In the movies, there’s a lot you can do with a body double. Meanwhile, special effects clearly have a part to play. But when it comes to throwing yourself into a role, most serious actresses still like to do it the hard way. Whether that’s through crash dieting or cramming on the pounds, by hitting the gym or enduring extreme makeup, these 20 Hollywood stars pulled out all the stops to nail the look that their movie demanded.
20. Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett donned an array of accoutrements to play Bob Dylan in the indie flick I’m Not There. A pair of shades, a wig and some men’s attire helped make the Oscar-winning actress look almost unrecognizable. Moreover, Blanchett’s performance and resemblance to the folk icon garnered much critical acclaim.
19. Gwyneth Paltrow
Paltrow is known for her lithe, fit frame, so it was quite shocking to see her portray an obese woman in Shallow Hal. The star says that when she wore the fat suit in public, she was appalled by the way people treated her.
18. Glenn Close
Close wowed audiences with her portrayal of a transgendered male in the critically-acclaimed film Albert Nobbs. Through clever use of makeup and a wig, the Hollywood veteran completely transformed her glamorous looks, becoming a plain-faced little man in a suit.
17. Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway looked every inch the Catwoman when she slid into her skintight leather costume for The Dark Knight Rises. But it took a lot of work and a strict diet to achieve that feline physique. To nail it, Hathaway logged several hours at the gym every day and ate protein-rich foods.
16. Rooney Mara
The New Yorker looks like a demure sweetheart in regular life, so it was quite the chameleon trick when she turned herself into Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. To get into character, the already-trim Mara dropped 15 pounds and gave herself 12 genuine piercings.
15. Charlize Theron
South African-born Theron is known for her stunning good looks, so audiences were pretty much blown away by her makeunder into serial killer Aileen Wuornos. The actress gained 30 pounds (and an Oscar) for her performance in the film Monster.
14. Hilary Swank
It’s the role that made a star out of its lead and also helped usher in a new era for the transgender rights movement. Hilary Swank lost 20 pounds to play trans teen Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry, but it was really her breathtaking performance that made this such a powerhouse film.
13. Renée Zellweger
You would have thought Zellweger had amputated a limb, such was the fanfare when she packed on 30 pounds for her role in Bridget Jones. But the weight and the role suited Zellweger to a T – audiences adored her as lovable bungler Bridget.
12. Natalie Portman
Portman is already slight, but she became even tinier while training for her Oscar-winning role as a ballerina in Black Swan. Said Portman of her dancer’s physique, “I mean, I had never gotten that much training – to be doing five to eight hours a day of it was really a challenge.”
11. Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson was known for her shapely good looks, so fans were surprised by her rather streamlined bod in Iron Man 2. The actress and singer denied any strict dieting, though, and instead attributed her toned look to daily 90-minute workouts.
10. Jennifer Lawrence
If your costume consists largely of blue body paint, you might want to be in tip-top shape. To take on the role of Mystique in X-Men: First Class, then, Jennifer Lawrence worked out for two hours every day. The star jokingly described being “hungry for five months” during that time.
9. Zoe Saldana
Speaking of badass blue women, petite Zoe Saldana showed that small certainly doesn’t mean weak when she played a warrior in the sci-fi hit Avatar. Saldana used a combination of methods to get herself fighting fit, including martial arts, archery and horse riding.
8. Jennifer Garner
As the former star of Alias, Jennifer Garner already knows what it takes to play an action hero. But preparation for her role in Daredevil saw Garner take her ass-kicking to the next level. The star trained five days a week while following a diet that included six mini-meals a day.
7. Uma Thurman
Uma Thurman became the ultimate kung fu warrior in Quentin Tarantino’s epic Kill Bill saga. Thurman threw herself into the role, learning the whole enchilada from knife-throwing to sword fighting. What’s more, she began work just three months after having a baby! Let’s see you do that, Jackie Chan.
6. Angelina Jolie
To take on the role of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, Angelina Jolie had to transform her sexy bod into the ultimate musclebound fighting machine. And, through a mix of bungee ballet, weapons training and kickboxing, she did just that.
5. Sienna Miller
Sienna Miller had to pull out all the stops for her villainous turn as the Baroness in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Not only did she go brunette, but she spent an hour a day boxing and even worked with a real life M16 agent.
4. Demi Moore
Speaking of lady G.I.s, Demi Moore also had to get army-ready to play the title role in G.I. Jane. To transform her normally svelte figure into that of a soldier, Moore did an hour of cardio and at least another hour of weights every day. We’re tired just thinking about it…
3. Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson underwent a complete metamorphosis to play the part of Winnie Mandela in the biopic Winnie. Using a combination of Weight Watchers meals and intense gym time, Hudson lost an astonishing 80 pounds for the role.
2. Jessica Biel
To become vampire-hunter Abigail Whistler in Blade: Trinity, Jessica Biel eschewed sugar, dairy, salt and flour. What’s more, she also hit the gym six days a week. No wonder she looked like she could kill Dracula with her bare hands!
1. Mila Kunis
Mila Kunis whittled her already tiny frame down to a muscular 95 pounds for her role in the ballet thriller Black Swan. However, the star complained that her body was never the same after filming wrapped. “I’d be happy if my ass got bigger,” she said.