Shia LaBeouf scarred his face and pulled a tooth out for Fury
Shia LaBeouf has a reputation for being pretty intense, and 2014’s Fury did nothing to change this. Despite it being entirely unnecessary for the film, LaBeouf had one of his front teeth removed, an operation that multiple dentists refused to carry out on the basis that it was “insane.” The actor also thought that his prosthetic scar wasn’t convincing enough, so he took matters into his own hands and sliced his face with a knife. According to the film’s director, LaBeouf would regularly reopen the wound on set to keep it looking fresh and realistic.
Christian Bale nearly killed himself losing weight for The Machinist
Jared Leto gave himself gout gaining weight for Chapter 27
After dropping more than 50 pounds to play an HIV-positive trans woman in Dallas Buyers Club, Jared Leto put it all back on and more to portray Mark David Chapman in Chapter 27. The actor packed on over 70 pounds, which he achieved by drinking microwaved pints of ice cream mixed with olive oil and soy sauce. The sudden weight gain put so much strain on Leto’s body that he developed gout, forcing him at times to use a wheelchair.
Robert De Niro got ripped and then got fat for Raging Bull
Demi Moore did actual Navy SEAL training to get into shape for G.I. Jane
Demi Moore brought an incredible level of discipline to her preparation for G.I. Jane, in which the actress portrayed Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil, the (fictitious) first female Navy SEAL. To get the physique of an elite special forces soldier, Moore undertook actual SEAL training, which involved a combination of cardio, strength training, and martial arts. The actress continued her training throughout production to maintain her chiseled look, getting up at 4am to squeeze in a few hours of working-out before filming began.
Jake Gyllenhaal spent so much time in the gym bulking up for Southpaw it cost him a relationship
Rooney Mara got facial piercings, bleached her eyebrows for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Perhaps feeling the pressure of following Noomi Rapace’s acclaimed portrayal of literary anti-heroine Lisbeth Salander, Rooney Mara underwent a dramatic transformation to play the role in the American remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Rather than wear prosthetic makeup, Mara got all the character’s signature piercings (as detailed in Stieg Larsson’s books) for real, including multiple earrings, an eyebrow bar, lip ring, two nose rings and some more intimate piercings, as well as bleaching her eyebrows and having temporary tattoos applied.
Nicolas Cage had his teeth pulled out for Birdy
Nicolas Cage is known for going method, with some of his antics including eating a live cockroach for Vampire’s Kiss and moving an alcoholic into his trailer for Leaving Las Vegas. However, the actor’s most drastic preparation was for 1984’s Birdy, in which Cage portrayed a young Vietnam War vet. In order to be able to get into the mindset of a wounded soldier, the actor willingly submitted for torture by having two of his teeth ripped out without an anaesthetic.
50 Cent underwent a shocking transformation for his role in All Things Fall Apart
Rapper-turned-actor Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson has clocked up over 30 screen credits since breaking into film with 2005’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Jackson was clearly keen to prove his chops when he dropped a staggering 54 pounds to play a cancer-stricken football player in 2011’s All Things Fall Apart. The rapper is known for his bulky physique, so his gaunt, haggard appearance was particularly shocking. Unfortunately for Jackson, the film was critically mauled.
Adrien Brody nearly died losing weight for The Pianist
2002’s The Pianist won universal acclaim and won Adrien Brody an Oscar, but the role very nearly killed him. The WWII-era drama casts Brody as a Jewish pianist struggling to survive in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. The actor got into suitably malnourished shape by subsisting on a daily diet of two boiled eggs, a small piece of chicken, and some steamed vegetables, losing 31 pounds in an incredibly short amount of time. Brody later revealed that his “starvation diet” made him seriously ill, and greatly concerned his doctors.
Charlize Theron packed on weight and fried her hair to play a serial killer in Monster
Charlize Theron is famed for her beauty, making her transformation into Aileen Wuornos all the more impressive. Playing the real-life serial killer in 2003’s Monster, Theron put on 30 pounds by living on a diet of junk food. Theron also repeatedly fried her hair to make to replicate Wuornos’ wispy locks. Whilst living on burgers and milkshakes might seem like a dream come true for some, Theron says it made her miserable and confessed that she was “not that fun to be around” during production.
Chris Pratt gained some serious muscle for Guardians of the Galaxy
Chris Pratt rose to prominence on TV’s Parks and Recreation, playing the decidedly doughy Andy Dwyer. When Pratt was cast as Peter Quill in the lead role of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, he underwent an impressive body transformation, shedding the spare tyre and packing on some serious lean mass. When asked how he approached changing his physique, Pratt replied that he “started running and stopped eating.”
JK Simmons got ripped for Justice League
What makes JK Simmons’ extreme body transformation for 2017’s Justice League so jaw-dropping is the fact that he was in his 60s when he did it. Recruiting ex-Marine Aaron Williamson, Simmons applied extreme discipline to his training and diet, achieving a physique that a man a third of his age would be proud of. As an added bonus, Williamson later said in an interview that Simmon’s new, healthy lifestyle meant he’d “never have to worry about health issues again.”
Michael Chiklis got shredded for The Shield
When Michael Chiklis’ time as the cuddly Toni Scali on drama series The Commish came to an end, the actor decided to make some major lifestyle changes. Being overweight placed limitations on the roles he was offered, and his wife was concerned about his health. An opportunity to play a cop on The Shield provided the perfect motivation, and Chiklis began training six days a week, as well as using a food delivery service to ensure he was only eating portion controlled meals.
Tom Hanks transformed his body twice for Cast Away
2000’s Cast Away stars Tom Hanks as the sole survivor of a plane crash who finds himself stranded on an uninhabited island. Before production began, Hanks abandoned his exercise regimen and let his diet go to achieve the “pudgy” physique of an average middle-aged man. After shooting the first section of the film, production was halted for a year whilst Hanks followed a strict diet to drop 55 pounds, as well as growing out his hair and beard.
Matthew McConaughey lost 47 pounds for Dallas Buyers Club
Jared Leto wasn’t the only actor who shed weight for Dallas Buyers Club; Matthew McConaughey dropped 47 pounds across a period of six months to convincingly play real life AIDS sufferer Ron Woodroof. McConaughey’s diet included fish, tapioca pudding and “as much wine as I wanted to drink,” and he also abstained from exercise to achieve a suitably atrophied look. His efforts paid off, and McConaughey took home the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Vincent D’Onofrio packed on weight for Full Metal Jacket and changed his perspective on beauty in the process
Anne Hathaway lost a dangerous amount of weight for Les Miserables
Anne Hathaway has always been slim, but when she was cast in Les Misérables as struggling 19th century prostitute Fantine, she decided that to properly convey her character’s struggle she would have to look like she was literally starving. Hathaway first lost ten pounds before filming, then a further 15 during production by eating just two pieces of oatmeal paste a day. This unnerved her doctors and left her feeling like she was constantly going to “collapse”.
Christian Bale put on 43 pounds of fat for American Hustle
Matthew McConaughey piled on 47 pounds for Gold
Matthew McConaughey had already established his method acting credentials when he dropped weight for Dallas Buyers Club, but the actor proved that he can move the scales in the opposite direction as well when he packed on some serious fat to play overweight prospector Kenny Wells in 2016’s Gold. McConaughey gave himself carte blanche to eat and drink whatever he wanted for six months. Unlike some, McConaughey enjoyed this: he says that at the time his kids referred to him as “Captain Fun.”
Tom Hardy trained so hard to put on muscle for The Dark Knight Rises that he damaged his joints
Tom Hardy is no stranger to packing on mass for a role, having previously bulked up to impressive proportions in order to portray Charles Bronson. However, his role as Bane – the hulking nemesis of Batman in The Dark Knight Rises – required the actor to gain an incredible 30 pounds of muscle. Hardy trained four times daily for months, exacting a lasting toll on his body. As a result of his hardcore training regimen, Hardy says he now has “joints that click that probably shouldn’t.”
Robert De Niro dropped to four per cent body fat for Cape Fear
Robert De Niro proved that dramatic body transformations aren’t just a young man’s game when, aged 48, he got into incredible shape for 1991’s Cape Fear. De Niro played Max Cady, a revenge-obsessed ex-con, and he got his body fat levels down to a staggering four percent whilst preparing for the role. For reference, the body fat percentages of Olympic sprinters usually sit somewhere between six and ten percent.
Edward Norton got ripped for American History X so quickly that Arnold Schwarzenegger thought he used steroids
When Edward Norton was cast as a white supremacist in 1998’s American History X, the actor knew he needed to add some serious bulk to look more intimidating. Norton dramatically upped his calorie intake, forcing down five meals a day with protein shakes in between, and adopting a grueling weightlifting routine. The actor gained around 30 pounds of muscle in only three months, leading Arnold Schwarzenegger – whom Norton had sought workout advice from – to enquire if he was using steroids.
Brad Pitt developed the ‘perfect’ physique for Fight Club
Brad Pitt’s body as Tyler Durden in 1999’s Fight Club has often been voted the ‘perfect male physique’ in surveys. As the character is vocal in the film about his disdain for gyms, Pitt relied exclusively on bodyweight exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups to achieve his physique. Unfortunately for all the men determined to emulate his regimen and get the same results, genetics played a pretty major role too.
Will Smith followed Muhammad Ali’s regimen to get in shape for Ali
Portraying arguably the greatest boxer to ever live is no easy task, and Will Smith was determined to get it right. The actor cut all junk food from his diet, spent six hours per day lifting weights and boxing, and went for runs in the snow wearing combat boots. The reason he did this? Because that’s what Muhammad Ali did. Smith tried to emulate every aspect of the boxer’s routine, from his diet to his training, and the results were certainly impressive.
Jonah Hill put on 40 pounds for War Dogs
For much of his career, Jonah Hill was generally typecast as overweight, socially awkward characters, but he shed a considerable amount of weight for 2012 action comedy 21 Jump Street and kept the pounds off afterwards. However, when Hill was cast in 2016’s quasi-historical comedy War Dogs, he had to put all the weight back on and then some. Hill gained over 40 pounds for the role, but as soon as production wrapped up the actor returned to his new, healthy ways and slimmed back down.
Natalie Portman dropped 20 pounds for Black Swan
2010’s Black Swan saw Natalie Portman drop over 20 pounds and hone her skills as a ballerina. The actress dedicated between five and six hours to physically arduous ballet training every single day, and ate “next to nothing” in the months leading up to production. Whilst Portman later professed that the process was so grueling that she thought she was “literally going to die,” the results were undeniably impressive, and most of the film’s dance sequences were performed by the actress herself.
Chris Hemsworth gained 20 pounds of muscle for Thor
Chris Hemsworth’s body transformation to play Thor was so impressive that it led to “Chris Hemsworth workout” being the top Google suggestion for the actor’s name. To get into the shape of a warrior god, Hemsworth trained with a former Navy SEAL who designed a workout plan focusing mostly on the actor’s shoulders and arms, and a meal plan containing lots of red meat and protein shakes. Hemsworth has capitalised on the fame of his physique by launching a subscription based fitness app.
Jason Segel had to drop 35 pounds for The Five-Year Engagement
Funnyman Jason Segel co-wrote and starred in 2012’s The Five-Year Engagement, portraying a chef whose relationship with his girlfriend (Emily Blunt) is strained by a prolonged engagement. Before filming began, Segel was instructed to lose 35 pounds because the producers – rather harshly – thought it was unrealistic that Blunt would be attracted to him. Segel handled this gracefully and hired a personal trainer, cutting all unhealthy food from his diet and working out twice a day.
Gerard Butler got ripped to play Leonidas in 300
Before starring in Zack Snyder’s historical epic 300, Gerard Butler had a pretty average physique. This changed when he played Spartan King Leonidas in 300, a role which required him to eb shirtless for literally the entire movie. In the run up to production, Butler trained for six hours a day, splitting his time between Crossfit, bodybuilding and combat training. Butler remarked at the time that the training was “ruining” his body, but said that at least he “looked amazing.”
Ben Kingsley dropped 20 pounds to play Gandhi
Playing one of history’s most iconic figures comes with a lot of pressure, and Ben Kingsley was determined to make his portrayal of Gandhi as authentic as possible. The actor adopted Gandhi’s strict vegetarian diet, losing 20 pounds in the run up to production on Richard Attenborough’s 1982 biopic. Kingsley also learned yoga, began regularly meditating, and even learned how to spin cotton on a wooden wheel, a pastime Gandhi was known to be fond of.
Emile Hirsch got emaciated for his role in Into the Wild
When Emile Hirsch agreed to play Chris McCandless – the real-life explorer who starved to death in his attempt to conquer the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness – it was inevitable that he was going to have to shed some serious pounds. The actor adopted a strict diet and began doing a lot of cardio to strip fat from his frame, later describing the process as involving “a lot of running and being very hungry and dreaming of candy all the time.”
Jake Gyllenhaal dropped 30 pounds for Nightcrawler
Before he rapidly bulked up for Southpaw, Jake Gyllenhaal drastically slimmed down for Nightcrawler. In order to physically embody the spine-chilling Lou Bloom, Gyllenhaal ran 15 miles a day and lived primarily on kale salads. The actor later revealed that the entire process took a toll on both his physical health and his social life, as his time was divided almost exclusively between filming and running.
Matthew Fox lost a fifth of his bodyweight for his role in Alex Cross
When Matthew Fox was cast as Picasso, the villain of 2012’s Alex Cross, the actor decided that in order to make his portrayal convincing he would have to drastically change his physique. The actor adopted a controlled but sensible diet and began consistently working out, but never pushed himself to the point that it interfered with his wellbeing or home life. Nevertheless, Fox pulled off a stunning transformation, losing a fifth of his body weight and getting into incredibly lean shape.
Renee Zellweger packed on 30 pounds to play Bridget Jones
Bridget Jones is one of Renee Zellweger’s most iconic characters, and her portrayal of the foul-mouthed, chain-smoking singleton earned the actress an Oscar nomination. Zellweger allowed herself free-reign to eat whatever she wanted in the run-up to filming, gaining 30 pounds and going from a size 4 to a size 14. Apparently, the process of making the movie was so intense that the actress was afraid she’d lose the weight during production, and she made sure she always had an adequate supply of snacks on set.
Kit Harington gave himself body dysmorphia training for Pompeii
Kit Harington’s role as a gladiator in 2014’s Pompeii required the actor to be shirtless for much of the movie, and so he was determined to develop an impressive physique for the film. That determination ended up taking Harington to some pretty dark places, with the actor later confessing his relentless obsession with getting ripped led to him developing body dysmorphia. The actor was hitting the gym three times a day, six days a week, and his trainer was eventually forced to intervene out of concern for Harington’s health.
Ryan Gosling got fat for The Lovely Bones, then got fired from the role
When Ryan Gosling was hired for the role of grieving father Jack Salmon in 2009’s The Lovely Bones, the actor had his own vision for the character. Specifically, Gosling thought that the character would turn to food for comfort, so he spent months gaining 60 pounds by drinking cartons of melted ice cream. Unfortunately, Peter Jackson, who directed the film, wasn’t a fan of Gosling’s ideas for the character and promptly fired him from the role, hiring Mark Wahlberg instead and leaving Gosling out of shape and out of a job.
Colin Farrell gained 40 pounds in two months for The Lobster
For his role in 2015’s surrealist comedy The Lobster, Colin Farrell gained 40 pounds in the two months leading up to production. The actor confessed that he found the process incredibly easy, stating, “I just ate and didn’t move for a while.” After production wrapped up, Farrell lost the weight equally quickly, dramatically reducing his caloric intake and exercising diligently.
Taylor Lautner bulked up impressively for Twilight: New Moon
Despite describing himself as “not naturally strong,” Taylor Lautner gained an impressive 30 pounds of muscle in a single year for the Twilight franchise. Between the first and second Twilight movies, Lautner’s character blooms into a fully-fledged werewolf, requiring the actor to develop a significantly more bulky physique. The actor had a year to get into shape, and he put the time to good use, following a daunting exercise regimen and eating a high-protein diet.
Matt Damon got incredibly skinny for Courage Under Fire
When Matt Damon was cast as a beleaguered army medic in 1996’s Courage Under Fire, the actor went through a gruelling process to lose 60 pounds in an incredibly short amount of time. In a Reddit AMA, Damon revealed that his preparation involved running 13 miles a day and eating nothing but chicken breast. The actor confessed that the running was easy, but said that he found the diet “incredibly challenging.”
Jonah Hill lost over 40 pounds for Maniac
Ewan McGregor got fat for Fargo
Tom Hardy bulked up using ‘prison exercises’ for Bronson
Tom Hardy’s most famous body transformation is without a doubt his dramatic bulk up to play Bane, but the physique he achieved for Bronson deserves mention too. Hardy avoided the gym, opting for more traditional ‘prison exercises’ like sit-ups and push-ups. Basically, anything that can be done in a confined space. Most impressively, he put the majority of the muscle on in the five weeks before production began.
Chris Hemsworth lost a lot of weight for In the Heart of the Sea
Zac Efron sparked a debate with his body transformation for Baywatch
The extreme amount of muscle that Zac Efron added to his frame for Baywatch sparked intense debate about the lengths actors are expected to go to for roles. Efron revealed that, in addition to an extremely gruelling diet and training regimen, his trainers had him taking a powerful diuretic to make him look as ripped as possible. The actor later confessed that the drugs caused a “pretty bad depression” that took him considerable time to get out of.
Michael Fassbender starved himself for his role in Hunger
No prizes for guessing what kind of body transformation this film required. Michael Fassbender dropped 42 pounds to play Bobby Sands – an IRA prisoner who died in prison after a 66 day hunger strike – in 2008’s Hunger. The actor restricted his diet to 900 calories a day and exercised intensely, later describing the experience as “a psychological prison.”
Ryan Reynolds got in shape for Blade: Trinity
Ryan Reynolds later revealed that, during the early days of his career, he lived a pretty unhealthy lifestyle, freely indulging in whatever food he wanted to eat. However, when he was cast as Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity, Reynolds had to develop some serious discipline to get into shape for the role. Over a three month period, the actor packed on 25 pounds of muscle by working out six days a week and eating a high calorie, high protein diet.
Daniel Radcliffe got skinny in two weeks for Jungle
Daniel Radcliffe has stated that he is very much not a method actor, but he realised that it would look weird if he didn’t lose any weight before playing Yossi Ghinsberg – an Israeli explorer who was stranded in the Bolivian rainforest – in 2017’s Jungle. Radcliffe didn’t fancy spending months hungry and miserable, so he opted to lose all the weight in the two weeks before filming, living off a daily diet of a single chicken breast and one protein bar.
Matt Damon put on 30 pounds of fat for The Informant
Emma Stone bulked up to play a tennis legend in Battle of the Sexes
When Emma Stone was cast as tennis legend Billie Jean King, it was clear that the famously slender actress was going to have to add some bulk to her frame. Stone teamed up with fitness guru Jason Walsh, who ramped up her caloric intake and had her regularly downing protein shakes. Walsh also designed a workout plan that involved a lot of heavy exercises like sled pushes and squats, as well as plenty of cardio.