Actors Who Transformed Their Bodies For Their Roles — Every Movie Has a Lesson


by Kevin Gardner

Most actors sink deep into their characters to appear more convincing on screen, but some go to extreme lengths to transform their bodies for a role. Rapidly losing or gaining weight isn’t a recommended activity for anyone, but actors have a high-paid team of personal trainers, dieticians and medical experts to monitor their progress and offer assistance. Even with a group of experts, you’re risking your health when you participate in unusual diets. However, most professional actors accept the risks and are happy with the results. You can examine a few actors who transformed their bodies for a role in the following paragraphs.

Robert De Niro in Raging Bull

Martin Scorsese’s 1980 film Raging Bull had one of the most impressive transformations from any actor. Rober De Niro plays the boxer, Jake LaMotta, with a level of realism that impressed the actual Jake LaMotta. De Niro sculpted his frame into a professional fighter by training frequently with Jake LaMotta for over a year. He fought in three exhibition matches and won two. To portray LaMotta when he’s older and out of shape, De Niro went on a four-month eating tour of western Europe to put on 70 pounds. The hefty De Niro is almost unrecognizable in the last twenty minutes of the film. If you would like to transform your body, you can check out thrive reviews for a critique on a popular health and wellness product.

Robert De Niro in Cape Fear

In 1991, De Niro hit the gym again for his role as the ex-convict psychopath, Max Cady in Cape Fear. He spent five hours a night working out when the filming began and convinced the director to wait until the last days of shooting to film him shirtless. He wanted his muscles to look impressive, and he didn’t disappoint audiences who gasped when they saw De Niro’s muscular body covered with menacing tattoos. De Niro wasn’t satisfied with working out and slicking back his hair to play a convicted rapist. He went a lot further when he paid several thousand dollars to a dentist to file down his teeth. After filming, he had to pay the dentist four times as much to repair the damage. The film was a spectacular success, and De Niro was nominated for an Oscar for his efforts.

Christan Bale in The Machinist

After getting in shape for his American Psycho role, Christian Bale switched directions and went on a risky diet to star in 2005’s The Machinist. He lost over 55 pounds to portray a troubled insomniac who had not slept in a year. His skeletal figure is a disturbing sight to see on the screen. His face is pale and hollowed out, and his ribcage pokes through his skin grotesquely. To achieve this frightening look, Bale went on a strict diet of an apple, a can of tuna and a cup of coffee each day. He admitted several years later that the diet was dangerous, and as an older actor, he wasn’t interested in risking his health for a role.

Charlize Theron In Monster

To play the serial killer/prostitute Aileen Wuornos in 2003’s Monster, Charlize Theron put on 30 pounds and wore loads of prosthetic skin to change her complexion. As a model and actor, Theron had always kept in shape and maintained an athletic lifestyle. When she prepared for her role as Wuornos, she stopped exercising and happily ate sweets to bulk up. Her performance paid off, and she took home an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

For his role as the demented failed comedian, Joaquin Phoenix lost 52 pounds. His weight loss was supervised by the same doctor who helped him lose weight for The Master, but Phoenix admitted that the process was arduous on his body and mind. He had problems walking upstairs in his condition and struggled to hold onto his sanity during the process. He was rewarded for his performance with an Oscar.

As you’ve seen, actors can transform their bodies quickly to perform a coveted role, but the risky diets and tooth filing should be left to the professionals.


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