Top 10 Body Transformations in Film

by Jordan Turner
Body Transformations

How far are you willing to go to excel at your occupation? For these select few obsessive actors and actresses, their impulses and wills are put to the test when preparing for a juicy role that demands eating in excess, not eating at all, shaving their head or growing full and untamed beards. Whether they look good or not, its impressive to see the drastic lengths that some are willing in terms of body transformations to go to convince an audience that they have become that character. Here are the top ten who have fulfilled their objectives.

Honorable Mentions

Christ Pratt as Peter Quill / Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Adrien Brody as Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist (2002)

Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom in Nightcrawler (2014)

George Clooney as Bob Barnes in Syriana (2005)

Natalie Portman as Nina in Black Swan (2010)

Tom Hardy as Charles Bronson in Bronson (2008)

Hilary Swank as Margaret “Maggie” Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Jonah Hill as Morton Schmidt in 21 Jump Street (2011)

Gerard Butler as King Leonidas in 300 (2007)

Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)

#10: Anne Hathaway as Fantine in Les Miserables (2012)

Towering over every other performance in this musical based on the epic novel by Victor Hugo, Hathaway played the role with such power and obsession. She reportedly consumed less than 500 calories per day, and lost about 25 pounds and shaved her head. Introduced as meek and emaciated, she dispels all with a raw and monumental solo that dropped jaws by the ending.

body transformations

image via The Hollywood Reporter

#9: Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club (2014)

Known for playing the muscular and tan players in popular rom-coms of the 2000s, McConaughey sought a role that went against the grain. He chose to play Ron Woodroof, a real-life AIDs patient who was diagnosed during the epidemic the started in the late 80s. To prepare, the actor lost nearly 50 pounds and spent months in a hotel room, avoiding sunlight to become pallid and scrawny. The actor did not look alright, alright, alright. (sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

body transformations

image via BBC

#8: Russell Crowe as Jeffrey Wigand in The Insider (1999)

An underrated performance, the then 34-year-old Crowe played the real-life chemist with such boiling anger and restraint, and developed his physicality to fit as such. Playing a 54-year-old whistleblower for a nefarious tobacco corporation, Crowe reportedly gained 50 pounds, dyed his hair multiple times, shaved it back to match the receding hairline, and had wrinkles and liver spots applied daily to his make-up. Now that is dedication.

body transformations

image via Moviefone

#7: Matt Damon as Specialist Andrew Ilario in Courage Under Fire (1996)

While many of the actors on this list have achieved success earlier before their demanding roles, it should be also noted that taking such radical measures to look the part are more difficult if the person hasn’t made their breakthrough yet. A young Matt Damon was just that, taking this early role as a tortured army medic and recovering heroin addict where the actor reportedly ran six miles in the morning and another six at night. He also deprived himself of food, eating only chicken breast and egg whites, reducing himself by 40 pounds. He also needed medical supervision well after production.

body transformations

image via Rolling Stone

#6: Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland in Cast Away (2000)

You can thank Wilson for shaving off all of Mr. Hanks mid-life lard that accumulated over the years in this survival drama that leaves him stranded on a remote island with no one to keep him company other than a volley ball. Zemeckis shot the second part of the film a year after the first, giving Hanks time to lose over 50 pounds and grow out a gnarly surfer dude beard for the character who was secluded for four years.

body transformations

image via PK Baseline

#5: Jared Leto as Mark David Chapman in Chapter 27 (2007)

What’s more astounding is the actor’s ability to lose all the weight he gained after playing the role as the real-life John Lennon killer who obsessed over J.D. Salinger’s famous novel The Catcher in the Rye. The actor is said to have gained 67 pounds before the film’s production, and was placed in a wheelchair on several occasions during, as he suffered from gout from the rapid weight gain. Although the movie itself is lukewarm, no one can question the determination Leto had to achieve authenticity.

body transformations

image via Pinterest

#4: Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos in Monster (2003)

Theron is anything but gorgeous in this grizzly biopic about the infamous prostitute turned serial killer who preyed on ‘johns’ in the late 80s and early 90s. The actress gained 30 pounds for the role, shaved her eyebrows, and received faded highlights while wearing prosthetic teeth to look as tattered and trashy as the real-life counterpart. The role won the actress an Oscar for its harrowing depth and immense ugliness.

body transformations

image via PK Baseline

#3: Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull (1980)

A character that embodies self-destruction, Jake LaMotta was played with virtuosity and fearlessness by the best actor of his day. Playing a middleweight boxer, De Niro trained with the real-life LaMotta, training with him for several months. Then, to display the character in his retirement years, production for the film halted for four months so that De Niro could take a round trip around Italy and France, binge-eating all he could muster. He gained over 65 pounds for the character’s latter years. It is considered one of the finest films of the 80s.

body transformations

image via CBS News

#2: Vincent D’Onofrio as Private Leonard Lawrence in Full Metal Jacket (1987)

The little-known actor at the time gained notoriety for his dedication to a role that defined the rest of his career. Playing an obese and clumsy private in boot camp, D’Onofrio gained a total of 70 pounds for his role, the most gained by any actor for a role to date. During production, the actor is said to have sustained several injuries to his knee due to the immense weight gain. He also stated that he had difficulty losing the weight afterwards.

body transformations

image via Datalounge

#1: Christian Bale as Trevor Reznik in The Machinist (2004)

Obviously, this last actor has many films to choose from when it comes to morphing into the roles he is given. I could have easily chosen his turn as the Olympian and bronze Patrick Bateman in American Psycho or the fat and balding con artist Irving Rosenfeld in American Hustle. However, I feel that this film is not only where he lost the most weight for role, but also where he made his mark with the truest dedication that a director can ask out of an actor.

A little mood piece about the suffering that comes with guilt, the film follows the psychological pangs of Trevor Reznik, a factory worker who suffers from insomnia, among other things. Bale lost nearly 65 pounds for the role, eating only a can of tuna or an apple each day for four months. I mean, damn, dude. Can I buy you a Happy Meal? He would’ve respectfully declined, I’m certain.

body transformations

image via

Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on actors who transform their bodies? Comment down below!

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Patricia April 2, 2018 - 2:14 pm

Great list. Adrien also put on like 30 pounds of muscle for Predators. They originally wanted him for the scientist part that went to Topher Grace, but he insisted he’d become right for the lead, and he did.

Oh, and poor Tom Hanks again for Philadelphia.

Man, I could never do what these people do. It’s just too much.

Jordan Turner April 2, 2018 - 12:01 pm

Definitely! Donnie doesn’t even look like the same person in that film. Great pick!

Pearl April 2, 2018 - 9:39 am

Excellent list, as always. I would like to submit one other, that I think might even be worthy of your top 10 – Donnie Wahlberg in “The Sixth Sense”. He lost 43 pounds for that 3-4 minute segment on film. He was almost totally unrecognizable. I defy anyone who only knows him from “Blue Bloods” to recognize that is him when they watch that scene from “The Sixth Sense”. I even read where he says he has been contacted by many people who said that they went to see the movie twice just because they couldn’t believe it was him in that role. He laughingly says that he thinks he should have been paid more because of that!

Patricia April 2, 2018 - 2:14 pm

Indeed. I didn’t recognize him the first time around at all.

sahil saifi April 2, 2018 - 9:05 am Reply
Nick Kush April 2, 2018 - 9:05 am

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