Actors Who Took Extreme Measures For A Role

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Natalie Portman – Black Swan

Both Natalie Portman and her co-star Mila Kunis lost a dramatic amount of weight for their roles in Black Swan, and as neither of them was exactly large to start with, it definitely raised eyebrows. But for her commitment to the role, Natalie ended up walking away with an Oscar, and she seemed to lose the weight sensibly, without any health problems as a result. It is rumored she lost 20 lbs for the part. A big percentage for her size.

Natalie Portman Black Swan

Vincent D’Onofrio – Full Metal Jacket

Even though Vincent was not already a huge star when he got the part in Full Metal Jacket, he still agreed to a crazy transformation for his part, putting on 70 lbs! Seeing as he was a slim 210 lbs to start with, this led to some health issues, namely a knee injury. At least Full Metal Jacket was a huge success, and D’Onofrio has had career success since then. When Kubrick asks you to make some changes, you do it!

Vincent DOnofrio Full Metal Jacket

Matthew Fox – Alex Cross

Sometimes a movie just isn’t worth the amount of effort an actor puts into it. For Alex Cross, Matthew Fox lost 40 lbs and then turned his body into a work out machine to get the look of a crazy psychopath, and although it worked, the movie has hardly become a cult classic. Especially considering his fluctuating weight in the media, this dramatic change caught the eye of the press, and the public too.

Matthew Fox Alex Cross

Renee Zellweger – Bridget Jones Diary

Renee put on 30 lbs to play Bridget Jones, not once, or even twice, but three times! The naturally slim actress is known for being waiflike, so it must have been unnatural for her to put on that amount of weight over a short period, especially over and over again. She has spoken out about her fears that the weight fluctuations are bad for her body, and she certainly doesn’t recommend it! Luckily, Bridget is known worldwide as an incredible comedic character.

Renee Zellweger Bridget Jones Diary

Tom Hanks – Philadelphia

Tom Hanks is not a stranger to changing his body for a role, and if you remember Castaway, you’ll have seen him all skin and bones playing a man deserted on an island and forgotten. But long before then, he also lost a tremendous amount of weight to play an AIDS victim in Philadelphia. He lost 50 lbs for the role, but the hard work paid off. He won an Oscar, raised awareness about gay rights, and made an iconic movie in the process.

Tom Hanks Philadelphia

Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Jared Leto starred with Michael McConaughey in a movie which would impress crowds and critics, and become an instant classic, Dallas Buyers Club. For his part, he lost 40 lbs, and played the part of a transgender woman, a role which not all actors could pull off with sensitivity and skill. Leto ended up winning an Oscar for his role, so he almost certainly feels his hard work paid off even more than he had hoped for.

Jared Leto Dallas Buyers Club

Christian Bale – American Hustle

In American Hustle, the incredibly actor who is Christian Bale put on 43lbs to play the main role. This is interesting especially because he is used to losing weight for parts, such as The Fighter and The Machinist. He also needs to be in his best shape to play Batman. For this part, he did the opposite, putting on weight, which did not do him a lot of good. In the process, he ended up with a herniated disk in his back!

Christian-Bale-American-Hustle1

Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Rooney Mara was not the only actress on the shortlist to play the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but she won out all the competition to get the part. It included dying and cutting her hair, and getting some real piercings, in her ears, nipples and eyebrow! While many actresses would have insisted on clip-ons, Mara wanted to really feel what it would be like to get into that character, and so she went above and beyond.

Rooney Mara Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Mariah Carey – Precious

This one is a bit different, as the dramatic transformation that Mariah Carey did was to lose all the glitz and glam which usually sticks to her like glue! She wore a wig which was a mousy brown, she lost the make up and the incredible fashion, and she even drew on dark tired circles under her eyes! She played the part perfectly, an exhausted, world-weary social worker, and it just wouldn’t have worked without the transformation.

Mariah Carey Precious

Chris Pratt – Guardians of the Galaxy

If you’re a fan of Parks and Recreation, you know that Andy was never the slim or muscled guy, but more of a couch potato. He tried to get fit when he wanted to try out for the Police force, but that didn’t last too long! But in real life, when Chris Pratt was asked to work out enough to get his body in tip top shape for Guardians of the Galaxy, he did exactly that, and nailed the role as well as boosted himself to a Hollywood pin up.

Chris Pratt Guardians of the Galaxy

Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables

Anne Hathaway played the incredible part of Fontine in the new movie version of Les Miserables. She had to lose weight for the role, as well as shave her gorgeous long hair off, which must have been pretty tough to commit to! It was one of her most famous roles, and helped her in her career, as well as being a critically acclaimed success, with special mention of her live performance of I Dreamed a Dream. She even won an Oscar!

