When it comes to winning Academy Awards, it seems the less an actor looks like their usual self, the better their chance of going home with a statue. Throw in some heavy make up and prosthetics and the odds tip even more in their favour.
Of course, not all on-screen transformations lead to awards. We’re not sure that Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest series Who Is America?, airing now on CraveTV, is going to clean up at the Emmys, but we do know the we’re impressed nonetheless with the British comedian’s ability to transform on screen. Sometimes we forget that he’s actually really good looking.
12 actors who have totally transformed for their roles
CHARLIZE THERON - MONSTERModel turned actor Charlize Theron has altered her body more than once on the big screen. Recently, she gained 40 pounds to play an exhausted mom (so, a mom) in Tully. Before that, Theron won an Oscar for playing Aileen Wuornos, packing on 30 pounds and wearing heavy make up and facial prosthetics to transform into the real-life serial killer.Media 8 Entertainment/Getty
CHRISTIAN BALE – THE MACHINISTOverweight, underweight, and in shape. If there’s a body type, Christian Bale has checked it off the list for a film. The English actor gained 42 pounds for American Hustle and ended up herniating a disc in his back due to slouching over to play Irving Rosenfeld. For the Dark Knight trilogy, Bale gained muscle mass for his role as Batman. But no transformation was more shocking than Bale’s emaciated Trent Reznik in The Machinist, a character the actor got down to 120 pounds to play.Filmax/Getty
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY – DALLAS BUYERS CLUBMatthew McConaughey said ‘alright, alright, alright’ to cheeseburgers while putting on 50 pounds for his role in Gold, and ‘no, no, no’ (not as catchy) to all food to shed 40 pounds for Dallas Buyers Club. Don’t feel too bad for the actor. McConaughey took home the statue for Best Actor at the 2014 Academy Awards for Dallas Buyers Club.Truth Entertainment/Getty
MICHAEL KEATON - BEETLEJUICEThree decades later and we’re still having trouble remembering that the handsome Batman was also the terrifying Beetlejuice, but that’s the power of a really great make-up department.Warner Bros./Getty
ROONEY MARA – THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOOActor Rooney Mara showed the power of a bad haircut for her role as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. With fake facial piercings and jagged black hair, Mara hardly looked like the girl next door character she played in The Social Network and Nightmare on Elm Street.MGM/Getty
50 CENT – THINGS FALL APARTRapper and actor 50 Cent was barely recognizable for his role as cancer patient Mario Van Peebles in the film Things Fall Apart. Not only did the musician go from 214 pounds to 160 pounds for the film, he also had all his arm tattoos removed. Extreme weight loss or ink removal – we wonder which was more painful.Cheetah Vision/Getty
TILDA SWINTON - TRAINWRECKWe got all the way to the end of our first screening of Amy Schumer’s 2015 film Trainwreck and thought, wasn’t Tilda Swinton supposed to be in this movie? Then we realized she was.Universal Pictures/Getty
DANIEL DAY-LEWIS – LINCOLNWe choose Lincoln as Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis’ most transformative role, but we could have also said There Will Be Blood, Gangs of New York, The Last Of The Mohicans…really, any movie Day-Lewis has ever appeared in.Dreamworks/Getty
ANNE HATHAWAY – LES MISERABLEAnne Hathaway took the title of her 2012 film literally on the set of Les Miserables. Avoiding craft services, Hathaway dropped 25 pounds and shaved her head to play Fantine, winning an Oscar for her hard work.Working Title Films/Getty
BEN KINGSLEY - GANDHISir Ben Kingsley, born Krishna Pandit Bhanji, lost 20 pounds to play historical figure Mohandas Gandhi in the 1982 historical drama, which won the Oscar for Best Picture and earned Kingsley the Oscar for Best Actor.Getty
ROBERT DENIRO – RAGING BULLMany actors have packed on pounds or dropped weight for roles, but few have had to do both for one film. Enter Robert DeNiro, the OG of on-screen transformations. For his iconic role as boxer Jake LaMotta, DeNiro had to be in top physical shape for part of the film before gaining 60 pounds to play LaMotta later in life. The yo-yo diet helped earn DeNiro a Best Actor Oscar and a spot in film history.Chartoff-Winkler/Getty
TYLER PERRY - MADEADirector, writer, and actor Tyler Perry has put on the famous mumu to play Madea in more than 10 films, with Tyler Perry’s a Madea Family Funeral set to arrive in 2019. Is he a master at transforming into the no-nonsense, hard-hitting Madea? Um, helluuuur! Yes.TIK Films/Getty