Some movie stars are trained in method acting, a performance style in which actors strive to fully immerse themselves in a character’s emotional landscape. The technique originated with Russian theater legend Konstantin Stanislavski and developed, in large part, at the renowned Actors’ Studio in N.Y.C. Method actors are known to go to extremes, but other actors do too. Character actors subscribe to a different method but dive into their roles similarly. Other actors are simply committed to portraying their part to perfection.
As viewers, we see the final product in movie theaters or at home, not realizing the commitment and sacrifice that went into crafting larger than life characters. Here, we are going to get a look at the extents Hollywood greats have gone through to bring us truly legendary characters. We have compiled 43 stories of individual actors who illuminate the behind the scenes struggles and tribulations they endured to deliver stupendous roles.
Jake Gyllenhaal Trains for ‘Southpaw’
Jake Gyllenhaal’s workout regimen was so intense, it ended his relationship with girlfriend Alyssa Miller. Working out six hours per day for six months left no time for any other kind of commitment. Putting on 15 pounds of upper body muscle, and 28 pounds of muscle-weight in total, meant starting at 4:30 a.m. in the gym with 2,000 sit-ups. For director Antoine Fuqua, who required two gym workouts per day, seven days a week, Gyllenhaal trained dutifully. Fuqua counseled Gyllenhaal about the commitment it would take to play the role of Billy “The Great” Hope.
Gyllenhaal ran 8 miles each day and trained with boxing coach Terry Claybon. Fuqua trained alongside Gyllenhaal, from the pre-dawn workout to the workout in the afternoon. After 1,000 sit-ups and an 8-mile run, they’d come back to jump rope training, another 1,000 sit-ups, and other muscle-building routines. Details included six to seven full meals per day, loading up on carbs in the mornings and muscle-building high protein in the evenings.
Christian Bale’s Extreme Dieting for ‘The Machinist’
Playing machinist factory worker Trevor Reznik, a troubled man with debilitating insomnia, Christian Bale had to get into the mind and body of a man whose struggle with sanity is compounded when he causes a freak accident that severely injures his co-worker. To fall to this character’s point of deterioration, Bale undertook an extreme weight loss regime. In total, he lost 60 pounds. If that doesn't sound extreme, consider he started at 173 and dwindled down to 110. It was hardly healthy.
He ate one can of tuna and one apple per day. One cup of coffee served as his only beverage besides water. He also exercised intensely, completing cardio, weight training, and intensive resistance workouts. Additionally, the coffee and these particular foods are metabolism boosters.
Chris Hemsworth Bulked Up for Thor
It surprises no one that the “Sexiest Man of the Year” title went to Chris Hemsworth. With Hemsworth’s first trainer, former Navy SEAL Duffy Gaver, the actor committed to a hardcore, old school method of heavy weights and red meat. People who noted the transformation thought Hemsworth used steroids, but Gaver says, “He didn’t touch a single substance.” It was just his raw will to beef up to Thor proportions.
These days, Thor’s got a new trainer. Luke Zoochi’s plan moved Hemsworth to lean and healthy meats and on to a strict new vegan regiment. Including it in the Thor workout plan has helped popularize “vegan bodybuilding.” With the original Thor workout, Hemsworth packed 20 pounds of muscle onto his upper body. The focus to his arms and shoulders was an intentional bodybuilding strategy as he was looking for the Nordic hammer-wielding strength of Thor.
Charlize Theron Fills Out Her Frame for ‘Monster’
It wasn’t a part Charlize Theron thought she could pull off, but ultimately, she won the Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of the deranged vigilante serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, in 'Monster' (2003). Getting into character, Theron put on 30 pounds. The commitment required eating a lot of donuts and potato chips, essentially living as unhealthy as Aileen Wuornos would.
Portraying the real-life serial killer revealed another side of Theron’s acting spectrum. She credits the support of 'Monster' director, Patty Jenkins, who told her she must take the part. “You have to,” Jenkins said. “You’re the only person who can.” It meant the world to Theron, who said, “I feel like when you work with people who believe in you fully like that, if you have that kind of faith in me, I will do anything for you.” Indeed. She pinned the part and won the Oscar.
Tom Hanks Transformed into a ‘Castaway’
Tom Hanks had to deliver two vastly different physiques for 'Castaway'. He had to pack on 50 pounds for filming the “before” images, and then shed 55 pounds in four months for the “after” images. Hanks said, “The idea of looking at four months of constant vigilance as far as what I ate, as well as two hours a day in the gym doing nothing but a monotonous kind of work-out was formidable. You have to power yourself through it almost by some sort of meditation trickery. It’s not glamorous".
To get an idea of what sort of diet he had to subsist on, it was mostly crab, fish, vegetables, few fruit-based carbs, coconut milk, and water. To satisfy a hunger craving, he chowed down on vegetables. It’s now known as the Castaway Diet.
The Sacrifices of Anne Hathaway for ‘Les Miserables’
Anne Hathaway won a Golden Globe, an Academy, a SAG, and a BAFTA for her role as Fantine, in 'Les Misérables'. But she lost a tremendous amount getting into the mind of an impoverished, emotionally-wrenched French woman who eventually dies of tuberculosis. True, Hathaway literally wasted away, stripping 25 pounds from a fit frame, but she also sacrificed a long-flowing brunette mane and her mental well-being.
With zero regrets for doing justice to Victor Hugo’s Fantine, Hathaway said, “I had to be obsessive about it—the idea was to look near death.” She survived on two squares of what she calls “dried oatmeal paste” a day. She submitted to consuming about 500 calories per day, a special diet that included a severe cleanse at the start of filming. It took a toll. “I was in such a state of deprivation—physical and emotional." The actress said it took her weeks to feel like herself again.
Chris Pratt Chisels Down for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’
'Parks and Recreation' star Chris Pratt was a little tubby playing Andy Dwyer, the slacker sweetie from Netflix TV. But what happened when all 300 pounds of him had to squeeze into Marvel’s Star-Lord costume? Long story short, Pratt had to swing a serious lifestyle modification to star in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'. Dropping 60 pounds in six months, while bulking up, was “three or four hours a day of just consistent, ass-kicking hard work,” said Pratt.
