Ben Foster's Prep For Hell Or High Water Would Give Any Dentist Nightmares

Few people have nailed the modern Western quite like Taylor Sheridan. The screenwriter behind the massive hit shows "Yellowstone" cut his teeth on several intense feature films before helming the series, including "Sicario," "Wind River," and "Hell or High Water." The latter, a 2016 bank robbing saga starring Ben Foster, Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges, was even nominated for four Oscars.

"Hell or High Water" is a riveting, character driven neo-Western anchored by a trio of great performances. Jeff Bridges plays the Texas ranger who chases down brothers Toby (Pine) and Tanner (Foster) after the pair start committing robberies to save their family's ranch. The movie is shot through with pain and emotional turmoil. Sheridan and director David Mackenzie are clearly as concerned with the economic circumstances that led these men to their desperate state as they are with the moral quandary of their crimes. 

It turns out, though, there was also some real pain that went into the making of "Hell Or High Water" ... particularly for Ben Foster. If you're squeamish, be forewarned: this story is about to get gnarly.

Oral surgery for the sake of realism?

Foster plays the more unpredictable brother in the movie, and he apparently leaned into that role before production started with a cringe-inducing bit of commitment to character. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor decided to "chisel a chunk of his front tooth" to play the rough-and-tumble rancher Tanner. A few days before the movie was set to film, the actor reportedly showed up at Mackenzie's apartment with an electric drill and a wild plan.

"I had pre-ordered a drill from Amazon [and sent it] to David's apartment in Albuquerque," Foster told THR, immediately raising about one hundred questions. The story calls this an "electric drill," which makes my messed-up mind immediately picture a power tool, but I'm going to hope this was a piece of dental equipment. 

Foster says he told Mackenzie he was going to "take down" his own tooth, which the director was apparently cool with. "Maybe we had a few cocktails, I'm not telling," Foster added.

Maybe my aversion to extreme method acting is showing here, but this is kind of mind-boggling, right? Can you imagine any other job where you could perform amateur dental surgery (and/or torture) on yourself and your boss would be chill about it? Luckily, it sounds like Foster didn't get hurt, though his gambit didn't exactly pay off, either. THR reports that as soon as the actor arrived for filming, producers "insisted he have his broken tooth capped." The actor was apparently determined to find a character-distinctive look, though, because in the end he says he "had the tooth extended a little bit, [making] it extra-long" and even yellowed.

This isn't the only time Foster has gone to great lengths to get a character just right, and it's not even the most extreme. According to Vanity Fair, the actor has eaten dirt, lived among the homeless, and even taken performance-enhancing drugs to get into the headspace of soldiers, veterans, and athletes. Foster is incredibly talented, and these methods are perfectly fine when they don't negatively impact others, but sometimes I wonder how much of an edge they really give performers. The next time we watch "Hell or High Water," let's keep an eye out for that yellowed tooth and see if it makes a difference.