Actors Who Gained or Lost Insane Amounts of Weight

Tom Hanks


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Kim Kardashian Met Gala
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Weighty Roles

Some stars rely on good looks or a cut physique to stay in demand in Hollywood. Kim Kardashian recently admitted she lost 16 pounds in 3 weeks to slip into the iconic dress worn by Marilyn Monroe to serenade President John F. Kennedy (valued at $4.8 million) to catch attention at New York's Met Gala. But a physical transformation can be catnip come time for the Oscars (see Jessica Chastain’s win for Best Actress for playing the clownishly made-up Tammy Faye Bakker in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”), and nothing has more impact than losing or gaining weight. Here are the actors who put on pounds or lost them to nab a role.


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Mark Wahlberg | ‘Father Stu

Mark Wahlberg | ‘Father Stu’ (2022)

Gained: 30 pounds

The former Marky Mark ate 11,000 calories a day to bulk up for the role of a former amateur boxer turned priest. “That drastic weight gain really took a toll on me over the course of the last seven, eight months," the actor told Entertainment Weekly.

Andra Day | ‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Andra Day | ‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday’ (2021)

Lost: 40 pounds

To capture the thin, unhealthy appearance of Holiday (who died at 44 of cirrhosis of the liver), Day immersed herself in the character. “I had to adopt the way she approached everything: conflict, joy, life. I lost 40 pounds," Day said to Self. 

"I did drink a lot of gin and bourbon and all of that stuff,” she also told W.

Related: 26 Actors Who Absolutely Nailed the Icons They Portrayed

Ben Foster | ‘The Survivor
Ben Foster | ‘The Survivor by Blanka Borová (None)

Ben Foster | ‘The Survivor’ (2021)

Lost: 62 pounds 

Gained: 50 pounds

To play real-life Holocaust survivor Harry Haft, who boxed in a concentration camp and after getting out, Foster was willing to shed and regain weight for the role. “It was suggested that we could use digital effects to make Harry bigger and smaller for the weight loss and the weight gain,” Foster told Variety. “The one thing I knew was that I needed to lose the weight for myself, and fortunately, Barry [Levinson, the director] and production were able to support that and we were able to shoot in order. So I was able to drop 62 pounds for the camp, and we took five weeks off, and I put on 50 for the ring.” While the change worked for the film, “It’s not something I would encourage anyone to do,” Foster said.

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Riz Ahmed | ‘Mogul Mowgli’

Riz Ahmed | ‘Mogul Mowgli’ (2020)

Lost: 22 pounds

While the Oscar-nominated actor, who also wrote “Mogul Mowgli,” worked with a professional dietician to shed weight for the role, he still says he wouldn’t recommend the process to anyone else. “It was really grueling and took me emotionally to an intense place,” he told IndieWire.

Mark Ruffalo | ‘I Know This Much Is True

Mark Ruffalo | ‘I Know This Much Is True’ (2020)

Lost: 20 pounds
Gained: 30 pounds
To portray identical twins, Ruffalo lost 20 pounds before filming began, then during a six-week break in filming, packed on 30 pounds to play the other brother. "Putting on the weight for Thomas was really challenging. I didn't expect it to be,” the actor said during the mini-series’ press tour. “I thought I was going to have a fun time doing that, but when you're force-feeding yourself, some of the romance of food sort of leaves.

Joaquin Phoenix the joker poster amazon

Joaquin Phoenix | ‘The Joker’ (2019)

Lost: 52 pounds
As the mentally unbalanced Arthur Fleck, the actor made audiences uncomfortable with odd laughing jags and other character quirks — but when they saw his bony physique, they really squirmed. Phoenix, who worked with a doctor to drop the weight, felt his character’s gaunt appearance helped his performance.“I felt like I could move my body in ways that I hadn’t been able to before,” he told The Associated Press. “And I think that really lent itself to some of the physical movement that started to emerge as an important part of the character.

Charlize Theron | ‘Tully’

Charlize Theron | ‘Tully’ (2018)

Gained: 50 pounds

Portraying a mom of three suffering from what might have been postpartum psychosis, Theron packed on the pounds for a second time (she also gained weight for 2003’s “Monster”). “The first three weeks are always fun because you're just like a kid in a candy store,” she told Entertainment Tonight. “And then after three weeks, it's not fun anymore. I remember having to set my alarm in the middle of the night in order to just maintain [the weight].”

