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15 Actors Who Underwent Dramatic Transformations For A Role



Acting, how hard can it be? Many of us have probably fancied ourselves as a bit of a star in the making who, with a bit of luck and some help memorising the lines, could quite easily play the role of a leading man or lady. As actors themselves know however, it's a job that takes incredible amounts of skill and dedication. It often goes far beyond slipping into character to deliver a few lines here and there, wearing some make-up or perhaps a fake moustache.

Here we have decided to pay homage to those actors that took their transformations to the extreme, those who undertook vast physical and mental efforts to portray their characters in the most authentic and accurate way possible. Many of these actors won prestigious awards for their work, and rightly so! Scroll down below to see and learn about the dramatic changes these stars underwent for their craft, and don't forget to vote for your favourite!

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#1 Christian Bale, The Machinist

In The Machinist (2004), Christian Bale plays the role of Trevor Reznik, a machinist with severe insomnia. The lack of sleep leads to severe weight loss, so Reznik becomes extremely thin. To be fit for the character Bale needed to look drastically thin, so he had to lose a lot of weight. He went from from 173 pounds to 110 pounds. To lose these 63 pounds, the actor followed a draconian diet: for almost four months he ate only one can of tuna fish and one apple per day.

This type of diet is a very low calorie diet, ensuring only around 260 calories a day. There are 194 calories in one can (6.5 ounce) of tuna in water, and one medium size apple (about 150 g) has 80 calories. The “menu” was completed with black coffee and water.

Besides the extremely low calorie intake, the foods chosen for this diet are, by themselves, metabolism boosters. Due to the caffeine content, coffee increases the metabolism. The apples are high in sugar and pectin (a soluble fiber) which dampens down the appetite.

To lose weight faster, Christian Bale exercised hard. The star’s exercise regime included intensive cardio workouts and intensive resistance/weight training workouts.



#2 Chris Hemsworth, Thor

Of all the actors who had to pack on mass for a movie, few in recent memory have taken to the task with such zeal, and notable success, as Chris Hemsworth when he landed the part of Thor.

For the first film, Hemsworth hit the gym with trainer and former Navy SEAL Duffy Gaver, who applied an old-school bodybuilding approach—with careful attention given to Hemsworth’s arms and shoulders. Thor, after all, often appears sleeveless, but rarely shirtless. All told, Hemsworth gained 20 pounds, laying the foundation for a physique he’s maintained at or close to peak condition for Thor’s recurring role in The Avengers and the solo sequel, Thor: The Dark World.

Hemsworth was a model of consistency, and the physique he built has made “Chris Hemsworth Workout” the top search suggestion when you punch the actor’s name into Google.

“People see Chris and they think he was on steroids, but he didn’t touch a single substance,” Gaver says. “It was just red meat, heavy weights and some protein powder. He crushed every single workout. He simply decided to look like Thor.”



#3 Jake Gyllenhaal, Southpaw

Gyllenhaal gained 15lbs of muscle to play a middleweight boxer in the movie ‘Southpaw,’ by working out six hours a day for six months, including at the Las Vegas gym of Floyd Mayweather, the champion boxer.

Southpaw’s director, Antoine Fuqua said that “We literally turned him into a beast. Jake, my god, he’s a very electric, powerful fighter in this movie. He’s so committed and gives his heart. The word is sacrifice.”

He was spending so much time in the gym and was so committed to the role that his relationship with Alyssa Miller ended. “The amount of time you have to put into it, the sacrifice that you put into your body, it's not something that you're eager to do again. It's a huge commitment.” Gyllenhaal said about his gruelling preparation for the role.

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#4 Jonah Hill, Maniac

Jonah Hill’s weight has fluctuated back and forth from lean to full-figured over the past few years. He slimmed down for the action-comedy 22 Jump Street in 2014, but gained 40lbs for his role in War Dogs in 2016 to play real-life arms dealer Efraim Diveroli.

