Actors often put their hearts and souls into their roles, but some go beyond the call of duty to also shockingly transform their bodies for playing certain parts. Using methods such as special diets and demanding exercise routines, these 20 actors gained or lost the weight required to make their characters truly authentic-looking and, in doing so, stunned audiences around the world with their astonishing transformations.
20. Mark Wahlberg – Pain & Gain (2013)
Mark Wahlberg is no stranger to showing off a buff bod, but he still had to gain an astonishing 40 pounds of pure muscle to star as Daniel Lugo in 2013’s Pain & Gain. The actor consumed ten meals per day and hit the gym five days a week in order to attain the requisite physique.
19. Tom Hardy – Bronson (2008)
In order to play Charles Bronson in 2008’s Bronson, Tom Hardy first had to take on some of the infamous British criminal’s imposing bulk. To do so, the actor put on approximately 35 pounds in just five weeks, aided by the consumption of pizza, ice cream and soda in large amounts.
18. Charlize Theron – Monster (2003)
To play serial killer Aileen Wuornos in 2003 biopic Monster, Charlize Theron needed to gobble up enough doughnuts and potato chips to pack on 30 pounds. It was worth it in the end, though, as in 2003 she landed a Best Actress Oscar for the role.
17. Renée Zellweger – Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Renée Zellweger bulked up to the tune of 30 pounds for her role as the eponymous singleton in 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary. For 2004 sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, however, she put on a mere 20 pounds. Slacker.
16. Jake Gyllenhaal – Southpaw (2015)
Jake Gyllenhaal notably bulked up for his role as professional boxer Billy Hope in 2015’s Southpaw. Remarkably, each day he completed 2,000 sit-ups and three grueling hours apiece of boxing and cardio/weight training to gain the 15 pounds in muscle mass needed to attain that prime fighter look.
15. Matthew Fox – Alex Cross (2012)
In 2012 thriller Alex Cross, Matthew Fox not only gave us an eerie look at what he’s like as a serial killer, but also showed how he appears with an extremely scrawny body. For the role of Picasso, Fox’s figure was 44 pounds lighter, a state that he achieved through a restricted diet and rigorous exercise.
14. Natalie Portman – Black Swan (2010)
The weight flew off Natalie Portman before she pirouetted her way across stage in 2010’s Black Swan. The actress lost a staggering 20 pounds to fulfill the role of ballerina Nina Sayers in the movie, achieving it in part by eating tiny portions of easily metabolized food.
13. Matt Damon – Courage Under Fire (1996)
Before Matt Damon launched to international fame with Good Will Hunting, he starred as disturbed soldier-turned-drug addict Specialist Ilario in 1996’s Courage Under Fire. What’s more, it was a role that a youthful Damon lost 40 pounds to play through a demanding diet and exercise regime.
12. Tom Hanks – Cast Away (2000)
It took Tom Hanks four months to lose the 55 pounds required to play shipwrecked workaholic Chuck Noland in 2000 drama Cast Away. In addition to embarking on a rigorous exercise routine, Hanks stuck to a diet of vegetables, fish, water and a tiny amount of carbohydrates in order to drop the weight.
11. Robert De Niro – Raging Bull (1980)
It takes a lot of commitment to alter your weight for a movie, but it demands true dedication to put on or shed significant bulk for just a small part of that film. Robert De Niro, however, did just that, gaining a then-record-breaking 60 pounds to play the role of an aged Jake LaMotta in 1980’s Raging Bull.
10. Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Matthew McConaughey was just a shadow of himself in 2013 true-life tale Dallas Buyers Club, for which he dropped 47 pounds to play AIDS-afflicted electrician Ron Woodruff. McConaughey worked with a nutritionist to shed the weight safely over a period of four months.
9. Chris Pratt – Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Chris Pratt shed the weight and gained the muscle to play Peter Quill in 2014 superhero flick Guardians of the Galaxy. In fact, Pratt lost an incredible 60 pounds over half a year, proving his dedication to the role – and the gym – in the process.
8. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson – All Things Fall Apart (2011)
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson took a break from music to star as promising young football player Deon in 2011’s All Things Fall Apart. And because the movie chronicles his character’s battle with cancer, Jackson dropped 54 pounds – by way of a liquid diet and hours of time on a treadmill – to make Deon’s struggle more realistic.
7. Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables (2012)
Anne Hathaway traded in an already svelte figure for a more skin-and-bones look in the 2012 movie adaptation of Les Misérables. Hathaway dropped 25 pounds to assume the appearance of gaunt French prostitute Fantine, and 15 pounds of this was achieved during filming.
6. Benicio Del Toro – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
For his role as Dr. Gonzo in the 1998 movie adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Benicio Del Toro had to gain almost 50 pounds. It was, though, an ordeal that Del Toro admitted he’d be reluctant to reprise for future roles, saying, “It took me three months to lose all that weight. That was the worst part, let me tell you – I’ll never put myself through that again.”
5. Jared Leto – Chapter 27 (2007)
Jared Leto put on a whopping 67 pounds to play Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s infamous killer, in the 2007 film Chapter 27. The actor achieved this in part through consuming a rather unappetizing concoction of Häagen-Dazs ice cream laced with olive oil and soy sauce.
4. Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Jonah Hill’s weight has noticeably fluctuated throughout his time in Hollywood, although at one time, at least, it was for a movie role. The actor dropped 40 pounds for his part in 2013 black comedy The Wolf of Wall Street, where he plays strung-out stockbroker Donnie Azoff.
3. Russell Crowe – Body of Lies (2008)
Russell Crowe needed to plump up considerably to play CIA boss Ed Hoffman in 2008 spy flick Body of Lies. As a result, the actor gained 63 pounds, something helped by his willingness to consume cheeseburgers for breakfast.
2. Demi Moore – G.I. Jane (1997)
Demi Moore got into tip-top shape to play plucky Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil in 1997’s G.I. Jane. To help Moore get the physique of a lean, mean Navy soldier, two different trainers put her through grueling workout regimes.
1. Christian Bale – The Machinist (2004)
In one of the most dramatic weight loss transformations ever for a big-screen performance, Christian Bale lost an incredible 63 pounds for his role in 2004 thriller The Machinist. And yes, the weights that Bale’s character, Trevor Reznik, records on the bathroom wall during the movie are real.