It’s a method that many Hollywood stars great. Here’s a list of actors who have brought behind the scenes struggles and tribulations they endured to deliver stupendous roles.
Christian Bale’s Extreme Dieting for ‘The Machinist’
Here Bale portrayed Trevor Reznik, a troubled man with debilitating insomnia who spirals into insanity after he causes a freak accident that severely injures his co-worker.
To fall to this character’s point of deterioration, Bale lost 60 pounds. If that doesn't sound extreme, consider he started at 173 and dwindled down to 110. It was hardly healthy.
Chris Hemsworth Bulked Up for Thor
It surprises no one that the “Sexiest Man of the Year” title went to Chris Hemsworth. With Hemsworth’s first trainer, former Navy SEAL Duffy Gaver, the actor committed to a hardcore workout.
These days, Thor’s got a new trainer. The focus shifted to his arms and shoulders in order to achieve that Nordic hammer-wielding strength of Thor.
Charlize Theron Fills Out Her Frame for ‘Monster’
Charlize Theron won the Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of the deranged vigilante serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, in 'Monster.'
Getting into character, Theron put on 30 pounds. The commitment required eating a lot of donuts and potato chips, essentially living as unhealthy as Aileen Wuornos would.
Tom Hanks Transformed into a ‘Castaway’
Tom Hanks had to deliver two vastly different physiques for 'Castaway'. His diet consisted of mostly crab, fish, vegetables, few fruit-based carbs, coconut milk, and water.
To satisfy a hunger craving, he chowed down on vegetables. It’s now known as the Castaway Diet.
The Sacrifices of Anne Hathaway for ‘Les Miserables’
Anne Hathaway lost a lot getting into the mind of an impoverished, emotionally-wrenched French woman who eventually dies of tuberculosis.
True, Hathaway literally wasted away, stripping 25 pounds from a fit frame, but she also sacrificed a long-flowing brunette mane and her mental well-being.
Chris Pratt Chisels Down for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’
Chris Pratt had to squeeze into Marvel’s Star-Lord costume and dropped 60 pounds in six months. Bulking up, was “three or four hours a day of just consistent, ass-kicking hard work,” said Pratt.
Pratt consumed 4,000 calories per day and drank a ton of water. After hitting his goal, Pratt posted on Instagram photo highlights of his newly chiseled physique.
Jared Leto Lost 40 Pounds for ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Co-starring Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, Jared Leto submitted to a severe weight loss routine and shrunk down to just 114 pounds.
Leto’s commitment to delivering a stupendous performance as Rayon in 'Dallas Buyers Club' paid off. He won an Oscar, a Golden Globe Award, and a SAG Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Hillary Swank Transforms for ‘Million Dollar Baby’ in Just 90 Days
Swank played “Maggie” Fitzgerald, a Southern waitress who ends up in L.A. gym Hit Pit. “I started working out five hours a day—I had to eat 210 grams of protein a day,” she said.
She went above and beyond with over 20 pounds of pure muscle added to her frame. She earned a second Academy Award for the performance.
Jared Leto Packs It on for ‘Chapter 27’
Jared Leto piled on the pounds to play John Lennon’s assassin Mark David Chapman in 'Chapter 27'. To be precise, he packed on 67 pounds!
The dough-boy body Leto procured portrayed the killer in J.P. Schaefer’s Chapter 27 precisely, but it did not win any fitness awards. In fact, his physique earned him an Rx for Lipitor instead.
Demi Moore Trained Hard for 'G.I. Jane'
On the brink of decline from a super-celeb apex, Demi Moore battled back with an extreme training regimen to transform herself into a female Navy SEAL.
She hit her cardio routine by 4 a.m. every morning and then moved on to muscle strengthening: one-arm push-ups, dumbbell bench presses, and shoulder workouts, nine weight training exercises in all.
Matthew McConaughey Shed Significant Body Mass for ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Matthew McConaughey dropped almost 50 pounds to play Ron Woodroof, a Texas AIDS patient given 30 days to live, in the brilliant film 'Dallas Buyers' Club'.
To look like a man emaciated from HIV, he not only cut his caloric intake but also burned 1,800 additional calories a day with heavy exercise. He lost a grand total of 47 pounds.
Jonah Hill Packed on the Pounds for ‘War Dogs’
In 2016, Jonah Hill rounded his figure out an extra 40 pounds to look like real-life arms contractor and weapons dealer, Efraim Diveroli.
But after the film wrapped, Hill was ready to get rid of the heavyset look, so he dialed up his '21 Jump Street' co-star Channing Tatum and asked him to hook him up with his trainer and nutritionist.
