Sometimes it’s pretty easy to forget that what we’re seeing on the big screen isn’t actually how it is in real-life. When they’re good at what they do, actors and actresses possess the ability to make us forget that they are just everyday (albeit somewhat sparkly) people—not the characters that we follow vividly from season to season, or throughout the length of a feature film. This is particularly easy to do with actors like Gary Oldman, because we’re not sure what he really looks like in real-life anyway. The truth is, a good number of actors are actually pretty good-looking—apparently it’s a thing in Hollywood. So when we see something unsightly onscreen, it can be a little disturbing, although nowadays the alternations can be easily attributed to makeup. But some actors go a little further, actually physically altering their appearances for roles, which, if we’re being honest, usually serves to make us regular people feel a whole lot better about ourselves. Either way, it’s enlightening to see celebrities going the extra mile to make a part more believable, even if their appearance ends up being seriously cringe-worthy (we’re still having nightmares about Christian Bale in The Machinist).
Here are some attractive faces that played unattractive counterparts in the name of good television/film:
10 Ryan Gosling as Dean Pereira
We know. There’s no way that Ryan Gosling could ever be unattractive, right? Then this might surprise you--The Notebook director Nick Cassavetes cast the Ontario native because he looked like a regular guy—not the sex symbol that he has morphed into today. But pre-Drive, Gosling played Lars in The Real World, and that quirky weirdo in Breaker High. Truth is, most of us don’t remember those characters, which says something about Gosling’s transformation. But his role as Dean Pereira in the raw film Blue Valentine gave us a little taste of what Ryan Gosling might look like if he was a regular old person that had a rough go of it.
9 Jared Leto as Mark David Chapman
While it’s hard to believe that Jared Leto could ever be considered unattractive with those baby blues, his role as Mark David Chapman in Chapter 27 turned him into a dumpy, pale and chubby (he gained about 40 pounds) version of himself. A method actor, the American My So Called Life star is known for how deeply he immerses himself in a character—which is how he claimed both an Oscar and a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his part as a transgender woman in Dallas Buyers Club. Fortunately, he has resurfaced looking as handsome as ever.
8 Tom Cruise as Les Grossman
After making People magazine’s Most Beautiful People list three times, not to mention countless hot/sexy man lists, it was somewhat alarming when he made his appearance as Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder—albeit awesome. Stripped off his luscious locks, Cruise was bald, sweaty and heavier for the duration of the movie (he got to wear a fat suit though, which took some of the joy out of the whole thing)—with a Bluetooth earpiece and some sweet eyewear to really set the look off. While he wasn't looking too hot, it was kind of nice not to see him saving the world from aliens or time travel or whatever.
7 Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth
While we wouldn’t say that Gwendoline Christie is a typical Hollywood beauty, she’s definitely not physically unattractive, which is what Brienne of Tarth of HBO’s Game of Thrones is supposed to be. The statuesque English actress (who is 6 ft 3 in tall) plays a lady knight on the hit show- for which she gained about 14 pounds of muscle mass. While she is constantly berated for her manliness throughout the show, we’re more apt to refer to her as elegant and poised after seeing her photographed without her armour, which she usually doesn’t don in her every day life.
6 America Ferrera as Betty Suarez
Citing her mother as her main inspiration, the real-life appearance of Honduran actress America Ferrera is a far cry from her brace-wearing character on the now concluded Ugly Betty show. Her character, the all-eyebrows Betty Suarez, was as awkward as she was charming, something that is hard to imagine when you see Ferrera in person—which is probably what won her numerous accolades for the show, including a Golden Globe and an Emmy, not to mention landing her on Time’s Most influential lists and People magazine’s coveted Most Beautiful list.
5 Thesy Surface as Margaret McPoyle
In order to play the greasy Margaret McPoyle on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Chicago-born, London-raised actress Thesy Surface has to sit in makeup for up to one to two hours in order to prep her for the role. In short, they do not gussy up the actress up for the role, adding a uni-brow and a little facial hair for good measure—which is a far cry from the way the stunning blue-eyed actress looks in real life—which means Surface pretty much plays the anti-thesis of herself (oh yeah…and she’s got a real-world English accent, too).
4 Naomi Grossman as Pepper
American Horror Story is freaky. Every season, the show parades a bevy of characters that are as terrifying as they are memorable. One of those characters is Pepper, a microcephalic woman, who seems to have the maturity of a very young child. While the character does provide some comedic relief within the darker theme of the show, she is, for the most part, well…scary. To the point where we found ourselves Googling “Pepper” just to see what the deal was. Turns out, Pepper is played by American actress Naomi Grossman. And she’s really pretty—which is startling considering her character on the show.
3 Jennifer Aniston as Claire Bennet
Known for being totally beautiful and crazy in shape, actress Jennifer Aniston shed her usual stunning appearance and packed on the pounds for her role as the struggling Claire Bennet in the acclaimed film Cake. While she isn't totally unattractive (her character still manages to get down with the pool boy), she is said to have shed makeup for the role, making her come across as a frumpy, deflated version of herself--which is a far cry from the Wanderlust star's regular enviable, short-short wearing and seemingly immortal self. Seriously. Like start to age already, Aniston.
2 Christian Bale as Trevor Reznik
Does anyone remember The Machinist? Since the flick was pre-Batman Begins, we’re guessing probably not. Christian Bale basically turned into a spider, losing 60 pounds (he weighed 121 pounds in the film) to play the role of the insomnia-stricken/mentally ill factory worker Trevor Reznik—which was flat out terrifying, and a far cry from the method actor’s usually athletic build (he bulked back up to star in Batman Begins only six weeks later). Bale isn’t shy to leave his pretty face behind either—he played the flabby Irving Rosenfeld in American Hustle, sporting a comb-over while touting an extra 43 pounds. While Bale is undoubtedly handsome, it’s nice to see him let go of those chiselled cheekbones if only to make men everywhere feel like anything is possible.
1 Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos
Since the South African actress Charlize Theron is pretty much out-of-this-world- gorgeous (seriously, she glows), it was kind of amazing to see her absorb the role of real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the movie Monster, turning her into a truly terrifying version of herself. Sporting prosthetic teeth, heavy make-up and a weight gain of approximately 30 pounds, Theron’s version of Wuornos was worthy of a serious skin crawl, which is probably why she won the title of Best Actress for the role at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes.