When these guys and girls started out when they were younger and decided they wanted to make it as actors and actresses, it’s safe to assume that they were willing to do whatever it took. Just making it in the industry in the first place is seriously tough, because there are tons of people competing for roles. So, when that first movie role comes your way, you’ve got to make it count, keep going to auditions, keep getting yourself out there in the hope of landing that major role which will propel you into the limelight.
All of these movie stars have done just that, hence why we’re able to call them stars. But another reason they are stars is because they’re willing to do whatever they need to do, firstly to be cast, secondly to star in a memorable movie. Acting often encompasses a lot more than just learning some lines. It often requires you to sacrifice certain things, become a different person entirely. This can be done through method acting, but what about the body? There’s only so much that can be done with body suits and computer-generated imagery – there’s only so much realism that can be achieved by going down that route. So, actors have to change their bodies themselves, whether that’s losing or gaining weight for a role.
There have been many actors and actresses who have gained weight by bulking up for roles, but this article is going to focus on those movie stars who put on weight by gaining fat, those unfortunate souls who had to get out of shape and endure a hell of a lot for the sake of our entertainment. Here they are: 15 actors and actresses who have had to put on weight and get fat for a movie role.
15 Jared Leto - Chapter 27
Jared Leto received plenty of accolades for his portrayal of Mark David Chapman in the movie crime/drama film Chapter 27. For those of you who don’t know who Chapman is, he was the man responsible for killing John Lennon, and this film’s a dramatization of those events. Playing Chapman, a mentally challenged, overweight psychopath, Jared had a tough time getting into character. Playing him wasn’t a problem, but looking like him was another thing entirely. Of course, there was plenty of time spent in the makeup chair for Jared, but makeup can only do so much. He had to put on a considerable amount of weight – he was instructed to do so, but he wanted to do it too because he thought it was a necessary thing to do – and so his lean physique and charming good looks vanished, and rolls of fat appeared in their place. He put on an astonishing 70 lbs, and he’s said that it changed pretty much everything about him.
14 Matt Damon - The Informant
You’ve probably noticed that most of the people on this list hated having to get fat for a movie role. They do it anyway, but hated it, but when Matt Damon had to go through the same thing for his role in the movie The Informant, he approached things in a very different way. He decided that instead of being a misery guts about it, letting his mental health and his mood suffer, that he would embrace it, and embrace it he certainly did. He’s actually said that he rather enjoyed the opportunity to get fat. He ate tons of junk, pigged out on whatever he wanted to, and added a daily dose of beer to his unravelling diet. He’d have his meals, then between shoots on set, he’d have a McDonalds meal, and have a pack of Doritos. “It was absolute heaven” Damon has said, and his family found it hilarious too, how his appearance was changing and the fact that he was getting all “squishy.”
13 Matthew McConaughey - Gold
Last year, Matthew McConaughey starred in the drama/thriller movie Gold, and had to drastically change his appearance for that movie. He’s probably still getting back to normal, getting back to his normal weight and normal looks, because he really was unrecognizable. Part of the reason for that was his weight gain. Matthew had to pack on a hell of a lot of weight for Gold, around 50 lbs in fact, and it certainly showed. His face got puffier, he had a paunch, and looked like he had aged around a decade during the course of that movie. But Matthew embraced it all and absolutely loved it. He had no restrictions when it came to his diet, so was having cheeseburgers and beer for breakfast, and it was pizza night every night in the McConaughey household. He even let his family get involved with this new diet, and they – especially the kids, although obviously he didn’t allow them to have beer - loved him for it.
12 Christian Bale - American Hustle
Christian Bale is one guy who takes his roles very seriously. He wants everything to be as authentic as possible, and that means he’s undergone some dramatic transformations over the years when we’ve seen him onscreen, and part of the reason for that is because his weight is yoyoing constantly. Just take The Machinist for example. Christian looked completely anorexic in that movie and was truly unrecognizable – he looked utterly horrid. Straight after that movie he began shooting for his Batman films, and so in an effort to put weight back on, he ate a ton of food, gained all the weight he lost and then some, and then cut down again to become more muscular.
His role in American Hustle is another example of when Christian’s gained weight for a role. He put on over 30 lbs, and his weight gain was so drastic that even Robert De Niro – who had a small role in the movie – had no clue who Christian was when they met on the set.
11 Charlize Theron - Monster
Charlize Theron is absolutely stunning, I’m sure everyone would agree. Women want to be her, a lot of people want to be with her, but keep that image of Charlize in the movie Monster in mind, and you’ll be put right off your notions of the blonde bombshell.