Natalie Portman Transforms Her Figure for ‘Black Swan’
Natalie Portman said preparing for her role in 'Black Swan' took a huge physical and emotional toll.
Her diet, equally crazy, subsisted on very little besides rabbit food—a lot of carrots and almonds. Between extreme dieting and brutal 8-hour-long dance rehearsals.
Matt Damon “ate nothing but chicken” in Preparation for ‘Courage Under Fire’
Transforming his body to play an army medic Specialist, Andrew Ilario, in 'Courage Under Fire' (1996) was an enormous sacrifice for award-winning actor Matt Damon.
He said, “I had to run about 13 miles a day, which wasn’t even the hard part. The hard part was the diet.” The same thing every single day. “All I ate was chicken breast!", Damon shared on Reddit.
Renée Zellweger Beefs Up (Again) in ‘Edge of Reason’
Playing the titular character in 'Bridget Jones’s Diary' Renee Zellweger ate burgers with the crew, sampling all the local burger joints.
According to a crew member, some measures had to be taken. “In one scene they had to pad out her bottom,” said the crew member.
Vincent D’Onofrio Tips the Scales for ‘Full Metal Jacket’
In Stanley Kubrick’s 'Full Metal Jacket', D’Onofrio had to pack on 75 pounds. It required some discipline. “My usual breakfast consisted of steak, three eggs, a half a loaf of bread, and a quart of milk.
"I had a tough time trying my shoelaces, but this was the only way I could play Leonard because I had to be weak-minded in the same way,” explained D’Onofrio. It affected his self-perception.
George Clooney Hit a Low Point on the Set of ‘Syriana’
George Clooney won the Best Actor Academy Award for his role as a CIA operative in 'Syriana' (2005), yet he endured more pain than he had ever known while filming it.
A spinal injury left him in excruciating pain. Clooney was lying in a hospital bed completely immobilized, and suffering headaches on par with that of a stroke.
Emma Stone Becomes an Athlete in ‘Battle of the Sexes’
In 'Battle of the Sexes', Emma Stone upped her game. She worked out with celeb trainer Jason Walsh until her slight figure was transformed into the physique of a professional athlete.
She gained 15 pounds and the physique of a competitor. Stone mastered Billie Jean King’s signature bounce, and she nailed the part.
Zac Efron Builds His Body for ‘Baywatch’
Efron worked out four to five times a week, and he achieved the perfect beach body in just 12 weeks.
He put on 10 pounds of pure muscle by following a vigorous diet and workout plan, with the strict guidance of celeb trainer Patrick Murphy.
Tom Hardy Dives into Charles Bronson
Bulking up to play the notorious British prisoner and fighter, Tom Hardy transformed himself into Charles Bronson in just five weeks.
When asked about his method for gaining 40 pounds of muscle in just weeks, he said, “I did press-ups, push-ups, abs work, and resistance training with the help of my boy Pnut, who is an ex, U.S. Marine.”
Matthew Fox Gets Fit in ‘Alex Cross’
The character Fox strove to embody for the crime thriller, 'Alex Cross', was a psycho-serial-killer called Picasso. Fox endured a brutal diet and exercise regime, consuming, at least, one bland meal per day.
At the end of it, Fox told Men’s Journal, “It’s gonna take a long time before I can confront eating another plate of steamed broccoli and chicken breast.”
Daniel Radcliffe Starved Himself in ‘Jungle’
Daniel Radcliffe was faced with the challenge of portraying real-life Israeli adventurer, Yossi Ghinsberg, who was stranded in a Bolivian jungle for three weeks, in 1981.
Radcliffe subsisted on a starvation diet of one chicken breast and one protein bar a day to prepare. “It’s not recommended, it’s a really unsafe way to lose weight,” Radcliffe admitted.
Jake Gyllenhaal Transformed in ‘Nightcrawler’
Playing a wildly ambitious low-life reporter, who chases cop cars and ambulances, or beats them there, to score sordid footage of the criminal element in action, was a dark mindset to embrace.
He transformed his body into the gaunt, sunken-look, apparent on the reporter’s hollow face. On top of that, he would run 15 miles back home from the studio each night. He shrunk his 180-pound body down by 30 pounds.
Robert De Niro’s Epic ‘Raging Bull’ Performance
In Martin Scorsese’s 'Raging Bull' (1980), he outdid himself. In order to portray aging, overweight LaMotta, De Niro held off production of the film and traveled to Italy to consume as much pasta as possible.
When he returned, he was transformed into a doughy aging Italian man, 60 pounds heavier.
