Some actors become a little more absorbed in their roles than others, and then there are those completely transform themselves into the part they are playing to the point where they are borderline unrecognizable. There are actors who undergo extreme diets and crazy workouts to gain fat or muscle to play fighters, gangsters and villains. Here are 15 of the more extreme examples:
For her role as a boxer in Million Dollar Baby, Hillary Swank put on 19 pounds of pure muscle in just 90 days. “My training was two and a half hours of boxing and approximately an hour and a half to two hours lifting weights every day, six days a week,” said Swank. “I would drink my egg whites because I could never eat 8 to 12 egg whites in a sitting. It’s just the worst thing ever.”
Much like Hillary Swank, Ryan Reynolds underwent a crazy workout routine for Blade Trinity and kept on the extra 25 pounds he had gained Green Lantern. All it took Reynolds to bulk up to a ripped 200 pounds at 8% body fat was sticking to a 3,200-calorie daily diet and doing six-day-a-week workouts for three months.
Tom Hardy put in the effort and gained 30 pounds to play Bane in the The Dark Knight Rises, but many Batman fans were still unhappy. Hardy, however, defended his weight to the critics. “I’m at 190. Bat-fans want me to be over 220 pounds. 400 pounds,” the actor said. “I’m like dude! Batman is like Superman, Spider-Man — he belongs to so many people. So many people love him. He belongs to them, and when you step into that kind of character, you are going to fail. And be judged.”
A 4,000-calorie-a-day diet isn’t particularly easy for a size four woman to maintain, but that’s what Renee Zellweger had to do to bring the size 14 character of Bridget Jones back for the sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason in 2004. What’s even crazier is that Zellweger was willing to do it a third time for last year’s Bridget Jones’s Baby, but director Sharon Maguire talked her out of it. Zellweger admits she still added a few pounds.
When the trailer for the new season of Fargo first debuted, fans could hardly believe their eyes when they first saw a tubby, balding Ewan McGregor. “I have to load on a bit of weight so I’ve started doing a bit of that … just eating loads of food,” McGregor said on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last October. “Anything I want, whenever I want.”
Matt Damon had to gain 30 pounds to play the vice president-turned-CIA-informant Mark Whitacre in The Informant, but it sounds like he enjoyed every second of letting himself go. “I definitely got doughy,” Damon told Entertainment Weekly. “I started eating like crazy and drinking dark beer. Between meals on set, I’d eat a No. 1 Value Meal at McDonald’s and then Doritos on top of it. It was absolute heaven.”
George Clooney was on the opposite end of the spectrum to Damon when he had to gain 30 pounds for his part as a CIA operative in Syriana back in 2005. “There was nothing fun about it. There was not a moment that was fun about shooting this film,” Clooney said. “That’s not a slap on the film or [the director Stephen] Gaghan. It’s just that everybody has that year where you age a decade and this was that one for me.”
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense getting one of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood to play a not-so aesthetically pleasing serial killer, but Charlize Theron embraced the role of Aileen Wuornos in Monster, gaining 30 pounds and winning an Oscar for her performance. “I first began stuffing myself with Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but after a while I got sick of them,” Theron said. “I love potato chips, so that was a good thing for me. I’m a salty girl so I had my secret stash with me of potato chips at all times.”
You can’t be slim playing a Navy SEAL, so Cooper had to gain 40 pounds for his part in American Sniper and he did it in 10 weeks. According to Men’s Health, Cooper worked with a trainer twice a day beginning at 5am. The morning workout focused on structural exercises like deadlifts and squats just so his body could support the extra weight, while the late-afternoon session was dedicated to more traditional muscle-building exercises.
Anyone who has watched more than one film starring Welsh-born actor would know the lengths he goes to for his craft. The same man that once weighed 121 pounds in 2004’s The Machinist was previously ripped in American Psycho and in decent crime-fighting shape afterward in several Batman films. For American Hustle, Bale gained 43 pounds by snacking on cheeseburgers and doughnuts, and even accidentally herniated a disc in his back from slouching to accentuate the weight-gain!
McConaughey is another that enjoyed bulking up for a role, in his case it was adding 47 pounds for the film Gold. “Pizza night could be any night and if the kids wanted to go bowling at midnight on a school night that was a great idea too,” McConaughey told Graham Norton. “Cheeseburger and beer for breakfast was a great idea too. I really relaxed on the rules! I was fat and happy.”
It took five months to gain the 50 pounds that the star and creator of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia thought were required to make his character, Mac, seem funnier. “I was watching a popular sitcom and I noticed that all of the characters looked more handsome or just simply better looking … and I thought I had never seen a show in which the characters — or the actor specifically — tried to look worse as the show progressed,” McElhenney said. “I decided to look as terrible as possible.”
Want to know the key to Ryan Gosling gaining 60 pounds for The Lovely Bones? Drinking melted ice-cream. “I was 150 pounds when [director Peter Jackson] hired me, and I showed up on set 210 pounds,” Gosling said. “We had a different idea of how the character should look. I really believed he should be 210 pounds. I was melting Haagen Dazs and drinking it when I was thirsty.”
Robert De Niro
In an act of dedication few could relate to, De Niro put on 60 pounds in Raging Bull — For one scene! De Niro initially trained with Jake LaMotta, the boxing legend he was playing, and even fought in several matches to be as convincing as possible. Then, in an effort to accurately portray LaMotta in his later years, Robert beefed up to the point where he was developing rashes and breathing problems. Some actors will go to great lengths for an Oscar.
Finally, we have Vincent D’Onofrio who added 70 pounds for his role as Leonard in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. “It changed my life,” D’Onofrio told the New York Times. “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.”