War Movies That Ruined Actors Lives

By Jack Ripley | February 1, 2024

Martin Sheen Had To 'Wrestle With Demons' While Filming 'Apocalypse Now'

Are you ready for action? This captivating gallery reveals the grit, sweat, and occasional tears that have peppered the paths of actors while making some of the most memorable war movies in cinematic history. From tales of grueling boot camps that pushed actors to their physical limits, to on-set accidents that left more than just emotional scars, this collection showcases the commitment, endurance, and sheer determination that brought these intense roles to life. Each image and accompanying story highlights the reality behind the spectacle – a world far removed from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Discover the intense training that went into 'Platoon,' the unexpected typhoon that disrupted 'Apocalypse Now,' and the camaraderie that helped the cast of 'Saving Private Ryan' recreate the horrors of D-Day. So, grab some popcorn, settle in, and brace yourself for an inside look at the world of war movies that's as riveting as the films themselves.

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(United Artists)

Martin Sheen delivered a career-defining performance as Captain Benjamin L. Willard in Apocalypse Now, but the process of filming was a legendary ordeal. Sheen was not the original choice for the role of Willard; Harvey Keitel had been cast initially but was replaced a week into production.  Sheen was fully committed to the character of Willard, which was a demanding role that often blurred the lines between fiction and reality. In the film's iconic opening sequence, a drunken and psychologically tormented Willard trashes his hotel room. Sheen, who was genuinely intoxicated during the shoot, improvised much of the scene, even going as far as injuring himself by punching a mirror. Perhaps the most harrowing episode occurred when Sheen suffered a heart attack while on location in the Philippines, at the young age of 36. After a brief hiatus, Sheen returned to complete his scenes, despite not being fully recovered. Despite the physical and emotional toll of the shoot, Sheen's performance in Apocalypse Now is widely regarded as one of his best.

Making 'Born on the Fourth of July,' Tom Cruise Was 'On Edge Every Day'

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(Universal Pictures)

Based on the autobiography of Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic, Born On The Fourth Of July required an immense commitment from all involved, particularly from its lead actor, Tom Cruise, who played Kovic. To prepare for the role, Cruise went through an extensive period of research and physical training. He spent time with Kovic himself, learning about his experiences and perspectives on the war, the injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down, and his subsequent activism against the Vietnam War. Cruise found the role of Kovic demanding, yet the lines were often blurred between actor and character:

“I’d nailed the character in Dallas, and then we’d done Vietnam, and then I had a scene where I had to be Ron in a wheelchair again. I was just like, ‘I don’t know where I am. I lost it. Am I Kovic now?’ I remember I was so physically exhausted. I said, ‘Oliver, I’m sorry, man, I just don’t have it. I’m lost.’ He said, ‘You are Kovic, just do it, don’t think about it.'”