These days Hill is a much slimmer figure in general and appears to have put his weight battles behind him. His physique looks almost unrecognizable compared to his burly figure in films like Superbad, The Sitter, and This Is the End, making for quite the body transformation.



#5 Chris Pratt, Guardians Of The Galaxy

“Three or four hours a day of just consistent, ass-kicking hard work.” Is how Chris Pratt, star of the film 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' ditched 60 pounds in six months. Pratt, who is most known for playing Andy Dwyer in the sitcom 'Parks and Recreation,' was in the neighborhood of 300 pounds when he auditioned for the Marvel movie.

Marvel would pair Pratt with personal trainer Duffy Gaver and nutritionist Phil Goglia. Goglia revamped Pratt’s diet, hiking his caloric intake to 4,000 calories a day and adding lots and lots of water—one for every pound he weighed.  “I was peeing all day long, every day. That part was a nightmare,” Pratt said.

Admittedly, Pratt had started gaining weight purposely for his Parks and Recreation character, but now he's committed to remaining ripped: “It gave me a sense of absolute control,” he said.



#6 Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

An astounding aspect of the movie 'Dallas Buyers Club' is actor Matthew McConaughey’s remarkable weight loss. He dropped over 40lbs for the based-on-true-events story of AIDS patient Ron Woodroof, a man who challenges the US government to bring unapproved medication to other sufferers. McConaughey explained how, despite concerns from others over the potential negative impact on his health, he found he had plenty of energy, mentally at least – to complete the unremitting 25-day shoot.

“The amount of energy I lost from the neck down, I gained from the neck up,” he says. “I’ve seen people dying from HIV and cancer, and the last thing to go is the neck up. They are just savage from the neck up – their body is withering away but they are like a starving baby eagle in the nest waiting for the worm. So during filming, I had plenty of energy. I needed three hours less sleep a night.”

“I did it in as healthy a way as I found possible,” he says.

“I met with a nutritionist. I gave myself four months to lose the weight. I had my programmed meals, lost 3.5lb a week - like clockwork - and got down to my desired weight.’’

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#7 Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Natalie Portman endured a punishing schedule for her role as a ballerina in Black Swan, which left her fearing she was going to die.

The waif-like 29-year-old lost 20lb for the role, eating little more than carrots and almonds on a punishing diet, and spent eight hours a day in rehearsals. Ms. Portman, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of the desperately ambitious, perfectionist dancer, said: "There were some nights that I thought I literally was going to die."

The film left her physically and emotionally drained: "It was the first time I understood how you could get so wrapped up in a role that it could sort of take you down."

The actress, who dislocated a rib during rehearsals, said recently: "All dancers are always dancing with an extreme injury. Not just a sore muscle, they're dancing on a sprained ankle or with a twisted neck or something. You'll see them do incredible stuff and then limp off stage, straight to a bucket of ice. Part of the art is hiding all the pain."

The film received mixed reviews from ballerinas. Racheal Prince, of Ballet British Columbia, said she thought Ms. Portman's character was exaggerated. "She's anorexic, bulimic, crazy," the 26-year-old dancer said. "I'm sure every dancer struggles with little things here and there, but for one girl to struggle with every single problem out there, it just makes us look crazy."



#8 Tom Hardy, Bronson 

“When it came to conditioning my body for the role of Charles Bronson there was no official regime: I did very non-specific exercises such as press ups, pushups, abs work and resistance training with the help of my boy Pnut, who is 16 stone of pure muscle and also an ex-US Marine. Essentially I was using him as my machine; he was like a walking gym. My approach was to do a lot of repetitions in order to send messages to my muscles: this helps them start to grow in a way that you can’t make them in the gym. To achieve dense muscle, you need a specific kind of training. Also, to “become” Charlie Bronson I had to quickly put a lot of weight quickly on my forearms, chest and neck. By the time I’d finished, my legs looked like those of a stork in comparison to the top half of my body.”