Michael Fassbender Wasted Away for ‘Hunger’
Michael Fassbender lost 42 pounds to play Bobby Sands in 'Hunger'. Sands was a young prisoner who led the second Provisional Irish Republican Army hunger strike in 1981. He died after 66 days without food.
The film won the 2008 Camera D’or prize. The exercise included yoga, walking, and skipping. Weighing just 127 pounds, Fassbender said, “It is such a psychological prison.”
Ryan Gosling Gets Fat for ‘The Lovely Bones’
Ryan Gosling packed on the pounds to portray Jack Salmon, the grieving dad in 'The Lovely Bones'. He gained 60 pounds on a quest to hit 210, guzzling melted Häagen-Dazs to aid the process.
As it turned out, he and director Peter Jackson didn’t see eye-to-eye on the project and the part actually went to Mark Wahlberg.
Edward Norton Gets in Shape for 'American History X'
Getting back to his 'Fight Club' roots, Edward Norton played former neo-Nazi skinhead Derek Vinyard. Norton embodied the look with a shaved head and a lean and mean exterior.
Norton gained 30 pounds of muscle, achieving the sculpted yet scrappy physique of Derek Vinyard. Norton received an Oscar nomination for his role.
Christian Bale Transforms for ‘American Hustle’
In 'The Machinist', Christian Bale shriveled down to nothing, but in 'American Hustle', he swung to the opposite extreme. He gained 42 pounds to play Irving Rosenfeld, the big city con man from the Bronx.
He also shaved a receding hairline into his mop of thick tresses in order to give the comb-over the proper effect. His transformation was shocking. His co-star Robert De Niro can attest!
Ryan Reynolds Steps Up His Game with ‘Blade: Trinity’
For his role in 'Blade: Trinity', Reynolds said that the intense workout regimen taught him that nothing is impossible. He worked out six days a week on a 3,200-calorie diet while accomplishing feats of the extreme.
He ran the N.Y.C. marathon in 3 hours and 50 minutes and climbed the 8,000-foot Machu Pichu.
Will Smith “floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee” to Play ‘Ali’
Smith had to get into peak shape and build up 35 pounds of fist-jabbing muscle to his frame. Smith’s training consisted heavily of strenuous endurance training.
It took him a year of solid training to reach his goals. It earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in the 2001 film.
Matthew McConaughey Plumped Up for ‘Gold’
The Oscar-winning actor packed on 47 pounds and went from a dashing athletic build to the physique of a middle-aged guy on the Donald Trump eating-plan.
His wife and kids loved the new chowing down lifestyle while it lasted. “I was Captain Fun—that was my nickname around the house because I was saying ‘yes’ to everything."
Taylor Lautner Bulked Up to Werewolf Proportions in ‘Twilight: New Moon’
In the Twilight sequel, 'New Moon', Taylor Lautner he had to gain 30 pounds of muscle, or as he says it, he had to “basically kill myself.”
Chiseling out the six-pack and a chest of beastly ripped flesh was a contingent for procuring the role. He met the challenge.
Chris Hemsworth Dwindles to Nothing ‘In the Heart of the Sea’
From Thor to the skin-and-bones frame of a castaway, Chris Hemsworth swung to the other extreme in Ron Howard’s 'In the Heart of the Sea'. Hemsworth lost 30 pounds to achieve the starvation look.
Hemsworth said extreme weight loss made them kind of lose it. “We kind of went insane, weighing ourselves every day.”
J.K. Simmons Gets Pumped for ‘Justice League’
J.K. Simmons couldn’t have done it without Aaron Williamson, his ex-Marine elite-level trainer. Although, embodying 'Justice League' Commissioner Jim Gordon took a lion’s share of the work from Simmons.
The strength he built impressed trainer Williamson, who posted a picture of his ripped client saying, “Every time we train together I forget he’s 61 years old. So much respect for this guy.”
50 Cent Drops Down in 'All Things Fall Apart'
Rapper 50 Cent took time out of his music career to work on a passion project. To prep for the role, the rapper from Queens lost almost 60 pounds.
He went on a liquid diet and spent three grueling hours a day on the treadmill. This went on for nine months. “I was starving,” he said.
Kit Harington Couldn’t Stop Bulking Up for His Role in ‘Pompeii’
You have to be all muscle and mass to play a gladiator. At least that’s what Kit Harington assumed when he took the role of the uber-muscular Milo, in 'Pompeii' (2014).
Becoming obsessed, Harington found himself the victim of body dysmorphia, which is excessive anxiety about body appearance. When he hit the point of over-doing it, he succumbed to exhaustion.