To accomplish it, Pratt enlisted the same professional trainer as Chris Hemsworth, Navy SEAL Duffy Gaver, and nutritionist Phil Goglia. Pratt consumed 4,000 calories per day and drank a ton of water. He drank water from morning to night. “I was peeing all day long, every day.” Pratt told Men’s Journal. After hitting his goal, Pratt posted on Instagram photo highlights of his newly chiseled physique. After all that hard work, Pratt says he’s staying ripped for life.
Jared Leto Lost 40 Pounds for ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Co-starring with Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, Jared Leto played a transgender woman with HIV. Like McConaughey, Leto submitted to a severe weight loss routine. “I stopped eating, it wasn’t an easy thing to do. It was 30 to 40 pounds. After a while, I stopped counting.” Leto’s commitment to delivering a stupendous performance as Rayon in 'Dallas Buyers Club' paid off. He won an Oscar, a Golden Globe Award, and a SAG Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Shrinking down to just 114 pounds, he looked gaunt but feminine. But it took a psychological toll. “It changes the way you walk, the way you sit, the way you think,” he said. Leto’s respected as a method actor, who delves into his characters with research and physically demanding sacrifices like this. He packed on an unhealthy amount of weight for another movie, 'Chapter 27'.
Hillary Swank Transforms for ‘Million Dollar Baby’ in Just 90 Days
Swank played “Maggie” Fitzgerald, a Southern waitress who ends up in L.A. gym Hit Pit. Clint Eastwood, director and producer, co-stars with Swank. He’s a curmudgeonly trainer who begrudgingly trains her. In reality, her training already happened. It was one of the most difficult things she’s ever had to do. “I started working out five hours a day—I had to eat 210 grams of protein a day,” she said.
“The thing was, I needed nine hours of sleep a night because your muscles have to be able to rest in order to build or you actually reverse yourself. So, I slept nine hours a night, but I had to wake up in the night and drink protein shakes because I couldn’t go that long without eating,” Swank explained. She reached her goal in an astounding 90 days. Producers asked her to pile on 10 pounds of muscle weight, but she went above and beyond with over 20 pounds of pure muscle added to her frame. She earned a second Academy Award for the performance.
Jared Leto Packs It on for ‘Chapter 27’
Jared Leto piled on the pounds to play John Lennon’s assassin in 'Chapter 27'. To be precise, he packed on 67 pounds! Playing Mark David Chapman, the American Beatles fan who took the life of the world-adored English rock and roll icon, required more than a physical alteration. Leto needed to alter his voice and demeanor. “[Chapman] barely ever speaks above a whisper and everything is kind of choked off in the throat,” Leto said.
The dough-boy body Leto procured portrayed the killer in J.P. Schaefer’s Chapter 27 precisely, but it did not win any fitness awards. In fact, his physique earned him an Rx for Lipitor instead. Ending up with gout and doctor recommendations for Lipitor left Leto with almost zero regrets. “The script didn’t say, ‘Page 1: You gain 67 pounds, and you’re miserable for two months.’ The point is, Leto nailed the part.
Demi Moore Trained Hard for 'G.I. Jane'
On the brink of decline from a super-celeb apex, Demi Moore battled back with an extreme training regimen to transform herself into a female Navy SEAL who breaks into the exclusively male military club. Preparing to get into the character of Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil, G.I. Jane’s protagonist, took the same sacrifice and commitment SEALs train for. To keep it authentic, Moore trained with Navy SEAL coach Stephen Helvenston and celebrity trainer, Gregory Joujon-Roche.
She hit her cardio routine by 4 a.m. every morning and then moved on to muscle strengthening: one-arm push-ups, dumbbell bench presses, and shoulder workouts, nine weight training exercises in all. Cardio came from treadmill workouts or running in Central Park with a security guard entourage. Other efforts to get in the headspace of a SEAL included shaving her head, completing vigorous Navy SEAL obstacle courses, and doing push-ups in the mud.
Matthew McConaughey Shed Significant Body Mass for ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Matthew McConaughey dropped almost 50 pounds to play Ron Woodroof, a Texas AIDS patient given 30 days to live, in the brilliant film 'Dallas Buyers' Club'. To look like a man emaciated from HIV, he not only cut his caloric intake but also burned 1,800 additional calories a day with heavy exercise.
His wife Camila restricted his eating by preparing his meals. He set a goal to lose four pounds per week. He lost a grand total of 47 pounds. To make sure his weight loss was as healthy as possible, he met up with a nutritionist. He had the desired appearance in mind.
Jonah Hill Packed on the Pounds for ‘War Dogs’
In 2016, Jonah Hill rounded his figure out an extra 40 pounds to look like real-life arms contractor and weapons dealer, Efraim Diveroli. But after the film wrapped, Hill was ready to get rid of the heavyset look, so he dialed up his '21 Jump Street' co-star Channing Tatum and asked him to hook him up with his trainer and nutritionist.
He took up Jiu Jitzu. At a gym in Manhattan, he has worked with a trainer doing boxing moves. He’s not as comfortable sharing his workout routine as other stars are. But Hill is happy to be in shape. “I really believe everyone has a snapshot of themselves from a time when they were young that they’re ashamed of. For me, it’s that 14-year-old overweight and unattractive kid who felt ugly to the world who listened to hip-hop and who wanted so badly to be accepted by this community of skaters.”
Natalie Portman Transforms Her Figure for ‘Black Swan’
Natalie Portman said preparing for her role in 'Black Swan' took a huge physical and emotional toll. “It was about a year of ballet preparation that sort of ramped up as the film got closer. It started out for a couple of hours a day, then five hours a day, then more like eight hours and it was very intense but really fun, too,” Portman said. At her side were some of the world’s top dancers, coaches, and teachers in the ballet universe.
Portman was 29 when she chiseled off 20 pounds to create Nina, a beautiful young ballerina whose relentless ambition drives her to the edge of sanity. Her diet, equally crazy, subsisted on very little besides rabbit food—a lot of carrots and almonds. Between extreme dieting and brutal 8-hour-long dance rehearsals, Portman said, “There were some nights that I thought I literally was going to die.”
Matt Damon “ate nothing but chicken” in Preparation for ‘Courage Under Fire’
Transforming his body to play an army medic Specialist, Andrew Ilario, in 'Courage Under Fire' (1996) was an enormous sacrifice for award-winning actor Matt Damon. He said, “I had to run about 13 miles a day, which wasn’t even the hard part. The hard part was the diet.” The same thing every single day. “All I ate was chicken breast!", Damon shared on Reddit.
