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03.22.2013by: Chris Bumbray

The Top Ten Most Batshit Crazy Performances

This weekend, Harmony Korine's SPRING BREAKERS (READ MY REVIEW) is opening wide in theaters across North America. A weird, crazy ride into the heart of American spring break culture, the weirdest thing about it is not the drug-abusing, sociopath college girls it’s about. No, SPRING BREAKERS’ ace in the hole is the absolutely insane performance by James Franco, who plays a drug-dealer/wanna-be rapper named Alien. As I've already made clear in my review, I thought Franco was brilliantly off-the-wall, and it got me thinking about some of my other favorite nutty performances- and the following is a list of my favorites. I’m certain I've forgotten some great ones- strike back below with your favorites.

10- Daniel Day-Lewis in everything

Arguably the greatest actor of his generation, Daniel Day-Lewis is infamous for his method dedication to his parts. When playing Lincoln, I'm sure he was easy as pie to get along with, but as Bill the Butcher or Daniel Plainview- watch out! It's the stories about Lewis's dedication that lands him on this list- but just narrowly, as I'm inclined to call his performances just really good acting as opposed to "batshit crazy". Yet- it's his crazy method acting that gives these parts an edge they wouldn't have had otherwise.

9- Brad Pitt in TWELVE MONKEYS

Obviously smarting from the way people wrote him off as a pretty boy in his first burst of stardom, Brad Pitt astounded audiences by playing a schizophrenic mental patient in Terry Gilliam's TWELVE MONKEYS. Despite his limited screen-time, Pitt all but walks away with the movie. His constant tics and lazy eye certainly aren't subtle- but they are off the wall in the most awesome way possible. Since then, Pitt's given us several more really cool, gonzo performances, including his pikey boxer in SNATCH and Sgt. Aldo Raine of the INGLORIOUS BASTERDS.

8- Joaquin Phoenix in I'M STILL HERE

Here's one that we're still trying to figure out. After a good year of generally making an ass out of himself, whether on Letterman, or trying to rap, Phoenix's lost year came to an end with the release of the pseudo-documentary I'M STILL HERE. Directed by Casey Affleck, it was sold as a documentary about Phoenix's drug fueled breakdown. The film tanked- hard, and months later Phoenix came out and said it was all a gag. No one's quite sure if what he's doing in I'M STILL HERE is acting, but if it is, you have to admire the commitment to the part. Phoenix has bounced back with THE MASTER- another gonzo performance, but I'm still not sure what I'M STILL HERE is.

7- Gary Oldman in TRUE ROMANCE & LEON

These two performances are what I'd call "golden age" Gary Oldman. Sure, he's as good as he ever was, but in the early nineties, in a slew of far-out villainous roles, he chewed the scenery like no one else. In TRUE ROMANCE he plays a dread-locked pimp named Drexel, who takes a bullet to the balls after he tells Christian Slater that "it ain't white boy day". It's a small role, but in two scenes he makes an unforgettable character.

In LEON aka THE PROFESSIONAL, he plays a cop so evil he makes Harvey Keitel in BAD LIEUTENANT look like a saint. A pill-popping psycho, Oldman is the devil incarnate. The best part: "bring me everyone." "Everyone?" "EVVVVVVVEEERRRRYYYYYOOOOONNNNNNE!!!!!!!

6- Benicio Del Toro in FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS

While not appearing on as many posters as Johnny Depp in FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, co-star Benicio Del Toro as the psychotic, ether-sniffing Dr. Gonzo just about stole the show. It’s certainly not Del Toro’s first (THE USUAL SUSPECTS) or last (SAVAGES) gonzo performance, but I’d wager it’s his most brilliant. Depp is funnier, but Del Toro is way, WAY scarier, especially if you watch FEAR & LOATHING properly “inspired”. A classic batshit piece of acting.

5- Crispin Glover in RIVER'S EDGE

A weird little movie about a group of friends who discover that one of them has murdered another. Yeah- they’re not actually that upset. This is a strange group of kids, but the weirdest of all is Crispin Glover as the “leader” Layne. Anyone who knew Glover from his part in BACK TO THE FUTURE was no doubt shocked by his odd, method-y transformation into the long-haired, drug-addled Layne. Glover himself had such a tough time letting go of the part that in a David Letterman interview, he seemed to still be in character. At one point he kicked Letterman in the head- getting him banned for a while ( see the video here ). Since then, Glover’s gotten weirder and weirder- but most of us love him for it.

