont via IMDb

While Neill wasn't subject to as much torment as Adjani during filming, the actor also recalled it being a pretty brutal filming experience. While filming the infamous subway scene, he recalled "I knew it was worth a lot of effort for [Adjani], both emotionally and physically, because it was cold there. It was unthinkable to repeat this scene endlessly."

"Most of what’s left on the screen is the first take."

Sam Neill with Isabelle Adjani in Possession.
IMDb | Gaumont via IMDb

He called the film "the most extreme film I’ve ever made, in every possible respect, and he asked of us things I wouldn’t and couldn’t go to now. And I think I only just escaped that film with my sanity barely intact."

Shelley Duvall in 'The Shining.'

Shelley Duvall with Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
IMDb | Warner Bros via IMDb

While The Shining is considered a horror classic nowadays, filming the movie was absolutely exhausting and stressful for Duvall, who played Wendy Torrance. According to costar Jack Nicholson, director Stanley Kubrick forced Duvall to film the baseball bat scene 127 times.

Duvall was allegedly stressed to the point of her hair falling out.

Shelley Duvall in The Shining.
IMDb | Warner Bros via IMDb

She once sat down with late critic Roger Ebert, saying that The Shining left her in poor health for months: "From May until October I was really in and out of ill health because the stress of the role was so great."

Jack Reynor in 'Midsommar.'

Jack Reynor in Midsommar.
IMDb | A24 via IMDb

It's very hard to describe Midsommar to someone who's never seen it, and a lot of that has to do with the incredible performances by the whole cast. Reynor in particular was subject to a lot of horrifying, traumatizing sequences (especially throughout the film's final act).

And while Reynor was excited for the challenge of the role, it was still a difficult one to film.

Jack Reynor with Florence Pugh in Midsommar.
IMDb | A24 via IMDb

"There are not many examples in contemporary cinema or in the history of cinema where it's a male character who is exposed in such a humiliating way and certainly in a sexual context too and suffers this kind of fate. That has been largely reserved for females," Reynor said in reference to the "love" scene toward the end of the film.

But he had his own way of coping with the emotional stress of the film.

Jack Reynor in the film Midsommar.
IMDb | A24 via IMDb

Reynor's experience on the set of Midsommar left him so exhausted, one of the first things he did was get drunk on the flight home.

Will Poulter in 'Midsommar.'

Will Poulter in the 2019 film Midsommar.
IMDb | A24 via IMDb

Another one of the film's stars, Will Poulter admitted to having nightmares after watching the final cut of the Ari Aster film: "I had the worst night's sleep of my life the night after. Terrible, terrible, full-on nightmares."

Alex Wolff in 'Hereditary.'

Alex Wolff in Hereditary.
IMDb | PalmStar Media via IMDb

Much like its predecessor, Midsommar, Hereditary is an incredibly disturbing, emotionally draining experience. And that's just for the people who watched it. For the actors, that emotional toll was much worse. Particularly for Alex Wolff, who believes filming the movie left him with PTSD.

"It stuck with me while we were filming, and it stuck with me well after," he said.

Alex Wolff in the 2018 film Hereditary.
IMDb | PalmStar Media via IMDb

He continued by saying, "I don’t think you can go through something like this and not have some sort of PTSD afterward."

Janet Leigh in 'Psycho.'

Janet Leigh as Marion Crane in Psycho.
IMDb | Shamley Productions via IMDb

The original scream queen, Leigh's legacy in horror is still felt to this day, all these decades later. But actually portraying Marion Crane in the Hitchcock-directed film left a lasting impression on the late actress.

Leigh confessed that she had to stop showering after filming the shower scene.

Janet Leigh during Psycho's infamous shower scene.
IMDb | Shamley Productions via IMDb

Leigh said she mainly took baths after filming Psycho's most iconic scene, making sure that all the windows and doors were locked whenever she bathed. "I also leave the bathroom door open and shower curtain open," she said. "I’m always facing the door, watching, no matter where the shower head is."