Movie Notes: When Great Actors Go Flabby (Or Skinny)
Many actors go to mental extremes to prepare for a role, but some take things to another level and push the size of their bodies to the limit, either gaining weight or losing it, to play a particular part.
Robert DeNiro, Raging Bull
As boxer Jake La Motta, DeNiro is lean, mean, and intense, but by movie’s end, La Motta is washed up, overweight, and doing terrible stand-up comedy in a night club. To play the sad-sack phase of the boxer’s life, DeNiro gained about 60 pounds (eating Italian food) and is nearly unrecognizable.
Webomatica: Raging Bull
IMDB: Raging Bull
Tom Hanks, Cast Away
Playing a plane-crash survivor on a desert island with no dessert in sight means your character loses weight. By the middle of Cast Away, Tom Hanks looks like he should be eating the volleyball, not talking to it. Hanks reportedly lost 40 pounds for the role of Chuck Noland (over the course of a year, during a break in production), so much weight that his doctor grew concerned about his health. Not sure if this referred to physical or mental.
Hanks also alternately gained and lost weight for baseball flick A League of Their Own and a man dying of AIDS in Philadelphia.
IMDB: Cast Away
Vincent D’Onofrio, Full Metal Jacket
Actor Vincent D’Onofrio gained 70 pounds to play the overweight private Pyle in Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam movie Full Metal Jacket. His reward: getting screamed at by Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey).
IMDB: Full Metal Jacket
Christian Bale, The Machinist
In The Machinist, Christian Bale looks like hell, but of course he’s playing the paranoid insomniac Trevor Reznick who hangs out with a hooker. He is literally a walking skeleton at 121 pounds. His daily diet consisted of an apple and a can of tuna. You almost want to pause the DVD and give him a hamburger.
Webomatica: The Machinist
IMDB: The Machinist
Christian Bale, Batman Begins
Right after making The Machinist, Christian Bale had to get buff for a role as the Dark Knight in Batman Begins. Because of his emaciated state, he reportedly gained 100 pounds over six weeks in order to play a convincing Batman. In doing so, he devoured the record weight gains of De Niro and D’Onofrio. Is there an Academy Award category for dedication?
IMDB: Batman Begins
Renee Zellweger, Bridget Jones’ Diary
Renee Zellweger has also ridden the yo-yo, purposely gaining poundage to play British reporter Bridget Jones in both Bridget Jones’s Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. In between those two films, she lost weight for the dance-heavy role of Roxie Hart in Chicago. Couldn’t they have filmed the two Bridget Jones flicks back to back and saved her some effort?
IMDB: Bridget Jones’s Diary
IMDB: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
George Clooney, Syriana
Clooney gained 30 pounds and grew a beard to play CIA operative Bob Barnes. Was supposedly so depressed about the added flab he complained to co-star Matt Damon about it.
Charlize Theron, Monster
Weight gain of 30 pounds to play psycho killer Aileen Wournos. Her secret? Loads of potato chips and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
Marlon Brando, Apocalypse Now
Although an unintentional body modifier, Marlon Brando’s large girth in Apocalypse Now is worth mentioning. He was supposed to lose weight before filming but never did. So as the mysterious, insane Colonel Kurtz, Coppola filmed Brando covered by shadows to hide his huge girth.
Webomatica: Apocalypse Now
IMDB: Apocalypse Now
Note: Marlon Brando loved food. Some of his bizarre eating habits appear here at IMDB, among them whole jars of peanut butter, five gallons of ice cream at a sitting, six hot dogs at once, an a favorite snack of a pound of cooked bacon stuffed into a loaf of bread. How about that Academy Award for extreme eating?