When it comes to the world of movies, you have to be on your game to win awards or be known as an icon of the industry. Some just do a role to get paid, and you can truly tell that in their performance. You then have those that go above and beyond the call of duty. Those men and women are the ones the world remembers.
Iconic movies always have iconic characters and what those men and women have to go through to accomplish such a great performance is not always as easy as showing up and performing. Sometimes they have to change their body and even their life in order to reach the pinnacle of what they can do with a character.
Some men and women go into dark and even deadly places while others go into places that are easy to escape. No matter how they go about it, you can tell that this performance changed who they were as human beings and how they will treat every role they have afterward.
The performances, when memorable, can be rewarded with Oscars or Golden Globe awards. Some are rewarded with major parts that become available. No matter what the reason behind the performance, some people do not care what they have to do to achieve their ultimate goal.
In this article, we count down the ten men and women who went above and beyond to deliver the role of a lifetime. Some of the ideas were brilliant while others did not land nearly as well as they had hoped.
10. Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy
Chris Pratt was known as the out of shape Andy Dwyer from NBC’s Parks and Recreation. However, he felt he was more than this and wanted to get the role of a lifetime in the new Marvel movie, the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Due to it being a superhero movie, it was obvious that it was going to get attention and several eyes would be on the product. The Guardians are well known in the superhero world, but it was the first movie Marvel and Disney had ever done with the characters. The characters are essential in the Marvel universe, but many thought early on that there would be very few who would care for the film.
Chris Pratt wanted to play Peter Quill, also known as Starlord. This was the main character in the series who led a group of crazy aliens into adventures risking their lives for a prize at the end of the day. The problem with Pratt getting the part was that his body simply was not in the type of shape it needed to be for him to get a part of this magnitude.
Pratt ended up losing around 80 pounds for the role and even though the move was considered a life choice over a loss simply for the movie, it was truly the Guardians movie that inspired the change. The hard work paid off massively for Pratt.
The film grossed $770 million at the box office and led to Pratt getting lead roles in the Lego Movie and Jurassic World, both of which grossed massive amounts. Pratt has become one of the hottest stars in Hollywood, making his body change a big deal for his career.
9. Robert De Niro in Raging Bull
Few actors in Hollywood compare to Robert De Niro, but it wasn’t always that way. De Niro like all others had to show how good he truly was before people took him seriously as a big time actor in Hollywood. He had a big opportunity to do that with Raging Bull.
De Niro ended up changing his body not once, but twice to play the role of boxer Jake LeMotta. He went to the gym to get in shape to play the boxer in his fighting days and even worked with LeMotta himself to make sure he delivered the role as well as LeMotta would on his own. He even would fight in boxing matches to prepare and be more convincing as the character.
Later in the movie, De Niro added on 60 more pounds to play the character in his later years.
Although the movie only made a little over $23 million at the box office, the movie became iconic and helped De Niro win a Golden Globe and Academy Award for the film. This led to De Niro becoming a must-have in Hollywood and he would go on to become a legendary actor. To many, his career truly began with Raging Bull and what he did to become the character.
8. Matt Damon in The Informant!
Matt Damon was known as a great actor well before 2009’s The Informant! was ever written, however Damon wanted to be in line for the Academy Award world yet again. The best way to do this would be to take on a very serious role that came with a lot of hardships…but not as much as people think.
Damon played, well, an Informant named Mark Whitacre. He wore a prosthetic nose and even had a fake mustache, but most importantly he had to gain 30 pounds of weight for the role.
Damon would say that gaining pounds to play the role was very easy for him and kind of scary. The movie ended up doing a little over $41 million at the box office, but Damon’s performance was praised and cited as the best part of the film to critics. It didn’t hurt or truly help his Hollywood standing, but many did appreciate the amount of work he put in to the role.
