These Actors Got Into Serious Shape For Their Roles And Experienced Dramatic Transformations In The Process

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By: Catarina Williams | Published: Dec 18, 2022

Acting is no easy feat, if anything, it’s one of the most challenging jobs. For the actors who sacrifice everything for a role (including their weight), they are never quite the same afterward. The practice of acting is more than just memorizing and reciting lines, it’s a whole craft that actors and actresses dedicate their lives to fulfilling in the most realistic ways possible even if that means going to extreme lengths. 

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Chris Hemsworth Got Ripped For His Role As Thor

Chris Hemsworth is just one of many examples of actors sticking to a strict diet and workout regime to look exactly like the role they were playing. For Hemsworth’s role as the god Thor, he had to train with a former Navy SEAL, Duffy Gaver, for the first film. 

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Using an old-fashioned bodybuilding approach, Hemsworth gained 20 pounds thanks to Gaver’s strict instructions and training regimen. Paired with Hemsworth’s consistency, he truly obtained peak physique conditions for not just the first film, but other ones that followed: The Avengers and the solo sequel, Thor: Dark World. Clearly, it paid off because he’s totally drool-worthy. 

Christian Bale Took Drastic Measures To Lose Weight In The Machinist

In 2004’s The Machinist, Christian Bale underwent a drastic body change in his role as Trevor Reznik, a machinist who suffers from crippling insomnia. Reznik became extremely underweight and skinny since sleep deprivation leads to weight loss. For nearly four months, all Bale consumed was tuna fish and one apple each day (including black coffee and water). 

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Going from 173 pounds down to 110 pounds was a massive undertaking for Bale. The “meals” that were chosen for his specialized diet were metabolism boosters. On top of that, Bale exercised extremely hard to lose weight faster – he did intensive cardio workouts and resistance/weight training. Wow, talk about serious dedication! 

Chris Pratt Stuck To An Intense Workout Routine For Guardians of the Galaxy

Pratt was almost 300 pounds when he auditioned for his role in Guardians of the Galaxy. Before he landed the role, Pratt was most associated with playing Andy on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation. 

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In order to prepare for the movie, Marvel paired Pratt with personal trainer Duffer Gavy and nutritionist Phil Goglia. Pratt consumed 4,000 calories every day and worked out three or four hours, as well as drinking lots of water. Impressively, Pratt lost 60 pounds in six months. All that intense and restrictive dieting and exercise certainly paid off. Pratt’s a total hunk! 

Jake Gyllenhaal Heavily Committed To His Role In Southpaw

To accurately portray a middleweight boxer in the 2015 boxing film Southpaw, Gyllenhaal gained 15 pounds of muscle, and he achieved that by working out for six hours each day for six months. He worked out at the same Las Vegas gym where champion boxer, Floyd Mayweather, trained. 

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Obviously, the intensity that Gyllenhaal went through (plus, sacrificing his relationship with his girlfriend, Alyssa Miller, at the time), was a tremendous obstacle for him to overcome. He clearly succeeded! Gyllenhaal’s dedication and determination produced incredible and accurate results.  

Jonah Hill Slimmed Down Significantly For Maniac

Over the past few years, Jonah Hill’s weight has fluctuated considerably. The first notable role that he slimmed down for was in the action-comedy 21 Jump Street and then gained 40 pounds back for his role as a real-life arms dealer, Efraim Diveroli, in 2016’s War Dogs. He also maintained a very lean figure for the Netflix series Maniac, as well. 

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For a while, Hill had been keeping up his generally slimmer physique, but his weight still fluctuates sometimes. The roles mentioned earlier can attest to Hill’s dedication to weight loss and what he will do to be in shape and feel good about himself. Now that’s something we can all feel inspired by. 

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Matthew McConaughey Went On An Incredible Weight Loss Journey for Dallas Buyers Club

Aside from giving one of the best performances of his career, Matthew McConaughey went through a remarkable weight loss journey for his role as an AIDS patient named Ron Woodroof.  McConaughey lost over 40 pounds for this film based on a true story about Ron Woodroof, a man who challenges the United States government to permit the usage of unapproved medication to others suffering from the disease. 

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Despite some concerns about the possible negative health impact, McConaughey affirmed that he still had plenty of energy mentally to finish out the 25-day shoot. He met with a nutritionist and tried to obtain weight loss in the healthiest way possible. 

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Natalie Portman’s Grueling Diet And Dance Schedule For Black Swan

Fearing she was going to die, Natalie Portman overcame some tremendous hurdles to obtain the realism of playing a ballerina in Black Swan. She ate nothing more than some carrots and almonds each day which resulted in a 20-pound weight loss, while also being in eight hours of rehearsals daily. 

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Even though Portman won an Oscar for her role as an overly ambitious ballet dancer who was obsessed with perfection, she was left physically, emotionally, and mentally drained. She even dislocated a rib during rehearsals. Many real ballerinas though didn’t like her portrayal and went as far as to call it exaggerated, and that it made them seem “crazy.”

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Jared Leto Went Through An Astonishing Weight Loss Transformation In Dallas Buyers Club

In order to play a transexual with AIDS named Rayon, Jared Leto had to lose 40 pounds. His weight dropped down to 110 pounds, which Leto has shared wasn’t a hard thing to do. Losing so much weight changed him, in every way imaginable. 

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On the other hand, Leto experienced extreme weight gain for his role in Chapter 27. It’s a clear indication that he is a talented and gifted actor who will do anything for his art. Ultimately, all of his hard work paid off: Dallas Buyers Club won numerous awards, not to mention he snagged an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. 

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Tom Hardy’s Miraculous Physical Transition For Bronson

There wasn’t an official regime for Tom Hardy’s role as Charles Bronson, Britain’s most dangerous criminal, in Bronson. Hardy did a lot of non-specific exercises and had additional help from his trainer, Pnut, who was an ex-Marine. With only five weeks of training time and a lenient diet, Hardy was put to the ultimate fitness test. Could he pull it off?

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Of course, he did…for the most part! When Hardy first met with Charles Bronson himself, he wasn’t impressed initially, but after Hardy put in some more work, he gained the approval of Bronson eventually. We can’t even begin to imagine that pressure! 

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Charlize Theron Proved What She Was Capable Of In Monster

For much of her career, Charlize Theron has been known for being a pretty face. However, her insane transformation into the real-life female serial killer, Eileen Wuornos, in 2003’s Monster proved that she was so much more than her looks.

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Having to gain 30 pounds for the role of Wuornos, Theron’s “diet” consisted of potato chips and donuts. Theron stated that her goal wasn’t to be fat, but rather to get to the place of letting herself go to get into the physical state Wuornos was in. 

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Demi Moore’s Role In G.I. Jane Involved Grueling Training And Workouts

For her role in G.I. Jane as Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil, the first female Navy SEAL, Demi Moore had to work incredibly hard. Her standard workout and diet were combined with real Navy SEAL training, as well as strength, cardio, and martial arts. 

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Moore would start at 4 am in the morning, so she could finish before the filming began. Also, she had security guards following her as she went on runs in Central Park. With the assistance of a celebrity trainer, Gregory Joujon-Rouche, and a Navy SEAL instructor, Stephen Helvenston, Moore was able to get into the mindset and physicality of an actual Navy SEAL during filming. 

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J.K. Simmons Got Shredded For Justice League

In order to play Commissioner Gordon in DC’s Justice League movie, J.K. Simmons was extremely dedicated to his routine. With the amazing help of celebrity trainer and ex-Marine, Aaron Williamson (with whom Simmons had worked before for Terminator Genisys), Simmons had gotten in the best shape of his life.

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Even Williamson noted that after wrapping up the film, Simmons had desired to adopt a healthy way of living and to never have to worry about experiencing health problems ever again. 

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Tom Hanks Had To Gain Significant Weight For Cast Away

Hanks put on 50 pounds during the pre-production for Cast Away to make him look like a middle-aged man. They shot parts of the film when Hanks was in shape before the island scenes, and then allowed Hanks to take a year off to let him lose weight. With a tough diet and exercise routine, Hanks lost 55 pounds in a whopping four months and didn’t shave or cut his hair for weeks on end.

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Primarily, his diet consisted of crab, fish, vegetables, and little carbohydrates from fruits, as well as coconut milk and water. When Hanks was overtaken by hunger, he just ate vegetables. Lots of vegetables.  

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50 Cent’s Shocking Weight Loss In Things Fall Apart

50 Cent, a rapper from Queens, lost nearly 60 pounds for his role as a football player who was diagnosed with cancer. The film was directed by Mario Van Peebles and is based on a true story. 

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Fitty Cent weighed 214 pounds before his weight loss journey for the film and removed his arm tattoos. He shared a photo of himself at 160 pounds and looked extremely frail. Fitty said he shed the weight by going on a liquid diet and spending three hours on a treadmill for nine weeks. Needless to say, he was starving. 

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Zac Efron Had To Give Up Sugar And Carbs For His Baywatch Role

For four to five times a week, Efron worked under a strict training and diet schedule with a fitness trainer, Patrick Murphy, in order to prepare for Baywatch. To maintain his clean diet, Efron had to cut out sugar and carbs completely. 

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Group circuits with power moves were the workouts that Efron did not like at all. It’s a bunch of alternating movements mixed with jump squats, mountain climbers, power pushups, and running up flights of stairs. We wouldn’t last a minute doing all of that! Zac Efron definitely taught us a thing or two about taking care of ourselves. 

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Robert De Niro Set Records In Raging Bull

Robert De Niro was the OG king of transformational method acting before Christian Bale, and his performance as Italian-American middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull proves this statement. LaMotta’s self-destructive behaviors were shown over several decades, so De Niro had to work extra hard to make the wear and tear look realistic through his physical appearance. 

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De Niro’s weight gain of 60 pounds was (at the time) the most any actor had ever done for a film role. Additionally, the extremes De Niro went through during filming included achieving the body type of a boxing contender and then, in the later scenes, depicting an overweight and older LaMotta. The production was even shut down for many weeks so De Niro could go to Italy and eat his weight in pasta. Needless to say, De Niro set the precedent with his immense dedication. 

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Vincent D’Onofrio’s New Appearance For Full Metal Jacket Changed His Life

Vincent D’Onofrio was a handsome, 6’3’’ tall, curly-haired man before he was cast as Leonard in Stanley Kubrick’s famous war film Full Metal Jacket. Leonard was an obese and disturbed Marine recruit and D’Onofrio had to gain almost 70 pounds. He also had to shave his head to perfect Leonard’s appearance. 

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Aside from people negatively reacting to his new look, the transformation had a profound effect on D’Onofrio. His perceptions about himself changed the way he looked at beauty standards. 

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Michael Fassbender’s Dramatic Weight Loss In Hunger

For the 2008 movie Hunger, Fassbender played the role of Bobby Sands, a prisoner who led the second Provisional Army hunger strike in 1981. After 66 days, Sands starved to death. Fassbender only had a diet consisting of 900 calories every day and exercised, which led him to lose 42 pounds. 

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His final weight was reported to be 127 pounds. By reducing his caloric intake and exercising, Fassbender was doing things the recommended way, but he took it a step further. 

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Ryan Reynolds Ditched His Frat Boy Ways For Blade: Trinity

When Reynolds played Van Wilder back in the day, he admitted he lived like a frat boy. He would drink and eat whatever he wanted and didn’t care. However, when he landed a role in Blade: Trinity, he had to get serious about his health. For a span of three months, Reynolds participated in workouts six days a week, a 3,200-calorie daily diet, and gained 25 pounds of muscle as a result. 

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Reynolds did some things he felt were impossible, like running the New York City marathon or climbing Machu Pichu. Since Blade: Trinity, Reynolds’ career has skyrocketed and he remains to be in impeccable shape to this day.

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Anne Hathaway Shed A Lot Of Weight For Les Miserables

Hathaway was thoroughly committed to her role as Fantine in Les Miserables. Aside from chopping off her brunette locks, she shed 25 pounds of weight. Rumors circulated that she was on a crazy crash diet to achieve accelerated weight loss, eating less than 500 calories a day. 

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Those rumors weren’t too far off, as Hathaway had to drop 10 pounds for a cleanse and then another 15 pounds after that. All she ate was two thin squares of dried oatmeal paste every day, which sounds less than appetizing. Hathway confessed she was obsessive about her dieting and weight loss routines because she had to look like she was near death in order to be realistic. It took her weeks to feel like herself again. 

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Daniel Radcliffe Was Heavily Committed To His Role In Jungle

Radcliffe played the real-life Israeli adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg in the movie Jungle. In 1981, Ghinsberg was left stranded in a portion of the Bolivian Amazon jungle for three weeks. While stranded, he searched for fruit and eggs from nests to survive and lost 35 pounds in the process. Hunger, infection, and disease completely consumed him.

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Eating one chicken breast and a protein bar two weeks before filming was a tactic Radcliffe took so he could look thin. While that’s not actually recommended and isn’t the best way for weight loss, Radcliffe admitted it was really worth it for the meals he could eat after the shoot was over. 

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Ben Kingsley Wanted To Achieve Authenticity For His Role In Gandhi

Sir Kingsley is an established veteran actor and tremendously proved his acting chops by playing Mahatma Gandhi in the movie Gandhi. Not only did he shave his head, but he also shed 20 pounds on a vegetarian diet. To stay true to an accurate embodiment of Gandhi, Kingsley studied yoga, meditated, and also learned to spin cotton thread on a wooden wheel. 

