The Most Amazing On-Screen Transformations Actors Undertook for a Role
These transformations need to be seen to be believed
Andra Day in The United States vs. Billie Holiday
To portray the legendary and troubled icon, Andra admitted that "I basically abused my body for a long time" in order to portray Holiday's pain. "I put my family through it; I put myself through it. I went from 163 pounds to 124 pounds," she said in a Variety interview. "I don't drink or smoke, but I started smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. Not that I recommend people do this; I just was desperate because this is my first role."
Tom Hardy in Capone
The Revenant actor said goodbye to his six-pack in order to portray infamous gangster Al Capone in the upcoming biopic.
In addition to the weight gain, a receding hairline as well as layers of makeup effects and an ever-present cigar added to the transformative effect.
The Josh Trank-directed flick chronicles the end of Capone's life as he battled dementia after spending 10 years in prison for tax evasion.
Renée Zellweger in Judy
The Bridget Jones's Diary actress completely transformed for her role as the iconic Judy Garland in 2019's Judy.
The film follows Garland’s final tour in the winter of 1968 — which she did despite her exhaustion and deteriorating health — up until her death in 1969 at just 47 years old.
Judy hits theaters Sept. 27.
Charlize Theron in Bombshell
This transformation made us (and the rest of the Internet) do a serious double-take: Theron is the spitting image of former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly in Bombshell.
The film offered a “revealing look inside the most powerful and controversial media empire of all time; Fox News, and the explosive story of the women who brought down the infamous man [Roger Ailes] who created it.” Theron earned an Oscar nomination for her work.
Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
The king of transformations is at it again. Hanks slipped on a comfy sweater to play Mr. Rogers in the movie about the iconic TV personality's life.
The film focuses on Fred Rogers’ unlikely friendship with award-winning journalist Tom Junod, who got to know the television personality while writing a 1998 profile on the star for Esquire magazine.
Rogers, the star of the beloved, long-running children’s series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, was the subject of the doc Won’t You Be My Neighbor? that premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. He died in 2003 at the age of 74.
Margot Robbie in I, Tonya
The Australian beauty transformed to play disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding in this unconventional biopic about the athlete's fall from grace.
The movie followed Harding’s story from her early skating days to her training for the ’94 Winter Olympics before her ex-husband intervened and tried to sabotage rival skater Kerrigan. The infamous event made headlines for its brutality and tale of rival ice princesses.
In the I, Tonya teaser, Robbie uncannily mimicked Harding's voice, summarizing Harding’s plight with the public eye.
“America, they want someone to love. But they want someone to hate,” Robbie narrated in an eery imitation of Harding’s voice. “And the haters always say, ‘Tonya, tell the truth!’ There’s no such thing as truth. I mean, it’s bulls—.”
The actress earned an Oscar nomination for her work.
Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour
Oldman won an Oscar for his chameleon-like transformation into Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.
Becoming the former British prime minister took 200 hours of makeup work, according to Deadline. The sinewy actor also told the outlet he “carried around half my body weight” in prosthetics to look more like the heavier Churchill.
Willem Dafoe in Shadow of the Vampire
Dafoe went through hours of makeup to transform into the creepy vampire from this clever, fictional reimagining of the making of the horror classic Nosferatu.
"It took a little over three hours to get into the makeup," Dafoe later told IndieWire. "I usually dress myself on movie sets, but in this case, I had to be dressed, because there were some undergarments, a shoulder piece, very awkward boots, and a very tight waistcoat, so that took a while."
He added that it took another hour at the end of the day to get cleaned up. Because he was usually the first one on set and the last one to leave, Dafoe said many of his fellow actors never saw him out of character during the entire shoot.
Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Mara was nearly unrecognizable after transforming into her stylistic opposite: punk computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Celebrity hairdresser Danilo was brought in to chop off the actress's normally long, wavy brown locks and dye her remaining hair black, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Her eyebrows were later dyed blonde.
