A few months ago I wrote Beefing Up: Ten Actors Who Underwent Remarkable Physical Transformations For Their Roles, an article about some of the most amazing physical transformations on film. In that post I only had room to acknowledge 10 actors for the phenomenal work they put in, but there are so many more talented individuals who have drastically gained or lost weight to properly portray their characters.
To recognize a few more actors for their efforts, I’ve compiled a second list with another 10 actors who underwent remarkable transformations. Keep in mind, this list is purely based on weight gain or weight loss. As impressive as it is when an actor is unrecognizable due to hair and makeup changes, the credit for those looks should be shared with the other people who are responsible. This list is to focus on the work the actor did, many times long before filming begins.
So, with that in mind, head to the next page to see 10 more incredible transformations.
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Gary Oldman For Sid & Nancy
One of the master method actors of our time, Gary Oldman has had countless roles where he’s been virtually unrecognizable, but no transformation took more work on his part than what he did for Sid & Nancy. Oldman was playing Sid Vicious, the heroin-addicted bassist for the Sex Pistols. Vicious was a skeleton, so Oldman lost 30 pounds in order to best emulate the rocker on screen. The transformation worked, as Oldman ended up looking surprisingly similar to the emaciated Vicious.
Oldman’s diet for the film sounds miserable, as he claims he exclusively ate steamed fish and melon, and not a lot of it. The transformation took such a toll on his body that he was actually briefly hospitalized. It was worth it though as the film was one of Oldman’s first, and his dedicated performance certainly helped propel him to later roles, and ultimately to his current status as one of the most respected actors of our time.
Colin Farrell For Triage
Colin Farrell shed a remarkable 44 pounds for his role in 2009′s Triage, in which the actor plays a photojournalist who has returned home from worn-torn Bosnia. Farrell viewed the loss as necessary to portraying his character and said he was inspired by a passage from the Scott Anderson novel which the script was based on. The description of his character from the novel is below.
“He went to the bathroom to shave. Once his beard was gone he saw that his face had become drawn. He pressed at the hollows beneath his eyes, the pronounced nubs of his cheekbones.”
At first, Farrell insisted that his loss was extremely healthy, and compared to the circulating rumors that the loss was the result of drug use, it was, but once he revealed specific details, light was shed on just how intense his regime was. His diet during the loss consisted of only black coffee, diet coke, and tuna, for a grand total of a about 300 calories a day. Sounds like just about the least healthy way to slim down.
However, it worked for Farrell, as he is back to his normal weight now. He said after the film that he simply ate like a pig until he was back to his normal size.
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Renée Zellweger For Bridget Jones’s Diary
The usually slender Renée Zellweger packed on 30 pounds not once, but twice, for her starring role in Bridget Jones’s Diary and its sequel.
For the first film, Zellweger simply gorged herself, trying to gain the weight in any way possible, but for the sequel she took a much more controlled approach, working with a nutritionist to ensure that she was gaining the weight in the healthiest way possible. She still didn’t enjoy putting on the weight, as she was extremely afraid of health problems that people were telling her about.
Check out what she had to say below.
“I had a panic with all the specialists talking about how bad this is for you long-term, putting on that much weight in short periods of time”
Between those two films Zellweger had to slim down for Chicago, dropping the weight and in turn receiving an Oscar nomination for her efforts. It’s always hard to go up and down with weight but the actress pulled it off and for it, her effort was rewarded.
Donnie Wahlberg For The Sixth Sense
Donnie Wahlberg was a far cry from his New Kids On The Block bod in the M. Night Shyamalan classic, The Sixth Sense. The actor dropped 43 pounds in a mere 5 weeks to play Vincent Grey, a disturbed mental patient. Although he was only in a few scenes, Wahlberg was almost unrecognizable in the film, providing a powerful and haunting performance.
The part was originally written for someone in their early teens, not their late 20s, so part of the weight loss was to appear younger and more frail. Wahlberg said the reasoning behind his slimming down was he loved the script so much that he didn’t want to give Shyamalan any possible reason to replace him. The loss worked wonders not just for the film, but for Wahlberg’s career, as it turned him from a singer trying to act into a bonafide actor.
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Ryan Gosling For The Lovely Bones
Most actors on this list received awards or at least respect for their weight changes, but Hollywood heart throb Ryan Gosling was fired. That’s right, Gosling’s transformation is the only one on this list that you’ll never get to see on screen. He was originally cast as the lead in the Peter Jackson film, and in Gosling’s analysis of the grieving father he believed the proper way to play the character was at 210 pounds. Gosling usually weighs in around 150, which meant he put on 60 pounds before filming began, mostly by drinking melted cartons of Häagen Dazs ice cream.
When Gosling showed up on set Jackson was unimpressed with the extra large Gosling, so Jackson replaced Gosling with Mark Wahlberg, leaving Gosling fat and unemployed. Fortunately, Gosling was able to drop the weight and regain his fit figure to show off in many of his films. Still, odds are he’ll ask the director first before he thinks about packing on 60 pounds.
Rob McElhenney For It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
I know that this was for TV and not for a film, but there was no way I could make this list without including Rob McElhenney’s awesomely hilarious weight gain for Sunny. McElhenney gained a whopping 50 pounds in 5 months for the benefit of the show.