Losing the weight produced a drastic transformation. The Massachusetts-born actor got down to 139 pounds, which was a big drop from his normal weight of 190 pounds. It took a significant strain on his health; Damon was placed on adrenal gland medication for a year to repair damage from extreme stress. But it was worth it. Damon’s method acting commitment impressed director Francis Ford Coppola, who gave him the lead in 'The Rainmaker' the following year.
Renée Zellweger Beefs Up (Again) in ‘Edge of Reason’
Playing the titular character in 'Bridget Jones’s Diary' required a significant weight-gain commitment for Renee Zellweger, so when the sequel, Edge of Reason, came around, the same 30-pound weight-gain requirement did too. Zellwegger said, “I knew that it was essential in repeating the journey...And if you’re not going to become the character and be the character, then I don’t really see the point in undertaking the experience”. Gaining weight was not her concern, delivering her best “Bridget Jones” was all.
To fill out from a size 4 to a 14, she ate burgers with the crew, sampling all the local burger joints. Keeping the weight on was a bit more difficult than she thought, because the demanding schedule of the shoot kept her on her toes and burning calories. And, according to a crew member, some measures had to be taken. “In one scene they had to pad out her bottom,” said the crew member.
Vincent D’Onofrio Tips the Scales for ‘Full Metal Jacket’
To get into the role of an overweight Marine recruit, in Stanley Kubrick’s 'Full Metal Jacket', he had to pack on 75 pounds. It required some discipline. “My usual breakfast consisted of steak, three eggs, a half a loaf of bread and a quart of milk,” D’Onofrio said. In the film, D'Onofrio starts out as a slow-witted oaf. Everyone is surprised when the inept recruit transforms into a vicious demented killer after his spirit is crushed by the extremely ruthless drills and taunts of the villainous drill sergeant.
Prepping for the character altered not just his looks, but his life as well. “Women didn’t look at me; most of the time I was looking at their backs as they were running away. People used to say things to me twice, because they thought I was stupid.”And his body became foreign to him. “My thighs were tremendous, my arms were tremendous, even my nose was fat. I had a tough time trying my shoelaces, but this was the only way I could play Leonard, because I had to be weak-minded in the same way,” explained D’Onofrio. It affected his self-perception.
George Clooney Hit a Low Point on the Set of ‘Syriana’
George Clooney won the Best Actor Academy Award for his role as a CIA operative in 'Syriana' (2005), yet he endured more pain than he had ever known while filming it. In one of the stunts he performed, something went wrong. A spinal injury left him in excruciating pain. Clooney was lying in a hospital bed completely immobilized, and suffering headaches on par with that of a stroke. “You start thinking in terms of, you don’t want to leave a mess, so go in the garage, go in the car, start the engine,” Clooney considered.
The injury kept him from the publicity rounds for 'Ocean’s Twelve', released in 2004. In the end, surgery was able to correct the injury, but he still gets headaches occasionally. To prepare for the role of agent Robert Barnes, Clooney shaved back his hairline to age himself. He doesn’t look back fondly on filming the Oscar-winning role. "It wasn’t the fault of the film or director", he explained. “It’s just that everybody has that year where you age a decade, and this was that one for me.”
Emma Stone Becomes an Athlete in ‘Battle of the Sexes’
Training to become legendary tennis pro, Billie Jean King, in 'Battle of the Sexes', Emma Stone upped her game. She worked out with celeb trainer Jason Walsh, until her slight figure was transformed into the physique of a professional athlete. Walsh commended Stone for her work. He limited her diet to protein shakes, primarily.
She gained 15 pounds and the physique of a competitor. The tennis pro always bounced the ball twice before serving. Always. Stone mastered Billie Jean King’s signature bounce, and she nailed the part, even though it was her first time portraying a real person. She played King in the historic 1973 match against Bobby Riggs. Stone was set on getting it right. “Every scene was so immensely important,” said the 2017 Oscar-winning actress.
Zac Efron Builds His Body for ‘Baywatch’
The only thing more captivating than the theatrical release of 'Baywatch' in 2016, was Zac Efron’s abs and pecs. To get there, the star chiseled himself down to just 5% body fat. FYI: it’s nearly impossible, do not try this at home. Efron worked out four to five times a week, and he achieved the perfect beach body in just 12 weeks. He put on 10 pounds of pure muscle by following a vigorous diet and workout plan, with the strict guidance of celeb trainer Patrick Murphy.
The workouts were intense. There were some exercises that Efron did not find fun at all. These were the group circuits with power moves. Trainer Murphy described the brutal nature of group circuits saying they are about “20 alternating jump lunges in one place, 20 jump squats, 60 mountain climbers, power push-ups, followed by a run up five flights of stairs, then one-let squat hops using a TRX rope.”
Tom Hardy Dives into Charles Bronson
Bulking up to play the notorious British prisoner and fighter, Tom Hardy transformed himself into Charles Bronson in just five weeks. When asked about his method for gaining 40 pounds of muscle in just weeks, he said, “I did press ups, push ups, abs work and resistance training with the help of my boy Pnut, who is an ex U.S. Marine.”
According to Hardy, “I put on about 7 pounds a week—no steroids.” But he did mow though Häagen-Dazs, pizza, and Coca-Cola for dessert after his daily serving of chicken and rice. He had to put on pounds to look like the big brawler that Bronson was a young bloke. As an aside, Hardy shared what Charles Bronson thought when he heard Hardy was going to be playing him. Bronson said, “This kid will never be able to play me.” Hardy returned in two weeks; Bronson was impressed. In the end, Hardy said, he thought I did a good job portraying him.
Matthew Fox Gets Fit in ‘Alex Cross’
The character Fox strove to embody for the crime thriller, 'Alex Cross', was a psycho-serial-killer called Picasso. Fox endured a brutal diet and exercise regime and sacrificed any and all appetizing foods, consuming, at least, one bland meal per day. At the end of it, Fox told Men’s Journal, “It’s gonna take a long time before I can confront eating another plate of steamed broccoli and chicken breast.”