Her look in that movie was truly horrific – so it had the desired result. She was actually unrecognizable; it was remarkable how she transformed. Sure, there was lots of makeup involved, she must have spent a hell of a long time in that makeup chair every morning, but she actually changed her body for the role too. She played a serial killer named Aileen Wuornos in the movie, and the resemblance to the real-life Aileen Wuornos was uncanny. She put on 30 lbs, and said about the transformation: "It wasn't about getting fat. Aileen wasn't fat. Aileen carried scars on her body from her lifestyle, and if I'd gone to make this movie with my body—physically I'm very athletic—I don't know that I would have felt the things Aileen felt with her body. It was about getting to a place where I felt closer to how Aileen was living."
10 Sylvester Stallone - Cop Land
I said in the intro that many actors would find it incredibly hard to put on weight and be shown with a bit of a paunch onscreen. That’s because there’s a huge fitness culture among celebs nowadays, especially movie stars, since what they show onscreen is going to be around, well, forever, so they want to make sure they look amazing. But some must love having an excuse to slob out and put on weight, not to exercise, and eat garbage. Sylvester Stallone was not one of these people. He’s one of Hollywood’s original muscle men, a guy who’s renowned for his rippling muscles, six pack abs, and just all-round amazing physique. He had already starred in a few Rocky and Rambo movies when he got the role as a sheriff in Cop Land, so people were used to seeing his amazing body onscreen. It therefore left a lot of people shocked when they saw Sly in that movie. He went from Rocky to chunky, and gained over 40 lbs for his portrayal of the stereotypical out of shape cop.
Sly says he ate with utter abandon to gain the weight, and at first, he loved it, loved gorging himself and being able to pig out. But then he started noticing things, having health problems, and eventually had to force-feed himself junk food. Bodybuilding and living that whole lifestyle is like a drug for Sly, and going off the rails in this fashion was like going through withdrawal symptoms. At least people appreciated what he went through, especially after he put in a decent performance in that movie.
9 Russell Crowe - Body of Lies
Russell Crowe starred in the 2008 thriller Body of Lies, and he had to go through a hell of a lot to prepare for that movie and look like the character the directors had envisioned onscreen.
Russell had to put on weight to fit that stereotypical image of a cop. Well, he wasn’t a cop, he was a member of the CIA, but same line of work, something that involves sitting at a desk for long periods of time and leading a sedentary lifestyle. To fit that stereotypical image, Russell had to pile on the weight, and boy did he do just that. A lot of the names on this list put on 30 lbs or so for their roles; Russell put on 63, and he went all out too! While preparing his body for that movie, he gorged himself on cheeseburgers and cupcakes for breakfast, which might sound like heaven for some people, but you can imagine it would get a bit gross after a while.
8 Renee Zellweger - Bridget Jones
The lovable Bridget Jones has to be one of the most iconic movies characters of all time. People just loved watching those movies, in some way because they feel for Bridget, and many women can relate to that character.
Renee Zellweger’s been in some memorable movies, but the Bridget Jones franchise is by far and away her best. She went through a hell of a lot to get that role just right, for it to be perfect, and for her to look the part, like the directors envisioned for the character. You have to say she got it spot on, not just Bridget’s character and personality, but her body too. Renee put on 30 lbs to play Bridget, and not just the once either. Bridget Jones is a franchise, so she had to put the weight on multiple times. The weight was evident; just look at pics of Bridget Jones, and pics of Renee when she’s not in that role, and they’re almost two different people entirely.
Renee certainly didn’t find it easy. She actually consulted doctors who were worried about what she was putting her body through long-term. It truly is amazing the things these stars put themselves through, sacrificing their health for a memorable movie role, and thankfully for Renee after all that effort, memorable it certainly was.
7 Julia Roberts - Eat, Pray, Love
Many people deem Julia Roberts to have the perfect body. She’s hot, fit, likes to take care of herself, and always looks like the glamorous Hollywood star she is. That’s how acting can sometimes be difficult, because it requires you to change character completely.
I’m sure everyone would agree that Julia Roberts was fantastic in the movie Eat Pray Love. She played Liz Gilbert, someone who was going through many changes in life, a person who was at a turning point. It was a very deep role, a role that required Liz, and Julia herself, to delve into her inner self as she went on her journey of self-discovery. The role also required her to gain weight. Actually, I say required, but it was Julia herself who felt she needed to gain weight in order to make Liz Gilbert more authentic – that’s just the professional she is. She piled on around 30 lbs without instruction, because she wanted to – not many actors would voluntarily put on 30 lbs!