The actor didn’t decide to put on the weight as a plot device, but simply because he thought it would be funny. Naturally, quite a few episodes were centered around his weight, most notably How Mac Got Fat, but it was all for gaining a few laughs.
His diet consisted of 5 1,000-calorie meals a day. Originally he began by eating chicken and rice, but eventually he realized a Big Mac and donuts were much easier. Plus, what better way to make a bigger Mac than with Big Macs? (Sorry, I had to.)
Fans who have tuned in for Season 8 may have noticed something remarkable; McElhenney is back to his normal weight, and even a bit buffer than before. He lost 23 of the 50 pounds in the first month, and the rest came off shortly after.
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Edward Norton For American History X
To portray a muscular skinhead in American History X, the usually slender Edward Norton knew it wouldn’t be enough to shave his head and grow a ferocious goatee, so he packed on 35 pounds of lean muscle.
Over the course of 2 and a half months, Norton greatly upped his protein intake and began intensely working out in order to pack on the extra mass. He ate 6 to 7 meals a day and supplemented that by constantly snacking on chicken, turkey, and fish. His workouts focused on his chest and his shoulders in order to appear even bigger than he was.
In a 2000 interview with Total Film, Norton explained why he felt the change was necessary.
“I think he’s a character who’s armoured himself against the pain he’s experienced in his life with his rage. I wanted him to have physically manifested that sort of armouring as well. When you talk to those kids, that’s what those tattoos and muscles are all about. In a lot of ways, it’s about creating a shield or a psychic empowerment device to deal with the feeling of being marginal and insecure.”
The muscles kept Norton looking far from insecure, as the actor looked more intense and intimidating than he ever had before. There is no way the memorable curb stomp scene, or really any shots of Norton in the film, would have been as iconic with the smaller Norton audiences are used to. Definitely worth the extra weight he put on.
Emile Hirsch For Into The Wild
Emile Hirsch’s transformation for the Jon Krakauer adaptation Into The Wild literally happens before the audiences eyes. Hirsch goes from toned to completely emaciated during the film.
The 21-year-old Hirsch lost 41 pounds for the film by running 5 miles a day, and also spending entire days kayaking or hiking. The first 26 pounds were lost before filming began, then during the film he lost an additional 15 pounds for the ending, getting all the way down to a skeletal 115 pounds.
Hirsch did work with a nutritionist to ensure that the weight was lost in a safe and healthy way and he said the process involved him being constantly hungry and dreaming of candy, and that the loss took more willpower than anything he’s done in his entire life. His will was well worth it, as the film’s success was almost completely built around his performance.
He’s back to a normal weight now, but he admits that the process turned him into a bit of a health nut, and he has continued running, although not with the same weight loss goals as before.
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Michael Fassbender For Hunger
In a haunting performance, the already slim Michael Fassbender dropped over 40 pounds for 2008′s Hunger in which he played IRA hunger-striker Bobby Sands, a man who believed that self suffering was the best way to convey his message, and eventually starved himself to death.
Fassbender was only about 170 before the weight loss, meaning he was all the way down to 130 for the role. Before accepting the part, he did a two week trial fast, just to see how his body would handle the dramatic change.
Before filming the eerie final act of the film, production shut down for 10 weeks so Fassbender could lose the necessary weight. While 4 pounds a week may not sound like much, just take another look at the picture above. He rented a place near Venice Beach so he could focus on his weight loss. “It was the perfect place because I was just another freak on the beach, power walking.”
His diet during the time was a strict 900 calorie diet consisting mostly of berries, nuts, and a can of sardines, however, after 5 weeks, his weight began to level off, so his food intake was cut even further.
After completing filming, Fassbender was able to gain most of the weight back in a mere 2 weeks, but the dedication to his performance has propelled him into the A-list leading man he is today.
Vincent D’Onofrio For Full Metal Jacket
Considered by many to be one of the greatest war films of all time, Full Metal Jacket‘s success was greatly helped by Vincent D’Onofrio and his dramatic weight gain to play Pvt. Leonard Lawrence. D’Onofrio piled on 70 pounds in 7 months for the role sticking to a simple diet of the greasiest foods possible. His efforts put him all the way up to 285, which meant he broke Robert De Niro’s weight gain record by 10 pounds.
The role was actually originally written as a skinny ignorant redneck, but director Stanley Kubrick decided that the character would have more of an impact if he was big and clumsy. The weight took a definite toll on D’Onofrio, even causing him to require surgery on his knee for damage done during one of the boot-camp scenes. In an interview one year after filming, D’Onofrio talked about the way the experience changed him.
“It changed my life… Women didn’t look at me; most of the time I was looking at their backs as they were running away. People used to say things to me twice, because they thought I was stupid… It makes you realize all those typical things about beauty being deeper than what you would think.”
It took him 9 long months and a lot of training to get back near his original weight, which he did for his role in Adventures In Babysitting. Both the movies were released in the same year, providing audiences with a full spectrum of D’Onofrio.
So there you have it, ten more actors who have gone through remarkable transformations. What do you think, are we still missing anyone? And remember to check out Beefing Up Part 1: Ten Actors Who Underwent Remarkable Physical Transformations For Their Roles.Previous