And the actor is not committing to the same workout routine any time soon! Fox had a specific look in mind—menacing and deranged. Looking back, he says being Picasso for two months was a draining experience, mentally and physically. But, “The physical preparation was almost a relief, in some respects, from the headspace,” Fox said, saying of the shoot, “It was one of the more challenging experiences I’ve ever had.”
Daniel Radcliffe Starved Himself in ‘Jungle’
Daniel Radcliffe was faced with the challenge of portraying real-life Israeli adventurer, Yossi Ghinsberg, who was stranded in a Bolivian jungle for three weeks, in 1981. Radcliffe subsisted on a starvation diet of one chicken breast and one protein bar a day to prepare. “It’s not recommended, it’s a really unsafe way to lose weight.” Radcliffe admitted.
Ghinsberg survived by foraging fruit and eggs from nests of the Amazon. He was stranded without tools or training. He lost 35 pounds and suffered disease and infection until he was rescued from the rainforest by local people. Radcliffe’s diet, while extreme, lasted only two weeks. And he doesn’t claim to be a method actor. “I’m not a method actor, but it would seem weird if I was playing this guy stuck in the jungle and going home, having a lovely steak dinner at the end of the day.”
Jake Gyllenhaal Transformed in ‘Nightcrawler’
'Nightcrawler', a film about an articulate but depraved paparazzo crime reporter named Lou, was showered with accolades. Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance earned him a Golden Globe Best Actor nomination. Playing a wildly ambitious low-life reporter, who chases cop cars and ambulances, or beats them there, to score sordid footage of the criminal element in action, was a dark mindset to embrace.
To get into Lou’s head, Gyllenhaal rode along with actual paparazzi ambulance-chasers. He also got into character by transforming his body into the gaunt, sunken-look, apparent on the reporter’s hollow face. So, he starved himself, subsisting on kale and chewing gum. On top of that, he would run 15 miles back home from the studio each night. He shrunk his 180-pound body down by 30 pounds.
Robert De Niro’s Epic ‘Raging Bull’ Performance
Robert De Niro is known as the original when it comes to extreme commitment to method acting. He transforms his body and his mental space to deliver amazing performances. In Martin Scorsese’s 'Raging Bull' (1980), he outdid himself. The film traced the Italian boxer’s career over several decades. De Niro was able to document the drastic changes in LaMotta’s appearance, gaining 60 pounds, the most any actor had ever put on for a film role.
For most shoots of 'Raging Bull', De Niro had to maintain the physique of a boxer. But in the last few scenes, De Niro was required to portray aging, overweight LaMotta. De Niro was never so committed to a role as he was to this one, and he won a Best Actor Award for it. To pack on the extra 60 pounds and keep it authentic, De Niro held off production of the film while he traveled to Italy to consume as much pasta as possible. When he returned, he was transformed into a doughy aging Italian man.
Michael Fassbender Wasted Away for ‘Hunger’
After a 10-week regimen of a 900-calorie daily diet and aerobic exercise, Michael Fassbender lost 42 pounds to play Bobby Sands in 'Hunger'. Sands was a young prisoner who led the second Provisional Irish Republican Army hunger strike in 1981. He died after 66 days without food. The film won the 2008 Camera D’or prize. The exercise included yoga, walking, and skipping. Weighing just 127 pounds, Fassbender said, “It is such a psychological prison.”
The extreme weight loss, surviving on nuts, berries, and sardines, caused him to lose more than body fat. “What was also interesting was that my libido left me,” Fassbender said to the Sunday Times Culture magazine. On the other hand, he gained some too. “I was so focused, it was unbelievable. I felt I had the answers to so many things.”
Ryan Gosling Gets Fat for ‘The Lovely Bones’
Ryan Gosling packed on the pounds to portray Jack Salmon, the grieving dad in 'The Lovely Bones'. He gained 60 pounds on a quest to hit 210, guzzling melted Häagen-Dazs to aid the process. As it turned out, he and director Peter Jackson didn’t see eye-to-eye on the project. “We didn’t talk very much during the pre-production process, which was the problem,” Gosling admitted. The outcome? As Gosling puts it, “I was fat and unemployed.”
Ultimately, Mark Wahlberg landed the role in 'The Lovely Bones', an adaption of Alice Sebold’s bestselling novel. Paramount Pictures cited creative differences for letting Gosling go, but in the end, he was just too fat. However, Fran Walsh, director Jackson’s wife and collaborator on the film, disagreed. She stated, “Ryan came to us two or three times and said, ‘I’m not the right person for this role. I’m too young.’” She claimed that they wanted to work with him telling Gosling, “We can age you up.” Gosling maintains that it was the extra weight that lost him the gig.
Edward Norton Gets in Shape for 'American History X'
Getting back to his 'Fight Club' roots, Edward Norton played former neo-Nazi skinhead Derek Vinyard, in crime noir 'American History X'. His character was forced to change his role as a white supremacist leader after being thrown in prison for manslaughter. You have to be tough to survive prison, and Norton embodied the look with a shaved head and a lean and mean exterior.
We knew Norton more as an intellectual than a badass, prior to 'American History X', but the Yale grad managed to pack on the Popeye for this film. To make the transition, he mixed strength-building exercises like squats and presses with a high protein diet. Norton had help from Anthony Krotes, his weightlifting coach. Under his guidance, Norton gained 30 pounds of muscle, achieving the sculpted yet scrappy physique of Derek Vinyard. Norton received an Oscar nomination for his role.
Christian Bale Transforms for ‘American Hustle’
In 'The Machinist', Christian Bale shriveled down to nothing, but in 'American Hustle', he swung to the opposite extreme. He gained 42 pounds to play Irving Rosenfeld, the big city con man from the Bronx. To fully implement the appearance of the unsavory swindler, Bale went to other extremes. He slouched, first of all, and it took three inches off his height. However, slouching caused his back to herniate - another sacrifice.
He also shaved a receding hairline into his mop of thick tresses in order to give the comb-over the proper effect. His transformation was shocking. His co-star Robert De Niro can attest!
Ryan Reynolds Steps Up His Game with ‘Blade: Trinity’
Ryan Reynolds is a fitness geek, but before landing the role in 'Blade: Trinity', things were different. After bulking up with 25 pounds of rock-solid muscle in just 3 months, the 6’2” comic actor sees things differently. Reynolds said that the intense workout regimen taught him that nothing is impossible. He worked out six days a week on a 3,200-calorie diet, while accomplishing feats of the extreme.
