Acting is often seen as one of the best jobs in the world. It’s no wonder why, as Hollywood stars are paid millions of dollars for only a few months of work at a time. Almost everyone dreams of becoming one of these stars at some point in their life, but those who are committed to the craft have a much tougher road. It’s easy to play a character that doesn’t require much range, but most actors want to challenge themselves and get out of their comfort zone.
Many actors have to undergo drastic changes for roles. Method actors stay in character for long periods of time, and even when they aren’t method acting, some actors must diet to get the part they want.
It’s one thing to lose a few pounds to play a skinnier character. It’s another thing entirely to lose or gain 50 to 60 pounds. Some people are required to pack on muscle for a role, only to lose it all for their next movie. Others have to lose unhealthy amounts of weight and bulk up again before they can get another job. It’s a rewarding endeavor for most, but this kind of body transformation has to take a toll on a person’s body.
15. Gerard Butler
Gerard Butler was never out of shape, but he was a far cry from Leonidas in 300. It’s one thing to be in shape in today’s society. It’s another issue entirely to be the superhuman fighting machine that he was in 300. Butler gained 20 pounds of pure muscle to play Leonidas.
The role was so popular that bodybuilding forums around the world claimed to have “the 300 workout.” Part of those rippling muscles was computer-aided, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean the actors weren’t freaks in the gym. It takes a lot of effort to lose weight like some of the following actors, but gaining muscle like Butler did could be even more difficult. Butler isn’t as buff as he was back then, but he clearly has the tools to be an elite athlete in the weight room.
14. Chris Pratt
Unlike some of the other actors on this list who either gained or lost an unhealthy amount of weight, Chris Pratt actually got healthy for his role in Guardians of the Galaxy. The Parks and Recreation star lost a reported 60 pounds for the role and gained a whole lot of lean muscle.
After his body transformation, Pratt continued to play a slimmed-down version of Andy on Parks and Rec, but his new physique opened the door to multiple leading roles. Pratt was no longer the funny best friend; he was the superhero and leading man.
13. Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman earned her Best Actress award with her work on Black Swan. Not only did she have to shrink her already tiny waist, but she had to train rigorously to become a believable world-class ballerina.
Portman was never pudgy, which is why it may surprise some to learn that she had to lose 20 pounds for her role in Black Swan. Unlike other actors and actresses, Portman dieted like the ballerinas with whom she was training. She had to endure a crash course as a ballerina as well. She was playing a character who was supposed to be elite, so she trained for hours each day and barely ate.
12. Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks had to doubly prepare for his role in Cast Away. He reportedly stopped working out and gained weight to become an “average guy,” but then had to lose it all when his character was stranded on a desert island.
In fact, production of Cast Away was actually stopped for a year to give Hanks time to lose the weight and grow his hair. Hanks’ role in Cast Away is undoubtedly one of his best. You really feel as though this is a man who’s been stranded on an island, in part, due to his drastic body transformation.
Hanks wasn’t as skinny as some of the other people on this list, but he wasn’t an AIDS or cancer victim either. He was just a man stranded on an island. Out of all of Hanks’ roles, this is probably the most immersive.
11. Tom Hardy
Tom Hardy wasn’t always the goliath that we think of today. Before his role as Charles Bronson in Bronson, the actor was actually quite small. Hardy prepared for the role by eating like crazy, training with ex-US marines and eventually gained 43 pounds.
Hardy didn’t stop there, as he leveraged his new size as the villain Bane in the final Dark Knight film. In this role, Hardy seems even more massive than he was in Bronson. Of course, it’s hard to maintain such mass, and he slimmed down a bit after these roles were finished. Now, though, Hollywood studios know what Hardy is capable of and are more likely to cast him in these types of roles in the future. There’s no denying his terrifying size as Bane, so it’s likely that we haven’t seen the last of buffed-up Tom Hardy.
10. Matthew McConaughey
Matthew McConaughey is another high-profile actor who lost a ton of weight for the role of a lifetime. McConaughey lost 47 pounds in six months to play an AIDS patient in Dallas Buyers Club. The diet must have taken a toll on his body, but McConaughey was awarded by winning Best Actor for his performance.
If you watch closely, you can even see McConaughey continue to lose weight as the movie went on. This was a good storytelling tool but must have been an incredibly difficult feat to accomplish. Once he gained the weight back, McConaughey never really looked the same. The trial of losing so much weight in a short period of time is still evident. It can’t be healthy, but these actors seem to be willing to do anything for the craft.
9. Renee Zellweger
Renee Zellweger was one of many who was too thin to play a character. To play Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones’s Diary in 2001, Zellweger had to gain 30 pounds. The pudgy character was a far cry from Renee Zellweger’s frame, so she had to eat like crazy in order to get her body to the correct weight.
A year later, in 2002, Zellweger had to lose all of her Bridget Jones weight including an additional 20 pounds for Chicago. Losing the 30 pounds you’ve gained is one thing, but having to lose another 20 for your next role is unthinkably difficult. This kind of fluctuation can’t be healthy, but that’s why these actors are paid the big bucks.
8. Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper always seemed to be a fit guy, but he wasn’t as big as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, whom Cooper played in the movie American Sniper. Cooper was a gym rat to prepare for the role, and he gained 40 pounds of muscle in the meantime.
In the movie, we see Cooper deadlifting an unthinkable amount of weight. These were the kinds of mass-building workouts in which Cooper took part in during his training for the role. The weight wasn’t something that Cooper intended to keep, however. He slimmed down shortly after the movie was done filming and was noticeably smaller while he was doing the press tour for the movie. Still, Cooper spent a few months at a size that not many of us will ever reach.
7. Christian Bale
Christian Bale has gone through multiple body transformations over his career. He was buff for Batman, wiry for The Fighter, and even sported a perfect beer belly for American Hustle. His greatest transformation, however, has to be how much weight he lost for The Machinist.
The Machinist follows a crazed insomniac who hasn’t slept in a year. To prepare for the role, Bale reportedly only ate an apple and a can of tuna every day. It’s not unheard of for actors to go on strict diets, but this has to be one of the most extreme in history.
Bale lost so much weight that doctors were concerned he might wither away before he finished filming. At his lowest, Bale weighed 120 lbs. When you look at the pictures from the movie, it’s hard to believe he could have gotten any smaller.
6. Mel Gibson
As Hollywood’s short memory forgot Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic comments, he began to get more acting and directing gigs. Gibson was always in shape, but let himself go after the leading roles started to dry up. After all, he was a bit old for the action movies in which he used to star.
That was the case until Expendables 3 came calling. Gibson got rid of his gut and packed on 25 pounds of muscle for the role. After his transformation, Gibson’s body looked like that of a 25-year-old rather than a that of a man in his late 50’s. Actors are known to do whatever it takes, and in Gibson’s case, it seems likely that he had a bit of extra help in the form of some PEDs. Of course, he probably wouldn’t admit as much, but men of that age don’t get shredded like he did naturally.
5. Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron is another actor who doesn’t have any reservations about changing her body for roles. The usually thin actress gained 30 pounds to play serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the 2004 movie Monster.
Not only did Theron gain weight for this role, but she became almost completely unrecognizable when she was in character. Theron looked a lot more like the person her character was based on than the Hollywood beauty we’re used to. Her weathered face was mostly makeup, and there is very little Theron left when you see her on screen as Wuornos.
The most difficult part of gaining so much weight has to be losing it afterward. Theron is traditionally cast as a beautiful woman, so she had to lose all of that weight immediately for her next role.
4. Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro has changed his weight for multiple roles throughout his career. His recent movies have featured the classic De Niro character, but his early work required him to change his weight from movie to movie.
For 1976’s Taxi Driver, De Niro had to lose 35 pounds to play an assassination-obsessed taxi driver. For his next movie, Raging Bull, De Niro had to gain 80 pounds of muscle out of his newly slender frame to play boxer Jake LaMotta.
His weight fluctuation wasn’t done, however. Raging Bull features a young LaMotta and an aging out-of-shape LaMotta. Production stopped for four months while De Niro ate his face off to become a believable washed-up boxer. All of this fluctuation caught up with him in the end, and he began to suffer medical problems because of it.
3. Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal is another actor who had to bounce up and down between weight classes. He lost 30 pounds for Nightcrawler, a movie where he played an odd-ball freelance photographer. The movie was a hit, but Gyllenhaal couldn’t get complacent as he had to immediately gain the weight back for his role in Southpaw.
Gyllenhaal didn’t just have to get back to his original weight for Southpaw, he had to gain an additional 15 pounds of muscle to play a boxer. During this time, Gyllenhaal trained as if he were a professional boxer, allowing him to put back on the muscle he needed for the role. Hopefully, Gyllenhaal’s next roles are a bit less taxing on his body, although he seems to perform under the stress.
2. 50 Cent
It’s probably hard to lose so much weight for a popular role. It must be even harder to lose all the weight for a role that doesn’t make a splash. Many people don’t even know that 50 Cent lost over 50 pounds to play a football player who gets diagnosed with cancer in Things Fall Apart.
50 Cent lost the weight by running every day and only consuming liquid. The role he did it for, however, doesn’t seem to have been worth the trouble. Not many people saw the movie in the first place, and many of you will be reading about this for the very first time. Not all movies can be a hit, but then again, not many actors lose that much weight for a role. Hopefully, the next time 50 loses this much weight he’ll be in the Oscar discussion.
1. Chris Hemsworth
The life of a superhero might not be as fun as you think it is. Sure, Chris Hemsworth had to bulk up for The Avengers, but he had to lose a lot of that muscle for Rush, only to gain it back again for the next Thor movie. Actors like Hemsworth have had to lose and gain this weight in the past, but when you’re the focal point of a superhero franchise, it’s probably a lot of pressure.
Superheroes, by their nature, are supposed to be freakishly strong. Unfortunately, the rest of us aren’t that big, so when it comes time to play a normal person, you’d have to slim down a tad. Of course, The Avengers is an ongoing franchise so he’d have to get that muscle back as soon as possible. These types of body transformations aren’t for normal people like us, which is why Hemsworth gets paid like a superhero.
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