IT’S RARE THAT an actor’s physique perfectly matches that of the character they’re playing. As such, for as long as there have been movies, actors have been slimming down and bulking up to attain the ideal body for their roles. Sure, plenty of actors have beefed up and had fans drooling over their newfound muscle, but equally as many have dropped the kilos — sometimes to dangerous levels — in the pursuit of mastering their craft.
Cillian Murphy is the latest Hollywood A-lister who has gone painstaking lengths to get his body into screen worthy shape. Murphy is known for taking his job ultra-seriously, but his latest efforts might be taking it too far. Oppenheimer stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt have revealed the shocking measures Murphy went to in order to portray the films titular character. “He had such a monumental undertaking. And he could only eat, like, an almond every day,” Blunt said. Whether she was being hyperbolic or literal, just the thought of an almond a day diet makes our stomach rumble.
Murphy’s transformation into the father of the atomic bomb is worthy of praise, but the 47-year-old went to extreme lengths to truly become the character. At the peak of his fame (or notoriety), Oppenheimer apparently lived on cigarettes and minimal food. It’s doubtful that Christopher Nolan asked his leading man to do the same, but the director has been known to push his actors to their limit – which Murphy himself admits. “I was running on crazy energy. I went over a threshold to where I was not worrying about food or anything,” he said of the production process. “I was so in it, a state of hyper-something. But it was good because the character was like that. He never ate.” Hmm, that sounds just like what someone surviving off an almond a day would say.
Before you start counting calories and skipping meals to get the Murphy look, it’s important to know the facts. Whether or not he lived on just an almond, let’s be clear, anything in the realm of that isn’t healthy. Most men need to eat around 2,500 calories a day to maintain weight. So while Blunt was likely exaggerating when she revealed Murphy’s eating habits, a single almond is typically only seven calories. That means not only would Murphy’s said diet quickly have you feeling and looking emaciated, it would likely kill you in short succession.
For better or for worse, actors aren’t going to stop their crazy diets just because they make few dieticians squirm. We’ve seen some of the biggest names in Hollywood look nearly unrecognisable on screen, and apparently unsustainable dietary practises often come with the job.
To celebrate Oppenheimer’s release and Murphy’s dedication, here are ten other actors who underwent dramatic transformations to look the part.
JK Simmons – Justice League
Despite playing some of most compelling villains in recent memory (‘Whiplash’ still stresses us out), there’s something about JK Simmons that just screams loving dad – or maybe his role as Elliot Page’s firm but fair father in ‘Juno’ has swayed us. The point is, we aren’t used to seeing Simmons as a beefcake, which made his sudden transformation for Zac Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ at the age of 61 all the more surprising.
Chris Hemsworth – In the Heart of the Sea
For the guy who plays the muscliest Norse god to ever grace our screens, a role as a starving whaling captain lost at sea was certainly a different look. Hemsworth limited his food intake to just 500 calories a day and dropped 15kg in less than a month to take on the role, which required a frail frame. For Hemsworth the toll on his health wasn’t only physical, as his transformation also necessitated immense mental toughness. “Just tried a new diet/training program called ‘lost at sea’,” Hemsworth wrote on Instagram. “Wouldn’t recommend it.” Not to discredit Hemsworth’s efforts, but we think he looks better as Thor.
Jake Gyllenhaal – Southpaw
Jake Gyllenhaal is a master of altering his physique when a part calls for it. The star recently made headlines after making a surprise appearance at UFC 285 and unveiling a new shredded look ahead of his ‘Road House’ reboot. But it’s the 42-year-old’s ‘Southpaw’ build that’s most impressive. To play Junior Middleweight boxing champion Billy ‘the great’ Hope, Gyllenhaal reportedly went from a measly 66kg to a ripped 80kg. Courtesy of a daily routine that included 2,000 sit-ups and push-ups and 12km runs. If that’s what it takes to be a boxer, we think we’ll pass.
Christian Bale – The Machinist
Is there a more accomplished method actor than the inimitable Christian Bale? In what might be the most extreme actor transformation of all time, Bale lived on coffee, a can of tuna and an apple a day to slim down to a dangerous level for ‘The Machinist’. Director Brad Anderson originally intended for the main character’s emaciated figure to be demonstrated through baggy clothes and make-up, but Bale insisted on doing it all himself.
Christian Bale – American Hustle
Clearly Bale is comfortable operating on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to his physique. After repeatedly slimming down and muscling up, Bale took things in a different direction and intentionally gained weight for American Hustle. Bale gained 20kg for the film and even adopted a bad posture, which ultimately led to a back injury. Yikes.
Jared Leto – Dallas buyers Club
If you didn’t recognise Leto in his role as HIV-positive trans woman Rayon in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’, don’t beat yourself up about it. The former lead singer of Thirty Seconds to Mars shed nearly 20kgs, waxed his body from head to toe, and even spent 25 straight days in character to play Rayon.
Hugh Jackman – The Wolverine
Don’t get us wrong, Hugh Jackman has always been in shape, but to play everyone’s favourite clawed hero, Jackman packed on 12kg of pure muscle. A process which, according to Jackman, isn’t so easy when you think your body is already at peak fitness levels.
Tom Hanks – Castaway
It takes more than a few hours in the hair and make-up trailer to look like you’ve been stranded on a deserted island with no hope of rescue. Recognising the difficulties in adding hair extensions daily and making a healthy person look starving with some carefully aimed camera angles, Hanks didn’t shave or cut his hair for four months, and lost 25kg to make Castaway. To drop the weight, Hanks mostly ate seafood, fruit & veggies, coconut milk, and water – truly emulating the island lifestyle of the character he played.
Chris Pratt – Guardians of the Galaxy
Chris Pratt dropped 27kg and looked positively jacked in Guardians of the Galaxy. Pratt says he was pushing 140kg when he auditioned for the Marvel movie, and to land the gig, he had to get into possibly the best shape of his life. Not one to keep his cards close to his chest, Pratt spilled on how he lost the weight in a shirtless Instagram post, captioning the thirsty pic: “Six months no beer.”