He ran the N.Y.C. marathon in 3 hours and 50 minutes and climbed the 8,000-foot Machu Pichu. If that doesn't impress you, he can do standing back flips. Keeping the muscle on, he has scored roles in 'Deadpool', 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine', and 'The Green Lantern'.
Will Smith “floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee” to Play ‘Ali’
When Will Smith landed the role of Muhammad Ali, he didn’t look the part. He was 6’2” and 185 pounds, tall and lanky instead of big and brawny. Smith had to get into peak shape and build up 35 pounds of fist-jabbing muscle to his frame. “Beyond looking like a fighter, my goal was to learn to think like a fighter. To do that I had to eat like a fighter, sleep like a fighter, assess situations like a fighter. . . Become a fighter,” Smith said.
Smith’s training consisted heavily of strenuous endurance training. He had to do a lot of running, including running through snow in heavy boots. Weightlifting regimens were also a big commitment. He increased in strength from being able to lift 175 pounds to benching 365 pounds. It took him a year of solid training to reach his goals. Will Smith zeroed in for a knockout performance. It earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in the 2001 film.
Matthew McConaughey Plumped Up for ‘Gold’
Matthew McConaughey found getting into the character of Kenny Wells in 'Gold' was easier than he thought. The Oscar-winning actor packed on 47 pounds, and went from a dashing athletic build to the physique of a middle-aged guy on the Donald Trump eating-plan.
The eat-whatever-you-want diet was new to him. He said getting into the shape of a modern-day prospector scouring Indonesian jungles for gold was easy. McConaughey summed it up, “Cheeseburgers and beer will do the trick." He mused,“I wouldn’t even take the stairs to the second floor, that would be too much exercise”. His wife and kids loved the new chowing down lifestyle while it lasted. “I was Captain Fun—that was my nickname around the house, because I was saying ‘yes’ to everything."
Taylor Lautner Bulked Up to Werewolf Proportions in ‘Twilight: New Moon’
In the Twilight sequel, 'New Moon', Taylor Lautner comes back playing the part of a towering and muscular werewolf monster. To land the role, he had to gain 30 pounds of muscle, or as he says it, he had to “basically kill myself.” Lautner told Access, “I get into the gym every single day, seven days a week, two hours a day, eat as much as I possibly can".
Chiseling out the six-pack and a chest of beastly ripped flesh was a contingent for procuring the role. He met the challenge. “It’s motivation for my passion [for] the character. I knew it was a necessity for the character. I’m stoked to be a part of this,” Lautner said. After the $200 million success of 'Twilight', he’s all in. “It’s mind-blowing,” he said of the massive teen supernatural sensation.
Chris Hemsworth Dwindles to Nothing ‘In the Heart of the Sea’
From Thor to the skin-and-bones frame of a castaway, Chris Hemsworth swung to the other extreme in Ron Howard’s 'In the Heart of the Sea'. In the movie, Hemsworth plays First Mate Owen Chase, whose ship named Essex is crushed to bits by the notorious literary whale, Moby Dick. The crew is stranded for months.
Hemsworth lost 30 pounds to achieve the starvation look. The weight was stripped from the fit and trim frame we saw him don in 'Black Hat', so it was particularly difficult to lose. He and his cast mates were consuming just 500 calories per day by the time the open sea shooting commenced. Like real castaways, Hemsworth said extreme weight loss made them kind of lose it. “We kind of went insane, weighing ourselves every day.”
J.K. Simmons Gets Pumped for ‘Justice League’
J.K. Simmons couldn’t have done it without Aaron Williamson, his ex-Marine elite-level trainer. Although, embodying 'Justice League' Commissioner Jim Gordon took a lion’s share of the work from Simmons. On the other hand, Williamson is credited for bulking up the likes of Zac Efron, Sylvester Stallone, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jai Courtney, and Jamie Foxx.
None of Simmon’s previous roles had demanded a ripped-out physique. He took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 'Whiplash', playing an abusive teacher, so playing the commissioner of Gotham City and Batman’s go-to guy required a flip. The strength he built impressed trainer Williamson, who posted a picture of his ripped client saying, “Every time we train together I forget he’s 61 years old. So much respect for this guy.”
50 Cent Drops Down in 'All Things Fall Apart'
Rapper 50 Cent took time out of his music career to work on a passion project. He wrote, produced, financed and starred in 'All Things Fall Apart', a movie about a Heisman-hopeful football star named Deon, whose fortunes are tackled by cancer. To prep for the role, the rapper from Queens lost almost 60 pounds. His motivation stemmed from losing a friend from cancer.
When a picture of the rapper got out, his gaunt visage shocked everyone. He weighed just 160 pounds. The sacrifice he undertook to star in the film directed by Mario Van Peebles was brutal. He went on a liquid diet and spent three grueling hours a day on the treadmill. This went on for nine months. “I was starving,” he said. He also went through the painful process of tattoo removal to play the part, joking, “It cuts down on the amount of time I have to spend in makeup covering them up.”
Kit Harington Couldn’t Stop Bulking Up for His Role in ‘Pompeii’
You have to be all muscle and mass to play a gladiator. At least that’s what Kit Harington assumed when he took the role of the uber-muscular Milo, in 'Pompeii' (2014). “So I went into quite a heavy training regime five weeks before filming. I started by bulking up, and then when I got out there, I had four weeks to shred down and get toned,” Harington explained. It became addictive. “It’s the best shape I’ve been in, and I was hell-bent on getting in a certain way.”
Becoming obsessed, Harington found himself the victim of body dysmorphia, which is excessive anxiety about body appearance. When he hit the point of over-doing it, he succumbed to exhaustion. His trainer stepped in to help Harington scale back on his gym visits. Three times a day, six days a week, was a bit much. In the end, Harington said that he was proud of his achievement in strength and conditioning.
Emile Hirsch Deprived Himself for ‘Into the Wild’
Emile Hirsch played Chris McCandless, a man who starved to death in the Alaskan Wilderness hoping to be saved. To get into such a deprived state, Hirsch had to give up food. “I weighed about 156 pounds when I got the part, and I weighed 130 pounds throughout most of the film” Hirsch said. But, as the character he portrayed neared death, he lost significant body fat. “And then I went down to 115 pounds for the weight loss in the Alaska segment,” he said.