Anne Hathaway Les Mis

Jake Gyllenhall – Nightcrawler

Sometimes, a character loses so much weight for a role that they end up looking seriously ill. Jake managed to do that here, with a powerful transformation which helped us see his true desperation in the part of Lou Bloom in Nightcrawler. Gyllenhall is a dedicated actor, always looking for ways to commit to the parts he plays, so this was no different. It was made even more impressive by the recent 30 lbs weight gain he’s managed for Southpaw!

Jake Gyllenhall NightCrawler

Matt Damon – Courage Under Fire

In Courage Under Fire, Matt Damon played the role of a character who was drug addicted, and therefore extremely thin. Even though he had a small part, he threw himself into the preparation, using a special 100 day diet and workout regimen to get a 40 lbs weight loss that he felt he needed to play it believably. Unfortunately, he ended up with severe heart problems, needing to take medication for over a year to fix the trouble he had caused to his adrenal glands. Not worth the risk, Matt!

Matt Damon Courage Under Fire

50 Cent – All Things Fall Apart

When 50 Cent was preparing for the role of Deon, he lost 54 lbs! He did this over a nine week period, by changing his diet to a totally liquid one, and spending as much as three hours each day on the treadmill. He looks unrecognisable by the end of this extreme regimen. He believes cancer is a serious topic which should be met with as much perseverance as possible by actors taking on that role. His emaciated before pic shows he took this to heart.

50 cent things fall apart

Charlize Theron – Monster

This is another example of an actress who gained weight for a role, in this case 30 lbs. But more than that, her make up on set was so extreme that she is pretty much unrecognizable on camera. The make up artists changed her skin and her hair as well as her features. She says that she knew that it would be difficult to transform her body, but she couldn’t have played the part any other way, she needed to “get into her physical skin.”

Charlize Theron Monster

Hilary Swank – Boys Don’t Cry

Hilary won an Oscar for her role in this movie, and it’s no wonder, considering the preparation she did beforehand! She went out in public dressed as a man for months before filming started, even bandaging her breasts and lowering her voice, calling herself by the name James. She says that at the time she was not famous, so she could get away with it, whereas nowadays people would notice right away, making that kind of preparation impossible.

Hilary Swank Boys Don't Cry

Halle Berry – Jungle Fever

Vivian in the movie Jungle Fever was played by Halle Berry, and Berry went to extreme lengths to get into character. She visited a real life crack den before filming began, to help get some authenticity for the role, and then chose not to shower or bathe for ten whole days while the cast and crew were filming. That must have been fun for co-star Samuel L Jackson, who had to share a screen with her! Pooh!

Halle Berry Jungle Fever

Jamie Foxx – Ray

You might think that the before and after photos here don’t look too different, but the truth is, Jamie Foxx did lose 30 lbs to play the part of Ray Charles here. But more than that, he gave himself panic attacks in his quest for authenticity. By wearing prosthetic eyelids over his real eyes, he was better able to copy the way that bling Ray would move and gesture, but it scared him witless every time he was left on set alone.

Jamie Foxx Ray

Shia LaBeouf – Fury

This might be the most prepared any actor has been for a role! Shia found out he got the part, and then the very next day joined the U.S National Guard, living on base for a month, and refraining from washing or bathing for four months! He says this is par for the course for many of the men out there, and he even got a tattoo, and had a tooth pulled to help him feel more like he fit in. For months though, that’s gotta be tough.

Shia Lebeauf Fury

Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant

Leo tried to get as authentic as possible an experience throughout filming, even going as farf as eating raw buffalo meat and doing all the freezing cold river stunts himself. “I certainly don’t eat raw bison liver on a regular basis,” Leo said to the media. “When you see the movie, you’ll see my reaction to it, because [director] Alejandro [González Iñárritu] kept it in. It says it all. It was an instinctive reaction.”

Leo Dicaprio The Revenant

Daniel Day Lewis – My Left Foot

Daniel Day Lewis has always said that he likes getting into the heads of the characters he plays. But for his Oscar winning role in My Left Foot, he went further than your average actor would. He went to spend time with disabled patients, and acted as disabled, even when they were not filming. The crew had to carry him around from place to place, and spoon-feed him when he needed to eat. Now that’s commitment to a role.

Daniel Day Lewis My Left Foot

Adrian Brody – The Pianist

Adrian Brody took his role in The Pianist very seriously, moving out of his home, selling his car, and going to Europe, genuinely starving himself to experience the discomfort. “There is an emptiness that comes with really starving that I hadn’t experienced,” he said. “I couldn’t have acted that without knowing it. I’ve experienced loss, I’ve experienced sadness in my life, but I didn’t know the desperation that comes with hunger.”

