Among many unforgettable performances in cinema history, there are some that will be especially memorable because the actors put forth a huge effort to change their appearance, like starving for weeks or gaining so much weight that they couldn’t move around as easily anymore.
Bright Side brings you 14 examples of people whose dedication to their work is nothing short of impressive.
1. Jared Leto — Dallas Buyers Club (2012)
Jared Leto lost 30 lb for his role in this movie and he ended up winning an Oscar. Leto never dropped his character throughout the shooting, he even went shopping for groceries while in character and attracted more than a few stares.
“Your body goes through weird stages. Sometimes it’s hard to hold on to water. But for me, it’s not about the most weight I can lose — it’s more to represent the character.” He said in an interview.
Chapter 27 (2007)
As Mark David Chapman (John Lennon’s murderer) Jared Leto gained 67 lb, which brought him high cholesterol, gout, back pain, and an irregular heartbeat. He even had to be confined to a wheelchair in several occasions, due to his weight. The actor also said that he never recovered his total physical shape after gaining those pounds.
2. Charlize Theron — Monster (2003)
Not only did she gain 30 lb for the role, but Charlize Theron had to pull a radical physical transformation to play Aileen Wuornos. This included dying her hair, shaving her eyebrows, wear prosthetic dentures and makeup that made her skin look stained and aged.
She chose to gain weight instead of wearing a “fat suit” in order to be able to “move and express herself” as Aileen.
3. Christian Bale — American Hustle (2013)
To achieve the physical traits of his character, Christian Bale gained over 40 lb, got a combover, slouched, and ended up herniating two of his disks in the process.
When asked about his diet, he simply answered, “I ate a lot of pies.” He also admitted that losing the weight took over 6 months and not 2, as he originally had thought.
The Machinist (2004)
For his role as Trevor Reznik, shapeshifting champion Christian Bale lost 63 lb. The movie producers also claimed that Bale actually wanted to drop down to 100 lb, but they would not let him go below 120 lb out of fear that his health could be in too much danger if he did.
Director Brad Anderson was actually shocked to see Bale’s appearance on the first day of shooting, as he didn’t ask him to lose so much weight. The funny thing is, the actor confessed to enjoying the process and a year later, he gained the weight back for his role of Batman in Batman Begins.
4. Gwyneth Paltrow — Shallow Hal (2001)
For her role as an obese woman, Paltrow had to go through 4 hours of makeup. She even walked around like that in public, stating no one would recognize her or make eye contact with her.
5. Matthew McConaughey — Dallas Buyers Club (2012)
The Oscar winner lost 47 lb for this role as an AIDS patient. He lost 8 lb only in the first 2 weeks by burning 1,800 calories a day. His diet: 5 ounces of fish and vegetables.
He said it was really hard to get down to 160 lb, but after that, easy to get down to 150 lb. As he stated, he probably “lost 35% of his energy.”
6. Jake Gyllenhaal — Southpaw (2015)
The young actor had to bulk up fast to perform his role as the boxer Billy Hope. He accomplished this by exercising twice a day, 7 days a week, for 5 months, after he had lost 30 lb for his role in Nightcrawler. 2,000 sit-ups a day, 8-mile runs, and core/weight training was also part of his intense workout.
7. Cate Blanchett — I’m Not There (2007)
The beautiful actress had to portray Bob Dylan in the mid-60s for her role so she needed to wear a wig, sunglasses, and men’s clothing. She also wore a sock down her pants, saying “it helped her walk like a man.”
8. Edward Norton — American History X (1998)
Oscar-nominated Ed Norton shaved his head completely and gained 30 lb to portray skinhead character Derek Vinyard. The actor ate 7 times a day and he ate mostly chicken, turkey, and fish.
9. Marlon Brando — The Godfather (1972)
For this unforgettable performance, Marlon Brando was inspired by real-life gangster Frank Costello, imitating his distinctive voice. Besides losing weight, he stuffed his cheeks with cotton, wore a mouthpiece made by a dentist, and wore a lot of makeup to help him look older. All of these efforts gained him his second Oscar.
10. Elle Fanning — Three Generations (2015)
She plays a transgender person in the film, where she wears men’s clothing along with her dark and short hair. Despite the fact that the movie was met with some criticism, Elle’s performance was generally acclaimed and it put her on the scene among the big Hollywood stars.
11. Robert De Niro — Raging Bull (1980)
De Niro gained 60 lb for his portrayal as professional boxer Jake LaMotta. In preparation for his role, Robert De Niro went through extensive physical training, then entered in 3 genuine Brooklyn boxing matches and won 2 of them.
Fun fact: Robert De Niro accidentally broke Joe Pesci’s rib in a sparring scene. This shot appears in the film: De Niro hits Pesci in the side, Pesci groans, and there is a quick cut to another angle.
12. Rooney Mara — The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Rooney Mara lost a considerable amount of weight for her role as Lisbeth, even though director David Fincher never requested it. She did it to give her character a bony appearance.
Also, every piercing she had was real. She even kept her right nipple one, in case of possible sequels. “It’s not something you want to ever get re-pierced,” she said.
13. Vincent D’Onofrio — Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Vincent D’Onoffrio gained 70 lb for the role of Private Pyle, taking him 7 months to put the weight on and 9 months to take it off. That was, reportedly, the most weight ever gained for a movie role, surpassing De Niro’s effort for Raging Bull in 1980.
14. Tom Hanks — Philadelphia (1993)
Tom Hanks, who performs the role of an AIDS patient, had to lose almost 30 lb to appear appropriately gaunt for his courtroom scenes. Matthew McConaughey reportedly called Hanks for advice before shooting Dallas Buyers Club.
Which actor impressed you the most? Do you know any actors who changed drastically for their roles? Share your opinion with us in the comments section below!