Wasting away like that was a mental and physical challenge. To do it, he explains, “was a lot of running and being very hungry and dreaming of candy all the time.” It was all he could think of! Even though he was starving, candy was all he craved. “It was like, Steak? No. Like a Take 5 Candy Bar. That was like the ideal,” Hirsch said.
Ben Kingsley Emulates the Mahatma for ‘Gandhi’
Ben Kingsley, who said he was “frightened but determined to get the role,” also said he had little time to prepare for it. “I was offered the role in September, left for India in October and started shooting in November,” Kingsley recalls. Once he arrived at the land of the Mahatma, he completely immersed himself. “I practiced yoga in the morning...In the evenings I did my shoots and, in the night, I took spinning classes,” Kingsley explained.
Learning to spin thread with an authentic wooden spinning machine, Kingsley thought, would be better than trying to fake it on automated spinning machines. Beyond those efforts, Kingsley shaved his head and lost 20 pounds, authentically, by abiding by Gandhi’s vegetarian diet. He also practiced meditation and studied yoga. This is what it takes, he believes.
Matt Damon Hones the Middle-aged Man Look in ‘The Informant!’
For Steven Soderbergh’s 'The Informant', Matt Damon transformed himself again. He put on about 30 pounds to play the part of informant Mark Whitacre, in the 2009 film based on a true story. "Don’t call him fat", Damon clarifies, “It wasn’t necessarily that I needed to be fat. It was that I needed to be doughy,” he said.
To pudge-up for the movie, Damon says, “I just stopped working out and basically just ate whatever I wanted.” Adding, “I ate a lot of In-N-Out, a lot of burgers, beer...When you’re in your 20s, you can do that kind of stuff. When you’re in your 30s, it’s a whole different ballgame.”
Rooney Mara Transformed Herself for ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’
Getting into the headspace of Lisbeth Salander found Rooney Mara dyeing her hair black after chopping it off, taking on facial (and other) body piercings, submitting to severe weight loss, and committing to a 150-day shoot living alone in Stockholm. The character, created by novelist Stieg Larsson, is a dark and repressed young woman. Mara went for the pale and anorexic look to portray her. The final effect had bystanders averting their eyes, a relief for a celeb.
She also researched Asperger’s, because some speculate it is part of Lisbeth’s antisocial bent. When asked if the weight loss she endured was unhealthy, Mara said, “Umm . . . not really.” She barely ate, but that’s not difficult for some. What she struggled with was shooting the violent rape scenes. “I don’t know how to describe it,” she said. “I think, physically, it was hardest,” she told Vogue in 2011.
Ewan McGregor Plumps Up in ‘Fargo’
Sitting at dinner with 'Fargo' creator Noah Hawley in Los Angeles, just three months before production was scheduled to begin, Ewan McGregor was 45 years old and in the shape of his life. That’s when he learned for the first time that his physique was not going to be compatible with his new role. “You need to put on weight,” Hawley told him.
His new routine went something like this: “From October until January, when we started filming, I just started eating whatever I wanted. I made sure that I had carbs with everything and French fries with everything. I didn’t have any technique other than eating a lot.” McGregor avoided standing on a scale, so he never weighed himself. When he went to pick up some Levi’s that fit him, however, the change was obvious. The size of the new pair was three inches bigger than his regular size.
Colin Farrell Plumped Up for 'The Lobster'
In just eight weeks, Colin Farrell put on 45 pounds of fat. He accomplished this by sitting around and doing nothing while loading up on pizza, Haagen-Dazs, cheeseburgers. There was no portion control. He revealed to Hollywood Reporter he would put a tub of ice cream in the microwave to melt it to a drinkable state. But it wasn’t all fun and games. “Two cheeseburgers, fries and Coca-Colas, and two slices of chocolate cake at 10 a.m. is not that fun” Farrell said.
The Irish actor played a comedic role about a guy who must find love within 45 days or be turned into the animal of his choice. In the surreal comedy, Farrell’s character chooses a lobster. At the world premiere of the film, Farrell saw himself on the screen without a shirt for the first time. “I gasped,” he said. “I’d forgotten what it looked like.” Not pleased with his “dad bod,” he got back into shape immediately.
Mila Kunis Became a Full-time Ballerina for 'Black Swan'
Mila Kunis is known for being one of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood, and that includes her gorgeous physique. But that still wasn't enough for Kunis to portray the extremely thin ballerina Odile, in Aronofsky's 'Black Swan'. The actress had to lose 20 pounds in just five short months, engaging in a low-carb, high-protein, 1200-calorie diet and rigorous training five hours every day of the week. Kunis even had a private food delivery service that brought her salads every day.
Kunis said the whole experience left a mark on her, as she understood for the first time what actual professional dancers have to go through to make it to the top. "I weighed 95 pounds...I had no shape…All you saw was bone. I was like, This looks gross.”
Hugh Jackman Stopped Eating for 'Les Miserables'
In Tom Hooper's 2012 film adaption of the epic story 'Les Miserables', an unrecognizable Hugh Jackman plays jean Valjean. Jackman claims to have gone to extremes to look as authentic as possible for the role, confessing that he stopped eating and, on some days, even drinking water! All for the sake of a scene in which Valjean, still in prison, performs manual labor in water looking almost emaciated.
But the actor also had to work out for 3 hours every day, so he could still have some muscle. "You lose up to 10 pounds of water weight, mainly from the exterior of the body. But it was really brutal. About 20 hours in, a headache came. Then I wanted to drink water out of the ocean! I see the scene now, and I look really thin, really sunken.” People, do not try this at home.
Chris Evans Transformed Into 'Captain America'
In 2011's 'Captain America: The First Avenger', Chris Evans was tasked with playing an actual superhero. And of course, in order to look like Captain America himself and save the world, one must look rather intimidating and strong. So, Evans transformed himself into Steve Rogers, training for more than two hours every day for a period of three months. His diet? Nothing more than grilled turkey and protein shakes.
Even though Evans recalls the experience as "grueling", and something he would often try to find an excuse not to do, he made a commitment and had to go through with it until the end. Not only did the actr do it and nail the part, he went on to play in several more superhero movies, bulking up with crazy training regimes every single time.
