Do you think it would be easy to be an actor? While saying the lines may not be so hard, there is no doubt that the lengths that some actors go to for their roles can be inspirational. As you’re going to learn from the 20 men on this list, sometimes in order to play the role the right way, you’ve got to entirely transform your body.
You may know John Krasinksi from The Office, but the 5% body-fat version of Krasinski you’re about to see may forever change your opinion on Jim Halpert. You love J.K. Simmons and thought Whiplash was great? Just wait until you see his massive beard and bulging biceps up close, as he prepares to take on the role of Commissioner Gordon in the upcoming Justice League series. Speaking of superheroes, there is no doubt that if you wanted to transform your body to look like a superhero, it may take some time. But do you know which actors on this list got too big for their caped role, and needed to lose muscle mass? How about knowing which actor had an obstacle course literally built into his house to make sure his body looked like it was created by running around a jungle? You’ll even learn what superhero Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey were both being linked to. There’s even an actor on here who was so dedicated that he cut out sex to prepare for a role!
Included in the blurbs are quotes from the actors on the process they went through to transform their body. Learn who loved it, learn who hated it, and learn who by the end of it, thought all food tasted the same.
These are 20 times an actor got absolutely jacked for a role. Have friends on your list that are movie buffs or are looking for inspiration? Feel free to share this list on your social media channel.
20. Chris Hemsworth – Thor
I don’t think there is a bigger series out there right now than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so why not start out with Thor? As you’re going to continue to learn below, it is far from easy to make sure you keep your body in superhero shape. This is even more difficult when you consider that in between the filming of the Thor movies, Hemsworth dropped a significant amount of weight to play British Formula-1 World Champion James Hunt in the movie Rush. Turns out Hunt didn’t look like a Norse God in real life.
When playing Thor on screen, Hemsworth works out constantly, eats like a mad man and gets his weight up to around 215-220 pounds. But when he needed to transition to James Hunt, Hemsworth switched to cardio almost non-stop, and reduced his intake of protein and carbohydrates, eventually losing 30 pounds of muscle for the role. Putting your body through this kind of ordeal is incredibly hard both physically and mentally, which Hemsworth also readily admitted, saying “it was a pretty moody existence to be honest, and I can imagine it was a moody existence for everyone around me.”
As you can see from the above photo, Rush is not the only time the actor needed to drop down. You’ll be able to see a much skinnier Thor, in the upcoming film In The Heart Of The Sea.
19. Jake Gyllenhaal – Southpaw
When it came to filming Southpaw for Jake Gyllenhaal, in which he plays boxer Billy Hope, he had a few concerns. He needed to make sure his body was looking as good as it possibly could, but first Gyllenhall stated there was a lot of work to be done. “I was just terrified that I would look like an idiot in the ring. I didn’t know how to box when I started. I had five months to learn.”
Gyllenhaal said he hit the ring and training room twice a day in order to help get the shape that he needed for the role, this included doing roughly 2,000 press-ups every single day.
His co-star on the film, Rachel McAdams, talked to interviewers about what it was like to see the transformation first hand. “When I first signed on to the movie, he had just started his training and had long hair in a ponytail and a bushy beard and didn’t even look like a boxer.”
Given all this information, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that there was no stunt double required in the film, even if that means taking one on the chin once in a while!
18. Adrien Brody – Predator
When you think of some of the biggest actors in Hollywood, Adrien Brody may not come to your mind, at least not in a literal sense. But he’s an outstanding actor and has been willing to show his dedication to his craft, whether it was losing the weight like in The Pianist, or bulking up as you’re about to learn for his role in Predator.
The film came out in 2010 and while it was not nearly as successful as the original film that inspired it (the one starring Arnold Schwarzenegger), Brody was still successful at packing on 25 pounds of muscle for his role. On top of working out relentlessly, Adrien helped get into character by staying in the property that was located in tropical rainforest where the film was being shot, as opposed to at the hotel.
“I isolated myself… My nightly ritual was poring over survival manuals and military and paramilitary training books. I was reading Sun Tzu. I was studying meditation. I was on a very strict diet. I wasn’t drinking. I wasn’t eating sugar. I wasn’t having sex. I had to kind of go there, for me, because this was a tremendous opportunity.”