6 George Clooney - Syriana
There aren’t a lot of actors who really enjoy piling on the pounds deliberately. It’s just something that needs to be done now and again for the sake of a movie. George Clooney, the consummate professional that he is, got fat for his role as the CIA operative in the 2005 movie Syriana, but he did so begrudgingly and had a really awful time during that film. The Hollywood heartthrob really hated packing on the weight, because he usually leads a very fit, healthy, and active lifestyle. That was all put on hold during this movie – it had to be – and consequently George was really down about it. He’s said preparing for that movie caused him to age a decade, and actually get pretty depressed. Matt Damon, who was also in the movie, said that George, who’s usually the life and soul of the party, just used to sit there not doing much in-between sets, hardly moving. That 30 lbs of excess weight really took its toll on the legendary actor, as well as his physical and mental well-being.
5 Eric Bana - Chopper
Eric Bana’s renowned for being a pretty fit guy. He’s tall, muscular, makes women swoon, and regularly brings this package into his movies, The Incredible Hulk being one. But before those days, when Eric was just starting out, he was prepared to do whatever he needed to do in order to get movie roles. He made his film debut in 1997, and although he kept busy doing his thing on TV, he was yearning to get back into the movie business, so he snapped up the chance to star as a lead in the 2000 movie Chopper. But it meant Eric had to drastically change his appearance. He gained around 30 lbs to play the murderer in that movies, and for a guy who’s heavily into fitness, that was a very hard thing to do. But once he got over that temporary change in his lifestyle, he found it incredibly easy. He sat around and got fat by eating doughnuts and drinking beer, and just as easily as he put on the weight, he shed the pounds, and was soon back to leading his active lifestyle.
4 Vincent D'Onofrio - Full Metal Jacket
Vincent D'Onofrio may not be one of the most well-known actors on this list, but I had to include him because his transformation in the movie Full Metal Jacket really was drastic.
I said Vincent might not be one of the most prominent names on this list, but he will be to all you film buffs and movie aficionados out there. He’s been around since the 80s, is still involved in the industry to this day, has a vast and varied filmography, and has also tried his hand at producing movies.
Back when he was starting out, Vincent was eager to take on any role he could. After appearing in a couple of movies, he spent three years in the wilderness before starring in Full Metal Jacket. He really did look menacing in that movie, and part of the reason for that was because he put on a remarkable 70 lbs. “It changed my life,” he said. Women were repulsed, he had trouble socializing, and struggled with simple everyday things like tying his shoelaces. Amazingly that didn’t put him off and he did it again in 2002, in the movie The Salton Sea for which he gained 45 lbs.
3 Gwyneth Paltrow - Country Strong
Gwyneth Paltrow’s always been in control of her weight. She’s got a svelte physique, looks absolutely stunning, just loves looking after herself, and it shows. But there was one occasion where she had to shun this healthy way of life for a while and pile on the pounds for a movie role. She hasn’t held back in saying how hard it was for her to put on that extra 20 lbs to get fat for her role in Country Strong. It was kind of like a nightmare for Gwyneth, especially the fact that she had to stop working out so the weight would stay. For a very active person, leading such a sedentary lifestyle was seriously tough, and initially, she really panicked because her body just wasn’t used to not doing anything. She’s even said she found it difficult to get back into the swing of things after her movie, so Gwyneth certainly found it all really tough.
2 Ryan Gosling - Blue Valentine
Ryan Gosling’s recently been propelled into the limelight due to his role in the film La La Land, but he’s been killing it in the movies for a decade before that role. He’s not really one of these Hollywood actors who’s all about muscle, looking big and built. His is a more lean physique – look at Ryan and if you didn’t know he was an actor you’d think he was the guy next door; he has that type of appearance, that type of persona, even more so when he was shooting the film Blue Valentine. In that movie, Ryan had to get a little podgy for his role. He put on 15 lbs, because the directors wanted him to seem a bit more normal, like your everyday bloke. It may not sound like a whole lot to gain 15 lbs, but to Ryan it was, and he certainly wasn’t too fond of his newfound friend.
1 Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine
I’ve just mentioned Ryan Gosling having to put on weight for the movie Blue Valentine. Well, the leading lady in that film was Michelle Williams. In the movie, she played his lover – star-crossed lovers in a relationship that was doomed from the start. Michelle also had to gain weight and she put on around 15 lbs for her role. She felt uncomfortable, but then as shooting rolled on, she began to find that there was an upside to the weight gain. There were nude scenes that they had to shoot, which Michelle – like most actors and actresses – was uncomfortable with. But she’s said that added weight acted like a bit like a costume, made her feel more comfortable with the nudity. "The nude scenes were in the later part of the relationship so I had gained some weight and the pudginess I was feeling was almost like a costume. All that extra flesh ironically made me feel less nude."
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