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From attaining a bodybuilders physique to undergoing transformations that render them unrecognizable, actors will go to lofty heights for physically-demanding rolesome in healthier ways than others. From indie film stars to superheroes to Tony winners, here are 19 stars who dramatically transformed their appearance for a role.
Rene ZellwegerFrom 12 courses of fatty foods a day to an exercise ban, Zellweger is known for throwing herself into her Bridget Jones Diary diet. However, the actress has said the fixation on her characters weightand her weight gain to play the rolehas been too scrutinized, and that no male actor would ever receive the same attention.
Kumail NanjianiThe Big Sick actor shocked fans in December when he revealed his transformation to play the leading role in Marvels upcoming The Eternals. In addition to workouts, the most challenging part was the extreme diet. Nanjiani cut out pizza, donuts, refined sugar, and carbs for a whole year. In an interview, he said he felt a responsibility to get in shape because he will be the first Pakistani superhero in a mainstream Hollywood movie.
Chris HemsworthKnown for his extreme workouts to achieve the muscular body of Norse God and Marvel superhero Thor, Hemsworth shocked fans with a photo of his body transformation for the 2015 film In the Heart of the Sea. He had to drop over 30 pounds to play the lead, Owen Chase, a sailor who becomes stranded at sea, right after wrapping Blackhat and juggling the Thor: The Dark World press tour.
Charlize TheronTheron gained 30 pounds to play the role of convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos in 2003s Monster, which landed her an Academy Award. More recently, she gained almost 50 pounds for her starring role in the 2018 film Tully. She said the transformation hit her with depression, as she had to consume processed foods and sugary drinks for three-and-a-half months. Compared to her weight gain for Monster, she said this time it took longer to shed the pounds.
Will SmithFor the 2001 feature Ali, Smith spent a whole year with a trainer to embody legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. He said he was willing to sacrifice everything to live up to Alis legacy in the film, gaining 35 pounds and doing all the films fight scenes without a stunt double.
Christian BaleWith more roles requiring physical transformations than you can count on one hand, Bale most recently gained weight for his role as former Vice President Dick Cheney in the 2019 film Vice by eating a lot of pies. In 2005, he completely drained his body of muscle and dropped down to 110 pounds for his role in The Machinist, then spent six months binge-eating and weight lifting to bulk up for the titular role in Batman Begins.
READ: Christian Bale Became a Detective for Vice Role
Emma StoneStone worked with celebrity trainer Jason Walsh to bulk up for the 2017 film Battle of the Sexes; she drank protein shakes consistently to put on the pounds and muscle, transforming her body to make her built like tennis legend Billie Jean King.
BeyoncFor her role in the 2006 movie musical Dreamgirls, Beyonc allegedly drank nothing but a lemon juice mixture for 10 days called The Master Cleanse, which helped her lose 20 pounds. The now-popularized juice cleanse is mainly used for quick weight loss, but is not a sustainable diet. Beyonc admitted she quickly gained the weight back once she went off the diet.
Alex BrightmanThe Tony-nominated actors leading role in School of Rock was so physically demanding that he lost a pound or two every week while performing. However, the role itself required him to put on extra weighta tough balance to strike! For his more recent theater role as the titular Beetlejuice, he gave up alcohol and went to the gym daily, as the role requires a strong core.
Mark RuffaloFor HBOs miniseries I Know This Much Is True, Ruffalo played twin brothers, one of whom was written to be heavier than the other. As such, he shot all his scenes for the first character (the svelter of the two), before spending five weeks working to gain 30 pounds to then play the other. That is dual devotion!
Ben PlattBen Platt has come a long way from his breakout role as magic-loving geek Benji Applebaum in Pitch Perfect. He lost 30 pounds to play the lead in Broadways Dear Evan Hansen by cutting out dairy and gluten and frequenting Soul Cycle, wanting to convincingly embody the anxious 17-year-old and stay healthy for the demanding eight-show-a-week schedule. His efforts paid off; he won a 2017 leading actor in a musical Tony Award.
Ramin KarimlooFor his Tony-nominated Broadway debut as Jean Valjean in the 2014 revival of Les Misrables, Karimloo started the INSANITY program six months prior to the shows opening. After reading the novel and learning about how keeping in shape was an integral part of his character, he ate 5,000 calories a day, was bodybuilding between shows, and cycled 16 miles. By the time he reached Broadway, he was deadlifting almost 500 pounds and benching 300.
Zoe KravitzKravitzs cleanse to play the anorexic and bulimic lead Marie in the 2014 film The Road Within involved some questionable methods, including drinking clay and eating a Mason jar of pureed vegetables daily. Though the diet helped her lose 20 pounds for the role, she went on to say it was awful and wouldnt encourage others to attempt it.
Joaquin PhoenixTo quote Melissa Villaseor in an installment of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live: Joaquin Phoenix, skinny skinny. The actor lost over 50 pounds in just a few months to play his titular, Oscar-winning role in Joker, and reported symptoms of eating disorders after giving himself an emaciated look for the character. With a long reputation for method acting, he was honest that his weight loss also hugely impacted his mental health.
Neil Patrick HarrisAfter wrapping up his role as Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother, Harris went through a strict weight loss plan to take on the starring role in the 2014 Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The Tony Award winner did nothing but cardio for months to lose the weight. Combined with the demanding energy involved in the 90-minute performance, Harriss role as Hedwig helped maintain the weight loss.
Jason MomoaFamous for his role as Khal Drogo in the first season of Game of Thrones, Momoa never lifted a weight until he had to get into shape for 2011s Conan the Barbarian. The breakout role led to his addition into the DC universe as Aquaman, which again had him build and sculpt his body to attain the superheros classic physique.
Margot RobbieTo nail the look of figure skater Tonya Harding in the 2017 biopic I, Tonya, the Australian actress trained on the ice four hours a day, five days a week, for five months straight. Robbie ended up with a herniated disk in her neck from throwing herself into the training with a choreographer for entire sequences of Hardings routines.
Halle Berry53-year-old Berry went viral after sharing a photo of the six-pack she got through training for her upcoming MMA film and directorial debut Bruised. From training four hours a day to intermittent fasting to a keto diet, Berry has been consistently posting inspirational workout videos and photos every Friday on her Instagram.
Brie LarsonThe Captain Marvel actress trained for nine months to get into shape even before the movie started shooting. Throughout the process, she shared videos of herself on Instagram highlighting her strength, including one in which she pushed a nearly 5,000-pound Jeep for a workout.
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19 Actors Who Drastically Transformed Their Bodies for Roles - Backstage