5 Most Drastic Actor Transformations in Movies

Actor TransformationWeinstein Company
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When the photo of Jake Gyllenhaal appeared online from the movie Southpaw, he was almost unrecognizable. Even more impressive about the photo was the fact that Gyllenhaal had lost a lot of weight for his last movie, Nightcrawler, and then gained back pounds of muscle for Southpaw. With Gyllenhaal’s physical transformation in mind, here is a look at the five most drastic actor transformations in movies.

Robert DeNiro, ‘Raging Bull’

The most famous actor transformation in a movie has to be Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, the true life story of former boxing champion Jake LaMotta. It was well worth the trouble, and physical dangers of putting on so much weight, because the actor transformation earned DeNiro an Oscar for Best Actor.

In order to show the transformation from the ripped and frightening boxing champion into the overweight, older LaMotta, De Niro packed on 70 pounds for the scenes as the older LaMotta. The movie shoot took a four month hiatus while De Niro went to Northern Italy and France to eat all the Italian food he could get his hands on. He went from 145 to 215 pounds in four months, which actually affected De Niro’s breathing, posture and overall health.

Charlize Theron, ‘Monster’

One of the most beautiful women in Hollywood is easily Charlize Theron, but when she got a chance in 2002 to star in a biopic of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, she jumped at it – despite knowing that the actor transformation she would undergo would make her unrecognizable and extremely unattractive. It was a great choice for the actress, who went from Hollywood bombshell to Oscar winning actress in one movie.

Monster told the story of Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who meets another girl named Selby (Christina Ricci) in a gay bar and soon falls in love with the woman. After a client rapes her, she kills him in self-defense. When money becomes an issue, she starts killing men and stealing their money. To take on the role of Aileen, Theron gained 30 pounds and wore prosthetic teeth, while also changing her entire posture and disappearing into her character.

Christian Bale, ‘The Machinist’

To understand the actor transformation that Christian Bale underwent for The Machinist, one has to understand that this movie was shot around his roles in The Dark Knight Trilogy. As Batman, Bale packed on muscle to become the Caped Crusader. In The Machinist, Bale went in the other direction.

To take on the role of Trevor Reznik, Bale went on a drastic diet over four months before filming began. All he consumed was water, an apple and one cup of coffee each day (along with whiskey here and there). This put his calorie intake at between 55 and 250 calories a day and he lost 62 pounds to drop down to 120 pounds for the movie shoot. Bale actually wanted to drop below 100 pounds, but health concerns halted that. Bale then gained all the weight for Batman Begins in six weeks by eating pizza and ice cream.

Tom Hanks, ‘Castaway’

Tom Hanks’ actor transformation in Castaway was similar to the actor transformation of Robert De Niro in Raging Bull. The film is about a man in a plane crash, who is lost on a deserted island and assumed dead. He fights to stay alive on the island, but with little in the way of nourishment, he wastes away until he is finally rescued after four years.

In order to show the transformation from the Tom Hanks we all know into the wasted away character who has been on an island for four years, Hanks started work before the movie started by gaining 50 pounds to look pudgy. After the first part of the movie was shot, the production took a year break so Hanks could transform himself. He grew his hair long and grew a beard. However, the biggest change was to lose 55 pounds over the year. He started drinking tea instead of coffee, drank a lot of water, exercise a lot, and mostly ate crabs, coconuts and coconut milk.

50 Cent, ‘All Things Fall Apart’

When men like Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro and Christian Bale undergo a major actor transformation using weight gain or loss, it is almost expected since they are serious actors dedicated to their craft. That shows how dedicated a musician like 50 Cent was when he got the chance to star in a movie. The film was All Things Fall Apart, and his actor transformation was just as striking as Bale and Hanks’ transformations.

The movie was about a football player who suffers from a deadly disease and tries to fight on despite the cancer that is killing him. 50 Cent based the character on a childhood friend who died of cancer and lost 54 pounds, dropping from 214 down to 160 in just nine weeks after a liquid diet and non-stop treadmill workouts.

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About the Author

Shawn S. Lealos
Shawn is a film critic with over 25 years of experience in print and online media. He is a member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle and loves everything from critically acclaimed movies to B-level action flicks.
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