Ben Foster clearly believes in “method acting.” Or at least he did when it came to portraying Lance Armstrong.
The Program, one of several Armstrong biopics in development, debuts this weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival (Sept. 13, to be exact). In anticipation of that world premiere, Foster spoke with The Guardian and admitted that he took some drastic steps in his preparation for his role as Armstrong. Part of his research involved taking performance-enhancing drugs to get himself in the same mindset as the disgraced champion cyclist.
“I don’t want to talk about the names of the drugs I took,” Foster said in the interview with Ryan Gilbey. “Even discussing it feels tricky because it isn’t something I’d recommend to fellow actors. These are very serious chemicals and they affect your body in real ways. For my own investigation it was important for me privately to understand it. And they work.”
Foster has developed a bit of a reputation for going to extremes to prepare for his roles. To portray Navy SEAL Matt Axelson in Lone Survivor, he ate dirt, attempting to simulate the conditions experienced while fighting the Taliban. He briefly lived on the streets in an attempt to understand playing a homeless man in Rampart. And though he didn’t go as far as taking crystal meth in Alpha Dog, Foster did use glaucoma eyedrops to make his pupils dilate like an addict’s would.
This time around, however, Foster admits that he may have gone too far and took a while to shake off the effects of the PEDs he used to get in that Lance Armstrong state of mind.
“There’s a lot of fallout. Doping affects your mind,” he continued. “It doesn’t make you feel high. There are behaviors when you’ve got those chemicals running through your body that serve you on the bike, but which, when you’re not… I’ve only just recovered physically. I’m only now getting my levels back.”
That sounds kind of excessive, but pushing himself like that surely has something to do with what makes Foster a successful actor. And when you see Foster in photos and the film’s trailer, he looks uncannily like Armstrong. Sure, some of that is make-up, hair and wardrobe. Yet he obviously had to get himself in shape to play a world-class athlete. Whether or not he had to take PEDs to do so is up for argument, but knowing what sort of effects those substances could have on him certainly helped him relate to Armstrong’s experience in some way.
The Program does not yet have a U.S. release date, though that will likely change after its Toronto Film Festival debut. Until then, the movie is scheduled for release in France on Sept. 16 and and Germany Oct. 8.