To be fair, I’m not sure if his body would have looked all that different had he had sex, but credit the guy for clearly being dedicated to his role!
17. John Krasinski – 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Well damn, Jim, if you ever got tired of selling paper in Scranton, you should have just picked up a pair of weights and become a model! While you may not be able to see John Krasinski as anyone but Jim Halpert from The Office, looking at him ripped is definitely one way to shake that image.
Krasinski cut his body fat from 26% down to 5% in order to properly prepare for the role of a Navy SEAL in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. There is no doubt Navy SEALs need to be impeccable shape, so credit Krasinski for being able to make the transformation. When asked about it, Krasinski said he would work out twice a day, 5 days a week and ended up getting this toned body in a mere sixteen weeks.
While many women may swoon over the toned Krasinski, his wife, actress Emily Blunt, would be quick to disagree. When interviewed on The Late Show, he stated how “She hates it, she would way prefer to have doughy guy back.”
I suppose everyone has their preferences!
16. Hugh Jackman – X-Men
There is no doubt that Hugh Jackman is committed to his role of Wolverine. The actor has played the iconic comic character in several films and while his end may be nearing, it’s clear that he left his mark. One of the most impressive things about his portrayal has to be the work that goes into getting his body ready.
Especially when you consider Jackman also has performed on Broadway, where he says his muscles are more of a hindrance than anything. Jackman explained, “when I dance I drop muscle very quickly. The body is very smart and efficient, and a traditional dancer’s body is not going to be bulked up on top because they’re muscles that you don’t really need.”
One thing you may not know about the role of Jackman, is the intense preparation that goes into a scene in the movie in which he knows he’ll be shirtless.
“When I’m going for a ‘shirt off” shot, everything changes the month before, and I’m timed down to the day. There is water dehydration for 36 hours before. It’s quite a scientific process to looking your best.”
While dehydrating your body doesn’t sound the most fun, I’m sure it helps make his muscles pop all the more on screen. As an added bonus, look at how ripped he got in X-Men: Days of Future Past compared to his first appearance as Wolverine in 2000.
15. Mel Gibson – The Expendables 3
The first thing you see when you look at the above photo of Mel Gibson, is that he must have taken some form of steroid to get that big. Especially considering he was 57 in the photo! But the actor was quick to deny the claims to an interviewer, saying “some people say, ‘It’s inconceivable, how can he do that?’ Well, I have always had that body type to do that. That’s just hard work, dude.” Gibson also said, before laughing off the steroid claim, “have you seen the side-effects of some of that crap? Forget it, that’s too scary.”
To get in shape Gibson said he cut out pasta, sugar, potatoes and instead had himself plenty of green vegetables and fish. This was also the first time in the actor’s career that he said he had been going to the gym on a regular basis. “I have never worked out three times a week in my entire life, It’s kind of getting rid of the middle-aged tire and sort of promoting circulation, aerobic exercise and blood flow circulation, stuff like that. I have been working really hard at it.”
When you work on a movie with known gym rats like Arnold Schwarzenegger, I suppose that’s all the motivation you need to really step up your game!
14. Chris Pratt – Guardians of the Galaxy
When Chris Pratt was cast as the role of Star-Lord, people were a little bit surprised. Pratt had success in dramatic films like Zero Dark Thirty and Moneyball, but he was definitely best known for his comedic role as Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation in which he was definitely not the slimmest guy around. In fact, when the character makes a dramatic weight change on the show in between seasons, he jokes to Adam Scott that all he had to do was cut out beer.
The real life transformation was far more difficult. Pratt dropped 60 pounds in 6 months, but this shouldn’t seem impressive when you hear about his work ethic according to his trainer. “He isn’t the client you have to push; he’s the type of client you have to pull down. If you were to walk into the gym when he was training, you would have thought for sure you’ve got a guy getting ready for the NFL Combine.”
There is no doubt that Pratt (and the studio) must have been ecstatic with the end result. But considering Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler were also linked to the part, you’re probably pretty glad they gave Pratt the nod.