“I had five weeks to make the transition into Britain’s most dangerous criminal and it was a race against the clock: We didn’t have any time to waste, so I started eating and my arse very quickly got very fat. For Bronson, I put on about 7lbs a week — with no steroids. In the end I’d put on about 2 and a half stone by eating chicken and rice, which was my staple diet throughout the day. Then I’d have a pizza, Häagen-Dazs and Coca-Cola: So not good stuff, but I had to put weight on. I needed to put a layer of fat on my body, because Bronson when he was younger was a big guy, a brawler. My diet was lenient as we weren’t going for the Bruce Lee look and we weren’t looking for the cut.”

“Initially Charles Bronson was very disappointed when he saw me. He said “This kid will never be able to play me.” I just told him, “Don’t worry Charlie I’ll fix it.”  When I came back two weeks later he was thoroughly impressed with what he saw. His sister had been telling him good things about the way I'd been doing his voice and the way I moved like him, but his concern was the physicality of my portrayal of him, but I think I did a good job in the end.”



#9 Jared Leto, Chapter 27

The lengths to which Leto went for his latest role might seem just a tad extreme. To play John Lennon's assassin, Mark David Chapman, in J.P. Schaefer's film, "Chapter 27," Leto packed 67 pounds onto his lanky frame to better approximate the killer's doughy physique. By the end of filming, the extra weight had taken such a toll that he could no longer walk to the set. It's easily his most dramatic transformation to date.

"I'm not sure it was the wisest choice," he admits. "A friend of mine was recently going to gain weight for a film, and I did my best to talk him out of it. Just because you can lose the weight doesn't mean the impact it had on you isn't there anymore."

The abruptness of Leto's weight gain gave him gout and a doctor's recommendation to take Lipitor. But Leto says slipping into Chapman's skin was the best way to understand him. "The script didn't say, 'Page 1: You gain 67 pounds, and you're miserable for two months.' But as I started to research, I realized that the physical representation of this guy had so much to do with who he was."

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#10 Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Jared Leto lost an astonishing 40 pounds to play a transsexual with AIDS in ‘Dallas Buyers Club,’ alongside his co-star Matthew McConaughey whose weight loss is described above.

How did he do it? “I stopped eating, it wasn’t an easy thing to do. It was 30 or 40 pounds. After a while I stopped counting.”

Ultimately his weight dropped to 114 pounds to play Rayon, a transsexual with the HIV virus and then AIDS. Losing that much weight changed him, he said. “It changes the way you walk, the way you sit, the way you think,” he said.

After his extreme weight gain for the movie ‘Chapter 27,’also described above, it’s clear that Leto is incredibly dedicated to his art. The hard work and dedication paid off as ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ won a plethora of awards, and he bagged an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film.



#11 Chris Hemsworth, In The Heart Of The Sea

Chris Hemsworth says he lost around 15 pounds in the course of shooting the historical seafaring epic 'In the Heart of the Sea.' That may not seem like a huge amount when compared to say the 60-or-so pounds Christian Bale famously made disappear for 2004’s The Machinist, but Hemsworth had already trimmed down to star in the thriller Black Hat, which he had shot immediately before.

“When you’re already starting off lean, it’s brutal to chew through that kind of weight. Every pound feels like a kilogram.,” he said.

In the based-on-real events film, Hemsworth plays a 19th-century seaman called Owen Chase, first mate of whaling ship the Essex. After a whale destroys their ship, Chase and the rest of the crew have to survive the elements, and lack of food, in tiny, lifeboat-sized craft.

To convincingly depict starving men, the cast members’ diets were steadily reduced over the course of the production. By the time they began to shoot on the open sea around the Canary Islands, the actors were consuming just 500 calories a day.

“We kind of went insane, weighing ourselves every day,” says Hemsworth. “We all felt like a bunch of supermodels, trying to get down in weight for a show, or something. That’s all we spoke about. You’ve got 15 burly blokes on the sea and all we talked about was our diet, and who’d lost more weight, and who’s looking really skinny. It’s ridiculous!”