Adrian Brody The Pianist

Heath Ledger – Batman

According to reports, Heath Ledger was so engrossed in the role of The Joker in Batman that he locked himself in his home for a month before filming, and was only sleeping about two hours every night, only speaking to people as The Joker. “If you tried to communicate with him normally instead of The Joker, he would just ignore you,” one source said. “He would often come to the set to hang out even on his days off, freaking everyone out.”

Heath Ledger Batman

Ed Harris – Pollock

When Ed Harris was chosen to play Pollock, he said that the only thing he had ever painted before was his house! As this wasn’t enough for him to really feel like he understood the role, he took painting lessons, building himself his own painting studio so that he could imbibe himself in the master’s technique and process. He also lost 30 lbs for the role, so that’s true commitment for you as well.

Ed Harris Pollock

Ralph Fiennes – Harry Potter

The Harry Potter co-stars say that even when he wasn’t acting, Ralph Fiennes was scary as Lord Voledmort, and had everyone quaking in their boots! His character in the books and film is iconic because of his see through skin and lack of a nose, as well as the grotesque veins and gnarled appearance. But as they only had two hours in the make up chair each time, the crew decided to do the nose and eyebrow blockers digitally.

Ralph Fiennes Harry Potter

Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour

This movie isn’t even on our screens yet, and this is the transformation we’re talking about the most. Gary Oldman might seem like a crazy choice for Winston Churchill, (and the actor thinks so too!) but he did an incredible job making it work. He even took a guy out of retirement to make it happen! “I found a guy who I knew, Kazuhiro Tsuji, who was a makeup artist and retired from movies. And so I was lucky enough to lure him back and drag him out of retirement.”

Gary Oldman

John Travolta – Hairspray

John Travolta said that prosthetic make up was “hell on wheels” and he sure used a lot of it for his hilarious part in the movie adaptation of musical Hairspray. As well as his search to find the perfect pair of high heeled shoes, he also made sure that he was totally not recognizable as John Travolta, he wanted to be all Edna. He told the media, “When I came out I didn’t recognize me at all, I didn’t see me in it.”

John Travolta Hairspray

Meryl Streep – Into the Woods

The transformation of Meryl Streep from gorgeous Hollywood superstar into cackling evil witch took some serious time, and some crazy steps on the part of hair and make up! One thing you might not realize is that Meryl’s blue hair in the movie was actually dyed with fabric dye, like what you would use to make a costume, or a pair of curtains! It looks incredible, and they did an awesome job, both making her look younger and older.

Meryl Streep Into the Woods

Tom Cruise – Tropic Thunder

Some people have said in the past that Tom Cruise is kind of type cast, with his Mission Impossible style roles. That all ends here, with his incredible part as Les Grossman, which has him looking almost unrecognizable. Apparently, he created the role himself, complete with all the gross extras. This was his first comedic role, and got him a Golden Globe nomination for all that time in the make up chair.

Tom Cruise Tropic Thunder

Cate Blanchett – I’m not There


When you’re asked to play an icon like Bob Dylan, you say yes. Even if you’re Cate Blanchett and you can’t imagine how they are going to pull off the transformation, you say yes, and then ask the questions later. That’s what happened here, and the results were remarkable. Blanchett didn’t have anything permanent done here, simply using a wig, sunglasses, and clever costuming. Well done to the incredible behind the scenes crew!

Cate Blanchett I'm not There

Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

What is it with this movie, did they only choose method actors or something? Matthew McConaughey went to extreme lengths to lose the weight he needed to in order to play a convincing role as Ron Woodruff. At 6 feet tall, he still made it down to 133 lbs. The way he did it? Restricting himself to just one diet coke, egg whites and a small piece of chicken each day. Rather him than me, that’s what I say!

Matthew McConnauhey

Elle Fanning – Three Generations

Elle Fanning isn’t the most famous name on our list, but the actress has already proved that she will go above and beyond to play the perfect part. In Three Generations her role is as a transgender male, and she has had a serious hair cut to fit the part. She was seen in Brooklyn during filming with her male clothes, and dyed and cropped hairstyle. And the movie looks set to be a hit with the critics too!

Elle Fanning Three Generations

Gwyneth Paltrow – Shallow Hal

Ok, she didn’t really put on all this weight, but even donning the fat suit for her role in Shallow Hal was enough of a wake up call to Gwyneth Paltrow that there is serious thin privilege in the world. She says that as soon as she put it on, strangers would avoid her in public. “The first day I tried {the fat suit} on, I was in the Tribeca Grand and I walked through the lobby. It was so sad; it was so disturbing. No one would make eye contact with me because I was obese.”

