There is an old adage in Hollywood amongst actors. If a casting director asks you if you can do something, you always say yes. It doesn’t matter if it is speaking another language or having a specialized skill. Opportunities don’t come around often for actors and many times they will do anything to get a part. It is an extremely competitive business and a difficult one to find success in. This is why when a role calls for an actor to do something extreme, they will often times find a way to follow through and accommodate the part.
Big time actors have it a lot easier than unknowns. They sometimes don’t even have to go through the audition process to get a role. They also have the luxury of gaining access to a support system that allows them to adapt to almost any role necessary. That is why when an actor requires extreme changes to their physical appearance, dialect, and mannerisms, they are able to comply and sometimes come through with an incredibly legendary performance.
Actors have undergone a variety of extremes to add to the authenticity of a particular acting role. Some actors have actually put their health at risk all for the benefit of their craft. To be the best, sometimes that requires an actor to extend further than they ever thought they could. That is why, when an actor loses a great deal of weight for a role, it can be dramatic to the eyes like when a normal, healthy robust actor turns themselves into a frail emaciated individual we can immediately identify and empathize with. These are 10 of the biggest weight losses by actors for film roles.
10 Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
For the film Dallas Buyers Club, Leto reportedly lost 30 pounds. The mercurial actor/musician has been an impact performer in many feature films. His appearances in movies seem to be carefully constructed to high quality supporting roles. For his work in Dallas Buyers Club, Leto pulled in an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The method actor, as he’s known by Hollywood standards, also is the lead vocalist and songwriter for the group Thirty Seconds to Mars. He formed the band back in 1998 with his older brother, Shannon Leto, and the band hasn’t looked back since selling over 15 million albums worldwide. Not bad for a “side project” to Leto’s acting career. Either way, Leto is insanely talented and did a great job in Buyers.
9 Christian Bale – The Machinist, Rescue Dawn, The Fighter
Christian Bale is the king of putting on weight and taking it off for feature films. He regularly has appeared in films which have called for him to dramatically slim down, only to have to add weight to play such big time roles as Bruce Wayne in the most recent Batman reboot. Bale dropped a ridiculous 63 pounds for The Machinist in 2004. In 2006 he had to shed 55 pounds for Rescue Dawn. And finally, he dropped over 50 pounds for his role in the 2010 film The Fighter. Bale is known for his temper and angry outbursts and I think I have the answer. Don’t let him lose so much weight anymore. I know I’m grumpy when I miss just one meal. I can only imagine how pissed he gets.
8 Matt Damon – Courage Under Fire
The 1996 film Courage Under Fire was a tremendous dramatic film. The list of actors, from Denzel Washington to Meg Ryan, helped make up this phenomenal cast. One of those key cast members was a young Matt Damon. Back in 1996 and before he made a name for himself in Good Will Hunting (1997), Damon was just an up-and-comer. In Courage Under Fire, Damon was playing a character haunted by the dramatic events during a battle. In order to fill the shoes of his troubled and tormented character, Damon lost 40 pounds. It was a tough task for him, and he later confided that the weight loss was very difficult to rebound from and threw his metabolism completely off. Damon has seemingly shook off any of those issues starring as Jason Bourne in classic film, The Bourne Identity.
7 50 Cent – All Things Fall Apart
Curtis Jackson, also known by his rapper name 50 Cent, is not just a successful rap artist. He has branched out to businesses and acting, becoming a force in the entertainment business. But in the feature film All Things Fall Apart (2011), Jackson plays a former football player who suffers from a deadly disease. Playing a cancer patient, Jackson had to lose over 50 pounds to play the difficult role. Jackson was determined and spent nearly three hours a day partaking in a liquid diet for nine weeks to drop from 214 pounds down to 160. The character was based on a childhood friend of Jackson's who died of cancer ,and he was determined to make his character authentic. This was a high quality film. Well done, Jackson.
6 Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
Actress Anne Hathaway is known for sporting quite a personality. She is a dedicated actress who isn’t afraid of any and all challenges. When she was up for the role of Fantine, a struggling factory worker, Hathaway couldn’t resist doing everything she could to shine in her Academy Award nominated role in Les Miserables. The already-slender Hathaway amazingly dropped an additional 25 pounds to better fit the profile of the poor factory worker. She was also fearless when it came to singing in the role. Regardless, Hathaway killed it on all ends and was rewarded with much love from film critics.
5 Natalie Portman – Black Swan
Anybody that has seen Natalie Portman act over the years knows she has incredible talent. Long before she played Padme Amidala in the Star Wars prequel, she burst onto the scene with an incredible role in Luc Besson’s film Leon: The Professional. That role launched her into Hollywood’s inner circle and she hasn’t looked back ever since. In Black Swan, Portman not only was amazing in the psychological dark drama, receiving an Academy Award for Best Actress, a Gold Globe Award and a SAG Award, she also amazingly lost 20 pounds to play the ballerina. The already-small Portman withered away to almost nothing as her constant practicing and dancing shed any extra weight she had. She pushed herself to the limit. We applaud your performances each and every day, Natalie. You are a gem.
4 Seth Rogen – The Green Hornet
Funny man Seth Rogen is not known as being a "leading" man in a super-hero action movie. However, the star of Knocked Up and Pineapple Express found himself in the unusual position of being courted to play a leading role in the film The Green Hornet (2009). The pot-smoking actor was literally the spokesperson for the munchies but found a way to drop 30 pounds for the role. Rogen attributed the weight loss to simple exercise and dieting. The film went on to gross over $200 million and a slimmer Rogen did a nice job.
3 Chris Pratt – Zero Dark Thirty
Chris Pratt was a mainstay on Parks and Recreation. He was a funny, heavy-set talented actor. Then came the diet in which he shed over 50 pounds to slim down. First came the role in Zero Dark Thirty (2012) where he first displayed his new physique. However, it would be in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) where his new body earned him “A-list” status. The starring role in the long anticipated Jurassic World (2015) came next and Pratt is now everyone’s “it-man” for the time being. He is a likable leading man with a great sense of humor. Odds are we are just seeing the beginning of Pratt’s run.
2 Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Matthew McConaughey has been a leading man in Hollywood for a number of years. He’s played big time characters since he broke out in the 1993 comedy, Dazed and Confused. Since then, he has been a big player in a variety of fun movies. But in 2013, McConaughey took a different kind of role. He portrayed a cowboy diagnosed with AIDS in the biopic Dallas Buyers Club. The film earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. The surprise role was a passion project for the superstar who shed 40 pounds of his usually-muscular physique to accommodate the role. McConaughey was almost unrecognizable and killed it in the movie.
1 Tom Hanks – Castaway
You have got to give it to a film and their leading man when you have to stop production for a full year in order to complete principle filming so the leading man can lose massive amounts of weight. The film Castaway (2000) was a massive success in part because of Hanks and his amazing performance. First, he had to gain 50 pounds prior to filming so he looked like a pudgy man. After the first part of production was completed, Hanks had to lose over 60 pounds and grow his hair and beard out. The film crew actually went on and filmed another film and then returned to complete part two of the film making process with a far leaner Hanks. Hanks is the only actor I know of who has ever had to gain 50 pounds and then lose all of it plus more during the film making process. Hanks was nominated for an Academy Award and took home the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama for his efforts. For Hanks’s extraordinary efforts, he earns our top spot.
On a side note, Hanks recently shared he has diabetes. Actors may love their craft, but adding and losing pounds in bulk has a lot of risk involved.