13. Gerald Butler – 300
Did you know that Gerard Butler was the Phantom from Phantom of the Opera? He definitely didn’t need to be in excellent shape to pull off that role. In fact, he didn’t even have to show off his entire face! That was not the case with 300 in which Butler donned a loin cloth for almost the entirety of the film. It’d be like going to the beach, except the entire world gets to watch you for over 2 hours. Talk about the pressure to be in shape, so you may not be surprised to hear that the entire cast took their body shape incredibly seriously.
“That was seven months of training. There was always a part of me going, ‘Okay, am I going to stop doing this?’ But I really was really kind of happy and surprised that I kept it up. I kind of became, I think, a bit addicted to it or perhaps addicted to the advantages it was giving me. Because after a certain point, I never once felt silly or strange standing in my cape, that started to become, just a couple of days after putting it on, one of my biggest allies. Wearing that costume and feeling so strong and that your body was an intimidating factor.”
To be fair, if I bad a body like Butler did in the movie, I wouldn’t wear anything but a loincloth or my cape either!
12. Christian Bale – Batman Trilogy
Christian Bale is 6’2, so you know that when he got cast in the role of Bruce Wayne, the casting directors knew he had the physical size to fill out into an effective Dark Knight. What they may not have been expecting was that the film Bale took on beforehand was The Machinist, and it had Bale dropping down to 121 pounds and looking downright scary as a result (as you can see from the above photo). Bale was an avid weightlifting fan even prior to the role of Bruce, but you can imagine he went even harder with his personal trainer, transforming his body into 230 pounds in only six months.
You think that’s impressive? How about the fact that Christopher Nolan thought that Bale looked ‘too big’ at 230 pounds and required the actor to drop down to 190 pounds, which was the weight that he filmed at. No wonder they gave him all those topless scenes!
Fans of Bale’s work will also know that he got incredibly ripped for his role in American Psycho which came out in 2000.
11. Chris Evans – Captain America
There are definitely some actors on this list that really got into the idea of getting huge for a role, but that may not have been so easy for Chris Evans who needed to make sure his body looked like someone who had some super-soldier serum injected – definitely easier said than done. Evans enacted the help of Simon Waterson who helped train Daniel Craig to get ready for Bond, and when asked about it, Evans admitted to Men’s Health magazine, “it was grueling, it was brutal and I’d find any excuse possible not to go, But I had to do it.”
Though people who hate cardio may rejoice, as Evans said that he didn’t do one bit of cardio in the three months to get ready for the role .“If I do cardio I’ll disappear, I’m pretty skinny, I just needed to gain size.”
Evans admits that “I don’t think my body is supposed to get as big as it got for Captain America” but I am sure his fans definitely did not mind.
10. Mark Wahlberg – Pain & Gain
To be fair, my favourite Mark Wahlberg role is in The Departed where he is required to play a character that is slightly less ripped than the dude on your right. That becomes all the more impressive when you hear that for the role of Pain & Gain, the actor packed on nearly 40 pounds of muscle, and he did this in only two months.
That being said, when you are stepping up on screen beside Dwayne Johnson, I can imagine there’s pressure on to look your best. One of the biggest components of getting in shape is making sure you are eating enough of the right food, but Wahlberg’s diet may still blow you away.
The actor confessed to Men’s Health magazine that he would on average eat 12 meals a day. When talking about how on earth that was possible, Wahlberg divulged more information. “I’d have a big meal and go to bed at 9pm, and then I’d get up at midnight to eat again, and I’d still be full from the last meal. And then you exercise first thing in the morning and eat all day, and you try to take as many naps and rest as much as possible.”
While this may sound like something enjoyable, Wahlberg admitted that eventually this kind of lifestyle removes all the joy from eating. “Food really did stop having any real taste for me. Method acting is ******* brutal, but you do what you’ve got to do.”
9. Bradley Cooper – American Sniper
At only 185 pounds, Cooper thought he was hardly the man to play the role of Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL who was credited with 160 confirmed kills.
In real life, Chris was 230 pounds, but as Cooper pointed out to BusinessInsider “Chris wasn’t ripped, He wasn’t sinewy. He was just a bear.” But thankfully, as you’ve learned with every name on this list, Cooper was able to step up to the plate and add close to 40 pounds of muscle to his frame. On top of the workout routine, Cooper was having close to 6,000 calories of food every single day.
