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Actors Who Went Through Extreme Transformations For Roles

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Film critics will sometimes claim that actors are nothing more than the words on the page or the puppet of the director. The idea is that actors can be replaceable with someone else who can perform the way that’s needed.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

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Some of the biggest stars in Hollywood become stars because of what they’re willing to bring to the role. Some may learn a new skill, others will get a drastic haircut. These specific actors went through some pretty amazing transformations – proving that the art is more than just the performance: it’s the mindset.


Chris Hemsworth, Thor

He may look the part today, but Ozzie native Chris Hemsworth had to build some serious muscle before playing Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In 2010, he had private gym sessions with former Navy Seal Duffy Gaver. Special emphasis was placed on building Hemsworth’s arms and chest – giving him that superhero pop.

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Overall, he gained 20 pounds of muscle and has kept it going way until 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. It’s unclear where Thor will go after this summer.

Christain Bale, The Machinist

The Batman actor is incredibly dedicated to the art form, often to dangerous effects. For 2004’s The Machinist, he played insomniac Trevor Reznik. Part of the role demanded he loses weight, something Bale had no problem doing.

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The British actor ate nothing but one can of tuna and an apple per day. Overall, he lost a massive 63 pounds – making his weight 110 pounds during filming.

Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy

Chris Pratt was the dedicated fat man of Hollywood until James Gunn cast him as the lead in the surprise hit Guardians of the Galaxy. For the role, Pratt lost a whopping 60 pounds and built up an impressive physique.

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Before his jump to leading man, Pratt played funnyman Andy Dwyer in NBC’s Parks and Recreation – a role for which he deliberately gained weight. At his highest, he was 300 pounds; making it an important lifestyle change for him, too.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Southpaw

Gyllenhaal worked up 15 pounds of muscle to play a middleweight boxer in 2015’s Southpaw. He accomplished this by working out for six hours a day over six months.

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Even though director Antoine Fuqua praised his dedication to the role, it’s not something the star is willing to do again. According to the star, it cost him his relationship with Alyssa Miller and was a ‘sacrifice’ to his body.

Jonah Hill, Maniac

Superbad actor Jonah Hill has had a problem with fluctuating weight for some time, making him look different in roles over the years. For Netflix’s Maniac, the actor looks practically unrecognizable to a photo of himself in 2016.

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Three years ago, Hill starred opposite Miles Teller in War Dogs, the true story about an arms dealer. For the role, he gained 40 pounds after losing it for 2014’s 21 Jump Street. Slow down, Jonah!

Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

For McConaughey, the 40-pound weight loss was worth the pain. The actor shed an impressive amount of weight to play real-life AIDS patient Ron Woodroof in the 2014 film. The performance ultimately won him an Oscar, and it didn’t put him through too much turmoil.

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He explains how we worked with a nutritionist to lose ‘3.5 pounds a week over four months’. Interestingly, he describes the ‘energy lost from the neck down was gained from the neck up.’

Natalie Portman, Black Swan

For her role in Black Swan, Natalie Portman when through a punishing role as a ballerina suffering a nervous breakdown. At the age of 29, the actress lost 20 pounds eating nothing but carrots and almonds.

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Despite her Oscar win for the performance, Portman doesn’t have the greatest memories of the experience. ‘I thought I was going to die. 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.’

Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

The Joker actor is known to go all in for his roles, and this was no exception. Jared Leto lost 40 pounds to play the AIDS-ridden transexual in Dallas Buyers Club.

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He describes his weight loss process exactly how you would expect. ‘I stopped eating, it wasn’t an easy thing to do. It was 30 or 40 pounds. After a while, I stopped counting. It changes the way you walk, the way you sit, the way you think,’ he said.

Tom Hardy, Bronson

To play prisoner Charles Bronson in the 2009 film, British actor Tom Hardy didn’t have a specific plan. He describes his process as ‘non-specific exercises’ such as press ups, pushups, and abs work.

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Hardy was given five weeks to complete his transaction, which pits him against a clock a bit quicker than other stars. Amazingly, Hardy managed to transform his body in a short time without a tight plan in place.

