5 Actors Who Had to Learn a Cool Skill For Their Role

Being an actor is a skill in itself but there are times when an actor requires a specific skill or has to learn something new to fill a role. In this article we will take a look at five examples of when an actor has had to learn something new to play their role.

Paul Newman in The Hustler (1961) and The Color of Money (1986)

Paul Leonard Newman, nick-named King Cool, was born January 26th 1925 in Ohio, USA and sadly passed away on the 26th September 2008 from lung cancer. Well known for having the most famous blue eyes in television history; his first film was The Silver Chalice (1954). After a shaky start he carried on with his career as an actor and became one of the most famous faces on the big screen, making what was to become one of his most famous roles of his career as a professional pool player in ‘The Hustler’. Paul had to spend a great deal of time learning to play pool like a pro to play his part. His ability certainly shone through during his spectacular and memorable performance. The only shot that wasn’t performed by Newman was the massé shot, which was performed by 14-time world billiard champion, Willie Mosconi. Newman’s well-honed talent for pool hustling and trickery came to good use once again for his role as Fast Eddie Felson in The Color of Money (1986).

Natalie Portman in Black Swan (2010)

For Natalie to play the role of the veteran Ballet dancer in the 2010 psychological thriller, Black Swan, she had to spend many months prior to filming learning this tricky new talent. With the help of some well-known figures on the ballet scene, Natalie, along with co-star Mila Kunis, worked many long days and nights to become fully fledged and elegant ballerinas. After the film was released there was some controversy over just how much of the dancing Natalie actually did; she claimed to have done around 80% while her screen double claims she only did 5%. Either way Natalie Portman went on to win the British Academy Award for best actress for her role in Black Swan.

Several Actors in Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Before the filming began for Saving Private Ryan several of the movies main actors including Barry Pepper, Edward Burns, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel and Tom Hanks were put through ten days of intensive training at ‘boot camp’ where they learnt basic military training, how to use an M1 rifle, hiked with 40lb packs for up to five miles a day and their average sleep allowance was just 3 hours a day. The surprising thing here was that Matt Damon didn’t attend the boot camp until the final days because director Stephen Spielberg wanted the rest of the group to feel a sense of resentment towards him.

Mark Wahlberg in Shooter (2007)

Set in British Columbia, Canada Mark Wahlberg plays the part of a USMC Force Recon Gunnery Sargent and scout sniper. He is only one of a kind and is well known for his ability to ‘take out a target a mile away’; He reluctantly leaves his isolated mountain home to help track down and kill an assassin who plans on taking out the president. For Mark’s role in Shooter he spent a great deal of time prior to and during filming learning sniper skills and tactics from former U.S Marine Scout Sniper Patrick Garrity.

Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai (2003)

As well as playing one of the lead roles, Tom Cruise also co-produced this epic tale of sword wielding samurai warriors. For Tom to play the part he spent two years prior to filming learning how to speak fluent Japanese. On top of this he also mastered the art of wielding a samurai sword. Cruise’s newly mastered skills proved handy while shooting a fight scene with co-star, Hiroyuki Sanada, when he narrowly escaped the wrath of a samurai blade to his neck. Reportedly, his mechanical, off-screen horse failed to duck at the right time.


This article was produced on behalf of Home Leisure Direct – the UK’s leading suppliers of pool tables, football tables and arcade machines for every skilled home gamer.

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