There are few actors that are willing to undergo a massive body transformation for movie roles. There are even fewer, because of the difficulty, that do it more than once. Typically referred to as ‘method actors’ for their dedication to their craft and their roles, these Hollywood icons were willing to shed or gain significant weight, or take up rigorous weight-lifting regimens. The following are some of the most noteworthy body transformations by movie stars.
George Clooney – Syriana
George Clooney packed on about 30lbs for his role of a veteran CIA operative in the politcal-suspense thriller, Syriana. The move to gain weight for a movie role is typically embraced by most actors, but for Clooney (who claims to be a fitness nut) it was a one-time deal. He also grew an impressive beard.
Jake Gyllenhaal – Jarhead
The regularly slim (Donnie Darko, Brokeback Mountain) Gyllenhaal put on about 25lbs of pure muscle for his role as Anthony “Swoff” Swofford in the 2005 film about the first Gulf War. Rumor has it, he is getting even bigger for his upcoming film The Prince of Persia.
Ryan Reynolds – Blade Trilogy
Former “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Joint” star, Ryan Reynolds beefed up for this role in the third installment of the Blade trilogy. This move has changed Reynolds from a seemingly charming(smarmy?) typecast frat-type, into a somewhat versatile actor with range that now includes action films.
Hillary Swank – Million Dollar Baby
Swank is no stranger to changing her appearance for a movie role. After playing a boy in Boys Don’t Cry, she practically becomes one for her performance in this beautifully tragic film about a girl boxer and Clint Eastwood.
Tom Hanks – Cast Away
Tom Hanks is so believable in so many roles because of his deceptively generic face and persona. This has worked to his advantage, and he has avoided typecasting throughout his long career. His most memorable transformation for a movie role was in Castaway, wherein he shrank down to skeletal size and donned a ZZ Top beard.
Jared Leto – Chapter 27
It is rumored that for this massive weight gaining experience, Leto would consume gallons of a mixture consisting of olive oil and ice cream on a daily basis. Impressively, Leto was lost the weight put on during this film in just two short months. Meaning, he is now back to being skinny and wearing eyeliner.
Edward Norton – American History X
Ed Norton bulked up about 30lbs through a rigorous routine consisting of a high protein diet, no cardio and lots of heavy lifting. His appearance as a white supremacist is a far cry from his other roles, say when he played a ginger-haired priest in Keep the Faith.
Charlize Theron – Monster
The drop-dead gorgeous Theron gained 30 lbs for her role of a deranged, killer prostitute in this film. Hailed as one of the best performances in the history of Cinema by Roger Ebert, Theron would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in this film.
Russell Crowe – Body of Lies
Australian action star Russell Crowe gained a reported 63lbs for his recent film, Body of Lies. He credits his ability to weight gain to a strict routine of cheeseburger breakfasts and Sprinkles cupcakes.
Gerard Butler – 300
The former Phantom of the Opera star enlisted the help of fitness expert Mark Twight in order to train for his role as “King Leonidas”. While most of the actors in this film trained hard for eight to ten weeks, Butler decided on a twelve-week regimen that consisted of a 300-rep (multiple exercise) routine and strict diet. The end result is an imposing physique, and the envy of most graphic novel readers.
Benecio Del Toro – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Del Toro’s memorable performance in the 1998 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas garnered the actor only lukewarm reviews. His total immersion for this role required the method actor to pack on 40lbs and burn himself with cigarettes (of his own volition) for his role as Hunter S. Thompson’s drug-crazed lawyer.
Renee Zellweger – Bridget Jones’s Diary
The strangely successful Zellweger is normally a size 6. However, when filming her twice reprised role as Bridget Jones in the eponymous movie franchise, she balloons up to plump 14. Zellweger is currently packing the weight back on for a third installment of a movie that only women watch.
Eric Bana – Chopper
How did Eric Bana gain the weight for his roll of Mark Brandon Read in Chopper? By eating whatever he wanted for an entire month and not working out.
Val Kilmer - Alexander
The now always-chubby Val Kilmer was perennially one of Hollywood’s biggest heartthrobs. His most famous transformation for a film was in the 2004 Alexander, wherein he gained about 35lbs for his role of “Alexander Phillip of Macedonia”. It is far cry from his believing portrayal of Jim Morrison in The Doors(1991).
Colin Farrell – Upcoming Movie
Colin Farrell has lost a ton of weight, and claims that it is both healthy, and for an upcoming movie role. The question right now is, “What is the upcoming film?”
Matt Damon – Courage Under Fire
Damon shrank significantly for his 1996 role as a heroin-addict soldier. Losing 40lbs for this role, Damon’s weight loss occurred over 100 days, and was for a minuscule 2 days of filming. The experience, which was done without professional consulting and training, had adverse affects on Damon’s health, and required the actor to take adrenal medication for two years following.
Matt Damon – The Informant
The usually svelte Damon put on 30lbs and a molester mustache role in this film. This film, in which Damon plays whistle-blower Mark Whitacre, is set for a march 2009 release.
Christian Bale – The Machinist
For this role, Bale lost nearly 70lbs in three months. His daily intake consisted of only coffee, water and either a can of tuna, or an apple. While Filming, Bale (who usually weighs 185lbs) dropped to a gaunt 121lbs.
Christian Bale – Batman Begins
Perhaps the most impressive part of Bale’s bulking up for this role is the fact that this movie began filming six months after the finish of The Machinist. For this role, he bulked up to over 200lbs, before settling at 190lbs for his role of Bruce Wayne/Batman.