Female celebrities are pretty much automatically required to lose weight when they get started in Hollywood. After all, the camera adds ten pounds! (Actresses like Jennifer Aniston–who is regularly voted as one of the most beautiful women in the world–and Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence were both told to lose weight if they wanted to make it big.) While that often gets shunted aside, because it’s the norm, it’s still pretty common to see actresses make major headlines when it comes to dropping a serious amount of weight in order to play a part.
While celebrities have nutritionists, dieticians, and trainers on hand to make sure that they don’t get out of control or get sick while getting skinny in a short period of time, there’s no way it can be considered healthy, and the crazy yo-yoing of weight can lead to long-term health consequences. But, if one wants to properly play a dying woman, a drug addict, a kidnap victim, or a dancer, losing weight is just one of the things they’ll have to suffer through in order to make it realistic. These 15 celebs might shock you with their body transformations, and due to the nature of the images, we warn you that these entries may be triggering.
15 Charlize Theron - Monster to Sweet November
The body transformation she’s best known for is definitely in Monster, when she played the role of prostitute and serial killer, Aileen Wuornos. The part required the actress to shave off her eyebrows and gain 30 pounds, but a mere two years before that, Charlize Theron had to look sickly in order to play terminal cancer patient Sara Deever in the 2001 film Sweet November.
The usually athletic South African beauty went on a pretty rigid diet in order to properly portray a dying woman: no carbohydrates, no dinner, nothing after 5pm, and no alcohol. If that doesn’t sound awful enough, Theron also upped her regular routine of running and yoga in order to drop the 16 pounds required of the character. Another example of extreme yo-yo dieting for a role that we do not recommend, we doubt that Theron was very happy in either role, either starving to play the sickly Sara or bingeing on Krispy Kreme doughnuts and potato chips for Aileen (although the latter sounds like a lot more fun!).
14 Hilary Swank - Boys Don't Cry
Hilary Swank was just an unknown actress when she nabbed the role–and the Academy Award–for playing transgender man Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry. For the part, Swank had to completely transform herself physically, including dropping a significant amount of weight.
While Swank is definitely an actress with a more athletic body shape (which she put to good use when she won an Oscar again for her starring role in Million Dollar Baby), becoming Brandon Teena required her to shed about 20 pounds in order to emulate the character’s lean physique and bring out the angles in her face. She also strapped down her breasts and lived for a month entire in character before the shoot, confusing her neighbors when she entered and exited her house dressed as a man who was tragically murdered by an acquaintance in 1993.
Swank was new to transforming herself for a role, but the dedication paid off and catapulted her to fame and international recognition as a major Hollywood heavyweight (no pun intended).
13 Jennifer Hudson - For Winnie Mandela
Former American Idol contestant and Oscar winner, Jennifer Hudson, has had her weight be the subject of much criticism since entering the spotlight. At the beginning of her career, Hudson was chastised for being too heavy, and then, after an 80-pound weight loss with Weight Watchers, she was criticized for being too thin. You can’t win when you’re a woman in Hollywood!
More recently, in 2011, Hudson was cast as the titular character in Winnie Mandela, a dramatic biopic about the life of Nelson Mandela’s wife. In order to fill those big shoes, Hudson lost 56 pounds which naturally led many to question whether she was now too “skinny” to do the part justice. Refusing to listen to her critics, Hudson explained, “Whatever it takes to morph into a character, I’ll do it.” Thanks to intense training with a celebrity trainer and her continued use of Weight Watchers, dropping the weight was a cinch! While Hudson isn’t necessarily scary-skinny, she definitely has some lollipop-head happening!
12 Jennifer Connelly - For Shelter
Another actress who has always been more slim than curvy, Jennifer Connelly shocked onlookers who saw her filming her new movie on the streets back in 2013. For her role as a drug-addicted homeless woman in Shelter, the first directorial effort by her husband, Paul Bettany, Connelly lost a staggering 25 pounds, giving her thin figure even skinnier arms and pencil-thin legs.
Like many actors, Connelly was able to do the weight loss in a healthy manner, although she looked sickly. She stated that the process took months to complete, and that, during that time, she also tried to familiarize herself with the drug paraphernalia used by her character but were unfamiliar to the actress herself. The role also required her to learn more about the lives of homeless people, something the actress says touched her deeply and opened her eyes to the world around her.
Fortunately, with Bettany by her side, Connelly said she felt 100% comfortable during filming, and was able to bounce back to her naturally gorgeous self.
11 Lily James - For Cinderella
When promotional photographs were first made available of the new live-action Cinderella, many were aghast at the physical transformation of the beloved animated character and at actress/model Lily James’ figure. While Disney’s cartoon Cinderella is as known for her tiny waist as she is for her glass slippers, James tried to emulate that look, turning the already svelte beauty into something of the scary-skinny variety.