4- Ellen Burstyn in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM

Darren Aronofsky’s REQUIEM FOR A DREAM is a film I’ve only seen once. It’s fantastic, but I was so disturbed by it when it initially came out, I haven’t had the guts to re-watch it, despite owning the DVD. For me, the thing that made it so unsettling was Ellen Burstyn’s performance as Jared Leto’s mother, who becomes a pill-freak because “she just wants to go on the show.” I was so frightened by her decline; I became convinced I was watching Burstyn in the thralls of a real addiction. It’s a brilliant, unsettling performance- and the fact that she was only nominated for an Oscar but didn’t win is astounding.

3- Dennis Hopper in BLUE VELVET

Around the time David Lynch asked Dennis Hopper to play BLUE VELVET’s villain, Frank Booth, he was considered almost unemployable due to his out of control drug habit that ate up most of his career in the seventies (including a gonzo part in APOCALYPSE NOW). BLUE VELVET turned things around for him, and Hopper invested enough craziness into the part that the nitrous-oxide inhaling Booth still ranks high on the list of all-time great villains. The way he calls for his “mommy” while inhaling nitrous or raping Isabella Rossellini’s character is blood-curdling. It’s no surprise that after BLUE VELVET, Hopper became of one Hollywood’s most popular go-to bad guys.

2- Marlon Brando in THE MISSOURI BREAKS, APOCALYPSE NOW, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU

In the fifties, Marlon Brando helped reinvent the art of screen acting. His “method” approach inspired generations of talent that followed, and to this day, young actors like Ryan Gosling and Joseph-Gordon Levitt cite him as a major influence. Somewhere around the time Brando did LAST TANGO IN PARIS, his already fragile state of mind seemed to snap, and in the decades that followed (with a few exceptions, notably SUPERMAN- THE MOVIE, and A DRY WHITE SEASON) he stopped being the actor so many worshipped, and instead become known for his wildly over-the-top performances. THE MISSOURI BREAKS, which teamed him with Jack Nicholson was the first sign that all was not well with Marlon. Off-screen, he reportedly took a bite out of a live frog, and on-screen, he was even crazier. Whether sharing a carrot with a horse, adopting an impenetrable and cartoonish “Oy-rish” accent, or wearing a dress during an extended scene, Marlon had hit the road to crazy town.

When he played Colonel Kurtz in APOCALYPSE NOW, he showed up on the set grotesquely overweight, with a shaved head, and not knowing his dialogue. It actually suits the part pretty well, but if you watch the doc HEARTS OF DARKNESS, it’s obvious that Francis Ford Coppola had to pretty much assemble Brando’s performance in the editing room, as some of his tangents were crazy even for Kurtz. The nadir of his career probably occurred in 1996, where he played the titular role in THE ISLAND OF DR.MOREAU, with white face paint, mu-mu’s, and a tiny sidekick- who inspired Mini-Me.

1- Nicolas Cage in DEADFALL, ZANDALEE, VAMPIRE'S KISS, THE WICKER MAN, PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED, THE COTTON CLUB, BAD LIEUTENANT- PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS, etc.

When it comes to “batshit crazy”, Nicolas Cage is hard to beat. Right from his early films, including his Uncle Francis’ THE COTTON CLUB and PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED, Cage was off-the-wall. I love the guy, especially when he’s crazy, and damn, has Cage been crazy A LOT . To me, the wildest Cage performance has to be his wigged-out (literally) crime boss in DEADFALL. A little-known 1993 thriller, directed by his brother Christopher Coppola, DEADFALL has faded into obscurity, but it’s worth seeing for Cage’s madness. He’s also pretty insane in VAMPIRE’S KISS- where he eats a live roach on camera- and ZANDALEE, a cheesy erotic thriller where during a meltdown, he covers himself in black paint. But really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For a good dose of Cage rage, check out this amazing YouTube Compilation.