Christian Bale | ‘Vice

Christian Bale | ‘Vice’ (2018)

Gained: 40 pounds

Given how often Bale shows up on this list, it’s miraculous his metabolism hasn’t completely shut down in protest. But the former Batman went the extra mile yet again to play former Vice President Dick Cheney. Though he wore prosthetics for the part, the extra chub was all real. The trick to gaining? Bale told Variety he ate a lot of pie. 

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Matthew McConaughey | ‘Gold

Matthew McConaughey | ‘Gold’ (2016)

Gained: 49 pounds

To play a gold prospecting executive, McConaughey decided to appear bald and portly, which was popular with his family, if not audiences. “My nickname in the house was Captain Fun,” the actor said on “Ellen.” “My wife misses all 217 pounds of me, and the kids do, too, because any night was pizza night.” Unfortunately, the film made only $14.8 million worldwide.

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Adam Driver | ‘Silence’

Adam Driver | ‘Silence’ (2016)

Lost: 51 pounds
While Driver appeared almost skeletal in the film, he felt losing so much weight was necessary for the character. “It made sense: we were playing Jesuit priests in the 17th century who were starved and beaten,” he told The Telegraph UK. “But it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, just because of the physical toll it takes on you.” Getting so thin may not have been the best thing for him mentally. “The first time I had a scoop of peanut butter, I could literally feel my brain turn on. Suddenly you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I can think again!’”

Chris Hemsworth | ‘In the Heart of the Sea’

Chris Hemsworth | ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ (2015)

Lost: 33 pounds
To play a sailor who must struggle to survive at sea for 90 days after the ship he is on is torn apart by a whale (the survivors of the real-life inspiration for the film turned to cannibalism), Hemsworth got by on 500 calories a day, which, he told “Good Morning America,” included boiled eggs, salads, and “nothing much.” “You play all sorts of games — if I eat this maybe I don’t eat that,” he said. “The insanity is nuts."

Chris Pratt | ‘Guardians of the Galaxy

Chris Pratt | ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (2014)

Lost: 60 pounds

Though the actor was famous for his rounded physique on the TV show “Parks and Recreation,” Pratt got in fighting shape to play the intergalactic Star-Lord. Working with a nutritionist and trainer, he actually ate more — 4,000 calories a day — to fuel his running, swimming, kickboxing, and other workouts, and drank lots of water. “I was peeing all day long, every day. That part was a nightmare,” Pratt told Men’s Journal.

Matt Bomer
Getty Images / Kevin Winter / Staff / Getty Images Entertainment

Matt Bomer | The Normal Heart (2014)

Lost: 35-plus pounds
To play a man dying of AIDS in the film adaptation of the Tony-winning play of the same name, Bomer tried a 14-day cleanse at the We Care Spa in California as just one of his methods to shed weight — including getting some tips from “Dallas Buyers Club” star Matthew McConaughey. "He called me and walked me through what he did," Bomer told Details. "It was very generous, but I took a slightly different path.

Matthew McConaughey | “Dallas Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey | “Dallas Buyers Club” (2013)

Lost: 47 pounds 

While McConaughey, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of real-life AIDS patient Ron Woodroof, lost a considerable amount of weight, he assured the BBC he did so safely. "I did it in as healthy a way as I found possible," he said. "I met with a nutritionist. I gave myself four months to lose the weight. I had my programmed meals, lost 2.5 pounds a week — like clockwork — and got down to my desired weight."

Jared Leto | ’Dallas Buyers Club

Jared Leto | ’Dallas Buyers Club’ (2013)

Lost: 40 pounds 

To play an HIV-positive transgender woman, Leto got down to 114 pounds for the role. He simply stopped eating to shed the weight, an effective if dangerous weight loss method. "It changes the way you walk, the way you sit, the way you think,” he told The Wrap. He also nabbed an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Christian Bale | ‘American Hustle

Christian Bale | ‘American Hustle’ (2013)

Gained: 43 pounds

The actor is known for going the extra mile to disappear into a character, and how he played a middle-aged con man in “American Hustle” was no different. Not only did he lop off his hair to capture his balding character; he packed on 43 pounds. "I ate lots of doughnuts, a whole lot of cheeseburgers, and whatever I could get my hands on,” Bale told People. “I literally ate anything that came my way. I was about 185 and went up to 228."