Waist trainers are hot commodities in Hollywood, with many Instagram personalities praising them, but James didn’t only rely on a restrictive garment to get the exaggerated hourglass look she wields in the film. Before and even during filming, James stuck to a liquid diet in order to comfortably wear the corset (and not burp food in her costars’ faces). In response to her naysayers who said she went too far, James made it clear that thinness does not equal beauty, saying, “For girls growing up, sometimes I think they get the wrong idea for what women should look like. And I think it’s so important to be healthy and confident and natural.”
10 Angelina Jolie - Directorial Debut: Unbroken
You’ll often hear about actors and actresses who have dropped or gained weight for a role, but what about the people behind the camera? While Angelina Jolie has been well-known for her reputation as one of the sexiest women alive, the pillowy-lipped Oscar winner stepped into the director’s chair during the filming of her movie Unbroken and ate exactly what her actors ate. Which is to say, next to nothing.
The film follows Louie Zamperini, a soldier stuck in a Japanese World War II POW camp, and out of support for the actors who were committed to their craft, Jolie also ate almost nothing. Her physical fitness (or lack thereof) has been a topic of much speculation and discussion over the last few years, as the actress and humanitarian suffered a string of emotional devastation, including the death of her mother, her own revelation as to be carrying the same cancer gene that killed her, a double mastectomy, and the recent divorce from Brad Pitt. So, unfortunately, Jolie’s once-voluptuous figure has yet to return to its former glory.
9 Emily Blunt - The Devil Wears Prada and The Adjustment Bureau
She has a certain elegance and grace about her, but for two different film roles, British actress Emily Blunt was required to shed pounds in order to do her characters justice.
First, in her role as Emily, the anxiety-ridden perfectionist assistant in The Devil Wears Prada, Blunt was asked to lose some weight to accurately portray the fashion-hungry Runway employee. Describing Emily as a character “on the edge of anorexia” (as she was described in the novel upon which the film is based), Blunt was put on what amounted to a starvation diet and was “watched like a hawk” by producers on set.
Second–and perhaps even more demanding–was her role in The Adjustment Bureau, which saw her playing a ballerina. The part required a great deal of physical fitness, and she would train for four hours a day in the time that led up to filming. To maintain an extra-slender shape, she was forced to undergo another starvation-style diet, this time only subsisting on carrots and almonds!
8 Rooney Mara - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Rather than simply relying on weight loss to portray the role of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, actress Rooney Mara went the whole nine yards, dyeing her brown hair black, shaving part of her head, taking up smoking, and getting a dozen piercings (all in one afternoon).
However, it was the shocking weight loss that grabbed the most headlines, with the already-slim Mara whittling herself down to further resemble gaunt computer hacker Salander, and although she claimed that director David Fincher was not prodding her to lose weight, an excerpt from a Vogue interview that describes him informing her of what she can eat at a dinner tells a different story. (In the interview, the reporter recalls Fincher telling Mara that she can have “lettuce and a grape. A raisin if you must.”) Since the movie was released back in 2012, Mara hasn’t exactly moved away from the role of Salander, choosing instead to keep the jet-black hair and rail-thin frame.
7 Renée Zellweger - Chicago
Renée Zellweger is an actress whose weight has been the source of much public scrutiny for over 15 years. When she first burst onto the scene in 2001 as the titular character in Bridget Jones’ Diary, critics and audiences were impressed by, attracted to, and taken aback by her voluptuous figure. It was unheard of to see a female character of average weight (plus-size in Hollywood) as the source of desire for not one but two leading men, and Zellweger wore it surprisingly well!
Then, in 2002, for her role in Chicago, Zellweger dropped the 30 pounds she had gained for Bridget Jones...and then some. The drastic up-and-down nature of her weight loss and gain led many to suspect that the svelte star was yo-yo dieting, an unhealthy obsession that can lead to massive medical issues, especially since she gained weight again for the Bridget Jones sequel a year later. Zellweger herself said that what she was doing scared her and gave her panic attacks, especially with all the specialists who informed her of how bad this was for her body in the long term.
6 Beyoncé - Dreamgirls
We’re used to seeing Beyoncé in all her curvaceous, bootylicious glory, which is why it was so shocking to see the voluptuous star a tiny fraction of herself during filming and promotion for the movie Dreamgirls in 2006.
For her role, Queen Bey dropped 20 pounds in a very short amount of time, saying that she did it for herself because she wanted to “lose weight and make a physical transformation” that befit her character’s journey in the film. Over an unheard-of period of only two weeks, Beyoncé endured the Master Cleanse, which, if you don’t know about it, is a disgusting combination of water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup...and nothing else. The fast allowed Beyoncé to drop the weight she felt she needed to, but it left her fans and family worried.
