Victor Hugo Went To Desperate Measures In Order To Stay Focused On His Writing

Method acting is a critical part of the creative process for many performers. Heath Ledger went to intense lengths in order to prepare for his iconic role as The Joker in "The Dark Knight." According to MensXP, Ledger opted to lock himself in a London hotel room with little to no outside contact with other people for six whole weeks. He also threw himself against walls and severely dismantled his sleep schedule in order to encompass that deranged state of mind that, some say, lead to his untimely death in 2008.

However, method acting existed long before Ledger's controversial venture into the maniacal mind of The Joker, and it wasn't always restricted to the performance community. The Guardian reports that beloved French novelist Victor Hugo (1802-1885), would employ some objectively troublesome practices when it came time to sit down and write, and, like Ledger, most of them required him to be locked away from any and all potential distractions with nothing but his art to focus on for unnaturally long periods of time. 

Hugo would isolate himself entirely

Everyone who knew Victor Hugo — and even those who didn't — viewed him through a lens of rampant eccentricity. However, a predisposition for alternative thinking and unusual behaviors doesn't always guarantee that you're going to write a good book. According to The Guardian, it was Hugo's custom to lock himself away in a dark room with nothing but his writing utensils and his internal musings to keep him company. 

In fact, Hugo was rumored to place himself in isolation without a single stitch of clothing on his back (per Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, posted at the National Library of Medicine). Evidently, he felt that even his own garments could become a disruption to his craft. After all, you're not likely to step out in public and interact with people if you're stark naked (not unless you're looking to land an indecent exposure charge, that is). The farthest he ever went in the way of dressing himself while writing was, according to his wife's memoir, a single piece of fabric that did nothing more than keep him warm while he penned "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame" (1831) behind closed doors. She described it as "a huge grey knitted shawl, which swathed him from head to foot," and that he "locked his formal clothes away so that he would not be tempted to go out and entered his novel as if it were a prison. He was very sad" (via The Guardian).

Victor Hugo's bizarre life

Hugo's quirkiness and puzzling behavior was by no means limited to his writing process. According to another article at MensXP, the venerated writer had an exceptional proclivity for what you might consider the more erotic things in life and was a well-known sex addict. Engaging with multiple partners — often local sex workers — was reportedly his daily custom, and he was something of a star client within the community of French brothels he was known to frequent. In fact, on the day he died, every brothel in the city shut down to mourn the loss of their most valued customer and pay homage to him. 

Hugo also had a peculiar little party trick that he'd perform to keep his dinner guests amused when he'd gather them at his home. Prose Posters reports that he would "pop an entire orange in his mouth, fill his cheeks with as many sugar lumps as possible, then churn it all up before swallowing it down with the help of two glasses of kirsch." It's a miracle he never choked to death on any such occasion.