The actor is known for going to extremes to prepare for movie roles

By Jodi Guglielmi
Updated September 11, 2015 03:35 PM
Advertisement
Doug Pensinger/Getty

Ben Foster is known for going to the extremes to prepare himself for movie roles.

He ate dirt while playing a Navy SEAL in Lone Survivor, used glaucoma eye drops as a drug addict in Alpha Dog and he even lived on the streets of Los Angeles for his role as a homeless veteran in Rampart. So when he took on the role as the controversial cyclist Lance Armstrong in The Program, his dedication to the part was no different.

“I tried to infect myself with him,” Foster, 34, told The Guardian.

To fully embody the rise and fall of Armstrong, he felt he needed to do the very thing that destroyed the athlete: take performance-enhancing drugs.

“I don’t want to talk about the names of the drugs I took,” he said. “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.”

Armstrong famously denied and then later admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Foster admitted that taking the drugs had a greater effect than he expected. Noting that he’s still recovering, Foster said he “lost his f—ing marbles” while filming.

There’s a fallout,” he said of taking the drugs, which was done under a doctor’s supervision, PEOPLE confirms. “Doping affects your mind. 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.”

He continued: “I don’t know how to separate the chemical influence from the psychological attachment I had to the character. If it’s working, it keeps you up at night. This is losing your marbles, right? They’re definitely rolling around.”

Foster knew little about Armstrong’s story when he first took the part, but after dedicating nearly a year to filming and living in the mindset of Armstrong, his opinion on the cyclist who overcame testicular cancer is complicated.

“On one hand, he’s a lying doper who tricked the world. On the other, he’s a young man who faced cancer. It changes you,” he explained. “He’s a smart man. He says, ‘I can do some good with this.’ He raised half a billion for cancer research.”

“We just don’t like him because he was Jesus Christ on a bicycle. We’re mad he came back from the dead, saved the sick and then turned out to be full of s—. And we’re punishing him because he didn’t apologize in the way we’d like. Americans love a good apology. He wouldn’t do that.”

The Program will hold its world premiere on Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival.

For full coverage of the 2015 Toronto Film Festival – including the hottest premieres, the biggest stars and the buzziest films – check out people.com/tiff, instyle.com and ew.com