7. Jim Carrey in How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Jim Carrey was well known for his big roles in the 1990s and was quite a big star by the time How The Grinch Stole Christmas came to the big screen. This was Carrey’s first venture into a children’s film, and it was a part that was very well known. It made sense for him to play the role as the casting could not have been better.
The issue was that the make-up and costume for The Grinch character was quite extensive. It took 8 hours to put it on and Jim said he freaked out then and there and told the director on the film, Ron Howard, that he couldn’t do the film. From there, they hired a CIA operative who was trained in the art of withstanding torture. This man helped Carrey last in the costume for the film. It had to be put on 100 times for the movie, which made torture a daily occurrence for months.
Happily for Jim, the movie did $345 million at the box office and created a holiday classic for years to come. While this movie did not make or break Jim’s career, it was quite a horrific time in his life to create such a role for us to enjoy each holiday season.
6. Rebecca Romijn in X-Men Series
Rebecca Romijn was quite a beautiful model back in the 1990s and early 2000s, but felt she could have a career in Hollywood if given the right role to stand out. She was able to land the role of the ever changing Mystique. This role was quite controversial when it came out as Rebecca was technically naked while playing the role.
She had to put on scales to fit the Mystique look which allowed her to cover up. For the first movie, Rebecca claimed it took 8 hours to get the scales on and the fumes of it all made her sick. That didn’t even include hair and make-up. By the last X-Men film she was in, the scales took just three and a half hours to do.
The series was a big hit among fans and was the first series Marvel had in theaters. Since then, the X-Men franchise has grown massively and Rebecca was a big part in helping the early movies. These are still the movies Rebecca is most known for and the movies ended up grossing over one billion dollars combined.
While this role will go down as iconic in superhero movie folklore, Rebecca never capitalized as well as she could have after the role was over with.
5. Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln
Daniel Day-Lewis is known for his big roles in Hollywood where he goes in major depth to play a character to the best of his abilities. He is what is known in Hollywood as a character actor in that he lives the part of the character until the job in complete. While Day-Lewis has had plenty of big roles like this before, his role as Abraham Lincoln may go down as legendary.
The film inspired by the real former United States President Abraham Lincoln was the role of a lifetime for many in Hollywood, but the British Daniel Day-Lewis was the man who ended up being perfect for the role. He spent a year preparing for the role. He studied pictures, novels, and biographies about him just to be sure he was prepared. He even practiced Lincoln’s real life voice to be positive he had the right touches on the film.
He went on to say that although he lived like Lincoln, he knew the entire time he was not the man himself. He wanted to create an illusion and the best way to do that, he felt, was living the part. That also meant that he couldn’t drink because Lincoln didn’t drink, which is something Daniel does a lot of as a Brit.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Daniel’s co-star in the film, said that upon the film wrapping Daniel immediately went back into his real self and had a drink that day.
The movie grossed $275 million at the box office and was arguably Daniel’s best role to date. He won a SAG, Golden Globe, and Academy Award as Best Lead Male Actor for the role. Overall, the movie won 29 awards. However, due to Day-Lewis’s picky ways with roles, this is the last movie he has done. This leaves many to wonder what he will do next and how impressive it could be after the success of Lincoln.
4. Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder
Tropic Thunder will never go down as a movie built on a fantastic story with acting that will rival any movie known to man. However, the movie did include two roles that were quite interesting. The first was Robert Downey, Jr. who wore black-face to play a role within a role. He was the dude, playing the dude, disguised as another dude.
However, the man who truly stole the film was Tom Cruise who played the role of Les Grossman, a man who happened to have a bit of a weight problem, and was on par with that of an early-Scrooge. Cruise was unrecognizable in the role and it was considered a shock that he was in the movie in the first place.
He had to wear a fat suit, big prosthetic hands, chest hair wig, and a bald cap for the role. The movie was not known for Cruise, but he did steal the movie for many, especially during his dance scene.
