16 unbelievable physical transformations actors have endured for movie roles

16 unbelievable physical transformations actors have endured for movie roles

For us Average Joes, it's easy to dupe ourselves into thinking that actors have it easy. After all, how hard can it be to turn up regularly on set, learn your lines, and perform? It seems like a small amount of work for what can be a hefty paycheck. The reality, however, of being a star of the silver screen is far from the fantasy that most of us imagine it to be.

To begin with, getting a start in the movies is no mean feat, and most of Hollywood's biggest names had to struggle for years - taking odd jobs as extras and in commercials to get by. As a result, when they hit the big time, they often went above and beyond the call of duty to give a role their all and this meant undergoing impressive physical transformations.

To discover how actors gain and lose weight for movie roles, check out the video below: 

Whether this involved hitting the gym to build the muscle required to play a superhero or going through the grueling process of losing weight to play a guant character, there are no limits to what actors will do for their art. So, the next time you're feeling frustrated by your nine-to-five job, take comfort in the fact that you to have to do anything like this...

1. Jared Leto - Dallas Buyers Club (2012)

Credit: Jared Leto / Instagram / Dallas Buyers Club / Truth Entertainment

Leto had to lose a whopping 30lb for this movie, however, he ended up bagging an Oscar, so it was arguably a sacrifice worth making. He even went shopping in character - a decision which attracted more than a few stares.

"Your body goes through weird stages. Sometimes it's hard to hold on to water. But for me, it's not about the most weight I can lose - it's more to represent the character," he said of his weight loss in an interview.

2. Chapter 27 (2007)

Credit: Chapter 27 / Peace Arch Entertainment Group / Jared Leto / Instagram

On the other end of the spectrum, Leto had to gain 67lb to play John Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman. This weight gain meant that the actor had to endure high cholesterol, gout, back pain, and an irregular heartbeat. Leto's physical condition was reportedly so bad that he was, on occasion, wheelchair-bound. Talk about suffering for your art!

3. Charlize Theron - Monster (2003)

Credit: Monster / Media 8 Entertainment / Charlize Theron / Instagram

Transforming into a serial killer is no mean feat and to play the notorious Aileen Wuornos, Theron had to not only gain 30lb but dye her hair, shave off her eyebrows, and wear prosthetic dentures, and wear heavy makeup to harden and age her skin.

While the actress was given the option of wearing a fat suit, she decided against it and opted to gain the necessary weight so that she could "move and express herself" as Aileen. Now that's what I call dedication to the job.

4. Christian Bale - American Hustle (2013)

Credit: American Hustle / Columbia Pictures / Christian Bale / Instagram

Another actor who had to do more than just gain weight for a movie role was Christian Bale. To play Irving Rosenfeld, he had to gain 40lb, get a combover and slouch - a physical transformation that caused him to herniate two disks.

5. The Machinist (2004)

The Machinist / Filmax Group / Reign of Fire / Spyglass Entertainment

Just like Leto, Bale also knows what it's like to lose weight for a role and he had to drop 63lb to play Trevor Reznik. Producers of the movie revealed that Leto wanted to go even further and lose 100lb, but this was not permitted on account of the damage that it could to do the actor's health. Despite being shockingly thin in the movie, however, Bale proved that he could quickly get back in shape and was in peak physical fitness a year later when he starred in Batman Begins.

6. Gwyneth Paltrow - Shallow Hal (2001)

Shallow Hal / 20th Century Fox / Gwyneth Paltrow / Instagram

While it would have been unreasonable and downright dangerous for Paltrow to actually transform into an obese woman for her role in Shallow Hal, she still had to go through a lot physically for it, enduring four hours of makeup to get into character.

7. Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers Club (2012)

Credit: Dallas Buyers Club / Truth Entertainment / Matthew McConaughey / Instagram

To play an AIDS patient, McConaughey lost 47lbs - 8lbs of which was lost during the first two weeks of his transformation by burning 1,800 calories a day. His diet at the time consisted of 5 ounces of fish and vegetables.

8. Jake Gyllenhaal - Southpaw (2015)

Credit: Southpaw / Escape Artists / acidcow.com

So far, most of the actors on his list have had to gain or lose weight for movie roles, but Gyllenhaal had to seriously bulk up for his role as boxer Billy Hope. He did this by exercising twice a day, 7 days a week, for five months. These workouts involved a whopping 2,000 sit-ups a day, 8-mile runs, and core/weight training. But hey, the results spoke for themselves!

9. Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There (2007)

Credit: I'm not there / Killer Films / Cate Blanchett / Instagram

To transform into a man for her role as Bob Dylan, Blanchett had to wear a wig, sunglasses, and men's clothing. But the actress also revealed that she stuffed a sock down her pants as "it helped her walk like a man."

10. Edward Norton - American History X (1998)

Credit: American History X / New Line Cinema / celebritymalecrush / Instagram

Skinhead Derek Vinyard was a world away from Norton's actual appearance, and to get his look, the actor had to shave his head and gain 30lb. This weight gain involved eating seven times a day - namely, a diet of chicken, turkey and fish.

11. Marlon Brando - The Godfather (1972)

Credit: The Godfather / Paramount Pictures / Last Tango in Paris / Les Productions Artistes Associés

For what is undoubtedly one of the most iconic performances in cinematic history, Brando imitated real-life gangster Frank Costello's voice. He also lost weight, stuffed his cheeks with cotton, worse a special mouthpiece, and makeup to look older.

12. Elle Fanning - Three Generations (2015)

Credit: 3 Generations / Big Beach Films / Elle Fanning / Instagram

Elle wore her hair short and men's clothing to play a transgender person in this movie, and while it was subject to some criticism, her performance was acclaimed and solidified her place as one of Hollywood's biggest stars.

13. Robert De Niro - Raging Bull (1980)

Raging Bull / Chartoff-Winkler Productions / IMDB

To portray professional boxer Jake LaMotta, DeNiro had to gain 60lb. This involved a lot of physical training and he proved how effective it was when he entered three Brooklyn boxing matches and won two of them.

14. Rooney Mara - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Columbia Pictures / Rooney Mara / instagram

Even though the director never asked Mara to lose weight for her role, she decided to do it anyway to give her character a bony appearance. All of the piercings that she had in the movie were real too, and she kept her nipple piercing in case there's a sequel.

"It's not something you want to ever get re-pierced," she said.

15. Vincent D'Onofrio - Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Credit: Naked Tango / Praesens Film / Full Metal Jacket / Warner Bros.

It took D'Onoffrio seven months to gain the 70lb necessary to play Private Pyle and a further nine months to lose it again. It was the most weight an actor had ever gained for a role - more than De Niro's weight gain for Raging Bull in 1980.

16. Tom Hanks - Philadelphia (1993)

Credit: Sleepless in Seattle / TriStar Pictures / Philadelphia / TriStar Pictures

Another actor who had to lose weight to play an AIDS patient was Tom Hanks. This involved losing over 30lb, and Matthew McConaughey reportedly called Hanks for advice when he had to do it for his role in Dallas Buyers Club.

So there you have it - 16 dramatic physical transformations which prove that there's a lot more to acting than just learning your lines. Would you ever put your body through a similar feat if it meant getting to step on the red carpet? I'm not sure my stomach could handle it, so I've got a lot of respect for what these actors do. They certainly deserve their place in the spotlight!