The outlet also reported that she got her nipple pierced for added authenticity, in addition to the other fake tattoos and piercings she had applied.
"I thought, 'She has it in the book, and she should have it (in the movie)," Mara reportedly told Allure of the piercing. "Because of all the tattoos and the makeup and the piercings, and the physical transformations my body has to go through, it would always feel sort of like I was in costume, even if I was naked.
Mara later admitted her style was never the same after filming the movie. "I used to wear a lot of girlie, frilly things," she told THR. "Now I buy things that are more comfortable, and more utilitarian, and sort of boyish."
Ron Perlman in Hellboy
It took Perlman four hours everyday to become the giant, red demon from the popular comic book series Hellboy, although makeup artist Jake Garber later clarified that the actual time spent applying makeup and prosthetics was more like two-and-a-half hours in total.
"I wanted him to be able to get up, stretch, and have a cup of coffee, maybe a little breakfast so it's not quite as grueling," Garber told HowStuffWorks.
If Perlman was unrecognizable in the role, it's likely because there was very little of his own face and body that weren't covered in prosthetics. He wore the foam pieces on his chest, on his head with a skull cap and had a full-facial prosthetic that covered everything besides his bottom lip.
As for the character's unique hairstyle, Garber applied four separate hairpieces including a samurai wig and sideburns. Perlman also wore contact lenses and dentures. Ultimately, Garber joked, the only thing left showing of Perlman were his eyelids.
Nicole Kidman in The Hours
The actress was so unrecognizable in the role, many fans missed her entirely in the trailers. "I did enjoy being anonymous," she told the San Fransisco Chronicle. "It was fun to be able to go out of my trailer and not have anyone know me."
Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club
Leto has a history of making dramatic weight transformations for his roles. 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 Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, he lost weight, plummeting to 114 lbs. after losing 40 lbs. to play Rayon, a transgender woman living with AIDS. How did he do it? He told The Wrap: "I stopped eating."
Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor and Norbit
Long before Tyler Perry's Madea, Murphy mastered the art of playing multiple characters in the same film with the help of prosthetics and bodysuits.
Makeup artist Rick Baker won an Oscar for transforming the Saturday Night Live alum into Sherman Klump — and the entire Klump family — in The Nutty Professor.
He first sculpted a mask of the actor's face before using it to create a latex mold, according to the NY Daily News. He was also outfitted with a fat suit made of polyurethane foam covered in spandex. Latex bladders filled with water were used to make the fat suit jiggle, according to the outlet. Murphy also donned oversized rubber hands.
Christian Bale in The Machinist
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, whittling his weight down to just 121 lbs. "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."
Charlize Theron in Monster
Theron earned an Oscar for her portrayal of Aileen Wuornos in Monster, and underwent dramatic physical changes in order to resemble the real-life serial killer.
In addition to gaining 30 lbs. for the role, the South African beauty had her eyebrows altered, wore prosthetic dentures and even had her skin airbrushed to appear more weathered.
Despite the amazing makeup work, Theron said she hoped audiences would be able to look past the changes. “The greatest thing I can hope for, which is an impossible thing to hope for because so much emphasis has been put on the transformation, but it’s that people can go see it and get past all that,” she told Reuters.
Tom Hanks in Philadelphia
Hanks earned an Oscar for his turn as an AIDS patient fighting for his rights in Philadelphia. His performance wowed audiences and was a major deviation from his previous roles in romantic comedies.
He lost 35 lbs., according to IndieWire, shaved his head and donned layers of makeup for the part.
Hanks underwent another stunning change seven years later for 2000's Cast Away, gaining and later losing 50 pounds to play the stranded FedEx worker.
Adam Driver in Silence
"He asked us to," Driver said, referring to the director. While shedding the pounds was incredibly difficult, the Girls actor respected the process. "I can't control what's happening in scenes, but I could control when I ate food," he said. "And that visual part of the storytelling, I don’t think I've ever taken it to the extreme before. It's an interesting thing."