Anne Hathaway | ‘Les Miserables

Anne Hathaway | ‘Les Miserables’ (2012)

Lost25 pounds

The actress dropped 25 pounds and gained an Oscar for her portrayal of tragic orphan Fantine in the movie version of the Broadway musical. The transformation came at a cost. “I’d lost an unhealthy amount of weight in two weeks,” Hathaway told People. “I didn’t know anything about nutrition. I taxed my body, and my brain bore the brunt of it for a while. I just felt very anxious and very lost at that time.”

Mathew Fox
Getty Images / Carlos Alvarez / Stringer / Getty Images Entertainment

Matthew Fox | ‘Alex Cross’ (2012)

Lost44 pounds

To play a cage-fighting serial killer, the “Lost” star shed 40 pounds and admitted the training process often made him feel like throwing up. "If I'm honest, sometimes I f---ing hated it. I guess if you removed the 'result' part of it then I can't say I enjoyed it,” he told Men’s Health.

All Things Fall Apart’

Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson | ‘All Things Fall Apart’ (2011)

Lost: 54 pounds
The rapper-turned-actor went from 214 pounds to 160 in just nine weeks thanks to a liquid diet, adding a three-hour treadmill run every day. While few people saw the film in which Jackson portrayed a football player with cancer, it wasn’t the first time he lost a hefty amount — though the first time wasn’t for a role: after he was shot in the jaw, he dropped to 157 pounds.

Rob McElhenney | ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’

Rob McElhenney | ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ (2011, Season 7)

Gained: 60 pounds

To play the character of Fat Mac, McElhenney initially tried to gain weight the healthy way. “As I started off I was doing it with chicken breast and rice and vegetables,” he told The Wrap. “But when you’re four months in it and you have to muscle down 1,000 calories for the third time or fourth time in a day and you have to either eat three chicken breasts, two cups of rice and two cups of vegetables — or one Big Mac — you start to see the Big Mac and realize it’s a lot easier to get down.” In addition to Big Macs, he ate Krispy Kreme donuts, melted ice cream, and middle-of-the-night cottage cheese. The result? He gained 60 pounds in just three months.

Matt Damon | ‘The Informant!’

Matt Damon | ‘The Informant!’ (2009)

Gained: 30 pounds

The actor put on some pounds to play real-life whistleblower Mark Whitacre, and the process was far easier (and less life-threatening) than what he went through years earlier for “Courage Under Fire.” "It was very, very easy to gain the weight. Very, very fun," Damon said at the Venice Film Festival. "I just basically ate everything I could see for a few months."

George Clooney | ‘Syriana

George Clooney | ‘Syriana’ (2009)

Gained: 40 pounds
With just a month to transform himself into a former CIA agent (another actor dropped out of the role), Clooney reportedly ate as many as nine meals a day. “My job was just to eat as fast as I could, as much as I could,” he told reporters during a press tour for the film. “But mostly you just ate until you wanted to throw up, and made sure you didn’t throw up. So that was my job for a month.”

Russell Crowe | ‘Body of Lies
Getty Images / Jim Spellman / Contributor / Wire Image

Russell Crowe | ‘Body of Lies’ (2008)

Gained: 63 pounds
Crowe decided that his CIA agent character should look less like a superhero and more like a desk jockey. The actor told Access Hollywood, "If you want to put on weight, you just elect to live a sedentary lifestyle. Just as soon as you stop actually being active and decide to eat whatever you want, then these two things will combine very quickly.

Hunger Movie

Michael Fassbender | ‘Hunger’ (2008)

Lost: 42 pounds
To play real-life IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands (who died after 66 days without food), Fassbender needed to get deathly thin. He went on a 900-calorie-a-day diet in addition to exercising (yoga, skipping, and walking) to get down to a reported 127 pounds.