“It was a real shock to my body. If it’s pizza and cake, that’s one thing. Putting 6,000 calories a day in your body gets old quick.”
Kudos to Cooper for being ambitious and taking on the role, just don’t be surprised if he sticks to a less physically demanding one the next time around!
8. Matt Damon – Bourne Series
When Matt Damon co-wrote Good Will Hunting with Ben Affleck and made his big screen debut, it was clear that the man had talent. Though what you may not have been expecting, was that you were also looking at the man who was going to become Jason Bourne. A character that just in case you’re unaware, needs to be in pretty good shape to kick some serious ass, but Damon clearly has that part locked down.
Damon looks absolutely ripped in one of the newest trailers for the upcoming Jason Bourne film, which is also Damon’s first Bourne film since 2007.
You may have last seen Damon in The Martian in which he was far less of a physical force on the screen. If you want to see Damon blow up the other way, check him out in The Informant in which Damon put on 30 pounds of fat to play the role of Mark Whitacre. When asked about his preparation for that role, the actor was a lot more open about how much fun he had. “It was very, very easy to gain the weight. It was very, very fun, probably the funnest time I had working, because I didn’t have to go to the gym after work and I just ate everything I could see ‘I definitely got doughy. I started eating like crazy and drinking dark beer.'”
The real question is, now that the weight is back off, how amazing of a role would it have to be to get him to fatten himself up all over again?
7. Will Smith – Ali
As you saw, Jake Gyllenhaal may have gotten huge for Southpaw, but this is not the only time an actor has had to train incredibly hard to portray a boxer on the big screen.
Will Smith did an admirable job when he decided to play legendary boxer Muhammad Ali in the film, Ali. It was not a job he took lightly, in fact Will turned the role of Muhammad Ali down for 8 years before he was finally convinced, saying “I felt confident that this was the role that I was born to play.”
Smith has said that he spent almost two years making sure he got every element of Cassius Clay correct. This included not only learning the iconic boxer’s moves in the ring, but also being able to take on his unusual dialect.
Smith’s next big-screen role may require him to kick some ass as Deadshot in the upcoming Suicide Squad, but something tells me it probably did not take him 2 years to prepare for the role! Helps that he has the guns do the talking for him.
6. Ryan Reynolds – Blade Trinity
When it comes to actors that are all the rage right now, Reynolds may be the one with the highest stock. His latest movie, Deadpool, was outstanding, but this was not the first time Reynolds had to transform his body into great shape for a role. The first time it happened was for Blade Trinity in which Reynolds dropped 10 pounds and put on another 20 pounds of muscle.
When he was asked during the interview process if he thought he would be able to do this, Reynolds responded “Absolutely. That was so full of sh*t. I didn’t know if I could do that. But whenever an actor auditions for anything they’re like, ‘So, can you fly an F-15 Tomcat?’ and you’re like, ‘Yeah. I went to camp for it.’ You just lie, lie, lie and figure it out on the day.”
Reynolds’ diet was also not strict, being able to eat whatever it was he chose, but it was required that every two hours or so he’d be putting more food into his body. When you consider he was working out two-to-three hours a day, training to fight for at least an hour a day, and had shooting days of 15+ hours, there was plenty of time to work up an appetite.
If you’re curious, Reynolds also shared his experiences on what it was like to go beat up by Triple H, who also appears in the film. “I recommend it for everyone. It’s fantastic, very character building for one, very painful for another. These guys don’t know subtlety in a physical sense. When he picks you up and throws you, he picks you up and throws you.”
5. Henry Cavill – Immortals and Superman
Henry Cavill is no stranger to getting in shape for a role, just take a look at him in Immortals in which in looks like he has an 8-pack and cut his body down to 6% fat! So I am sure that there was absolutely no lack of confidence that he was going to be absolutely ripped to play Superman. And when you hear more about his attitude toward getting in shape, you’ll understand why. “I had a big sense of pride, I was like, ‘No shading. I don’t want you to draw abs on me. I don’t want you to put dirt in the right places. I just want to do it myself. I want to have the body…It’s a pride thing.’”
I suppose being able to play the role of a lifetime is a pretty good motivator as well, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have his doubts. “You get the fear every morning…Do I look good enough? And of course you do. But in your own head, you never look good enough.”
As a fun fact, Henry worked alongside trainer Mark Dwight who was also responsible for helping Gerard Butler get absolutely shredded (as you saw) for 300.
4. Jamie Foxx – Any Given Sunday
In 1999, Jamie Foxx was cast in the movie Any Given Sunday. Playing football player, Willie Beamen, you can understand why it was important to have a character that looks like a football player. In order to bulk up for the role, Foxx admitted that it was not the easiest process. “I really had to bulk up. I got up to about 200 pounds, then lost 25 pounds once I went down to training camp because of all the workouts, and water lost. It made me look bigger on the screen because I was tighter.”
While many guys put the focus on the overall number on the scale, clearly Jamie didn’t care how much he weighed, he just wanted to make sure his body looked huge on the big screen. Given that it landed a place on this list, you can assume it was a job well done. Foxx engaged in more training, albeit of a singing version, for the revamped version of Annie which came out in 2014. The next time you see him may be in the iconic role of Little John in the upcoming film Robin Hood: Origins.
3. J.K. Simmons – Justice League
You thought 57-year-old Mel Gibson getting ripped was impressive? Then what are your thoughts on the 61-year-old, Academy Award-winning actor J.K. Simmons going absolutely hard AF for his upcoming role in the Justice League series. Clearly, Simmons took some tips from all the other superheroes on this list, and while we haven’t been able to see him on the big screen yet, is there any doubt that this is going to be a talking point once the movie finally hits?
Simmons plays Commissioner Gordon in the upcoming film and is currently being trained by a retired U.S. Marine, Aaron Williamson.
This is all the more impressive when you consider how J.K. Simmons allowed his voice and acting ability to shine in one of his more recent films, Whiplash.
To be fair, I’m honestly not sure if there is ever logically going to be a scene in Justice League where Commissioner Gordon is found with his shirt off, but if he is working this hard, then you better believe there will be one written in. Let’s just hope the beard gets to stay too!
2. Brad Pitt – Troy
When you are going to play a character that is organizing a club where men beat the absolute crap out of each other, it’s probably going to be a pretty important thing to try and be in impeccable shape. Thankfully for the people involved with the classic movie Fight Club, Brad Pitt had seemingly no problems transforming his body into the ripped Tyler Durden.
What may have been even more impressive was the transformation that the actor put his body through for the movie Troy. It was the actors first big role in several years, and when Pitt finally decided to start hitting the gym and training for the character, he was 40 years old. In an interview, Pitt opened up about his age and the impact it had on taking the role.
“It’s amazing what an impending midlife crisis will do for you, really. It got me motivated, having turned 40 in December….[starting training] sucked and it was brutal. I started out about six months ahead, going in. It was four meals a day of protein and low-carb, it was quitting smoking, and it was two, three hours in the gym, getting to a point of absolute discomfort.”
Troy may have come out back in 2003, but something tells me there wouldn’t be anyone questioning Pitt if he decided to get jacked again for a role. Maybe he’ll take some inspiration from other oldie’s on this list like Mel Gibson or J.K. Simmons.
1. Alex Skarsgard – The Legend of Tarzan
I’m going to be completely honest here, I don’t think the upcoming real-life adaptation, The Legend of Tarzan looks like it is going to be very good. While it may also star Margot Robbie, it also feels like one of those films that didn’t really need to be made, but then again, when has that ever stopped Hollywood? One thing that did have to get made for the movie, was Skarsgård’s body, because it turns out there aren’t a lot of shirts in the jungle. That being said, if you got to see Robbie on a regular basis, you’d probably try and get an 8-pack (or whatever the heck that is) too.
When talking about the process, his trainer Magnus Lygdbäck stated “we didn’t want that generic gym-built body for Alex… We wanted to create a physicality close to his primate family, so there was a concentration on sculpting a broad back, huge traps, with less focus on the chest.”
In order to make sure those were the types of muscles being worked out, the studio even built an obstacle course into the actor’s home! I’d just be happy if I lived in a house big enough to be able to install an obstacle course, much less get to climb on it for work.
While the movie is not out quite yet, let’s hope once it hits theaters that critics and fans will think it was worth the effort put in by Skarsgård.