Contrary to popular belief, being an actor isn’t always glamorous. These stars had to reach deep inside themselves and take a walk on the dark side to play a part most weren’t familiar with at all — a drug addict.
Famed actress Alfre Woodard has played many characters. One unforgettable role was friend and neighbor to a gay drag queen played by Ving Rhames. Woodard was Wanda in the 2000 movie Holiday Heart, a drug-addicted single mom with a heart of gold who was down on her luck. This isn’t the first time Woodard portrayed a character addicted to a substance. Two years earlier she starred in Down In The Delta as an addict forced to move to Mississippi with her children.
Comedian Chris Rock had a few bit parts under his belt when he was cast as the coke addict police informant in the 1991 cult classic movie New Jack City. Starring alongside Wesley Snipes, Ice-T and Allen Payne, Rock stole the show as the skinny homeless Pookie fresh out of rehab. Recruited to drop dimes on a drug dealer played by Snipes, Pookie couldn’t resist the allure of crack and went back to his old habits.
Actress Jennifer Connelly got her start as a child model. Making the natural transition into acting, the New York native has gone on to have a successful career in Hollywood, earning an Oscar for supporting actress in A Beautiful Mind. The stunning star played an addict in the 2000 flick, Requiem For A Dream. Connelly prepared for the role by renting an apartment in New York City and isolating herself from the rest of the world to study addiction and its origin. Her research paid off. Many credit her role in the movie that took an interesting look at addiction as Connelly’s breakthrough role.
Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson started using drugs around the same time he began his acting career. By the time he played crack addict Gator in Spike Lee’s 1991 Jungle Fever, Jackson was already in recovery. The Washington D.C. native has said filming the movie was cathartic. “It was a funny kind of thing,” said Jackson. “By the time I was out of rehab, about a week or so later I was on set and we were ready to start shooting.”
Actor Denzel Washington has played just about every character imaginable. Including a drug-using, alcohol-swigging pilot in the 2012 Flight. The movie helped the 58-year-old Hollywood heavyweight earn his fourth Oscar nomination. This isn’t the first time the legendary actor won acclaim playing someone out of control. Washington won an Oscar for playing a police officer addicted to power in the 2001 movie Training Day.
Oscar winning actress Halle Berry made her debut on the silver screen in Spike Lee’s 1991 film Jungle Fever. Playing opposite Wesley Snipes, Berry was the strung out girlfriend of Samuel L. Jackson’s character Gator, another drug addict. Four years later, Berry would channel her inner junkie again in Losing Isaiah. Berry earned an NAACP Image Award nomination as Khaila Richards, a mother who fought to win her baby back after he was born addicted to crack.
Khandi Alexander has played a medical examiner and a radio personality on television but none of those gigs were as memorable as her role in the Emmy-award winning HBO miniseries “The Corner.” The series was based on a nonfiction book that followed one family’s struggle to survive in the drug-addled Baltimore. Alexander played Francine Boyd, a drug addicted mother of two who fought to get clean.
In July actor Cort Monteith passed away from an overdose of heroin and alcohol. Before his untimely passing, the “Glee” star filmed the movie McKanick, which turned out to be his final role. In an ironic twist, the Calgary, Canada native plays a drug-addicted street hustler who is sent to prison on a murder rap. In real life, Monteith battled with his drug addiction for years and had two stints in rehab, the last one in April.
Heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio got his start in acting on television but soon switched over to the silver screen. After receiving recognition from the 1991 film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, the California native starred in the independent film The Basketball Diaries. Based on the life of poet Jim Carroll, DiCaprio played the title character as a teenager addicted to coke and heroin.
Jennifer Hudson earned an Oscar for her first movie role in Dreamgirls and her latest role is creating an Oscar buzz as well. The Chicago native plays a heavily abusive, tattooed, prostitute drug addicted mom in the upcoming film The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete. Hudson will also portray Winnie Mandela in the biopic Winnie which is slated to hit theaters in the fall of 2013.
Chris Tucker’s signature high-pitched voice has made millions laugh and helped the comedian earn millions of dollars in the process. Following his breakout role in the 1995 comedy Friday, Tucker did a complete 180 for his next role. Starring alongside Larenz Tate and Bokeem Woodbine in Dead Presidents, Tucker played Skip, a Vietnam veteran who used drugs to as a means for coping with post-traumatic stress disorder. After starring in the Rush Hour franchise, Tucker got serious once again in the 2012 Silver Linings Playbook.
Edie Falco rose to fame playing the wife of a mob boss on the hit HBO show “The Sopranos.” After several guest appearances on other shows, Falco landed her next major role as the pill popping ER nurse on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie. Falco revealed how her own alcohol addiction years ago is helping with her latest role: “I get it, I know exactly why he’s doing it because you’re addicted and it’s completely irrational behavior and you lie and you cheat and you do whatever you need to do to get what you need. For the normal person it’s impossible to understand. So it’s helped my performance.”
Jamie Foxx got his start on the stage as a comedian. After landing his own television show, the Texas native flexed his acting chops by portraying legendary singer/musician Ray Charles. Foxx won an Academy award for his role as Charles, who famously battled heroin in the 60’s. Foxx captured the essence and mannerisms of the singer so well, his son Ray Charles, Jr. became emotional on the set. “There were times it was just too real,” he said. “There were times he reminded me of my father.”
Robert Downey, Jr.
Robert Downey, Jr. is one of Hollywood’s leading men and topped this year’s list of highest-earning actors. Back when he was just starting out in his career, Downey won critical acclaim for playing a drug-addicted rich boy in the 1987 film Less Than Zero. Downey likened that role to the ghost of Christmas Future. During the filming of the movie, the Iron Man star was fighting his own addiction and he winded up becoming an “exaggeration of the character” in real life.
Jack Black has starred in numerous comedies including School of Rock and Nacho Libre. So when he read the script for Ben Stiller’s 2008 Tropic Thunder looking for an “overweight gross-out comedian with a drug addiction,” he knew he was perfect for the part. Back in 2005, while shooting the film King Kong, Black famously went on a bender filled with alcohol and ecstasy during a break. The now married father of two has put his hard-partying days behind him.