Some actors (don’t think of Channing Tatum) turn up for a role, maybe get a little hair cut, and they’re ready to go, but the real thesps aren’t afraid to starve themselves to the brink of death in the name of art. Many, many actors have drastically altered their physiques for roles, and I’m fully aware this list is just the tip of the Ben & Jerry’s tub, but here are five of my favourite actors who’ve gained, or lost weight for a role.
1. Robert DeNiro
There used to be a time when Bobby was the king. His crown has been slipping recently, but roles in films such as The Silver Linings Playbook and Limitless have seen him clawing his way back to the top of the pile. For me, the golden age of DeNiro was between 1973 - 1995, the period which saw him collaborate on 8 films with the mighty Martin Scorsese. Many aspects of these films make DeNiro a great actor, but his commitment to the role always went above and beyond.
1980’s Raging Bull is a fantastic example of this commitment, with DeNiro throwing himself into the boxing training, causing Jake LaMotta to remark that if DeNiro was an actual boxer, he would be one of the best heavy weights in the world. DeNiro then gained 60 pounds to play the older LaMotta in later scenes. DeNiro also gained 30 pounds to play Al Capone in the brilliant The Untouchables. His method of choice for bulking up? To eat pasta in Italy for three months. Not bad, eh? DeNiro is currently finishing up boxing comedy Grudge Match, alongside Stallone and, despite being about to tip 70, DeNiro looks like he’s whipped himself into fantastic shape once again. Hat’s off, sir.
2. Ryan Gosling
There used to be a time when Gosling was not the muscle bound man of few words from The Place Beyond The Pines, Only God Forgives and Drive. The first film I saw Gosling in was 2007’s Lars and the Real Girl, a beautiful film (I DIDN’T CRY) in which Gosling looks like a pretty normal fellow. There wasn’t much indication then of the mega hunk he’d become. For his next film, Blue Valentine (No tears here, either), Gosling gained a huge amount of weight and shaved part of his hair off to fully portray the fragility of all things and the relentless march of time.
However, things haven’t always worked out for Gosling. He’d been hired by Peter Jackson to take on the role of the father in The Lovely Bones, and set about gaining 30 pounds for the role. Whilst ‘training’ for the role, Gosling would reportedly drink Hagen-dazs when thirsty. Unfortunately, Jackson was not impressed and replaced him with Mark Wahlberg. ‘Then I was fat and unemployed’ says Gosling.
3. Christian Bale
Bale’s a bit of a show off. His most famous weight-change role is The Machinist, a role which Bale prepared for by going on a diet of 275 calories per day, which is around 11% of the calories a man needs. To achieve this, Bale starved himself for four months, only drinking coffee and eating one apple or tin of tuna per day.
As soon as filming on The Machinist finished, Bale was informed by Chris Nolan that he’d been cast as the caped crusader. In just two months, Bale packed on 60 pounds through a high carb diet, leading to one of the Batman Begins production crew to remark ‘we wanted Batman, not Fatman’ (very good). Bale then stuck to a diet of chicken, tuna and steamed vegebtables, as well as three-hour gym sessions, for a duration of three months. His trainer Efua Baker commented "Every morning he would look different from the day before." Not bad for someone who claims to never have touched a weight before American Psycho.
4. Russell Crowe
For Ridley Scott’s underrated Body of Lies, old Rus gained 60 pounds to play has-been CIA agent Ed Hoffman. Since 2008, Russell’s weight has been all over the place, but he recently began to slim down for his role in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. Filming has now finished, but Crowe still updates his Twitter followers on his daily workouts, often running 10 miles before I’ve even got out of bed, but then, he is in Australia, so that’s acceptable, right?
5. Michael Fassbender
Fassbender has never been a terribly physical actor. He bulked up for 300, taking part in a brutal 10 week regime, but for the most part, his roles are about character, over physicality. For Hunger, (a brilliant combination of character and physicality) Fassy lost two stone in just ten weeks, on a diet of 600 calories per day. The results made Fassy loose his sex drive, and caused his doctor’s assistant to presume he was dying of cancer. To help him loose the weight, Fassbender moved to the warm climate of Venice Beach, California and would exercise constantly. It was an experience that made Fassbender remark ‘I realized that starvation could make you crazy: there's a thin line between control and madness.’ It was, however, the role that gave Fassbender his breakthrough, and gave one of the most important actors of our generation a chance to make even more incredible movies.
Honourable Mention - John Travolta
We must give a special mention to John Travolta, who’s managed to stay fat and useless for every film since 1994.