We all know, only too well, the standards to which Hollywood holds celebrities. There is story after story of actors being told that they’ll be fired from a movie if they don’t lose weight. There are tragic stories of celebrities who felt that to get the look they needed, they had to go to greater and greater lengths. Eating disorders, pill addictions and surgery binges are all part of that story.
Sometimes, it is necessary for one part, for a period, to change one’s look substantially. And as in life you might want to slim down to get into that outfit, actors have slimmed or gained to play a part. Many of Hollywood’s finest are method actors in every sense of the term – they’ll go to extreme ends to achieve the means.
Robert de Niro: Raging Bull (1980)
De Niro’s performance in this, and much of his output up to the mid-90s, was enough to make him one of the greats of our time. And although he has spent much of the time since undoing that good work, this is still a work of raw genius.
He played the fading boxer Jake La Motta, and needed to gain 60 pounds during filming to depict the bloated late-period La Motta. Famously he said the first 15 pounds were fun; the rest was hard work.
Hilary Swank: Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
Just like de Niro, Swank won an Oscar for her portrayal of the transgender murder victim Brandon Teena. Again, she went method, slimming down, binding her chest and living as a man for a month. It’s an obvious example of suffering for one’s art. You can reach for the celebrity diet pills, eat right and get the same effect. Although maybe not with the chest-binding and man-living.
Charlize Theron: Monster (2004)
When it was announced that Theron would play convicted murderer Aileen Wuornos, eyebrows were raised. The beautiful, svelte star was not who you would immediately have selected to play the damaged Wuornos. But the Academy Awards committee (them again!) were convinced by her portrayal. She ate donuts and potato chips to gain 30 pounds for the role. Then she lost them again – but her performance in a harrowing movie will live in the memory.
Chris Pratt: Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
Pratt’s breakthrough role was in the mockumentary sitcom Parks and Recreation. His portrayal of the portly, bumbling Andy could not be much further removed from his role in Guardians. To go from comic relief to action hero takes work – 80 pounds’ worth of work, to be exact. It’s snagged him some good roles since, though, so we doubt he’s complaining. Didn’t win an Oscar, though.
When it comes to changing your body shape, you’re battling nature. Some of us have broader frames; others can’t gain where we want to. What we don’t have is a studio facilitating every pound lost or gained.
So when it comes to taking weight off, if you want it to stay off you may be looking at a lifetime of changed habits. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it – but remember that rapid weight gain and weight loss need to be a one-time thing. It’s not like you’re getting an Oscar for it.