Some actors take extreme measures when preparing for future roles. And that includes gaining or losing significant amounts of weight. Sometimes it’s cosmetic, while other times the actor takes it to dangerous levels. Here are some of the more notable examples:
Manipulating weight on a dramatic level famously began with Robert DeNiro in his role as Jake LaMotta in the 1980 film Raging Bull. During the fight scenes, DeNiro was in tip-top shape; cut out of granite. But for his scenes as the washed up pugilist, DeNiro packed on a whopping 60 pounds. According to the Internet Movie Database, the weight gain was a record for the time. It was later topped by Vincent D’Onofrio who gained 70 pounds for his role as private Pyle in Stanley Kubrick’s haunting Vietnam war picture, Full Metal Jacket.
According to director Martin Scorsese, the film’s production was closed down for about four months, allowing DeNiro to binge on carb-loaded Italian food. It made for an amazing transformation for the film’s final scenes.
Once the acting legend Robert DeNiro set the bar so high for fully committing to a movie role, Oscar hopefuls lined up to show what they were made of.
Renee Zellweger is probably the most famous actress to make a point of dramatically transforming her body. She did it twice for two installments of the Bridget Jones films. Zellweger is normally a slim size six, but for the films she transformed into a size 14.
Other women have made impressive transformations, but often they are so thin to begin with, that when they add 20+ pounds, they simply go from thin to curvy. Charlize Theron’s amazing performance as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster was more about “dirtying her up” than the 30 pounds she gained for the part.
Eva Longoria Parker made waves with her minuscule 10-pound weight gain to transform her Desperate Housewives role form sex kitten to exhausted homemaker. But little changed other than removing makeup and dressing her down. “I never went up a size,” the 33-year-old actress told Allure magazine. “I just got rounder.”
Next is everyone’s favorite everyman, Tom Hanks in Castaway. Like in Raging Bull, the production of Castaway went on hiatus, and Hanks lost 55 pounds and didn’t shave or cut his hair. “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 workout – that was formidable,” said Hanks. “You have to power yourself through it almost by some sort of meditation trickery. It’s not glamorous.”
Pretty boy Jared Leto packed on 60 pounds for his role in Chapter 27 (below), in which he plays John Lennon’s assassin Mark David Chapman.
Raising suspicion of his sanity, Leto gained weight by eating pints of Haagen Dazs chocolate ice cream that he would microwave along with olive oil and soy sauce. Yum. After filming he took equally drastic measures to drop the weight. “Eight days after I was done with the film, I fasted for 10 days, and I got right back on the road with 30 Seconds To Mars,” says Leto, talking about his band. He reportedly did so using the controversial Master Cleanse method.
Bale, one of today’s hottest stars, lost 63 pounds from an already thin frame to play his disturbing role as an emaciated insomniac in The Machinist. At six feet tall, he dropped from 185 pounds to around 122! His daily diet consisted of the monotonous and meager one helping of an apple and a can of tuna. “I had been to a nutritionist and when I had got down to what she had told me was a healthy weight, I just went: ‘You know what? I can go more than this. I can keep going.’ So I lost another 20 pounds below what she said I should stop at,” Bale told the BBC.
What makes Bale’s story so amazing is that he promptly turned around and got buffed up for his role as Batman in Batman Begins. In five months, he went from 122 pounds to 220 before slimming back down to 180 by the time shooting began.
Is it the artist being fully dedicated to his craft, or just someone who is a bit off his rocker? Maybe it’s a little of both. But at what cost to his health?
“Doing this once although not advisable, shouldn’t hurt him long term,” says Raphael Calzadilla, B.A., CPT, ACE, Chief Fitness Pro for eDiets.com. “He could have risked his health by going as low as 122 pounds, and if he did it time and again (gained and lost to that extreme) he most definitely would have impacted his overall health, internal organs, immune system and metabolism.”
Matt Damon lost nearly 50 pounds to play a heroin addict in Courage Under Fire. He was candid about regretting the move. “I went too far. I got sick and I wouldn’t do that again because it was just too much. At the same time it helped the performance. I didn’t have to act at all – I was a wreck. I was getting dizzy spells and hot flashes. I didn’t say anything to anyone for a while because I was afraid I might be really ill.”