By Cora Quigley
There has been quite the hullabaloo as of late over Matthew McConaughey, and not for the reasons you might think! He has recently been seen out and about in Austin, Texas, following his weight loss for his upcoming film ‘The Dallas Buyer’s Club’ where he will be portraying AIDs victim Ron Woodroof. The generally buff and bronzed rom com staple looks pale, emaciated and far older than he should. This has caused some worry for the Daily Mail and in its usual subdued and careful manner in an article on the subject, they declare that for McConaughey it is “Time to stop now”. And who knows more about than Matthew McConaughey’s health than the Daily Mail, amirite? Of course, it is a shock to see the photos. It can be disconcerting to see someone so familiar undergo such a drastic change in appearance. This surprise is echoed by the media every time an actor loses or gains a good deal of weight for a film role (or otherwise really). Here are just a handful of actors and actresses who went to extremes to get into character for a role.
Way back in the ancient days of the early 1980’s, DeNiro gained 60 pounds for his portrayal of the violent, abusive and egotistical boxer Jake LaMotta in ‘Raging Bull’. At this time this was the most weight an actor had ever gained for a role, although this record was later broken by Vincent D’onofrio who gained 70 pounds for ‘Full Metal Jacket’. Various articles scattered around the internet on the subject of De Niro’s weight gain see it as a feat and something to proud of, proof of his dedication to the role.
Weight change seems to be a more critical issue when it is a woman at the centre of it. I have provided an article about Mila Kunis for some in depth analyses. Here, we are presented with an array of images of Mila looking ever so slightly more plump. Is that really Mila Kunis?! God, I don’t know, I just can’t tell anymore. During the filming for ‘Blood Ties’ in May of this year, the star apparently put back on the weight she lost for ‘Black Swan’ in 2010, where she dropped to 95 pounds. Helpfully, the article has a poll at the end of it, where the general public can decide on which way she looks better. Thank Zeus for that!
For 2003’s ‘Monster’ Charlize Theron gained 30 pounds and uglified herself as much possible for the film. Theron’s transformation seemed to be an insulting point for some people, how could this beautiful South African goddess undergo such a change?! The horror, the horror. But change she did, Theron went to great lengths to get into character for the role of the lesbian serial killer. The fruits of her labour paid off with an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Good for her!
Last but certainly not least we have Christian Bale, the master of extreme weight change. The world was first made aware for the actor’s penchant for body modification for 2003’s ‘The Machinist’ when, without even being asked to do so, the actor lost 63 pounds for his part. Not long after he gained back the weight and then some in order to play the title role in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’. He then lost a whole lot more weight for his role of the recovering crack addict and boxing trainer Dicky Eklund in‘The Fighter’ in 2010. On the subject of his purposeful weight fluctuations, Bale has said that he doesn’t actually take on such roles on purpose,
“I didn’t take this job because I went, ‘Oh, there’s a physical transformation needed.’ I always go, ‘Damn! There’s a physical transformation needed!’ “
Ooopsy daisy! Professional nutritionists have come to the conclusion that the man is literally a yoyo.
Why is such a big deal made of these big transformations? There is the element of it being a bit bewildering, seeing someone looking a certain way that varies so greatly from their normal appearance. There is also the health aspect; such extreme changes in a short amount of time can’t be good for a person’s body. But in the end it’s just health policing in the guise of concern, people don’t really care about the person’s health. In a society obsessed with appearance it’s fascinating to see those in the spotlight appearing to be able to modify their appearance seemingly at will. They make it look so easy.
So, McConaughey isn’t the first actor to undergo a considerable change in appearance for a role in a film, and he certainly won’t be the last. Speculation surrounding a celebrity’s weight is fair game in the media (although they will often decry societal pressures to be a certain size in the same publication, because of hypocrisy and stuff.), so an actor or actress’s dedication to a role is oftentimes accompanied by the added bonus of a great deal of promotion for the film they’re working on. And we’ll never see Hollywood movie studios bemoaning about such a side effect, I’m sure.