When an actor completely immerses themselves into a role, the result is usually stunning. Sometimes though, what’s more impressive is the work that went in before filming even began. Changing appearance for roles has become quite common in movies today, but occasionally, an actor’s physical transformation goes far beyond a bit of make-up or a haircut, like Christian Bale in, well, most of his films.
In The Dark Knight Rises, out in theatres this week, actor Tom Hardy bulked up significantly to play the menacing terrorist Bane, a new villain intent on taking down Gotham City. The actor has had to bulk up for roles before (Warrior, Bronson) and in honour of his dedication, we look back at ten actors who have undergone remarkable physical transformations for their roles.
To start, let’s look at the aforementioned Mr. Hardy.
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Tom Hardy For The Dark Knight Rises
Tom Hardy has never been slim, but in the photos and video clips of the actor in character as Bane, he looks absolutely massive. Fanboys have complained that Hardy doesn’t look like someone that can bench 1,500 pounds, but the actor has certainly thrown himself into the role, putting on over 30 pounds in just 3 months.
This isn’t the first time that Hardy has bulked up for a role either. He looked absolutely ripped in Warrior and put on quite a bit of mass for his titular role in Bronson (see below).
Hardy attributes his muscle gain to a diet very heavy in chicken and broccoli. He also said that all he did was lift weights, eat, and be careful not to run anywhere for fear of losing weight during his preparation for The Dark Knight Rises. Though his transformation may not be as extreme as some of the other ones on this list, it’s still impressive and it earns our respect.
Natalie Portman/Mila Kunis For Black Swan
The girls of Black Swan both dramatically slimmed down further than their already slender figures to fully get into their roles. The weight they lost may not be as much as other actors on the list, but considering it put both of them well under 100 pounds, the percent of body weight lost was extreme.
Portman trained for a year to prepare for the role. Her meals consisted mostly of almonds and carrots. The actress was already a vegan before filming started so she ate much of the same things as she did before, just in much smaller portions. She supplemented the diet with rigorous training of up to 8 hours a day in the year leading up to filming, and as she got closer to the first shoot her workouts sometimes hit 16 hours a day.
Kunis stuck to a strict 1,200 calorie diet for 6 months, and trained for around 5 hours a day during that time. By the time filming began she was down to 95 pounds.
Transformations aside, both women gave fantastic performances as well, earning a lot of praise, which was well deserved.
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50 Cent For All Things Fall Apart
Rapper/actor 50 Cent was hardly recognizable in the 2011 film All Things Fall Apart. For his role as a football player diagnosed with cancer, Curtis Jackson dropped from his normal weight of 214 pounds to a mere 160 pounds. That’s a 54 pound loss, I really can’t see any doctor being alright with that.
Jackson went on a strictly liquid diet and spent 3 hours a day on a treadmill. 3 hours folks, think about that. 50 also had all his tattoos removed from his arms because he was sick of having to spend extra time in makeup to have them covered up.
Even though the movie wasn’t a critical success, Jackon’s dedication earned him some respect in the acting world and in our eyes too. Though he may not have much talent on the big screen, his dedication is undeniable and it’s pretty damn impressive.
Charlize Theron For Monster
For an actress as stunningly beautiful as Charlize Theron to make herself appear as anything but gorgeous would take a lot of work, but for Monster it wasn’t just make-up artists that helped her take on her role as serial killer Aileen Wuornos, Theron added 30 pounds of her own to further the effect.
The appearance was greatly aided by make-up and a set of prosthetic teeth, but her performance likely wouldn’t have been as successful without the weight she gained. Her diet for the movie consisted mostly of potato chips and donuts, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in my books, but Theron only had 3 weeks between the final shoot of Monster and her next film, Head In The Clouds, which she drop back down to her normal weight for, which wasn’t easy.
Her dedication certainly paid off as it resulted in a Best Actress Oscar and was hailed as one of the best performances in the history of cinema by Roger Ebert.
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Russell Crowe For Body Of Lies
In Body Of Lies, Russell Crowe was a far, far cry from his toned Gladiator body, packing on 63 pounds to play a CIA agent who is well past his physical prime. The actor went up to 257 pounds to portray the image of a character that rarely did anything more active than sitting down. Crowe himself got to the point where he had trouble getting out of his car due to the weight gain.
With a diet that consisted of lots of cupcakes and cheeseburgers for breakfast, Crowe actually enjoyed is transformation, though his body wasn’t as supportive, considering his cholesterol levels were dangerously high. Luckily for him, and for moviegoers, Crowe was able to shed the weight and not have any major lasting damage. However, he did have trouble losing the bulk, with it taking him nearly two years to get back down to his previous weight. Two years for one role? I’d call that dedication.
Robert De Niro For Raging Bull
Regarded by many as the original king of method acting, Robert De Niro never showcased his dedication more than in Raging Bull. This was the role that set the standard for the majority of the other actors on this list. It showed what dedication can do to a human body, and what incredible results it can have on a performance.
The film had to be shot in two parts to show the stark contrast between the lean, cut boxer, and the pudgy older Jake La Motta. During the break in filming De Niro gained 60 pounds to beef up for the older La Motta. His diet was mostly Italian food. And a lot of it. How fitting.
Director Martin Scorsese said that the scenes with a fatter De Niro were filmed quickly, with less takes than the rest of the movie due to the extreme physical strain that was put on the actor’s body.
Like Theron, the result was an Oscar for Best Actor as well as a nomination for Best Picture and a permanent spot on almost every top films and performances list.
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Tom Hanks For Cast Away
Tom Hanks was no stranger to losing weight for roles, having lost 26 pounds for Philadelphia, but it was for Cast Away in which Hanks took his transformation to another level.