Jared Leto, Chapter 27

It should be known by now that Jared Leto can go to great extremes for a role. After being cast as Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s assassin, the actor gained a massive 67 pounds to match the real-life body type.

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His sudden weight gain has terrible effects on his health. He developed gout and he was prescribed medicine to help him lose the weight after the shoot. He described himself as ‘miserable’ for that time of his life.

Charlize Theron, Monster

Charlize Theron proved to audiences everywhere that she was not just a pretty face when she starred in 2003’s Monster. Playing real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos, Theron gained 30 pounds from a ‘diet’ of donuts and chips.

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When preparing herself for the role, the South African star never said it was about ‘gaining weight’ per se, but instead, she wanted to ‘let herself go’. Theron was determined to reduce the quality of her lifestyle in order to play the killer. She went on to win the Academy Award for her performance.

Demi Moore, G.I Jane

While transforming into a NAVY Seal in 1997’s G.I Jane was no easy task for Demi Moore. The actress woke every day at 4 am to exercise before the film shoot each day.

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As well as weight training and running, the actress also shaved her head and took part in some accurate NAVY exercises. The shoot was physically and mentally exhausting for the actress but the performance was worth it.

J.K. Simmons, Justice League

2017’s Justice League was J.K. Simmons’ second outing into the superhero world after playing J. Jonah Jameson in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films. This time around, the Oscar-winning actor worked with an ex-Marine to play Commissioner James Gordon.

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After the shoot, in which Simmons packed on a little heat, the actor decided to continue the strict regime and ‘get into the best shape of his life’.

Chris Hemsworth, In The Heart Of The Sea

Another entry for Hemsworth, who looks totally unrecognizable as Owen Chase, a 19th-century seaman who got lost at sea. He lost 15 pounds and let his hair grow out to take on the staved and neglected look so greatly captured here.

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At the time of the shoot, Hemsworth was eating just 500 calories a day – one fifth the daily recommended amount. According to sources at Entertainment Weekly, he said he felt like a supermodel.

Edward Norton, American History X

Before his amazing performance in American History X, Edward Norton was only a modest actor with a few solid films. To play the angry neo-nazi prison mate, Norton packed on 30 pounds of muscle and shaved his head.

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He accomplished this by investing in a high protein diet with vigorous exercising before the film shoot started. For his weights, he focussed on heavy weight and low repetition actions.

50 Cent, All Things Fall Apart

Perhaps one of the most drastic changes on our list, rapper 50 Cent lost an amazing 60 pounds to play a cancer-ridden football player. He says he lost the weight by going on a liquid diet and spending three hours a day on the treadmill for two months.

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The rapper went one step further and even went through the painful and expensive process of removing his tattoos. ‘It cuts down on the amount of time I have to spend in makeup covering them up,’ he explained.

Matthew McConaughey, Gold

This actor is no stranger to body transformations! For 2017’s Gold, McConaughey labeled himself ‘Captain Fun’ as he packed on the pounds. He said yes to almost any and all food that was put in front of him for six months before shooting began.

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Describing the phase as ‘a lot of fun’, the actor shamelessly visited all his favorite fast food joints and ate a lot of cheeseburgers and beer. In his home, ‘Pizza Night’ became ‘Pizza Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner’.

Zac Efron, Baywatch

For six months before production of 2017’s Baywatch, the former child star worked with acclaimed fitness trainer Patrick Murphy to obtain the body needed for the shoot. He exercised five days a week and saw him say goodbye to sugars and carbs completely.

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‘Patrick pushed me to my ‘functional’ limits with a very multifaceted style: strength, explosiveness, fast-paced, calculated, diverse and gut-wrenching workouts,’ Efron explained.

Tom Hanks, Cast Away

For Robert Zemeckis’ 2000 hit, Hanks famously put on 50 pounds before production started. After shooting half the film, production stopped for six months so that Hanks could lose 55 pounds. He did so by eating nothing but crab, fish, vegetables, and water.

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The actor describes the process as ‘not glamorous’ and ‘formidable’ – something not worth copying. Sadly, Tom Hanks contracted Type 2 Diabetes as a result of his sudden body changes.

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