Emile Hirsch Deprived Himself for ‘Into the Wild’
Emile Hirsch played Chris McCandless, a man who starved to death in the Alaskan Wilderness hoping to be saved. To get into such a deprived state, Hirsch had to give up food.
Wasting away like that was a mental and physical challenge. “I was a lot of running and being very hungry and dreaming of candy all the time.” It was all he could think of!
Ben Kingsley Emulates the Mahatma for ‘Gandhi’
Ben Kingsley, who said he was “frightened but determined to get the role,” also said he had little time to prepare for it. “I was offered the role in September, left for India in October, and started shooting in November.”
Kingsley also shaved his head and lost 20 pounds, authentically, by abiding by Gandhi’s vegetarian diet. He also practiced meditation and studied yoga.
Matt Damon Hones the Middle-aged Man Look in ‘The Informant!’
For Steven Soderbergh’s 'The Informant', Matt Damon transformed himself again. He put on about 30 pounds to play the part of informant Mark Whitacre.
“I ate a lot of In-N-Out, a lot of burgers, beer...When you’re in your 20s, you can do that kind of stuff. When you’re in your 30s, it’s a whole different ballgame" said the actor.
Rooney Mara Transformed Herself for ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’
Getting into the headspace of Lisbeth Salander found Rooney Mara went for the pale and anorexic look to portray her.
The final effect had bystanders averting their eyes, a relief for a celeb.
Ewan McGregor Plumps Up in ‘Fargo’
Ewan McGregor was 45 years old and in the best shape of his life. That’s when he learned for the first time that his physique was not going to be compatible with his new role.
He made sure that he had carbs with everything and French fries with everything. When he went to pick up some Levi’s that fit him, however, the change was obvious.
Colin Farrell Plumped Up for 'The Lobster'
In just eight weeks, Colin Farrell put on 45 pounds of fat. He accomplished this by sitting around and doing nothing while loading up on pizza, Haagen-Dazs, cheeseburgers.
After seeing himself without a shirt, he got back into shape immediately.
Mila Kunis Became a Full-time Ballerina for 'Black Swan'
The actress had to lose 20 pounds in just five short months, engaging in a low-carb, high-protein, 1200-calorie diet and rigorous training five hours every day of the week.
Kunis said the whole experience left a mark on her, as she understood for the first time what actual professional dancers have to go through to make it to the top. "I weighed 95 pounds...I had no shape.
Hugh Jackman Stopped Eating for 'Les Miserables'
Jackman claims to have gone to extremes to look as authentic as possible for the role, confessing that he stopped eating and even occasionally stopped drinking water.
All for the sake of a scene in which Valjean, still in prison, performs manual labor in the water looking almost emaciated.
Chris Evans Transformed Into 'Captain America'
In 2011's 'Captain America: The First Avenger', Chris Evans transformed himself into Steve Rogers, training for more than two hours every day for a period of three months.
His diet? Nothing more than grilled turkey and protein shakes. Not only did the actor do it and nail the part, but he also went on to play in several more superhero movies.
Jennifer Lawrence Became a Thin Russian Ballerina in 'Red Sparrow'
The actress not only endured a harsh, albeit short, diet, she also worked closely with a ballerina coach so she could play the character as authentically as possible.
Fortunately, the director allowed her to film the dancing scenes first so she could stop dieting and go back to eating regularly for the rest of the filming.
Gerard Butler Became a True Spartan in '300'
For the part of Leonidas I, Butler had to go through four arduous months of hard training, which included working out for six hours a day.
Butler has said that he was inspired by seeing the other members of the cast train so hard too, and it pushed him to do more every day. He has said that "it was a very powerful place to be".
Bradley Cooper Weighed 225 lbs. for 'American Sniper'
Clint Eastwood's 2014 film, 'American Sniper' starred Cooper as a Navy SEAL meant. The actor had to train hard and bulk up to a whopping 225 pounds, in just ten weeks.
Cooper and his trainer worked out a rigorous fitness routine and a diet plan that had the actor eating more than 5,000 calories a day. Alas, it all paid off, the actor was nominated for an Oscar for the authentic performance.
Shailene Woodley Had 350-calorie days in 'Adrift'
The 2018 film, 'Adrift', that really took a toll on Shailene Woodley.
Woodley had to drop a lot of pounds and limit her diet to no more than 350 calories a day, and even less for the last two weeks of filming.
Jason Segel Dropped 35 lbs. for 'The Five-year Engagement'
Segel has never radically transformed his appearance for a role. That is, of course, until he played Tom Solomon in 'The Five Year Engagement'.
Segel decided to get serious, "cut out the midnight pizzas" and just eat healthier in general. Whatever he did, it worked!
