10 Painful Body Modifications That Made Great Performances Possible

By  · Published on May 16th, 2013

by David Christopher Bell

These days you’re not a true thespian until you’ve gone AIDS skinny at least once for a role or, failing that, Stay Puft fat. Researching the many time actors have opted to change their bodies for a role, it became clear how many lists like this seem to pop up on the internet. Almost all these lists rate the change by how much was lost or gained.

In an attempt to be different, I’ve decided not to judge this by a number but rather how much apparent pain they went though. It’s more fun that way, and sometimes it involves more than one movie. To give you an example of what I mean, check out the starting point:

10. Christian Bale lost 62lbs for The Machinist, then gained 100 for Batman Begins

It’s still seen as the most anyone has ever lost for a role – but according to Bale, it also wasn’t a big deal at all. Nor was the 100lbs he then had to quickly regain for Batman Begins.

As Bale puts it, he had a “stupid feeling of invincibility” as he went down to 121lbs and then got Batman fit in a span of five months. And thanks to his blind optimism he managed to do it without once dying. Not even close. As he puts it, during his weight loss he felt “serene and calm.” So in the words of anyone who has ever struggled with weight: Christian Bale can go to hell.

9. Michael Fassbender lost 42lbs for Hunger

The nine spot was a toss up between Fassbender and Emile Hirsch for Into The Wild, the tie going to whoever didn’t appear in Speed Racer.

While no Christian Bale in terms of loss, the actor appeared to have a much worse experience with the process while dieting on berries and sardines while living the hard life in Venice Beach. Poor guy. For the four weeks he had to cut his 1,000 calorie a day diet to 600 in order to hit his goal, spending every evening apparently thinking only of sweet nourishment.

8. Vincent D’Onofrio put on 70lbs for Full Metal Jacket

Usually when one is about to undergo basic training they try to slim down, poor D’Onofrio had to fatty up to 280lbs instead. While he physically saw no great damage, the actor apparently got a few emotional scars from it all. As he put it, It changed my life, women didn’t look at me; most of the time I was looking at their backs as they were running away. People used to say things to me twice, because they thought I was stupid.”

He then added, “Waaaah! I’m in a Stanley Kubrick film!” Seriously dude, having women look at you weird is probably worth one of the most iconic roles in recent movie history.

7. 50 Cent lost 54lbs for All Things Fall Apart

50 Cent was once shot in the jaw and forced to drink only liquids because of the injury. According to the rapper, that wasn’t as bad as preparing for this film. The reason is actually pretty understandable: the discipline sucked. After all, if you have a bullet face and no other choice it’s one thing – but if will power is the only thing keeping you from cake face then every second hurts ten times worse than anything a gun can do. I stand by that; cake is far better than not getting shot.

6. Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis broke ribs to dance for Black Swan

It’s possible that, being a rather clumsy man myself, this just seems harder than it is. Then again, I went to a high school with a very large dance community of small, terrifying young ladies – and if there was anything that physical lifestyle seemed to do to them, it was turn them into sinister little bitch fairies who could kill you with their cold stare alone. Of course I was kind of an asshole in high school so it might have been me.

Either way – Portman and Kunis had to take on those same physical demands, attempting to do as many of the dancing scenes on their own as possible. Because of this they suffered numerous injuries along the way such as a torn ligament and injured ribs from all the fancy dancing. They also had to both drop weight for the roles, because apparently Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman are naturally too large to be dancers. Go ahead and wrap your brain around that.

5. Robert De Niro became a toned boxer, then put on 60lbs for Raging Bull

This seems fun no matter which order you do it. For convenience it appears that they went ahead and made Mr. De Niro cut like a lion before letting him let himself go. Had I done this role I would have done the opposite; getting fat comes naturally, but you’d have to pay me to get fit again.

For the first part he trained as a middleweight boxer, actually winning two of the three fights he contested in. In fact – Jake LeMotta, the actor’s trainer and, you know, the guy he was playing – said De Niro was in his top 20 for middleweight boxers.

Then came the fun part, when the actor got to put on 60lbs by actually going to Italy for a binge eating trip – which sounds better than anything I’ve ever done in my life. By the end, however, the actor had health issues from it all. Scorsese even became worried about his labored breathing. After all, no one wants to be the one to kill Robert De Niro.

4. Gary Oldman was hospitalized for playing Sid Vicious

Oldman is good like this – he doesn’t fuck around when it comes to playing a part. He even wore Sid’s actual chain necklace obtained by his mom to play this role – and there’s really nothing more punk rock than stealing a dead dude’s stuff. That is except for emaciating yourself to the point of hospitalization, which is what happened when he lost the 30lbs to play the part.

Then again – what’s not punk rock is doing it through a diet of steamed fish and melon instead of Black Label and whiskey, but I guess it’s the thought that counts here.

3. Tom Hanks gained 40 pounds, then lost 55lbs and grew hobo hair for Castaway

This just sounds awful. Tom Hanks, to play a role in a film where the most memorable part was a mutilated volleyball, had to first take on 40lbs of extra weight – which he hated. Then he shot for three months on some obscure island filled with bastard iguanas, and then took a year eating what he called “miserly” meals and growing his hair out like some kind of freak. Then he came back to the stupid island, got a stupid blister that turned septic and had to be taken right to the hospital.

None of it sounds like fun, but it sounds even worse when Tom Hanks talks about it – meaning that he truly, in his heart, hated it all. He also actually got stranded in the water for 40 minutes as well. It’s funny how horrible it sounds when it happens to Tom Hanks, Hollywood’s kitten, but tell me the same story about like – I dunno, Maggie Smith – and I’d be in stitches. Not that I hate Maggie Smith, I just think she can take it. Lady is made of cut stone.

2. Jared Leto got an extra 67lbs for Chapter 27

Somewhere inside Jared Leto was a fat guy just waiting to get out of his boney cage. The proof is when he finally let the beast out for Chapter 27, a film no one saw about Mark David Chapman, the guy who killed Kennedy or invented the cotton gin or whatever.

To get up more than three-score, instead of easing into it he just drank microwaved pints of ice cream mixed with olive oil and soy sauce every night – because apparently he was born with absolutely no taste buds. At least that’s what I’m assuming.

The result of his fatification landed him in a wheelchair for being such a big idiot, and to this day he says he still hasn’t fully recovered from it. He has since vowed to never be fat for a role every again. Jared Leto is officially the only person who failed at being fat.

1. Matt Damon lost 40–50lbs and developed a medical problems for Courage Under Fire

Out of everyone on this list, Matt Damon is the only one who seems to genuinely regret losing the weight for his role in Courage Under Fire, where he played a drug addict army guy. Seriously, you always hear these actors talk about how hard it was but also how worth it the experience was – but Damon flat out regrets it.

When you read why – it’s pretty obvious. The dumbass completely winged it and almost gave himself permanent heart problems because of it. He drank egg whites for breakfast, and had one plain potato and one chicken breast a day. He also drank shit loads of coffee and ran six and a half miles every morning. Like a dumbass.

Afterward he was under a doctor’s care for several months taking meds because he screwed up his adrenal glands and also risked permanent heart shrinkage. Way to method act, Will Hunting.

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