Mark Wahlberg, Timothée Chalamet, Tom Cruise learn new languages, fly planes and defy death for roles

Mark Wahlberg is a multi-talented, Oscar-nominated star who is skilled at stunt work, but there was one skill he struggled with for his new movie, “The Family Plan.”

In an interview on “Good Morning America,” Wahlberg said, “I spoke French in a movie before, I’ve spoken a lot of foreign languages in film, and I’ve always been able to pick up the good words, the really bad words, and then whatever lines I have in the movie, but the German was much more difficult.” 

He continued, “I’ve done the stunts so many times I just kind of show up on the day and say, ‘OK, this is what we’re going to do’ and make it look real. But with that I want to make sure that I’m not completely butchering the language. And so I studied for months, I kind of write out phonetically and hopefully do a decent job.”

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Wahlberg’s co-star Michelle Monaghan complimented his skills, saying, “He did such a great job, I was thoroughly impressed.” She added, “It was such a pleasure and this is one of the reasons I enjoy working with Mark so much, because he is so dedicated.”

He joked back, “I’m one of those old-fashioned guys who learns his lines and shows up prepared, what a nerve.” 

Wahlberg isn’t the only star who’s picked up unusual skills to add to his resume. Read on for more stars who committed to their roles in a big way.

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Tom Cruise has added an impressive array of stunt skills to his resume over his decades-long career, including a one-time record for holding his breath underwater for six minutes.

In a clip shared by Access Hollywood in 2015 from the making of “Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation,” Cruise explained, “Normally in underwater sequences, people hold their breath for 10 seconds, 15 seconds max. So I had to prove to everyone that it was actually safe, and spend time with the safety guys and the safety officers to show them, look, not only is it safe, it’s better that I know how to hold my breath because I’m going to be very relaxed. No one’s going to have to rush in, no one’s going to have to panic.”

Cruise has pushed himself to the limit for the “Mission: Impossible” series many times, with stunts including hanging onto the side of a plane, jumping out of a plane, hanging off the world’s tallest building, free climbing in Utah, and hanging off a helicopter.

For the seventh movie in the franchise, “Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning, Part One,” Cruise pulled off what he called his most dangerous stunt so far, riding a motorcycle off a long ramp placed at the edge of a cliff and then immediately engaging in a base jump.

“I had about six seconds once I departed the ramp to pull the chute, and I don’t want to get tangled in the bike,” Cruise told Empire magazine in October 2021. “If I do, that’s not going to end well.”

In order to get the stunt just right, Cruise practiced the base jump with 30 skydiving exercises a day, amounting to more than 500 dives, as well as 13,000 motocross jumps. Replicas of the final ramp were constructed in a field in England for Cruise to practice the stunt.

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Kate Winslet actually beat Tom Cruise’s record, holding her breath underwater for a record-breaking seven minutes and 15 seconds while filming “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

Speaking with Total Film magazine, the Oscar-winner said, “”I have the video of me surfacing saying, ‘Am I dead, have I died?’ And then going, ‘What was [my time]?'” 

She continued, “Straight away I wanted to know my time. And I couldn’t believe it… The next thing I say is, ‘We need to radio set.’ I wanted Jim [Cameron] to know right away.”

Winselt noted, “I didn’t have to hold my breath for over seven minutes. It’s just that the opportunity to set a record presented itself. I wanted to break my own record, which was already six minutes and 14 seconds. And I was like, ‘Come on!’ So I smashed my own record by a minute.”

When Winslet learned she broke Cruise’s record in an interview with USA Today, she responded, “Poor Tom.”

She added jokingly, “I mean, I don’t know Tom at all – I’ve never met him in my life – but I’m sure he’s getting very fed up of hearing this story of how I broke his record. I loved it, though… I was amazed how good I was at it and how I just kept getting better.”

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Michelle Pfeiffer learned to use a whip for her role as Catwoman in 1992’s “Batman Returns.”

In a 1992 Rolling Stone interview, director Tim Burton said, “She was better than her stunt people. She made the whip beautiful, kind of an art form.”

