In-N-Out for breakfast, macaroni and cheese at two in the morning, and corn syrup by the six-pack. No, this isn’t the ghost of your college eating habits come back to haunt you, but a sampling of what Charlize Theron ate to play mother Marlo in the new Jason Reitman dramedy
. Theron gained 50 pounds for the role, inspiring this week’s gallery the 24 most extreme actor transformations in the movies. Tully
Robert Downey Jr. in (2008, 82%) Tropic Thunder
In a case of life imitating art imitating life, Robert Downey Jr. got an Oscar nomination playing a actor desperate for awards attention. RDJ on playing the sheltered, blackfaced Kirk Lazarus: “I’d be in makeup for a couple hours and they’d be setting up some big shot or whatever. I’d go back to my trailer and I’d close the door and I would lock it. I’d just look at myself in the mirror and I would talk to myself as the character and I swear to God, it was one of the most therapeutic [moments]. I’d look at myself and just be like, “You beautiful, man.” And I would actually have this strange transcendent experience.”
Tom Cruise in (2008, 82%) Tropic Thunder
In a genius move, while everyone was paying attention to RDJ, the filmmakers snuck in another drastic actor transformation. Tom Cruise suggested they needed a studio exec like Les Grossman to put outside pressure on the Tropic‘s beleaguered film crew, and had two additional requests beyond that: “ I want to have fat hands and I want to dance.”
Charlize Theron in (2003, 81%) Monster
According to CNN, all Theron needed for her Oscar-winning role was some freckle makeup, crooked teeth, and lots of potato chips. “The greatest thing I can hope for, which is an impossible thing to hope for because so much emphasis has been put on the transformation, but it’s that people can go see it and get past all that,” Theron said.
Christian Bale in (1998, 83%) American Hustle
Turns out weight training in Hollywood is just as magical as its accounting. Just look at Bale, who bounces the pounds around going from roles like The Machinist to Batman Begins, or The Dark Knight to The Fighter in succession. The 43 pounds he put on for Hustle, however, proved hard to shake afterwards: “I discovered that I put on weight like Santa Claus,” Bale said. “I just get this belly that kind of extends out. I still have not been able to put on jeans.”
Christian Bale in (2004, 77%) The Machinist
Bale, who lost 62 pounds here, comments on the experience: “It’s an amazing experience doing that. When you’re so skinny that you can hardly walk up a flight of stairs … you’re, like, this being of pure thought. It’s like you’ve abandoned your body. That’s the most Zen-like state I’ve ever been in my life. Two hours sleep, reading a book for 10 hours straight without stopping … unbelievable. You couldn’t rile me up. No rollercoaster of emotions.”
Ryan Gosling in (2009, 31%) The Lovely Bones
If an actor puts on 60 pounds and no one is around to watch it, will he at least still get a Golden Globes nomination? Gosling drank melted Haagen Dazs during pre-production without consulting director Peter Jackson, who disapproved and replaced him with Stanley Tucci. Gosling on getting fired: “Then I was fat and unemployed.”
Tom Hanks in (2000, 90%) Castaway
There was enough downtime in production waiting for Tom Hanks to lose 55 pounds of fat (and gain 3 in beard) that director Robert Zemeckis uprooted his crew to shoot and cut What Lies Beneath.
The Dallas Buyers Club (2013, 93%)
Dallas Buyers Club
This might be the only club on this list that could literally save your life. After he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1985, electrician/rodeo cowboy Ron Woodroof took it upon himself to find proper treatment, whether it was FDA-approved or not. Not only did he end up providing aid for others like him, he also helped educate the country about the disease. He also indirectly helped Matthew McConaghey win an Oscar.
Jared Leto in (2013, 93%) Dallas Buyers Club
Leto speaks on losing over 40 pounds: “It provides you with a certain amount of fragility, it changes the way you walk and talk and think and move. It changes you inside and out.”
Jared Leto in (2007, 19%) Chapter 27
Leto abruptly put on 67 pounds to play John Lennon’s killer, which gave the actor gout and left him unable to walk to set. “I’m not sure it was the wisest choice,” he admits.
Sylvester Stallone in (1997, 73%) Cop Land
By the mid-’90s, Stallone had tired of being king of the action movie ghetto and the toll of keeping his body in maximal physical shape. “I had pushed a little too far and had an erratic heartbeat,” Stallone recalls, “So I said, maybe I should do a film that I can have pancakes and French Toast every morning and not stay on a treadmill for hours a day. That was Cop Land.”
Matt Damon in (1996, 85%) Courage Under Fire
Damon dropped to 139 pounds at 25. From his Reddit AMA: “I had to run about 13 miles a day which wasn’t even the hard part. The hard part was the diet, all I ate was chicken breast. It’s not like I had a chef or anything, I just made it up and did what I thought I had to do. I just made it up and that was incredibly challenging.”
Gary Oldman in (2017, 85%) Darkest Hour
Oldman refused to take on the Winston Churchill role unless he could lure makeup artist Kazuhiro Tsuji out of retirement. After doing so, Oldman spoke of the transformation: “We went for as much detail as we could. You ended up sort of losing me in the process, so we had to pull it back so that Gary and Winston would complement one another. It ended up as a hybrid between the two.”
Chris Pratt in (2014, 91%) Guardians of the Galaxy
Pratt’s 60-pound loss regimen included P90X, boxing, swimming, 4,000 calorie-a-day consumption, and, according of Pratt himself while promoting the first Guardians at Comic-Con in Hall H, “lots of crying.”
Matthew Fox in (2012, 12%) Alex Cross
Fox, required to play a psycho killer who’s better at navigating sewer pipes than Mario, harvested lean muscle through puke-inducing physical training. Overall, he dropped 40 pounds. “It’s gonna take a long time before I can confront eating another plate of steamed broccoli and chicken breast,” he says.
Cate Blanchett in (2015, 78%) Manifesto
Blanchett recalls what it’s like to play 13 different characters in a movie shot over 11 days: “I always work best – which is why I love theatre – where it’s just: ‘The audience is there. It doesn’t matter whether I feel like doing this or not. I’ve just got to do it.’ It’s got the adrenaline of standup.”
Johnny Depp in (2015, 73%) Black Mass
It’s no secret Depp loves transforming himself for roles. The Whitey Bulger role is tame in comparison to, say, the Mad Hatter, yet paradoxically more extreme than anything Depp has ever done. Depp comments on his Bulger: “I want an audience to lose themselves. When they’re seeing what they know to be this guy called Johnny Depp and all his baggage and all his movies, I want them to forget me. That’s the great test. If I can get them within three to five minutes, we’re going to be okay. But if they immediately go, ‘I’m watching some guy in makeup,’ then I’m screwed.”
Jake Gyllenhaal in (2015, 59%) Southpaw
Gyllenhaal would do 2,000 press-ups and run five miles everyday for the boxing drama. He recalls: “I was just terrified that I would look like an idiot in the ring. I didn’t know how to box when I started. I had five months to learn, and I know that it takes me a long time to learn a skill, and also to come across like I’ve been doing it since I was six years old.”
Tilda Swinton in (2015, 86%) Trainwreck
Another transformation that didn’t require watching the scale or major prosthetics, but simply tweaking your public image. Swinton, who’s made a career on etheral quirk, goes smoky and blonde for this mainstream comedy. “The first thing I thought of was that I should be a different color. That I would need this kind of Tandoori tan, which I still find amusing,” she laughed. “I’m very sort of pathetic that way. I find it very amusing the idea of me having a tan.”
Hilary Swank in (1999, 88%) Boys Don’t Cry
“I went down to seven percent body fat,” Swank said. It’s one of several factors (including breast binding and stuffing socks into pants) that got Swank into the mental and physical space of trans murder victim Brandon Teena.
Robert De Niro in (1980, 95%) Raging Bull
De Niro famously gained 60 pounds to play endgame Jake La Motta, the most an actor had ever put on for a role at the time.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman in (2005, 90%) Capote
While most on this list put on or lost weight, PSH was able to transform himself through sheer tyranny of acting. Also, they cast taller actors and put PSH in shoulder-tight clothing to make him seem closer to Truman Capote’s small stature. “When I think back on it, I think it was totally insane,” director Bennett Miller said, “Capote was 5’2″, Phil was 5’10.5″, he weighed about 240 lbs, and had a deep voice, thick wrists like a wrestler or a football player — like a jock. He did have the right color hair, though.”
Edward Norton in (1998, 83%) American History X
Norton sported a drastic look, but director Tony Kaye tried to become a different person entirely. Kaye, who lost final cut, wanted to be credited as Alan Smithee after Norton made his own version of the movie and got that one released into theaters.
50 Cent in (2011) All Things Fall Apart
Fiddy, who plays a gaunt and cancer-stricken character, had this to say: “I was on liquids for nine weeks straight. And there was a point that I was saying, ‘Oh s–t, what the f–k am I doing?'”