We probably don’t need to tell you this, but resorting to extreme methods like this one is definitely not the way to go, even for a short time, because it deprives your body of all the nutrients it needs!
5 Mila Kunis - Dropped To 95 Pounds For Black Swan
Mila Kunis is already a very petite star, but she was required to get even smaller in order to properly play the character of Lily in the 2010 thriller Black Swan. As a ballerina who is trying to win the role in the production of Swan Lake, Kunis lost 20 pounds through exhaustive training and restrictive eating. For four hours a day, seven days a week, for seven months, Kunis trained from the wee hours in the morning until the late hours in the evening, eventually dropping down to an astonishing 95 pounds.
While Kunis says that she lost weight the healthy way (although she does admit to using cigarettes to curb her appetite), she says that she doesn’t recommend it, and that she was constantly hungry while subsisting on her 1,200 calories-a-day diet. Although she confessed that her weight loss looked amazing on camera, in real life, “I had no shape, no boobs, no a**…All you saw was bone. I was like, ‘This looks gross’.”
4 Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Alongside her co-star Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman also lost 20 pounds in order to properly fill the ballet slippers of perfectionist, ambitious ballerina Nina Sayers in Black Swan. The already-slim Portman became even more waif-like in her appearance, thanks to the rigorous training schedule and diet that involved loads of black coffee and cigarettes to keep her weight down.
As the star of the film, Portman trained for 16 hours a day and actually dislocated a rib during filming, but considered it to be all part of the role because so many ballerinas endure immense pain in this excruciating line of work. She even said that there were times while filming where she honestly thought she was going to die. Her fear was shared by director Darren Aronofsky, who worried over his actress’ weight loss and insisted that she eat, stocking her trailer with food. Fortunately for Portman (and Aronofsky’s nerves), the actress quit working out and dieting the day filming wrapped and requested loads of pasta as her first celebratory meal.
3 Anne Hathaway - Lost 25 Pounds In 10 Weeks For Les Miserables
Anne Hathaway was sick and tired of discussing the diet that allowed her to portray the sickly Fantine in Les Miserables, in large part because she did not want to encourage girls and women that this was a suitable diet to use or a character whose physique one should try to emulate. Fantine was, after all, dying of tuberculosis in revolutionary France.
In total, Hathaway lost 25 pounds for the role–10 in the weeks before filming and 15 during production. While much speculation was made about what starvation diet she was on (some said she had three weeks to lose 16 pounds on a 500-calories-a-day diet), Hathaway wouldn’t elaborate much beyond the fact that she was surviving on “rabbit food,” a meagre helping of only salad and other vegetables in order to portray the dying prostitute. After a certain point, Hathaway became so weakened that she broke her arm simply by riding her bike!
2 Zoe Kravitz - Dropped Down To 90 Pounds For The Road Within
To lose weight for a role is something that could force an actor to flirt with disaster, but it is especially worrisome when the actor who has taken the part already has a history of eating disorders. This was the case for Zoe Kravitz who whittled herself down to a skeletal 90 pounds for her role in the film The Road Within. While filming the 2014 movie, Kravitz got very close to her former demons and almost didn’t come back from the part that made her look so sickly thin.
In an interview with Marie Claire, Kravitz said that the 20 pounds she lost caused her period to stop and that part of her actually didn’t want to gain the weight back, which scared her, and caused her to reach out to family and friends for help. Another indication of Hollywood’s warped perception of body image? At her lowest weight during the film, people would regularly inform Kravitz of how good she looked!
1 Antonia Campbell-Hughes - To Play Kidnapped Victim Natascha Kampusch In 3096
You may not recognize the name Antonia Campbell-Hughes, but you’ve probably seen her ghostly shape a few times in the regular Hollywood roundup of scary-skinny stars. While Campbell-Hughes has always been on the svelte side (the left photograph is her in 2009), she dropped a serious amount of weight in order to play the role of real-life kidnap victim Natascha Kampusch.
The film, titled 3096 for the amount of time Kampusch was held captive, is based on a true story which Campbell-Hughes said inspired her to go the extra mile. “There was an understanding from the beginning that I would suffer as much as she did,” she said. And suffer, she did! In addition to dropping to a potentially lethal 80 pounds, Campbell-Hughes also suffered a torn Achilles tendon, broken toe, and fractured rib while filming. However, the film was released in 2013 and Campbell-Hughes, while maybe not as sickly as before, is still shockingly thin, lending more realness to her role than anyone could have wanted.