Over the years, actors have put themselves through gruelling transformations for roles. Here are ten of the most extreme.
Christian Bale – The Machinist (2004)
To portray an insomniac for this dark thriller, the Welsh star controversially shed a staggering 63 pounds. Thanks to a four month diet of coffee, apples and a can of tuna a day, Bale transformed himself into a walking special effect. The movie may be forgettable, but the sight of Bale’s ribs almost tearing through his flesh is an image that’s hard to shake.
Robert De Niro – Raging Bull (1980)
De Niro transformed his physique not once, but twice for his Oscar winning portrayal of boxer Jake La Motta. To convince as a middleweight boxer, the actor sparred with the real life La Motta, and even boxed in three professional fights, two of which he won! For the movie’s later scenes, featuring a retired and overweight La Motta, De Niro spent four months travelling through France and Italy, where he gorged on fattening meals to gain 60 pounds of blubber.
Charlize Theron – Monster (2003)
Few would describe the South African stunner as a monster, but Theron went all out to portray a real life monster – serial killer Aileen Wournos. Makeup played its part in the transformation, but the actress also piled on 30 pounds for the role, stuffing herself with doughnuts and potato chips. The end result is definitely more beast than beauty, and Theron was rewarded with a Best Actress Oscar for her efforts.
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
The 30 Seconds to Mars front-man shed 40 pounds to play a trans-sexual AIDS victim, a role he scooped a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for. Weighing a mere 114 pounds, Leto is convincingly unhealthy in the part. It’s not the first time Leto had dramatically altered his appearance, having previously gained 67 pounds to play John Lennon’s killer, Mark Chapman, in the 2007 biopic Chapter 27.
Renée Zellweger – Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
The normally stick thin Texan quickly piled on 20 pounds before shooting the cult British rom-com, giving new meaning to the phrase “Everything’s bigger in Texas!” For the 2004 sequel, Zellweger again increased her weight, but this time she employed nutritionists to advise her on a healthier method of rapid weight gain.
Tom Cruise – Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
The ultimate eighties heart-throb, Cruise (who in real life was actually born on the third of July) shunned his poster boy looks to play Ron Kovic, a soldier paralysed in the Vietnam War who went on to become a political activist. Cruise spends most of the movie sporting an unflattering moustache and straggly long hair, adding years to his normally youthful face.
Orson Welles – Touch of Evil (1958)
Today we usually think of Orson Welles as the obese, bearded figure of his later years, but prior to Touch of Evil he boasted features as handsome as any matinee idol. For his self-directed 1958 movie, he transformed himself into an overweight, aged and chain-smoking detective. The result is one of his greatest performances, but Welles ultimately paid the price for such devotion to his craft, and was never able to return to his previous physique. As a result, he was plagued by health issues for the remainder of his life.
Marlon Brando – The Godfather (1972)
It’s difficult to believe Brando was a mere 47 when he played the head of the notorious Corleone clan, but thanks to a combination of make-up, the actor’s bulging waistline, and cotton balls strategically placed in his jowls, the hunky Brando of the past was quickly forgotten.
Chris Pratt – Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
The formerly fulsome Parks & Recreation star spent six months working out intensely for his leading role in this year’s sci-fi blockbuster, swapping a relatable beer gut for an enviable six pack.
Henry Fonda – Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
All Fonda had to do was grow some stubble to shed his previous All-American good guy image, in order to play the sadistic villain of Sergio Leone’s classic western. Today, many identify him more with this dastardly role than his earlier heroic parts.
By Eric Hillis