The film ended up grossing slightly over $188 million, which was quite respectable for a film like it. While this role did not help or hurt Tom Cruise’s movie career, it is slowly becoming a cult film that many know Cruise for these days. He put a lot of work into the role. To do so well that many didn’t even know it was you playing the role originally says a lot about how good you were with the part.
3. Charlize Theron in Monster
Charlize Theron took on the role of Aileen Wuornos in the movie, Monster. The film was very well done and considered one of the best movies of the year. Charlize was noticeably different for the role and completely unrecognizable while playing the character.
She gained 30 pounds for the role and even changed her posture to fit the Wuornos character. On top of this, she wore prosthetic teeth and wore make-up to make her look dreadful compared to the beautiful bombshell we usually knew her as.
The writer of the film, Patty Jenkins, claimed that the movie was not about Charlize taking on the role of a fat and ugly woman. Rather, she wanted to make sure the little things were there such as the make-up for sun damage to be present.
The movie was well-received by most critics and it has become a bit of a cult classic. With only a $6 million budget, it grossed $60 million at the box office, making the film a financial success.
Charlize was in a lot of big movies before Monster was ever thought of, so the thought was that Charlize would clearly go back to those types of roles again after her impressive performance. Rather, her career never really took off due to this film whatsoever. Her career was going up at this point, but she had already been in hits before this.
Due to that, she was loved for the role, and though her career didn’t take off, it certainly did not suffer.
2. Christian Bale in The Machinist
Christian Bale is known for his roles of the past few years but one film that could possibly be considered his best acting performance is The Machinist.
Bale played the lead role in the film, Trevor Reznik. While the role was interesting, what Bale had to do to play him was quite alarming. He lost around 65 pounds to play the role, which landed him at 120 pounds for the role.
In order to lose the weight, Bale claims that he ran a lot and had the impressive diet of an apple and tuna daily. He was noticeably skinny for the role and no one could believe that he was able to pull off such a look. The film was seen as a critical success but it only brought in $8 million at the box office. The movie has since become a cult classic among movie buffs, but it might have been the first time we realized Bale could seriously act.
Bale ended up doing the Batman series directly after this and actually packed the weight he had back on plus 30 pounds to play the title role. Bale’s Hollywood career sky rocketed with Batman, but his role in The Machinist might still go down as his most beloved acting performance.
1. Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
Going from Batman to The Joker seems like a good transition, but potentially the last man to put himself into a role so well that he became the evil he was has to be Heath Ledger. Many knew Ledger before The Dark Knight film, but no one knew how good he truly was. We all saw him as a pretty boy who could play the knight in shining armor but there was no way he could get down and dirty to play the type of villain The Joker is known as.
Ledger had a tall task ahead of him. He had to be better than Jack Nicholson and had to differentiate the way he delivered lines to try and better Mark Hamill. Seemingly everyone hated the casting choice of Chris Nolan who both directed and wrote the movie.
The concept behind the film was simple for Ledger, create a great character that people would talk about for years to come.
Ledger went into a very dark place when becoming The Joker. He would dive into prescription pills and sadly passed due to accidental intoxication to the pills during the editing of the film and in the middle of filming another movie.
Many believe it was The Joker that killed Ledger due to where he had to go to be him on screen. While this could have simply just been a place Ledger was before he ever was cast as The Joker, it is in this film he used that life to help him truly become the role.
Ledger ended up winning the Golden Globe and Academy Award for best Supporting Actor due to his performance. To this day, it goes down as the ultimate performance for a superhero movie villain. There is a hope that Jared Leto can match it or at least come close when he takes on the role in the new Suicide Squad film. However, it is a tall task to become The Joker.
The Dark Knight was a massive success at the box office, grossing over a billion. The movie received terrific reviews for it’s writing and action but the performance of Ledger is what stole the entire film. This role could have made him into the next Hollywood icon and he surely would have been used to reprise his role as The Joker at another point. Sadly his passing ruined what could have been a very bright future.