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11:38PM on 03/23/2013
you forgot the jokers. jack and heath.
you forgot the jokers. jack and heath.
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8:27AM on 03/23/2013

Scraping at the door!

I nearly fell out of my chair when this scene came by. It was only worthy thing in this movie. Nic Cage, master of overacting!

[link]
I nearly fell out of my chair when this scene came by. It was only worthy thing in this movie. Nic Cage, master of overacting!

[link]
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+2
11:03PM on 03/22/2013

Love Cage

Drugged out scene in Face-Off. "I wanna take his face...off."
I'd like to see Ben Foster get some love. Hostage, 3:10 to Yuma, Alpha Dog, he can rock crazy and stay true to story with the best of them.

Drugged out scene in Face-Off. "I wanna take his face...off."
I'd like to see Ben Foster get some love. Hostage, 3:10 to Yuma, Alpha Dog, he can rock crazy and stay true to story with the best of them.

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5:46PM on 03/22/2013
Willem Defoe as Bobby Peru, Eric Bana as Chopper Read, Ben Kingsley as Don Logan, and I feel like Woody Harrelson deserves a spot for something, too.
Willem Defoe as Bobby Peru, Eric Bana as Chopper Read, Ben Kingsley as Don Logan, and I feel like Woody Harrelson deserves a spot for something, too.
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4:52PM on 03/22/2013

Sorry to post twice

But HOW is their no Nicholson in this. the shining, Batman, Anger Management. Theirs just so many Great Nicholson Crazy Performances. He could go up against anyone for Crazy acting.
But HOW is their no Nicholson in this. the shining, Batman, Anger Management. Theirs just so many Great Nicholson Crazy Performances. He could go up against anyone for Crazy acting.
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6:34PM on 03/22/2013
Because you used Anger Management as an example
Because you used Anger Management as an example
4:50PM on 03/22/2013

Knew Cage would be number one

A good actor with a tendency to overact and just lose it in certain scenes. I love Cage but theirs no denying his rightful place in the halls of internet fame for his over the top ness. Thanks to Hanarahns video the Legend of Cage will never Die.
A good actor with a tendency to overact and just lose it in certain scenes. I love Cage but theirs no denying his rightful place in the halls of internet fame for his over the top ness. Thanks to Hanarahns video the Legend of Cage will never Die.
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3:44PM on 03/22/2013
My God, I LOVED Del Toro as Dr. Gonzo. He was so out of control, bizarre, and repulsive. And it was quite a transormation for him, as he was considered a pretty boy back in the day. One of my all-time fave movies.
My God, I LOVED Del Toro as Dr. Gonzo. He was so out of control, bizarre, and repulsive. And it was quite a transormation for him, as he was considered a pretty boy back in the day. One of my all-time fave movies.
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3:43PM on 03/22/2013
Double
Double
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3:08PM on 03/22/2013
He's fairly batshit crazy in The Fifth Element too, you just don't notice so much in that film cos, you know...
He's fairly batshit crazy in The Fifth Element too, you just don't notice so much in that film cos, you know...
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10:44AM on 03/22/2013
The story goes, Hopper got the part after calling up David Lynch in character. Absolutely one of my favorite villains.
The story goes, Hopper got the part after calling up David Lynch in character. Absolutely one of my favorite villains.
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9:44AM on 03/22/2013
I was always under the assumption that this was fake..not that he came out and said it was fake after the movie tanked
I was always under the assumption that this was fake..not that he came out and said it was fake after the movie tanked
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9:37AM on 03/22/2013
Noo not the bee's!!
Noo not the bee's!!
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8:46AM on 03/22/2013

GONZO

What does this mean regarding acting? I know what it means in the Hunter Thompson 'gonzo journalism' sense but I've not heard it used to describe an actors performance before, have I missed something here? Or has the author of this article gone rogue with words?
What does this mean regarding acting? I know what it means in the Hunter Thompson 'gonzo journalism' sense but I've not heard it used to describe an actors performance before, have I missed something here? Or has the author of this article gone rogue with words?
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8:04AM on 03/22/2013

Worthless Article

Wow. 'Batshit Crazy'. How edgy. That, is some quality writing...
Wow. 'Batshit Crazy'. How edgy. That, is some quality writing...
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8:04AM on 03/22/2013
You forgot Bringing out the Dead.
You forgot Bringing out the Dead.
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6:46AM on 03/22/2013

Baby wants blue velvet!