#12 Charlize Theron, Monster

Charlize Theron gained 30lbs for ‘Monster’, the movie role that showed audiences Theron was far more than a pretty face. Charlize Theron’s weight gain for Aileen Wuornos, the real life serial killer she portrayed, showed how committed she was to the role and her position as an actress in Hollywood.

Charlize Theron’s diet, and that word is used loosely, for her role in ‘Monster’ consisted of donuts and potato chips to pack on the 30lbs needed to look more like Wuornos. It wasn’t the first time she put herself through dieting of some kind for a role – though the actress did the opposite when she portrayed a dying woman in ‘Sweet November.’

However, Theron has said that getting “fat” wasn’t the actual goal in her makeover for Wuornos, who she says wasn’t fat at all. It was more about lifestyle, letting herself go so she could get closer to the place Wuornos was physically.

To prepare for the part, the usually tall, slender beauty looked unrecognizable — gaining 30 pounds, wearing prosthetic teeth, piling on make-up and practicing a tougher physical posture. "Monster" writer-director Patty Jenkins spoke to CNN about Theron's transformation, saying it was less about making Theron "fat and ugly" and more about the little things. "Yeah, just shocking because it was little details. It was, 'Oh, she was homeless. She lived on the street in bad weather. OK, well that means sun damage.' Well, then we addressed the sun damage. She was insecure about her hair, OK, well, then we address the hair. It was little little layers and then suddenly she's Aileen," Jenkins said.

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#13 Tom Hanks, Castaway

The actor had to put on 50 lbs (23 kg) during pre-production to make him look like a middle-aged man. When Tom Hanks was in this shape, they shot the parts of the film before the island scenes, and then took a year off to let Tom lose weight to impersonate a real cast away. He didn’t shave or cut his hair for weeks and shed 55lb in four months with a diet and a tough exercise regime.

“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,” Hanks said.

His diet consisted mainly of: crab, fish, vegetables, very little carbohydrate from fruits, coconut milk and water. When Hanks felt hungry, he ate large amounts of vegetables. This allowed him to consume natural food without having to go hungry between meals. This diet later became famously known as the Castaway Diet.



#14 Demi Moore, G.I. Jane

Transforming into Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil, the first female Navy SEAL, for the movie G.I. Jane was not an easy task. The Demi Moore workout and diet are what she used to become G.I Jane, and included real Navy SEAL training, combined with a lot of strength, cardio, and martial arts.

For G.I. Jane, Moore’s workout would start at 4:00 am, in order to finish before filming started. Living in New York City at the time, she had multiple security guards following her while running in Central Park.

She used celebrity trainer Gregory Joujon-Roche for getting in shape, and Navy SEAL instructor Stephen Helvenston to gain that visceral, Navy SEAL mindset while filming. To immerse herself in the role she shaved her head, did Navy SEAL obstacle courses and other military-type exercises such as underwater running,  one arm pushups and sit-ups in the mud.

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#15 J.K. Simmons, Justice League

J.K. Simmons seriously underwent a shred in order to play Commissioner Gordon in Justice League.

Aside from a tremendous amount of dedication to his regimen, Simmons credits part of his success to his trainer Aaron Williamson. An ex-Marine, Williamson's been providing elite-level training—morphing Hollywood A-listers into bona fide muscleheads like he's cranking out action figures on an assembly line—to the likes of Zac Efron, Dwayne Johnson, Jamie Foxx, and Jai Courtney. He first got his hands on Simmons in 2015 to help him shape up for Terminator Genisys.

At first, Simmons wanted to escape the doldrums of the film's set, which was based in Louisiana, but after shooting wrapped Simmons felt he was ready for a full-body change.

"He wanted to get into the best shape he had ever been in," Williamson says, adding, "J.K.'s goal was to adopt a healthy lifestyle and never have to worry again about health issues."

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