14 Movie Stars Who Went Above and Beyond to Get the Right Physicality for Their Character

Intensive training, losing weight, or gaining it — these are just some of the things actors are willing to do to play a role convincingly. The following facts prove that many actors have to work really hard before appearing on the red carpet.

Gwendoline Christie

Gwendoline Christie wanted the part of Brienne so much that she prepared for the audition for 6 weeks: she did kickboxing, yoga, and changed her diet completely. As a result, she lost 20 pounds. When she got the role, the workouts became even more intense.

But the biggest blow for the actress was the fact that she had to lose her beautiful hair. When she saw herself with short hair, she burst out crying and couldn’t stop for 2 hours.

Charlize Theron

Invision / Invision / East News, © Tully / BRON Studios and co-producers

For the role of a mother of 3 in Tully, Charlize Theron gained around 48 pounds. And it wasn’t the first time she gained weight for a role: for Monster (2003), she gained 30 pounds. But this time, Theron had to deal with unpleasant consequences.

First, due to a lot of unhealthy food and sugar in her diet, the actress had depression for the first time in her life. And second, she realized that at 42, it wasn’t as easy to lose weight as it was at 27. She didn’t sleep well, felt weak, and could barely walk on the treadmill. She needed 1.5 years of hard work and healthy food to return to her normal shape.

Jamie Foxx

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For the role in the biographical film, Ray, Jamie Foxx met legendary singer and pianist Ray Charles. The actor is a pianist, so he easily got the approval of the musician. Foxx lost 30 pounds to look more like Charles, and his comedic experience helped him mimic the singer’s behavior.

But the greatest difficulty for the actor was portraying blindness. The director suggested Foxx become “blind” temporarily. 14 hours a day, the actor’s eyelids were glued together. At first, Foxx panicked and felt claustrophobic, but he got used to it over time, and it even earned him an Oscar.

Rachel McAdams

Rachel McAdams wanted to work with director Terrence Malick so much that she didn’t tell him she was allergic to horse hair and scared of the animals altogether. When he asked her if she was okay working with animals, she said she loved them. So when she was in To the Wonder (2012), her eyes swelled up and she could barely see anything.

Brendan Fraser

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In The Whale, Brendan Fraser had to portray a man suffering from depression and overeating who as a result weighed 600 pounds. So, for the film, the actor would put on a suit and carry anywhere from 50 to 300 pounds of extra weight.

It was so exhausting that when the suit was removed, he would feel dizzy. He said that in order to carry the suit, he had to develop muscles he didn’t know he had.

Adrien Brody

Invision / Invision / East News, © The Pianist / Heritage Films and co-producers

For the role in The Pianist, Adrien Brody decided to change his life temporarily: he broke up with his girlfriend, left his apartment, sold his car, moved, and turned off all of his phones. To be more convincing in the role of Władysław Szpilman, Brody would play the piano 4 hours a day and starve. He lost almost 30 pounds, and he was already quite slim.

It was the hunger that gave him feelings of emptiness and desperation. For a year after filming, Brody suffered from depression. He went on to be one of the youngest actors to win an Oscar.

Nicole Kidman

Collin Xavier / Image Press Agency ABACA / Abaca / East News, © Moulin Rouge! / Twentieth Century Fox and co-producers

Nicole Kidman wanted to look so impressive in Moulin Rouge! that she would tie her corset very tightly. Ideally, she wanted to have an 18-inch waist like Vivien Leigh had in Gone With the Wind. Once, the costume designers tied it so tight that one of Kidman’s ribs broke.

Also, a very big challenge for Kidman was having to sing in the musical in front of other people. It was new for her and quite scary.

Demi Moore

Sebastien Courdji / KCS / East News, © G.I. Jane / Caravan Pictures and co-producers

To prepare for the role in G.I. Jane, the 35-year-old mother of 3 went through the kind of physical training that even professionals don’t usually experience. The hardest thing was the fact that the entire training course, which usually lasted 17 weeks, was condensed into 2 weeks.

On the first day, the actress threw up and had blisters on her legs. Even though she was told she didn’t have to work out as hard as the guys did, she taped the blisters and decided to finish the training. Demi Moore finished her transformation by shaving her head herself.

Natalie Portman

For the role in Black Swan, the actress had to do ballet for hours and swim several miles a day. She also did cross-training, which consists of exercises that train the muscles we rarely use in our everyday lives.

Ultra-intense training didn’t have the best effect on her body — even though she started to look like a ballet dancer and lost almost 20 pounds, she had calluses, her toenails broke off, and she even twisted one of her ribs.

Zac Efron

Reynaud Julien / APS-Medias / ABACA / Abaca / East News, © Baywatch / Paramount Pictures and co-producers

To show a powerful body with bulging veins in Baywatch, the actor had to undergo a very unhealthy experience. He would work out for hours and wake up at 4 a.m. to start his training. He ate only protein and leafy greens.

Because of this, Zac Efron developed a lot of health problems, including depression and insomnia. He realized that next time, he’d rather have a small percentage of extra fat than suffer for a good shot.

Jake Gyllenhaal

GilbertFlores@Broadimage / Broad Image / East News, © Everest / Universal Pictures and co-producers

The events in Everest take place at 28,000 feet above sea level where people don’t have enough oxygen. To understand how it would feel, Jake Gyllenhaal, along with Josh Brolin, decided to try these conditions in a simulator.

They spent a little more time in the simulator than they had to because they liked how it felt. But 3 days later, they developed severe depression.

Matthew McConaughey

In order to lose 48 pounds for the role in Dallas Buyers Club, the actor needed the services of a diet expert. He tried to get Matthew McConaughey into the shape he needed in the healthiest way possible.

Instead of snacks, McConaughey would chew on ice and felt very energetic after losing weight — he even slept 3 hours less than usual.

Jennifer Aniston

Invision / Invision / East News, © Cake / Cinelou Films and co-producers

In Cake (2014), Jennifer Aniston played a woman suffering from chronic pain. A couple of friends that had the syndrome of chronic pain helped her understand her character. The actress would wear a corset that would not let her round her shoulders, forcing her to walk with a straight back. 5 weeks after wearing the corset, the actress started to feel the pain herself.

And having to gain a few pounds didn’t upset her. She just stopped working out for a few months and stopped controlling her diet. She even enjoyed gaining weight.

Mabel Cadena

Mabel Cadena made a strong impression as Namora, the fierce cousin of Namor (Tenoch Huerta), in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022). Some of fantastic visuals of film could only be accomplished with visual effects. However, for simpler scenes underwater, director Ryan Coogler wanted his actors to really be submerged. This included dolphin kicks, freediving, and staying beneath the surface for long periods. Cadena was the best at holding her breath underwater, gushing about her six-and-a-half-minute record.

Also, Mabel had to sit in the makeup chair for six hours to become blue-skinned, and it took two hours to remove everything using a special vapor. Cadena laughingly said, “I have scratches in my skin from the color.”

Preview photo credit Invision / Invision / East News, Cake / Cinelou Films and co-producers
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