Russell Crowe Bulked Up to 257 lbs. in 'Body of Lies'
For the part, and as per Ridley Scott's request, Crowe had to gain 63 pounds to portray the heavy, sedentary Ed Hoffman. For the actor, this meant hitting an astonishing weight of 257 pounds!
Crowe claimed that he just "decided to eat whatever he wanted", and made sure he had the most sedentary lifestyle possible. In an interview with E!
Cate Blanchett Became a Man in 'I'm Not There'
Several A-list actors play Dylan throughout the film, each portraying a different time of his life. Cate Blanchett was one of them.
To play Dylan in the mid-sixties she had to lose a lot of weight. Apart from the weight loss, Blanchett wore a short-haired, wispy wig, and stuck a sock down her pants so she could "walk like a man".
Marlon Brando Stuffed Cotton in His Cheeks in 'The Godfather'
Brando was no stranger to fluctuating waste lines since reportedly he had some very odd and unhealthy eating habits, but he still managed to impress Coppola when he lost a significant amount of weight for the part.
Brando also wore a mouthpiece that was custom-made for him by a dentist and stuffed his cheeks with cotton to make his mouth appear bigger, almost like an angry bulldog. He then won his second Oscar for the role.
Tom Hanks Transformed into a Sick Patient in 'Philadelphia'
Tom Hanks's performance as Andrew Beckett, a homosexual lawyer who is HIV-positive, is one of the best roles of his entire career. The actor had to lose nearly 30 pounds in a few weeks.
Matthew McConaughey even asked Tom Hanks for advice on how to lose that amount of weight before his role in the acclaimed 2013 film, 'Dallas Buyers Club'.
Gwyneth Paltrow Gained More Than 20 lbs. in 'Country Strong'
For the role, the actress had to gain over 20 pounds - an experience she said she really didn't enjoy, saying the worst part was not being able to work out.
Paltrow apparently did enjoy eating crispy fried chicken slathered in gravy with some buttermilk biscuits on the side.
Mark Wahlberg Lost 40 lbs. of Body Mass for 'The Gambler'
Wahlberg made an incredible transformation was in the 2014 drama, 'The Gambler'. Playing a literature professor with a gambling addiction, Wahlberg had to lose 40 pounds.
The actor claimed that he was on a rigid six-week liquid diet that consisted of drinking 8 ounces of almond milk three times a day.
Daniel Radcliffe Turned into a Cripple in ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’
In 2014, Radcliffe scored a role in 'The Cripple of Inishmaan', a Broadway play from 2014 based on Martin McDonagh's dark comedy book by the same name.
In preparation for his role as a malnourished, disabled young orphan, Radcliffe managed to undergo a very intense diet that had him looking pale, gaunt, and perfect for the role of Cripple Billy.
Steve Carell Waxed Off His Hair in 'The 40 Year Old Virgin'
When Carell commits to a role, he really commits. If you don't believe it, just ask famous comedy director Judd Apatow, who has a nice little story to tell about his friend.
Those bald hair patches and the agonizing screams were absolutely real! Apatow and Carell wanted the scene to be as authentic as possible, so the actor actually went ahead with it!
Beyonce Lost 20 lbs. in Two Weeks for 'Dreamgirls'
When the producers of 2006's musical drama, 'Dreamgirls' decided to cast Beyonce as the film's main character, they made it clear they were looking for a more thin, slender type of look.
Thanks to a strict juice fast, called 'The lemonade diet', Beyonce lost 20 pounds in just two weeks. The cleanse diet consists of only drinking organic juices for 10 days and not eating any solid foods.
Jennifer Hudson Transformed into Mandela's Wife in 'Winnie Mandela'
In order to play South Africa's beloved Winnie herself, Hudson had to start an extreme diet from Weight Watchers.
Apparently, Hudson became a huge fan of the Weight Watchers' diet regime that she adopted it for everyday life, even after filming had ended.
Eric Bana Was Overweight, Toothless and Covered in Tattoos for 'Chopper'
To play the infamous Australian criminal Mark "Chopper" Read, he had to put on 30 pounds in a few months. Bana claims he just ate junk food like there was no tomorrow.
The Australian actor looked super beefy, which combined with a chipped tooth and a body covered in tattoos made him look like the actual Chopper's doppelganger.
Jamie Foxx Became a Buffed Up Football Player in 'Any Given Sunday'
Foxx endured strict training and weight-lifting until reaching a massive weight of 200 pounds, and then came the harder workouts - actual football drill training.
The real-life football workouts were so intense that Foxx quickly dropped 25 pounds from his newly acquired 200-pound mass.