Following the Raging Bull model, the filming was split into two parts with a one year break in between in order for Hanks to make his drastic transformation. Except, Hanks pulled a reverse De Niro and instead, shed weight. Over the course of four months Hanks lost an incredible 55 pounds.
To lose that much weight you need to eat like you’re literally on a deserted island, which Hanks did, saying his daily meals could fit in the palm of his hand. Entertainment Weekly asked Hanks what it was he missed most during to his limited diet:
”Oh, those FFs, man. Those fries from France… The only thing I did not give up was coffee…”
Hanks’s performance didn’t go unnoticed and like so many others on this list, he was recognized by many critics. He won a Golden Globe award and was nominated for an Oscar for the role.
Matt Damon For Courage Under Fire
Matt Damon has had many memorable films come out, films that most moviegoers are well familiar with. But, it isn’t his iconic roles as Will Hunting or Jason Bourne that landed him on this list, rather it was his part in the 1996 film Courage Under Fire.
Damon has looked extremely fit in many roles (Jason Bourne’s bulging biceps were certainly the envy of many wannabe secret agents), but in his younger days, Damon dropped down to 110 pounds to play heroin-addicted Ilorio.
To lose the weight Damon adopted an extremely strict diet. For months he only ate chicken, egg whites, steamed broccoli, and plain baked potatoes. To further his weight loss he also ran 13 miles a day, 6.5 in the morning and 6.5 in the afternoon. By the time filming began, Damon had dropped over 40 pounds.
His loss did not come without health problems though. After the movie a doctor found that the stress of the extreme weight loss had caused his adrenal gland to shrink, leading to years of medication for Damon before his metabolism was back to normal. All those problems for a mere two days of filming, that’s one committed actor for you.
Damon too has acknowledged that he went too far for the role, telling Starpulse:
“I went too far. I got sick and I wouldn’t do that again because it was just too much. At the same time it helped the performance. I didn’t have to act at all – I was a wreck. I was getting dizzy spells and hot flashes. I didn’t say anything to anyone for a while because I was afraid I might be really ill.”
He may have risked his health but it certainly paid off. His dedication and performance helped him land the lead in the 1997 film The Rainmaker, which is considered by many to be the actor’s breakout role.
Twelve years later Damon transformed for another role, but instead of slimming down he packed on the pounds to play the lead in Steven Soderberg‘s film The Informant!
Damon gained over 30 pounds through a diet of Pizza, In-N-Out burgers, and beer. Sounds a lot more enjoyable than steamed broccoli. However, Damon said the diet and lack of exercise really started to wear on him. Thankfully for him, he didn’t start preparing for the role until after winning People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. The results of the voting may have been different had they seen the picture above.
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Jared Leto For Chapter 27
Jared Leto has played a series of very fit characters in movies such as Requiem For A Dream, Fight Club, and Prefontaine, but in 2007 audiences got to see a Leto that looked very different from what they were accustomed to.
The actor gained a whopping 60 pounds for his role as Mark David Chapman in the film Chapter 27. The effects of his weight gain led to him having to use a wheelchair due to the extra strain put on his body. Leto said it took over a year for his body to get back to feeling semi-normal, and that he isn’t sure if he will ever be as fit as he once was.
His diet? Leto frequently ate microwave pints of ice cream topped with olive oil and soy sauce. He would also frequently eat whole pizzas as one of his many daily meals. Leto said the experience was anything but enjoyable, and that he was force feeding himself to the extent that he perpetually felt as if he needed to throw up.
Despite saying he would never again make a similar transformation for a role, in an interview with Cinema Blend, he said that the work he put in really helped him to embody the person that Lennon’s killer was:
“It was important to make that transformation because I thought his physical representation of himself was an indication of who he was. And it changed everything about who I was – the way I walked , the way I talked, the way I felt about myself, the way people treated me.”
Though the movie wasn’t a critical success, Leto played the role well, and really looked the part. He was able to lose the weight in a few months by doing some extreme fasting, and he now looks about as good as he did before filming began.
Christian Bale For The Machinist
Christian Bale is the master of becoming immersed in his roles. The weight fluctuation he has had in the last 10 years is staggering. He has weighed as much as much as 230 and as little as 121. That’s right, 121 pounds.
Bale dropped a whopping 63 pounds for his role as the insomniac factory worker in the 2004 drama The Machinist. How did he lose the weight? Through a strict diet of 275 calories a day, which he got by eating a can of tuna or an apple, that’s it.
The 6 foot actor looked barely alive at 121 pounds. He was a mere ghost of his former ripped American Psycho physique. After the film, Bale had to put on nearly 100 pounds in 5 months for Batman Begins. After all, a skinny Batman would be like a skinny Santa. He put on that weight and more, getting all the way up to 230 pounds, before actually dropping weight to play the caped crusader.
At this point, Bale had a iconic franchise character to play, for what was certainly going to be multiple movies. It would make sense that this would be the time in his career where he could adopt a normal diet and maintain his weight for a few years. Turns out that would have been much too boring for Bale though as he drastically dropped weight again (though not to Machinist levels) for his role as crack addicted Dickie Eklund in The Fighter. The academy appreciated the work he put in and his brilliant performance won him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
But wait! Bruce Wayne was never on crack, and he certainly would have no chance of standing up to Bane looking like Eklund, so the weight came back on again for The Dark Knight Rises. Now that is method acting at its finest.
As for The Machinist, it’s really a performance that has to be seen to be believed and lucky for you, we’ve included a cool little feature on the film below, for your viewing pleasure.
Check it out below.
So there you have it, ten actors who have gone through remarkable transformations. What do you think, did we miss anyone?
If you’re interested in reading more, check out Beefing Up Part 2: Ten More Actors Who Underwent Remarkable Physical Transformations For Their Roles,Previous