Recently, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto won Academy Awards for their roles in Dallas Buyer’s Club. To portray the based-on-real-life characters in the film they both lost a significant amount of weight, altering their appearance dramatically. A large part of an actor’s job is looking the part, and they often spend a lot of time and effort changing their natural body type in order to embody the character they are playing.
Sometimes actors have to lose weight, and sometimes they have to gain weight, or put on a lot of muscle. Scrutiny over appearance is something celebrities have to deal with on a daily basis, and a lot of the time they are sporting a certain look (like Bradley Cooper‘s unflattering perm in American Hustle) just because it is part of their job. While actors seem to get a lot of attention for the work they put into their appearance for movies, there are some actresses who have done just as much in order to do justice to their roles. Here are 10 actresses whose commitment to looking the part paid off for them big time.
Demi Moore – G.I Jane
At the height of her popularity, Demi Moore took the role of Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil in Ridley Scott‘s G.I Jane. The role was very physically demanding, as it portrayed a woman who was going through Navy Seal training when women were rarely considered worthy of the Navy. Moore not only adopted a real Navy Seal workout regimen to get her in the physical and mental condition of a true recruit, but she shaved her head on screen during a scene. The fact that Moore shaved her head is probably the most famous thing about the film, considering she ended up winning a Golden Razzie for Worst Actress.
Renee Zellweger – Bridget Jones’s Diary
It’s no secret that Renee Zellweger put on 20 pounds to play the part of Bridget Jones in the film adaptation of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary. As soon as she landed the role, she was criticized for being too thin to play the beloved character. But she accepted the challenge of gaining weight and learning a British accent for the part. She then lost the weight to go back to her regular size, only to have to gain it all back again to star in the sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Her hard work paid off though, because she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Bridget Jones.
Hilary Swank – Boys Don’t Cry
Hilary Swank‘s critically-acclaimed role as a transgendered man in the indie film Boys Don’t Cry obviously required her to alter her appearance. The role is based on the true story of Brandon Teena, who was beaten, raped, and murdered after a group of male acquaintances found out he was anatomically female. To prepare for the role, Swank dressed and live as a man for a month. She also reduced her body fat to 7% so her facial features would appear more angular and masculine. Swank only earned $75 a day for her work on the film, but she ended up winning a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for the role, so it’s safe to say it was probably worth it.
Natalie Dormer – Mockingjay
Natalie Dormer is best known for her role as Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones where she plays royalty and therefore is always dressed impeccably, with long flowing hair. When she was cast in the third installment of The Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay as Cressida, she decided to shave off all the hair on the left side of her head. She first debuted the look in public at the 2014 SAG Awards, and it had everyone talking. While the hair cut is dramatic, she can definitely pull it off, and the authenticity is sure to pay off for fans of The Hunger Games series.
Cate Blanchett – I’m Not There
The 2007 film, I’m Not There is based on Bob Dylan‘s life, but none of the actors actually play Bob Dylan. The cast, which includes Christian Bale and Heath Ledger, all play one aspect of Bob Dylan’s personality, and a snapshot of his life. Cate Blanchett plays the very first character, a musician named Jude Quinn who ends up dying in a motorcycle accident (a reference to Dylan crashing his motorcycle in 1966). Blanchett was the only woman out of the six actors to portray Dylan, and when asked about the challenge she said, “I just strapped those breasts down, and went for it.”
Cameron Diaz – Being John Malkovich
Cameron Diaz is generally known for playing the parts of attractive female characters, but in the 1999 Spike Jonze film, Being John Malkovich, she plays a different role. Her character, Lotte, is married to a man, but has fantasies about being a man herself. For the part, Diaz wore a wild, frizzy wig, and a variety of unflattering outfits. She didn’t realize she looked so different until she talked to the production crew in full costume and they didn’t recognize her. “I just assumed they knew it was me, but they thought I was a stranger,” she said.
Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
For her Academy Award-winning role as Fantine in the 2012 film version of Les Miserables, Anne Hathaway had to look the part of a young, poor, prostitute that will do anything to support her daughter. Her character sells her hair (which Hathaway shaved on camera for the scene), and front teeth for money. Hathaway also had to lose a significant amount of weight in order to portray a woman who lives on the street, and has to scrounge for food. The role also earned her a Golden Globe Award, and a SAG award, among many others.
Charlize Theron – Monster
Charlize Theron is one of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood right now, but that is not what won her the Best Actress Academy Award in 2003 for her role as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. She gained 30 pounds, bleached and shaved her eyebrows, and purposely damaged and thinned out her hair to make it look like Wuornos. She also wore prosthetic teeth and underwent hours in makeup to make her skin look sun damaged, and older. Theron also recently shaved her head for her role in the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road, so clearly she is not against altering her looks for a film.
Natalie Portman – V for Vendetta
If there is one actress that almost looks better with her head shaved, it’s Natalie Portman. She shaved her head on screen for her role as Evey in the film adaptation of the graphic novel V for Vendetta. The scene was shot in one take using three cameras from different angles. The film was a financial and critical success, and Natalie even won a Saturn Award for Best Actress. Another film that required Portman to alter her physical appearance was Black Swan. She played a ballet dancer who is obsessed with being perfect, and the role required her to lose 20 pounds from her already tiny frame.
Rooney Mara – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Before her role as Lisbeth Salander in the English adaptation of Stieg Larsson‘s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Rooney Mara had an innocent girl next door look. She had to transform from that to a dark, goth-inspired, pierced girl with part of her head shaved in order to embody the role. And she did just that. She had her nose and right nipple pierced, her hair dyed black and cut short, and her eyebrows bleached. She wore a fake eyebrow and lip piercing as well as a temporary dragon tattoo. Her transformation went over well with critics, and she ended up being nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress.