Greatest Actor Transformations

There’s method acting, and then there’s life-consuming, body-changing, physically-sacrificing acting. Here’s a look at some of the most stunning bodily transformations by actors for their various film roles:

Natalie Portman

Portman is no stranger to sacrificing a celebrity defining ‘image’ for the sake of a role.V for Vendetta saw the screen beauty shave her hair off and pick up a British accent (she must have left it behind with the hair), but she’d apparently “looked forward” to the shaving. Nutter. Not much of a sacrifice then was it?

But no one can dispute Portman’s dedication to Black Swan. A year before filming began on the project (the script itself hadn’t even been finished), Portman was training for two hours a day with her ballet teacher Mary Helen Bowers. After 6 months, they threw in a mile’s worth of swimming a day, apparently to achieve the required adjustment to the curvature of her spine for the role. Mental. Two months before the filming began, the choreography was added to her training regime, upping her overall work hours to an impressive 8 hours a day (just think, working 8 hours a day… the mind boggles). 15 minutes of each day was given over to a single toe exercise to strengthen the muscles between her toes before she started going en pointe. You’d have thought they could just film her above the ankle but oooh no.

Whilst not appearing overly flabby before the role, Portman apparently lost 20lbs of weight during the training and filming process thanks to her vegan diet and small portion sizes. It’s now quite understandable where she found her maddening instability for the role – she must have been gagging for a sausage roll at some point. Will it have been enough for her to finally get her hands on that all elusive Oscar?

Christian Bale

The true heavy weight of bodily sacrifices, Christian Bale has taken on some pretty extreme roles in his time. To gain insight into the scope of Bale’s commitment, we must begin with a realisation of Bale’s budging physique in American Psycho. It’s not too hard a life if you’re role sees you get paid an extraordinary amount of money to work out, and eat food and weight gain supplements like there’s no tomorrow. But you’ve got to say, Bale went to TOWN on filling the role.

After American Psycho‘s requirements to fill his belly with a bag of rocks in 2000, Bale meandered through several fairly demanding physical roles (Equilibrium and Reign of Fire certainly involved a lot of running around looking intense) before doing something of a U-turn in 2004. The Machinist was Bale’s chance to show that he was more than just a 6 pack and pecks:
“People start just going ‘oh yeah, that guy’s a real workout fanatic,’ and that’s not me, that’s Patrick Bateman. It was a nice way to kill that dead by just destroying your body completely.”

Bale reportedly dropped his weight from 173lbs (78 Kg) to a shocking 110lbs (50 Kg) in order to get into the skin of character Trevor Reznik. Supposedly, Bale wanted to drop a down to a nice round 100 pound weight, but the producers were worried he might die, and that wasn’t good for their insurance. To lose the weight, Bale took up a diet consisting of a tin of tuna and one apple a day (the same diet intake of Paris Hilton. Minus the copious amounts of sperm).

But that’s not the end of Bale’s ever changing build. After his performance as the corpse-a-like Reznik, within a year he had buffed up again for Batman Begins. Speaking to IGN, Bale plucks the heart strings when telling us, “I couldn’t do one push up the first day. All of the muscles were gone, so that was a real tough time of rebuilding all of that. But you have a deadline, you have an obligation.” Bless him.

Hilary Swank

Hilary Swank wasn’t that well known for her film roles before 1999. She’d made her name playing Carly Reynolds in the original series of 90210 (yes kids, the new one is based on an old one that’s just as pointlessly dull). But then she was offered the part of Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry and BANG. There’s not a formula for winning an Oscar, but I’d say that a pretty good one is to get a fairly decent actress to play a boy pretty darn well (She’s the Man doesn’t get a look in since Amanda Bynes isn’t an actress, she’s a waste of money).

But that’s not the only way to win an Oscar. Take an averaged sized woman who knows nothing about boxing, get her to box for two and a half hours a day, six days a week for around five months and gain 19 pounds of muscle, and stick it on camera. Swank deservedly won another Oscar for her tummy transforming role of Maggie Fitzgerald in the highly praised Million Dollar Baby, which saw her not only change her physique for the role – she came over all manly as well: “I learned that it is so much more than anything physical… I say that because when you’re in the ring, you’re one with this person. Everything goes silent and it’s you and that person. You hear your breath. You hear the other person. And each person that you spar with or fight with, their strength and weakness brings out new strength and weakness in yourself.” Whatever Hilary. Chill out. It’s only a game.

Rooney Mara

A yet to be fully realised transformation, but given that Rooney has played a fairly sweet and beautiful thing in the likes of A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Social Network, it’s fair to say that her body destroying day of preparation for the up coming remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo deserves notice. Can you imaging having your eyebrows bleached, hair chopped, and lip, brow, nose, and nipple pierced in one day? I for one know my mum wouldn’t let me in the house.

Putting on the pounds

Whilst the weight we’ve covered has either been lost or gained in muscle toning, it’s worth mentioning a couple of starlets for breaking the rules of Hollywood to go plump for camera. Fergie (the terrifying woman from the Black Eyed Peas) gained 8Kg (near enough a stone) for her dirty-whore of a role in Nine, whilst RenĂ©e Zellweger put on 11Kg for her spot-light-filling role of everyone’s (so long as own a cat and hate men) favourite ordinary girl, Bridget Jones. Yes, they changed their waist line for the role, but lets be honest, anyone can say “yes” to one more cream cake.

Who else do you feel deserves a mention for battering their body to fulfil a role? Give us a shout below!

About The Author