Jennifer Lawrence Became a Thin Russian Ballerina in 'Red Sparrow'
The beautiful Jennifer Lawrence has definitely proven herself to be an outstanding actress in recent years. But above all, people have commended her for her very outspoken beliefs that actors shouldn't endure traumatizing diets for any role. It seems, however, that everybody has their exception, and Lawrence's was playing a Russian ballerina in the 2018 film, 'Red Sparrow'.
The actress not only endured a harsh, albeit short, diet, she also worked closely with a ballerina coach so she could play the character as authentically as possible. Lawrence said that it was the first time she'd been "really hungry and disciplined". Fortunately, the director allowed her to film the dancing scenes first so she could stop dieting and go back to eating regularly for the rest of the filming.
Gerard Butler Became a True Spartan in '300'
Gerard Butler cemented his name in Hollywood after starring in the epic war action film, '300'. For part of Leonidas I, Butler had to go through four arduous months of hard training, which included working out for six hours a day. For two of those six hours, Butler and the rest of the cast endured a special training that included deadlifts, pull-ups, push-ups, box jumps, and more, in order to keep all the men in perfect shape. After all, they were playing Spartans.
Butler has said that he was inspired by seeing the other members of the cast train so hard too, and it pushed him to do more every day. He has said that "it was a very powerful place to be".
Bradley Cooper Weighed 225 lbs. for 'American Sniper'
Bradley Cooper has become a well-known name in Hollywood in the past decade. With films like 'Silver Linings Playbook', 'Limitless', and the recent 'A Star is Born', the Philadelphia-born actor has certainly proved his acting skills. But his most radical transformation for a role was in Clint Eastwood's 2014 film, 'American Sniper'. Playing a Navy SEAL meant Cooper had to train hard and bulk up to a whopping 225 pounds, in just ten weeks.
Cooper and his trainer worked out a rigorous fitness routine and a diet plan that had the actor eating more than 5,000 calories a day. This meant that he was eating five meals every day, plus a few energy bars in-between, and after-workout protein drinks. Alas, it all paid off, the actor was nominated for an Oscar for the authentic performance.
Shailene Woodley Had 350-calorie days in 'Adrift'
Shailene Woodley is a California-born actress that got big in Hollywood after her moving role in 'The Fault in Our Stars'. But it was her portrayal of Tami Oldham in the 2018 film, 'Adrift', that really took a toll on her. Based on a true story, the film follows a young woman and her partner after they get stranded at sea by one of the devastating hurricanes in recorded history. Woodley had to drop a lot of pounds and limit her diet to no more than 350 calories a day, and even less for the last two weeks of filming.
The actress confessed she was miserable, and it was one of the hardest experiences of her career. "I can't sleep when I'm hungry, so I was drinking a glass of wine every day to be able to sleep", Woodley said in an interview. For the last weeks of filming, she claimed to eat nothing more than a can of salmon, a little broccoli and two egg yolks every day.
Jason Segel Dropped 35 lbs. for 'The Five year Engagement'
Jason Segel captured audiences with his comedy and "boy next door" sweetness when he appeared in the 1999 comedy series, 'Freaks and Geeks'. Segel went on to become a big Hollywood name after his famous role as Marshall Eriksen in 'How I Met Your Mother'. Although he's been in countless movies since then, Segel has never radically transformed his appearance for a role. That is, of course, until he played Tom Solomon in 'The Five Year Engagement'.
The director reportedly told him he had to drop 35 pounds for the role, since it had to be convincing that a woman like Emily Blunt's character would fall for him. Segel decided to get serious, "cut out the midnight pizzas" and just eat healthier in general. Whatever he did, it worked!
Russell Crowe Bulked Up to 257 lbs. in 'Body of Lies'
Russell Crowe had to lose his chiseled 'Gladiator' figure to play a CIA veteran in 2008's 'Body of Lies'. For the part, and as per Ridley Scott's request, Crowe had to gain 63 pounds to portray the heavy, sedentary Ed Hoffman. For the actor, this meant hitting an astonishing weight of 257 pounds!
Crowe claimed that he just "decided to eat whatever he wanted", and made sure he had the most sedentary lifestyle possible. In an interview with E! news, the former gladiator rightly said, “If you want to put on weight, you just elect to live a sedentary life style,”. That definitely sounds like a "diet" plan we can get behind of.
Cate Blanchett Became a Man in 'I'm Not There'
Todd Haynes' 2007 film 'Im Not There' is a moving tribute to music legend, Bob Dylan. Several A-list actors play Dylan throughout the film, each portraying a different time of his life. One of those performances is that of Cate Blanchett, who plays a young Dylan in the mid-sixties, a part for which she had to lose a lot of weight.
The Australian actress said in an interview, "He was very androgynous in the time that I was playing him. I had to lose weight to do it." Apart from the weight loss, Blanchett wore a short-haired, wispy wig, and stuck a sock down her pants so she could "walk like a man".
Marlon Brando Stuffed Cotton in His Cheeks in 'The Godfather'
With a career spanning 60 years, Marlon Brando is one of the greatest actors that ever lived, leaving a permanent mark on 20th-century film. But of course, one of his most memorable performances will always be as mafia patriarch, Vito Corleone, in 1972's 'The Godfather'. Brando was no stranger to fluctuating waste lines, since reportedly he had some very odd and unhealthy eating habits, but he still managed to impress Coppola when he lost a significant amount of weight for the part.
But that was the least of his transformations. For the role, Brando drew inspiration from the real-life, American-Italian crime boss Frank Costello, which is why he talks in that very particular voice throughout the film. Also, to appear more intimidating, Brando wore a mouthpiece that was custom-made for him by a dentist and stuffed his cheeks with cotton to make his mouth appear bigger, almost like an angry bulldog. Clearly, it was all worth it in the end, since the actor won his second Oscar for the role.
Tom Hanks Transformed into a Sick Patient in 'Philadelphia'
Jonathan Demme's 1993 film masterpiece, 'Philadelphia', won numerous awards for its performances, direction and music. But undeniably, Tom Hanks's performance as Andrew Beckett, a homosexual lawyer who is HIV-positive, is one of the best roles of his entire career.
