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Daniel Day-Lewis may go to extreme lengths as a method actor when it comes to portraying physically handicapped individuals or Abraham Lincoln, but that level of dedication may not be as readily obvious to the average observer. The typical movie goer takes notice when an actor goes through such a physical transformation that you can hardly recognize them. The most recent double-take moment was in the trailer for Jay Roach’s “Vice,” in which Christian Bale, you know, Batman, plays Vice President Dick Cheney. Yeah, we couldn’t believe it either. This isn’t the first time Bale put on — or lost — a lot of weight for a part. Here are some other actors who went through similar bulk ups all for a role.
Christian Bale – “American Hustle”
While Christian Bale turned some heads for getting dangerously thin for his part in “The Machinist,” even Robert De Niro didn’t immediately recognize his co-star when he showed up on set for David O. Russell’s “American Hustle.” To play the pudgy, balding Irving Rosenfeld, Bale shaved his head and told USA Today that he went up from 185 to 228, a total of 43 pounds. He even said he even got a herniated disc in his back as a result of the dramatic weight gain and slouching.
Ryan Gosling – “The Lovely Bones”
Audiences never actually got to see this physical transformation on screen. Ryan Gosling was fired from his part in “The Lovely Bones” when he showed up on set 60 pounds over weight, bloating from 150 to 210. He and director Peter Jackson differed from how his character, a grieving father, should look, and Gosling told THR he gained the weight by drinking melted down pints of Haagen Dazs ice cream. A slimmer Mark Wahlberg ended up playing Gosling’s part.
Renee Zellweger – “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason”
Renee Zellweger told People Magazine she went from a size 4 to 14 for the “Bridget Jones” sequel “The Edge of Reason,” packing on 30 pounds in all. To put on the weight, she enlisted a 4,000 calorie-per-day diet of comfort food, which she said, unfortunately, caused many men she spoke with to “look at my boobs when they talk to me,” Zellweger said.
Matt Damon – “The Informant”
Even gaining weight comes easy for Matt Damon. The actor put on 30 pounds to play a dopey and “doughy,” Midwestern, white collar businessman in Stephen Soderbergh’s “The Informant,” but he described the process as quite enjoyably. “It was very, very fun, probably the funnest time I had working because I didn’t have to go to the gym after work and I just ate everything I could see,” Damon said at the Venice Film Festival at the time.
George Clooney – “Syriana”
Meanwhile, George Clooney did not enjoy his weight gain for his part in the grim, dense, political drama “Syriana.” Clooney put on nearly 30 pounds to portray a CIA operative in the film, which he described as a grueling experience. “There was nothing fun about it,” Clooney said to 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 [director Stephen] Gaghan. It’s just that everybody has that year where you age a decade and this was that one for me.”
Jared Leto – “Chapter 27”
Jared Leto told TheWrap how he simply stopped eating in order to lose 40 pounds for his Oscar-winning turn in “Dallas Buyers Club.” But to portray Mark David Chapman, the man who killed John Lennon, he went in the other direction by putting on a whopping 67 pounds, subsiding primarily on microwaved cartons of ice cream mixed with olive oil and soy sauce.
Charlize Theron – “Monster”
Charlize Theron’s physical transformation along with a scarily intense performance won her a well-deserved Oscar for portraying real life serial killer Aileen Wuornos in “Monster.” In all, she put on 30 pounds, but she explained that putting on the weight was a way of understanding what Aileen experienced, rather than just looking overweight for the part. “It wasn’t about getting fat. Aileen wasn’t fat,” Theron said in an interview. “Aileen carried scars on her body from her lifestyle, and if I’d gone to make this movie with my body–physically I’m very athletic–I don’t know that I would have felt the things Aileen felt with her body. It was about getting to a place where I felt closer to how Aileen was living.”
Charlize Theron – “Tully”
Theron put on and later lost even more weight than she did on “Monster” for Jason Reitman’s “Tully,” telling People she gained 50 pounds for the part by indulging in potato chips. But the extra pounds wasn’t the only reason the weight gain was harder this time around. “I was younger [during Monster], I was like 27,” Theron, now 42, said. “I just didn’t snack for a week and I was back into shape; it was insane. That doesn’t happen anymore!”
Ewan McGregor – “Fargo”
Ewan McGregor plays a dual role in FX’s “Fargo” miniseries. One of his characters is a heavier, bald and old man, who he would transform into not just with the help of some added girth but also extensive prosthetics. His added weight was important when it came to a nude scene in which he would have to emerge from a bathtub. Oddly though, McGregor’s other character was much more fit, and with his added weight, he found himself wearing Spanx to look more in shape than he was at the time.
Matthew McConaughey – “Gold”
While Matthew McConaughey won an Oscar by losing 38 pounds for “Dallas Buyers Club,” he put on 47 pounds to play his character in Stephen Gaghan’s “Gold.” While his character Kenny Wells is of the sleazier variety, McConaughey said that the added weight transformed the laid back actor into “Captain Fun.” “I was Captain Fun–that was my nickname around the house, because I was [saying] ‘yes’ to everything,” he said to E! News. “I was a really fun dad for that six months because I was like, ‘No, pizza night’s not just Friday night–it’s Tuesday night; it’s Wednesday morning.'”
Rob McElhenney – “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”
Whereas most actors get better looking longer into a show’s run, when “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” entered it’s seventh season, star Rob McElhenney thought it would be funny to make his normally super fit character Mac and transform him into being suddenly fat. McElhenney’s very real 50 pound weight gain that he put on over five months served as a great premise for an episode of the show. He went into graphic detail about his weight gain for TheWrap back in 2011.
Robert De Niro – “Raging Bull”
Robert De Niro set the bar for physical transformations by putting on 60 pounds, then a record, to portray boxer Jake La Motta in the later stages of his life. He had also put on 20 pounds of muscle in boxing training, but it took him four months to mimic La Motta’s full girth, which he uses to brilliant effect in the closing sequence of Scorsese’s film as he recites Marlon Brando’s famous monologue from “On the Waterfront.”
Vincent D’Onofrio – “Full Metal Jacket”
Vincent D’Onofrio would break De Niro’s record for Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” putting on a whopping 70 pounds to play an inept, pudgy and increasingly disturbed marine in the war film. ”It changed my life,” D’Onofrio said as a relatively unknown actor in 1987. ”Women didn’t look at me; most of the time I was looking at their backs as they were running away. People used to say things to me twice, because they thought I was stupid.”
Russell Crowe – “Body of Lies”
Russell Crowe lived a relatively “sedentary life style” so that he could bulk up to 257 pounds to portray CIA veteran Ed Hoffman in Ridley Scott’s spy drama “Body of Lies.” “Just as soon as you stop actually being active and decide to eat what ever you want, then these two things will combine very quickly,” Crowe said in an interview. Perhaps more impressive was how in little time after that film, Crowe got shredded to portray Robin Hood in Ridley Scott’s follow-up film.
Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams – “Blue Valentine”
For their film “Blue Valentine,” Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play both young lovers and a scorned, bitter, married couple in middle age and on the verge of divorce. In order to make some nude scenes in the film depressingly realistic, both Gosling and Williams put on some weight to look older. “Well, the nude scenes were in the later part of the relationship so I had gained some weight and the pudginess I was feeling was almost like a costume, so it didn’t really seem as if I were nude but some other person was,” Williams told The Daily Beast. “All that extra flesh ironically made me feel less nude.”