Another great choice and one of my personal favorites.
Another great choice and one of my personal favorites.
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6:42AM on 03/22/2013

Great list

Some of my favorites here, good call on Cage in Deadfall and Vampires Kiss, some of the most entertaining batshit performances ever!
Some of my favorites here, good call on Cage in Deadfall and Vampires Kiss, some of the most entertaining batshit performances ever!
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6:35AM on 03/22/2013

Baby wants blue velvet!

Another great choice and one of my personal favorites.
Another great choice and one of my personal favorites.
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6:33AM on 03/22/2013

Should make this the "Hollywood" list.

What about Choi Min-sik from "Oldboy" or "I Saw the Devil"? Or Denis Lavant from Holy Motors? Personally, I feel lists like this should always include some more foreign bad asses.
What about Choi Min-sik from "Oldboy" or "I Saw the Devil"? Or Denis Lavant from Holy Motors? Personally, I feel lists like this should always include some more foreign bad asses.
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6:30AM on 03/22/2013

My two favorite performances of all time

Oldman is just better than EVERRRYONE!
Oldman is just better than EVERRRYONE!
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6:20AM on 03/22/2013
Meh. Pretty predictable - I was left with the equivalent of that pouting-cat meme's face as soon as I saw Daniel Day-Lewis ("arguably the greatest actor of his generation" - please). But, on the other hand, yes, Dennis Hopper *was* pretty damn crazy in 'Blue Velvet.' Marlon Brando's multiple movie listings, however? Not cool in a ten-movie list, and then Nicolas Cage being listed for any of *those* movies? Sorry, that doesn't quite count, I think; bizarre performances for various roles is
Meh. Pretty predictable - I was left with the equivalent of that pouting-cat meme's face as soon as I saw Daniel Day-Lewis ("arguably the greatest actor of his generation" - please). But, on the other hand, yes, Dennis Hopper *was* pretty damn crazy in 'Blue Velvet.' Marlon Brando's multiple movie listings, however? Not cool in a ten-movie list, and then Nicolas Cage being listed for any of *those* movies? Sorry, that doesn't quite count, I think; bizarre performances for various roles is one thing, but for a batshit performance, I think you need an actor who has their head on straight from the git-go.

To drill this all home, let me make a few pointers:
-Heath Ledger, 'The Dark Knight'
-Richard Widmark, 'Kiss of Death' (oh, oops, an OLD movie...no wonder it wasn't included!)
-Robert Mitchum, 'Cape Fear' (and you know what? I'm not even going to mention the other version)
-Robin Williams, 'Insomnia'
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6:16AM on 03/22/2013

DEADFALL

WHAT AM I A FUCKING RETARD MAN!!!!!
WHAT AM I A FUCKING RETARD MAN!!!!!
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6:45AM on 03/22/2013
WELL VIVA LA FUCKING FRANCE MAN!
WELL VIVA LA FUCKING FRANCE MAN!
6:11AM on 03/22/2013

two of my favorites

yes!
yes!
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3:19AM on 03/22/2013
No mention of Pitt to Fight Club, or Cage to Raising Arizona??
No mention of Pitt to Fight Club, or Cage to Raising Arizona??
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1:13AM on 03/22/2013
Good list, but how do you not include Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho? Amazing batshit performance.
Good list, but how do you not include Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho? Amazing batshit performance.
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1:08AM on 03/22/2013
Great choice.
Great choice.
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1:05AM on 03/22/2013

Romeo is bleeding

He's also great in Romeo is bleeding, a movie that deserves more recognition!
He's also great in Romeo is bleeding, a movie that deserves more recognition!
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12:15AM on 03/23/2013
Oh yeah, she's scary-crazy!
Oh yeah, she's scary-crazy!
5:37PM on 03/22/2013
Very true, though in my opinion Lena Olin takes the cake in that one.
Very true, though in my opinion Lena Olin takes the cake in that one.
12:58AM on 03/22/2013
I'm glad Cage made it on the list. And that picture Is perfect.
I'm glad Cage made it on the list. And that picture Is perfect.
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