It earned Hanks his first ever Academy Award for Best Actor, and it was well-deserved, considering he had to lose nearly 30 pounds in a few weeks. In fact, it was reported that actor Matthew McConaughey asked Tom Hanks for advice on how to lose that amount of weight before his role in the acclaimed 2013 film, 'Dallas Buyers Club'.
Gwyneth Paltrow Gained More Than 20 lbs. in 'Country Strong'
We all know Gwyneth Paltrow as a die-hard superfood and fitness advocate, which is why it was so surreal to see her as a curvy country song singer in the 2010 film, 'Country Strong'. Paltrow plays Kelly Canter, a country music superstar and recovering alcoholic trying to find her way back to the top. For the role, the actress had to gain over 20 pounds - an experience she said she really didn't enjoy, saying the worst part was not being able to work out.
Shot in Nashville, Tennessee, the actress said there was no shortage of places to eat in order to put on weight. Paltrow apparently did enjoy eating crispy fried chicken lathered in gravy with some buttermilk biscuits on the side. And how could she not?! The blonde beauty said that she went back to an extreme workout and healthy food regime as soon as filming ended, because she felt her "body was falling apart". It certainly looks like she managed to put it back together.
Mark Wahlberg Lost 40 lbs. of Body Mass for 'The Gambler'
Marky Mark made cinema history in 1997, when he played the star of Paul Thomas Anderson's classic film 'Boogie Nights'. With the countless movies he's starred in ever since, it's hard to pick a best performance, but one thing's for sure: his most incredible transformation was in the 2014 drama, 'The Gambler'. Playing a literature professor with a series gambling addiction, Wahlberg had to lose 40 pounds!
The actor claimed that he was on a rigid six-week liquid diet that consisted of drinking 8 ounces of almond milk three times a day. "I was miserable because I like food," said Wahlberg in an interview with E!. And since the actor wasn't losing enough weight on the almond milk diet, he also had t exercise for three hours every day, after a 12-hour work day!
Daniel Radcliffe Turned into a Cripple in ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’
Daniel Radcliffe has come a long way since his 'Harry Potter' days, acting in acclaimed dramas, fiction, and comedy movies in the last few years. But the big screen isn't the only place where the former Hogwarts magician has been busy. In 2014, Radcliffe scored a role in 'The Cripple of Inishmaan', a Broadway play from 2014 based on Martin McDonagh's dark comedy book by the same name.
In preparation for his role as a malnourished, disabled young orphan, Radcliffe managed to undergo a ery intense diet that had him looking pale, gaunt, and perfect for the role of Cripple Billy.
Steve Carell Waxed Off His Hair in 'The 40 Year Old Virgin'
Steve Carell is one of the most beloved and hilarious actors in Hollywood, and for good reason. When Carell commits to a role, he really commits. If you don't believe it, just ask famous comedy director Judd Apatow, who has a nice little story to tell about his friend. Now, this may not be a story of insane weight loss or gain, but it is a far more painful body transformation.
Surely, you remember the legendary comedy classic, 'The 40 Year Old Virgin'. This 2005 film became an instant favorite, with many of its scenes having viewers crying of laughter. One of those scenes was the famous waxing scene, where Carell is taken to a waxing salon before his date with Catherine Keener. Those bald hair patches and the agonizing screams were absolutely real! Apatow and Carell wanted the scene to be as authentic as possible, so the actor actually went ahead with it!
Beyonce Lost 20 lbs. in Two Weeks for 'Dreamgirls'
Queen Bey is the envy of women all around the world for her beautiful figure, and she has always been a proud defender of her curves. However, when the producers of 2006's musical drama, 'Dreamgirls' decided to cast Beyonce as the film's main character, they made it clear they were looking for a more thin, slender type of look.
Beyonce recalls that "they wanted a Diana Ross-type look for the character", and she was so invested in playing the part that she decided to go for it. Thanks to a strict juice fast, called 'The lemonade diet', Beyonce lost 20 pounds in just two weeks. The cleanse diet, as the actress explained on Oprah, consists of only drinking organic juices for 10 days and not eating any solid foods.
Jennifer Hudson Transformed into Mandela's Wife in 'Winnie Mandela'
Even though nowadays, you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody who doesn't know who Jennifer Hudson is, this beautiful singer was still on her way to the top as an actress back in 2011. And that proved to be the year that changed Hudson's life. The former American Idol finalist was cast in the historical drama, Winnie Mandela. In order to play South Africa's beloved Winnie herself, Hudson had to start an extreme diet from Weight Watchers. However, Hudson ended up losing so much weight that she had to gain back a few pounds after she was told she was too thin to play the role!
And as if that weren't enough, she had a few months to perfect the difficult, and very particular, South African accent. But why did all of this change her life? Apparently, Hudson became a huge fan of the Weight Watchers' diet regime that she adopted it for everyday life, even after filming had ended. This is what has helped the Chicago-born beauty lose over 50 pounds to this date.
Eric Bana Was Overweight, Toothless and Covered in Tattoos for 'Chopper'
Before he became one of Hollywood's most sought-after actors after starring in the hit film, 'Munich', Eric Bana did an incredible performance in the 200 film, 'Chopper'. Now, Bana has always been a very good-looking and fit man, but for Chopper, where he played infamous Australian criminal Mark "Chopper" Read, he had to put on 30 pounds in a few months.
Bana claims he just ate junk food like there was no tomorrow, and if you've seen the movie, you'll believe it. The Australian actor looked super beefy, which combined with a chipped tooth and a body covered in tattoos made him look like the actual Chopper's doppelganger.
Jamie Foxx Became a Buffed Up Football Player in 'Any Given Sunday'
In one of Hollywood's favorite football movies, Oliver Stone's 1999 film 'Any Given Sunday' featured A-list actors (Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid) and an action-packed plot. But undoubtedly, one of the best performances was that of Jamie Foxx, as he portrayed bulked-up football player Willie Beamen. Foxx endured strict training and weight-lifting until reaching a massive weight of 200 pounds, and then came the harder workouts - actual football drill training.
The real-life football workouts were so intense that Foxx quickly dropped 25 pounds from his newly acquired 200-pound mass. “I really had to bulk up. I got up to about 200 pounds, then lost 25 pounds once I went down to training camp. It made me look bigger on the screen because I was tighter.”, said Foxx in an interview.