Shailene Woodley, Emma Stone & More Celebs Who Gained or Lost Weight for a Film Role — And How They Did It
SHAILENE WOODLEY FOR ADRIFT
For her role in Adrift, a film based on a true story of an engaged couple — played by Woodley and Sam Claflin — who were lost at sea for 41 days, the actress consumed 350 calories per day to mimic the appearance of the real-life woman she was portraying, Tami Oldham Ashcraft. "We were working extremely long hours out on the open sea. Sam and I were losing quite a bit of weight as we weren't eating much," she told The New Paper in May 2018. "So not having the fuel to run you physically, along with the emotional complexities that were incredibly taxing at times, mixed with the physicality, it could have been a grueling experience."
MICHELLE PFEIFFER FOR SCARFACE
During a panel celebrating the 35th anniversary of Scarface, the actress revealed she was living off a diet of "tomato soup and Marlboros" to embody Elvira, the movie’s tragic heroine who’s addicted to cocaine.
"I was playing a cocaine addict so that was part of the physicality of the part, which you have to consider," Pfeiffer said of prepping for her role. "The movie was only supposed to be, what? A three-month, four-month [shoot]? Of course, I tried to time it so that as the movie went on I became thinner and thinner and more emaciated.”
“The problem was the movie went six months,” she continued. “I was starving by the end of it because the one scene that was the end of the film where I needed to be my thinnest, it was [pushed to the] next week and then it was the next week and then it was the next week. I literally had members of the crew bringing me bagels because they were all worried about me and how thin I was getting. I think I was living on tomato soup and Marlboros.”
JENNIFER LAWRENCE FOR RED SPARROW
Although Lawrence resisted dieting for a movie role for years, she changed her mind when it came to playing a former Russian ballerina in her 2018 film, Red Sparrow. "Red Sparrow was the first time that I was really hungry, and disciplined,” the actress told Vanity Fair. "I can’t be in character as an ex-ballerina and not feel like an ex-ballerina."
Lawrence shot her dancing scenes first so she could get back to her regular eating schedule — which was definitely appreciated. “I can’t work on a diet. I’m hungry. I’m standing on my feet. I need more energy,” Lawrence said. “I remember having a meltdown, freaking out that I had eaten five banana chips.”
And once she was done with the ballet scenes in Red Sparrow, Lawrence found her go-to meal as she continued to film in Hungary.
“I discovered this Viennese kielbasa sausage in an uncircumcised French-bread roll, with pickle relish. I had that almost every day in Budapest — which you can see, because I continue to grow in the movie,” she said, laughing. “Dieting is just not in the cards for me.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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."
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.
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."
MATT DAMON IN THE INFORMANT
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."