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RENÉE ZELLWEGER FOR BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY
To play the always-dieting Bridget Jones, Zellweger packed on 30 lbs. for her first turn in the role — and was rewarded for it with an Oscar nomination. To reach her goal weight, she munched on pizza, burgers, milkshakes and candy bars, eating 4,000 calories a day. Though she took off the weight after the first film wrapped, she did it again for the film's sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, going from a size 4 to a size 14. For the film's third installment, she offered to once again bulk up for the part, but instead, director Sharon Maguire told her not to. "Sharon was hoping we could show that Bridget had achieved her ideal weight, but at the same time it didn't mean her life was perfect," Zellweger said.
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EMMA STONE FOR BATTLE OF THE SEXES
Stone's lithe, willowy frame isn't exactly what you'd normally associate with a powerhouse tennis star, so she had to bulk up to play iconic athlete Billie Jean King. Her trainer Jason Walsh told USA Today that she started an intense strength training routine (she deadlifted up to 185 lbs.!) and changed her diet, adding in protein shakes that were high in calories. Walsh revealed Stone wasn't afraid of bulking up a bit to play the tennis legend. "She took it seriously," he said. "She wanted to do the story justice.” She ended up gaining 15 lbs. of muscle for the part.
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ANNE HATHAWAY FOR LES MISERABLES
On the opposite end of the spectrum, to play Fantine — a prostitute living in poverty who is also battling tuberculosis in the film adaptation of the world-famous Broadway musical — Hathaway lost 25 lbs. She later called her diet, which consisted of two squares of dried oatmeal paste per day, for the film "definitely a little nuts." The impressive feat of willpower paid off, however: She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the role.
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CHARLIZE THERON FOR MONSTER AND TULLY
Transforming your body to win an Oscar is a pretty effective tactic. Just ask Theron, who gained 30 lbs. to play real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos — the role that won her the prized trophy in 2004. She did it again in 2017's Tully, and said that the act of gaining the weight for the role (which she did by eating lots of pasta, bread and potato chips) was a pleasure-filled experience. “Every time I’ve had to do it, I have thoroughly enjoyed it,” she said on Sirius XM's Howard Stern Show. “Walking into a place with food and not having any restrictions. No thinking, 'this is not good for me.’ It’s a f—– free for all. It’s amazing.”
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CHRISTIAN BALE IN THE MACHINIST AND AMERICAN HUSTLE
Bale is famous for going above and beyond to get into character, and his performances in The Machinist and American Hustle are perfect examples of that dedication. To play an emaciated insomniac in The Machinist, Bale underwent one of the most drastic transformations in Hollywood history. He whittled his weight down to just 121 pounds — practically nothing on the frame of a six-foot tall male. "Interestingly, I did find that mentally it was very, very calming being that skinny, because you really didn’t have any energy for expending on unnecessary things, so you just kept it simple," he told MovieWeb of the weight loss. He ate just an apple and a can of tuna a day to lose the weight.
For his role in American Hustle, however, Bale gained 43 lbs., topping out at 228 — a 100-lb. difference from where he was when he filmed The Machinist. "I ate lots of doughnuts, a whole lot of cheeseburgers and whatever I could get my hands on," he said of his efforts to gain weight. "I literally ate anything that came my way."
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MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY IN DALLAS BUYERS CLUB AND GOLD
Like Bale, McConaughey has both lost and gained weight for film roles. He dropped 40 lbs. to play HIV-positive drug addict and AIDS activist Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club — a performance that earned him an Oscar. McConaughey insists that he lost the weight in a healthy way, however, saying: "I'm eating fresh fish. I'm just eating small amounts. I'm not being starved ... I'm taking care of myself."
Then, for 2016's Gold, he took a different turn, packing on the extra lbs. by having "cheeseburgers and beer for eight months, whenever I wanted them," McConaughey told Ellen DeGeneres. He lost the weight over a period of six months.
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JARED LETO IN CHAPTER 27 AND DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
McConaughey's Dallas Buyers Club costar also knows a thing or two about dropping (and putting on) lbs. for a part. In the 2007 film Chapter 27, he gained a whopping 67 lbs. to play Mark David Chapman, the man who killed John Lennon in 1980. Six years later, starring alongside McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, he lost weight, plummeting to 114 lbs. after losing 40 lbs. to play Rayon, a transgender women living with AIDS. How did he do it? He told The Wrap: "I stopped eating."
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MATT DAMON IN THE INFORMANT
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GEORGE CLOONEY IN SYRIANA
Unlike many of his fellow actors, Clooney wasn't a fan of bulking up, which he did for his turn in 2005's Syriana, where he played a CIA agent in the Middle East. "There was nothing fun about it," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "There was not a moment that was fun about shooting this film. That's not a slap on the film or Gaghan. It's just that everybody has that year where you age a decade and this was that one for me."