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Kingsley admitted that the training was the catalyst for finding magic in the craft that he doesn’t quite understand. Surely, we all witnessed this incredible performance where Kingsley proved he could do anything as an actor. 

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Emile Hirsch’s Dramatic Weight Loss For Into The Wild Wasn’t Easy

To accurately portray Chris McCandless, a man who died of starvation in the Alaskan wilderness, in Into The Wild, Hirsch underwent a dramatic weight loss. He dropped from 156 pounds to 130 pounds for most of the film. And then, he lost an additional 115 pounds for all of the Alaska portions. 

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In order to prepare for the role, Hirsch did a lot of running. He also had to set aside his craving for candy bars, even though he wasn’t much of a candy bar eater! Everything he did worked because his performance was powerful and extremely authentic to the real Chris McCandless. 

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Renee Zellweger Committed To An Intense Diet And Workout Routine For Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason

Zellweger ate anything she wanted, gained 30 pounds, and also earned an Oscar nomination. Not too bad, right? Well, the hardest part was then shedding all that weight. Off-screen, Zellweger still maintained her growing waistline (she went from a size 4 to 14), which caused tremendous focus. Her assistant also supplied her with constant snacks. 

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Post-filming, Zellweger halted her diet of 4,000 calories a day and began exercising regularly, much to the frenzy of the press. Naturally, the weight gain was just part of the job, as any actor knows. The paps just wanted to get their million-dollar shot of Ms. Zellweger in stellar form!

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Matthew Fox Had The Desire To Radically Change His Body For Alex Cross

In order to play the role of the emaciated villain in the thriller high-stakes Alex Cross, Matthew fox shed almost a fifth of his body weight. To achieve the most realistic version of Alex Cross possible, Fox needed to radically alter the way he looked. 

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Fox wanted to change his body in a healthy way, unlike Bale who followed through on some very unhealthy means of achieving the body he needed for a role. Fox would work hard, and think straight, but also be a functioning husband and father, while, of course, still doing his job. His trainer Simon Waterson (who prepped Daniel Craig for his Bond roles), didn’t want to restrain Fox to a low-calorie diet because it would slow down his thought processes and general cognitive functioning. It was important to not result in extreme methods, but rather more smart and methodically yet controlled ones.

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Kit Harington’s Tough Personal Journey While Working Out For Pompeii

Kit Harington experienced extreme body dysmorphia (obsessive anxiety about one’s body appearance) while training and working out for Pompeii. He grew so transfixed that he would be at the gym three times a day for six days a week. 

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This routine was beyond taxing that Harington suffered from “exhaustion,” so his trainer had to step in. Despite what happened, the trainer was still proud of all that he had achieved in the final result.  

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Emma Stone’s Amazing Transformation In Battle Of The Sexes

Stone took her role of tennis legend Billie Jean King extremely seriously. She wanted everything she did to be correct and accurate. The first step to achieve this goal was nutrition, which Stone completed with the help of celeb trainer Jason Walsh…sled pushes, and protein shakes! 

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Since Stone wasn’t built like a tennis player or pro athlete, he began her diet with an increase in her calorie and fat intake, which made her put on weight. In the mornings, Stone would do “complex movements” consisting of sled pushes, squats, and lunges. The afternoons, however, were for “secondary movements” such as exercises that target the abs and arms. Stone possessed much resilience throughout the entire process and even benefited psychologically, which aided in building her confidence. 

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Colin Farrell Ate Excessively For His Role In The Lobster

According to Farrell, gaining 40 pounds wasn’t too difficult. For his role as a father in the dark satirical comedy The Lobster, Farrell didn’t have any restraint when it came to portion control. In fact, he pretty much just consumed food and didn’t move. 

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After the movie wrapped, Farrell got back on the exercise horse and began dropping the extra weight. All Farrell did was exercise constantly and starve himself – yikes! 

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Hillary Swank Had To Significantly Morph Her Body For Million Dollar Baby

Swank had to completely transform her body in order to portray a female boxer in Million Dollar Baby. She needed to obtain the mindset and physique of someone who had been training their entire life. To ramp up the challenge, Swank had 90 days to do it. 

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For two and a half hours every day, six days a week, Swank would box and lift weights. She was requested by the producers to gain 10 pounds of muscle and ended up gaining 19. She went from 110 pounds to 129 pounds and ate 210 grams of protein each day. Flax oil and egg whites also become important in Swank’s diet. On top of all this, she also slept for nine hours every night. 

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