"I had a really bad anxiety attack on set." 7 actors on the role that seriously affected them.

This post deals with mental health issues and may be triggering for some readers.

When it comes to acting, celebrities have to spend quite a lot of time preparing for a role and getting into character. 

But behind the scenes, playing a particular role can leave a mark on even the most experienced actors. 

From nightmares, to weight loss and mental health issues, acting can often take a physical and emotional toll on celebrities which can continue to affect them even after they leave the set. 

Watch: The auditions that scored actors their leading roles. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

From Margot Robbie in I, Tonya to Shelley Duvall in The Shinning, here are eight times actors were seriously affected by their roles.

Nicole Kidman as Grace Fraser in The Undoing.

Image: Binge. 


Aussie actress Nicole Kidman starred as therapist Grace Fraser in the 2020 thriller series The Undoing.

But while the show was an international hit, it left an impact on Kidman's physical and mental health.

"On The Undoing, it kind of happened where I just was like... suddenly, I was in this place, there was sort of a disquietness to my personality where I was uneasy, and there was duress on who I was," she explained on a recent interview on the WTF With Marc Maron podcast.

"I actually got really sick, and I think this is a big thing that happens to actors. I went down for a week because your immune system doesn’t know the difference between acting and truth when you’re doing those."

The actress went on to say that she sometimes find it hard to differentiate between acting and reality. 

"I have not learned a technique to tell my brain and my body, ’Oh this is just acting’. I haven’t learned how to clean that out."

"It doesn’t really work for me. I go home, and I don’t sleep well and I’m not well if it’s that disturbing to me."

Anne Hathaway as Fantine in Les Misérables.

Image: Universal Pictures.

Anne Hathaway earned herself an Oscar for her portrayal of Fantine in the 2012 film Les Misérables. But behind-the-scenes, the role took a toll on her physical and mental health. 


The actress ended up loosing 25 pounds (11 kilograms) to play the part and was placed on a strict diet of two thin squares of dried oatmeal paste a day. 

"I’d lost an unhealthy amount of weight in two weeks," she told People in 2019.

"I didn’t know anything about nutrition. I taxed my body, and my brain bore the brunt of it for a while. I just felt very anxious and very lost at that time. That weight loss was not a long-term good thing for my health, and it took a really long time to come back from it. And I was still really sick because of it."

Hathaway, who also chopped off her hair for the role, said the whole experience affected her even after she left the set. 

"I was in such a state of deprivation — physical and emotional. When I got home, I couldn't react to the chaos of the world without being overwhelmed. It took me weeks till I felt like myself again," she told Vogue.

Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrance in The Shining.

Image: Warner Bros.  

Shelley Duvall was subject to harsh treatment by director Stanley Kubrick when she played Wendy Torrance in the 1980 horror film The Shining. Her mental health was so severely impacted that she even considered quitting the film. 

"It’s the most difficult role I’ve ever had to play," Duval explained in the book The Complete Kubrick. 

"From May until October, I was really in and out of ill health because the stress of the role was so great. Stanley pushed me and prodded me further than I’ve ever been pushed before."

The stress led her to have an emotional "breakdown" on set. 

"I do recall I had a really bad anxiety attack on set, and I believe that was what is shown in the documentary [The Making of The Shining]," she told ComingSoon.net. 


"As most people are aware, the shoot was very hard on me and I got to the point where I just couldn’t take anymore, I needed a break, but taking a break costs money and people need the shot done, so I had a little breakdown. 

"I think it was only 10 minutes, but I just needed to get my head together, we were shooting long days, sometimes 15 to 16 hours, and it really does take a lot out of you."

Unfortunately, even after the film, Duvall continued to battle mental health issues. In 2016, The Shining star appeared on an episode of Dr. Phil where she opened up about the poor state of her health. 

Read more: Bullying on set and an emotional "breakdown": Why Shelley Duvall almost quit The Shining.

Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace in Halloween.

Image: Compass International Pictures.

Kyle Richards was just nine years old when Halloween was released in 1978.

The young actress played Lindsey Wallace in the film and it wasn't until after the film came out that she realised just how terrifying it was. 

"I had no idea what I was in for. Seeing it for the first time all pieced together was a very, very different movie," The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills told Halloween Daily News. 

"It was just really scary, and I really did sleep with my mum until I was 15 years old after that. I was terrified."


Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I, Tonya.

Image: LuckyChap Entertainment.

Playing a real life person is a challenge for any actor. But for Aussie actress Margot Robbie, playing the role of American figure skater Tonya Harding, took a particularly emotional toll. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Robbie told Harding that she'd "found it emotionally traumatic to put [herself] in the mind-set of someone who's in an abusive relationship". 

Robbie also told Grazia magazine that at one point during filming, she "genuinely thought" a conversation she was having with actor Sebastian Stan, who played abusive husband Jeff Gillool, was real. 

"I had lost my mind. I genuinely thought we were these people and we were off the set, running down the street screaming at each other and the cameras are running after us. I think I was screaming something about needing to go to hospital because my hand was broken," she told the publication.

"It wasn't, but I was so caught up in the moment. And Sebastian was like, 'Margot, where are you going?' He went to pick me up because I was continuing to tear down off set and I turned and punched him in the head."

Janet Leigh as Marion Crane in Psycho.

Image: Paramount Pictures.


Six decades on, the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 Psycho remains an iconic scene in film history.

But after the film, Janet Leigh could never look at showers the same way again. 

"I stopped taking showers and I only take baths," she told Woman’s World in 1984 before her death in 2004.

"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 shower curtain open. I’m always facing the door, watching, no matter where the shower head is."

Leigh also received frightening letters from people "who were disturbed and who took Psycho as a way to vent their unfortunate demons". 

"I really got a lot of letters where they told me that they were going to do the same thing to me that Norman Bates did to Marion Crane. I don’t get as many now as I did in the beginning, but I have to say, it was pretty serious. The FBI had to come in. Luckily nothing ever happened."

Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise in It.

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures.


Playing Pennywise in the 2017 remake of It, unsurprisingly took a toll on Swedish actor Bill Skarsgård. 

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he likened filming the role to a toxic relationship.

"It's just like being in a very destructive relationship... All your friends go, 'You need to dump this piece of s**t, he or she is destroying your life'. And then once you're out of it, you see, 'I was so miserable'. But I wouldn't say I was miserable doing Pennywise because I had a lot of fun with it, as well."

He also told the publication he felt immediate relief after the first movie stopped filming. 

"It was a very quick shift of just feeling better," he explained, "like, 'Oh my god, I'm relieved that I don't have to deal with the darkness of the character. I likened it to an exorcism — him exiting my body and getting rid of the Pennywise toxins."

Unfortunately, even after filming the actor was still having nightmares about the clown. And we 100 per cent get it. 

"I was home, done with the movie, and I started having very strange and vivid Pennywise dreams. Every night, he came and visited."

"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," Skarsgård said. "Like, I’m Pennywise and I’m really upset that I’m out in public and people are looking at me."

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Feature Image: LuckyChap Entertainment + Binge.