Jared Leto | ‘Chapter 27

Jared Leto | ‘Chapter 27’ (2007)

Gained67 pounds

To play Mark Chapman, the man who murdered John Lennon, Leto became truly unrecognizable, gaining weight by eating microwaved ice cream mixed with olive oil and soy sauce. The results were transformative but left their mark on Leto’s body. "I don't know if it was gout, but I had a definite problem with my feet," Leto told the Daily News UK. "Toward the end of the shoot, one of the glaring issues was the pain I had with my feet. I couldn't walk for long distances; I had a wheelchair because it was so painful. My body was in shock from the amount of weight I gained."

Christian Bale | ‘The Machinist’

Christian Bale | ‘The Machinist’ (2004)

Lost: 63 pounds

When Bale got down to 121 pounds for his shockingly scrawny insomniac character in “The Machinist,” he didn’t do it the healthy way. He ate nothing more than an apple and one cup of coffee a day, and told Men’s Journal he also drank whiskey to boost his weight loss.

Charlize Theron | “Monster”

Charlize Theron | “Monster” (2003)

Gained: 30 pounds
Theron not only gained weight to play real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos, she shaved her eyebrows and wore prosthetic teeth. Her commitment to the role (and her physical transformation) resulted in a Best Actress Oscar win.

Renee Zellweger | ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’

Renee Zellweger | ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ (2001)

Gained: 30 pounds

To bring the constantly dieting Jones of the hit book of the same name to life, the actress packed on 30 pounds for the first film and its sequel, “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.” For the third, “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” Zellweger didn’t gain as much but wore a false baby bump and breasts in the film.

Tom Hanks | ‘Cast Away’

Tom Hanks | ‘Cast Away’ (2000)

Lost: 55 pounds

To play a FedEx employee stranded on a deserted island for four years, Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis decided to film the first half of the movie, wait a year, then film the second half — giving Hanks time to lose weight and grow out his hair. While he hated giving up french fries, he refused to sacrifice one item, telling Entertainment Weekly, “The only thing I did not give up was coffee … Nope, wasn’t about to! Can’t do it! Excuse me, no, I’m not! Ain’t gonna happen, pal!” He was also nominated for an Oscar.

Matt Damon | ‘Courage Under Fire
Getty Images / Ron Davis / Contributor / Archive Photos

Matt Damon | ‘Courage Under Fire’ (1996)

Lost: 51 pounds

In a Reddit AMA, Damon revealed that the most challenging thing he’s ever done physically was shed the weight for this role, getting down to a paltry 139 pounds — a task he did without help or professional input. The actor ate meals he made himself and ran 13 miles a day. A doctor later told him he could have permanently shrunken his heart or even died from his less-than-healthy weight loss program.

Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks | ‘Philadelphia’ (1993)

Lost: 26 pounds

Hanks didn’t lose as much weight for “Philadelphia” as he did for “Cast Away,” but his portrayal of AIDS patient Andrew Beckett won Hanks the Oscar that year. The next year he would also be nominated (and win) for “Forrest Gump.”

Vincent D’Onofrio | ‘Full Metal Jacket’

Vincent D’Onofrio | ‘Full Metal Jacket’ (1987)

Gained: 75 pounds

The actor gained 75 pounds to play lovable goof-turned-murderer Pvt. Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence in the classic war movie directed by Stanley Kubrick. “The hardest part was keeping the weight on,″ D’Onofrio told The Associated Press. ″My usual breakfast consisted of steak, three eggs, a half loaf of bread, and a quart of milk.” It took five months for the actor to shed the excess weight.

Robert De Niro | ‘Raging Bull

Robert De Niro | ‘Raging Bull’ (1980)

Gained60 pounds
The famed black-and-white film from director Martin Scorsese about boxer Jake LaMotta (for which De Niro won a Best Actor Oscar) took a four-month break in filming so the famously method actor could pack on 60 pounds to tip the scales at 215 pounds — for just one scene. De Niro gained the weight by eating his way through Europe, but that wasn’t his only preparation for the film — he also trained with LaMotta to become a convincing boxer on screen.