Gwyneth Paltrow Shallow Hal

Robert DeNiro – Taxi Driver

If you’re a fan of Robert De Niro (and who isn’t?) you’ll know that he went to extraordinary lengths to look the part of Travis Bickle when he signed up to play the world famous role in Taxi Driver. Not only did he need to lose a significant amount of weight, thirty five pounds to be exact, but he also got into the part by spending two weeks as an actual New York Cab driver. Now that’s what we call a method actor!

Robert DeNiro Taxi Driver

Tilda Swinton – Grand Budapest Hotel

While many actresses want to look younger for their roles in fantastic films, Tilda Swinton did quite the opposite, playing an elderly woman with more than 30 years added to her appearance. She did this will the help of eleven prosthetics, as well as fake liver spots! She looks sensational as the aristocratic old lady in the movie, and her acting style fits the part really well, despite her being so many years younger.

Tilda Swinton Grand Budapest Hotel

Tom Hardy – Bronson

In 2008, actor Tom was cast to play the notorious British criminal, Charles Bronson. The actor stuck to an exercise regime of pushups, situps, pull-ups, and just about any other kind of ‘up’ that would get his body in shape. In just five weeks Tom turned his body into a fighting machine by gaining 43 lbs of muscle – he even got Charles’ approval! Apparently, the actor had been to visit Bronson in jail where he got the all clear.

Tom Hardy bald with a mustache playing Charles Bronson, and Tom Hardy on the red carpet

Mel Gibson – Expendables 3

At 57 years old, Mel Gibson emerged in the hit movie Expendables 3 looking like a changed man. While the actor had lost a lot of weight from working out, he also put on a whopping 15 lbs in muscle as he bulked up like never before. It is reported the star had help from muscle supplements as he has continued to keep his new buff bod. The actor has recently been showing off his new look in Blood Father.

Mel Gibson muscley wearing a white tank top, and Mel Gibson with a beard on the red carpet

J.K. Simmons – Justice League

Nothing was going to stop this 61-year-old from ramping up the exercise and getting some bulging biceps. Simmons enlisted the help of Aaron Williamson who over the years has helped train The Rock, Zac Efron, and Jai Courtney. The best bit? Simmons didn’t have to step into any superhuman outfits as he played a regular police officer in the movie! It looks as though this actor wanted to keep on top of the game for this film.

J.K. Simmons with a beard lifting weights at the gym, and J.K. Simmons bald wearing a suit on the red carpet

Edward Norton – American History X

It wasn’t just gaining over 20 lbs of muscle that saw Edward undergo a total transformation – the actor also lost all his hair and acquired some rather questionable tattoos in the process. Thankfully, the ink was only temporary, but the training regime was anything but fake. It’s reported that Edward had to stick to a strict upper body regime in the gym for three months that saw him build up more muscle than he once thought possible – oo-er!

Edward Norton bald with a goatee playing Derek Vinyard, and Edward Norton on the red carpet

Jonah Hill – 21 Jump Street

We’re not gonna lie; if we were around Channing Tatum, we’d want to hit the gym too. Does that man have one ounce of fat on him?! Anyway, it appears as though Jonah felt the same way we do. Back in 2012 when 21 Jump Street was set to hit cinemas, the actor hit the gym to drop 40 lbs before filming began. It looks as though the actor has been able to keep the weight off – go, Jonah!

Jonah Hill in 21 Jump Street wearing a white tuxedo and black bow tie, and Jonah Hill on the red carpet

Demi Moore – G.I. Jane

There was only one way this actress was willing to get into the role: by undergoing a strict Navy SEAL training regime. This saw that Demi was up at zero four hundred hours to get her training done before heading to the set. The actress would do underwater running, situps in the mud, and one arm pushups in addition to various Navy obstacle courses. To top it all off, Demi Moore even shaved her head for the part. Wowza.

Demi Moore bald playing G.I. Jane, and Demi Moore with long hair on the red carpet

Michael Fassbender – Hunger

If ever there is dedication to fitting the role, then Michael Fassbender is up there near the top spot. The actor was cast to play a Bobby Sands who led a hunger strike during 1981, so Michael dropped his weight down to just 127 lbs to fit the part. Every day Michael would eat no more than 900 calories, as well as exercise by walking, skipping, and yoga all to achieve his 42 lbs weight loss all by himself.

Michael Fassbender skinny playing Bobby Sands, and Michael Fassbender on the red carpet

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