Pfieffer trained to use the whip with Anthony De Longis, who also trained Harrison Ford to use his whip for “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

She told Rolling Stone in 1992 she also trained in yoga, gymnastics and kickboxing for months to prepare for the role. 

In 2019, Pfieffer posted a clip on Instagram demonstrating her whip skills with the caption, “Just like riding a bike.”

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Timothée Chalamet was already a fluent French speaker when he studied Italian for his breakout role in “Call Me By Your Name.”

In the film, he plays Elio Perlman, a young man living in Italy in the 1980s who falls for a college student (played by Armie Hammer).

In a 2017 profile in Interview magazine, Chalamet explained, “We got to be in Italy for three months learning Italian and learning the piano and the guitar. I already knew how to speak French… But I picked up the Italian, too.” 

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Uma Thurman plays the vengeful bride in the “Kill Bill” films, a master martial artist with a deadly hand.

Thurman began training for the role just three months after she gave birth, according to a 2007 interview with The Los Angeles Times, and worked with celebrated Chinese martial arts master Yuen Woo-ping.

“There was a big joke around the set that the movie was really called ‘Kill Uma,'” she laughs. “I got banged around plenty. You can’t do that stuff at… that velocity without getting hurt… You’re swinging a three-foot piece of metal or steel at incredibly high speeds with anywhere from one to 10 to 15 to 20 people running at you with similar weapons. You know, things can happen.”

Director Quentin Tarantino praised his star, telling the outlet at the time, “She committed to learning all the movie martial arts, which is not really what she does. She made herself do it. She learned how to speak Japanese. Really, the climbing of Mount Everest is what she had to do.”

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For the sci-fi horror film “A Quiet Place,” stars Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, who also directed the movie, learned sign language to play parents to a deaf daughter.

“We did all learn sign language,” Krasinski told The Wrap in 2018. “We had the most incredible actress [Millicent Simmonds] who happens to be deaf in real life, which was sort of a non-negotiable thing for me. It was one of those things, when I got the original script from [Bryan Woods and Scott Beck], they had this deaf character, and in my rewrite, I wanted to flesh that out even more.”

He added “Not only are you so happy and honored to have a deaf actress performing this role, but you also have a guide throughout this entire story. Because in our story, our daughter is deaf in our family, I found myself asking her all the time, ‘Is this right?’ And she would be like, ‘Maybe do it more like this?’ She was not intimidated at all.”

In an interview with Fandango for the sequel, “A Quiet Place II,” Blunt asked who was better at signing, her or Krasinski, and Simmonds said Blunt was. 

Blunt also noted that Simmonds gently teased her on set about being a “baby signer,” meaning whenever she signed, it was “cute” as she was still learning.

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Adrien Brody earned a best actor Oscar for his role in “The Pianist,” playing the titular role of real life Polish-Jewish pianist and Holocaust survivor Wladysalw Szpilman. 

In a 2022 interview, Brody explained that he didn’t – and still doesn’t – read music.

“I have an understanding of music and I’m a lover of music. But I don’t read. So I had to learn that through a very technical kind of muscle memory,” Brody said. 

In 2003, Brody revealed to the BBC that director Roman Polanski insisted he practice piano for four hours a day, until he was able to play specific Chopin pieces on his own.

Brody further committed to the role, telling the outlet at the time, “I gave up my apartment, I sold my car, I disconnected the phones, and I left. I took two bags and my keyboard and moved to Europe.” 

Jon Favreau wrote, directed and starred in 2014’s “Chef,” about a chef who loses his job at a popular restaurant and opens a food truck with his young son.

To convincingly play the part, Favreau spent three months training with LA-based chef Roy Choi, including working at Choi’s Kogi BBQ food truck.

“I asked one of the cooks I was working with [during training] if he had any advice for the movie I was making, and he said all chefs have burns on their forearms, so if you look in the movie, you’ll see all of us have burn marks on our forearms,” Favreau told The New York Post in 2014. “It’s a little detail, but chefs catch it, and it shows we cared enough to get the details right.”

He continued, “Because you can’t smell or taste the food, you have to get the visuals and the sound right. The way a grilled cheese crunches when you cut it in half – you have to get all those things right to get the audience’s mouth watering.”

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