These famous figures have endured a lot for our entertainment.
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In what is probably the most famous example of an actress gaining weight to play a role, Renee Zellweger put on 30 pounds to play the lovable Bridget Jones—not once but twice, for the sequel. It wasn't all late-night parties with Ben & Jerry however. "I had a panic attack with all the specialists talking about how bad this is for you long-term, putting on that much weight in short periods of time," Zellweger says.
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You may have loved watching Eat Pray Love, but did you know Julia Roberts had to gain 10 pounds to play angst-ridden Elizabeth Gilbert? Gilbert reportedly gained 30 pounds during her journey of self discovery and Roberts felt like she needed to gain weight too to be authentic.
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Charlize Theron gained 30 pounds and an Oscar to play serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Theron was pragmatic about the weight saying, "It wasn't about getting fat. Aileen wasn't fat. 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."
Robert De Niro
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To play Jake La Motta in Raging Bull Robert De Niro famously gained 60 pounds, a feat which many critics called "transformative" and set the bar for all actors after him.
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It may be hard to remember now, but heartthrob George Clooney gained approximately 30 pounds to play a terrorist in Syriana. Matt Damon said of his friend, "He had put on all that weight and he was really depressed. George is a really active guy and he couldn't move around. He had to just sit there. I've never seen him like that. He's normally the life of the party, but he was really depressed." Hopefully winning an Oscar took away some of that sting!
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Hilary Swank famously put on 19 pounds of pure muscle to play a boxer in Million Dollar Baby. While her muscular body received both positive and negative reviews, her performance won her an Oscar. Swank says her experience was a positive one: "The actual changes I went through physically were so interesting because I learned so much about my body and mind. Physically, in order to ask your body to do something like training 4 1/2 hours a day, six days a week, and eating 210 grams of protein a day, meant I had to eat every hour and a half. I needed nine hours of sleep a night because my body had to recover, but I had to wake up in the night and drink a protein shake because I couldn't go that long without eating. [...] You realize that your body's a machine. It's just so amazing. I have so much respect for my body and how it works now."
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When Matt Damon gained 30 pounds (is 30 the magic number?) for The Informant, he decided to just enjoy the experience. "There was just more of me to love! She [wife Luciana] was a good sport about it. We had fun. I loved parading around in my belly. And my stepdaughter thought it was really fun, too—that I got all squishy."
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Mark David Chapman— John Lennon's killer—is not a very sympathetic person. So to get into character Jared Leto traded his teen-crush good looks for an extra 67 pounds. While he felt it was necessary—"[The weight gain] changed the way I walked, the way I talked, and even changed the way I laughed. It was essential to discover a different side of myself."—he didn't enjoy it, saying, "I eventually had to go to the doctor. I was getting very, very ill. They wanted to put me on Lipitor and wanted to check me into the hospital. I felt like I was not in a great place… It was a very painful thing to do. Toward the end of shooting, I could barely walk without being in severe, severe, pain."
Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling
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Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling both gained about 15 pounds to play doomed lovers in Blue Valentine. There was a surprising upside to the weight, as Williams explains: "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. All that extra flesh ironically made me feel less nude."
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Body of Lies star Russell Crowe gained 63 pounds "with the help of Sprinkles cupcakes" and cheeseburgers for breakfast. But it wasn't all fun, as he recalls: "At one point I worried about it from a health point of view because I had my cholesterol checked. It had reached dangerous territory. I was surprised that my body was taking all of it so seriously. I was enjoying myself, because I was eating and drinking what I liked, but my body was objecting. The most frightening thing was having to rock back and forwards to get out of a car. Instead of stepping out, I had to tip myself out."
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To take her Desperate Housewives character from diva to depressed, Eva Longoria had to gain 10 pounds. While she did put on the weight, the transformation was done mainly with makeup and wardrobe as the petite actress explained, "I didn't even go up a size."
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The inarguable king of weight changes for movie roles, Christian Bale shocked fans when he dropped from 185 to 122 for The Machinist but then immediately ballooned up to 220 pounds after filming stopped. And then within months, he was back down to a muscular 180 for Batman Returns.
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In an honest interview, Gwyneth Paltrow recounts how scary it was for her to go from being very controlled with her health to having to gain 20 pounds for her role in Country Strong. "The nightmare thing about it is I had to stop working out," she said. "At first I panicked so I would work out a little bit, and then I had to lie and be like, 'No I didn't work out'. I'd be on the treadmill and be like, 'I really have to stop this.' My body didn't really fall apart until right after we finished the movie, and now I'm having problems."
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Known for his muscular good looks in movies like The Incredible Hulk, Eric Bana underwent a huge change, gaining 28 pounds to play a murderer in Chopper. He made gaining the weight look effortless—"[he] 'just sat still' and steadily consumed great quantities of beer, saturated fats, and doughnuts." But he made losing the weight look just as easy. Bana was back to his old self within months, ready for his next film.