During my own stellar acting career, (I played Lady Bracknell in a school production of The Importance of Being Earnest since you ask. It was an all-boys school, to answer your next question) I took a dim view of method acting. But now no film publicity junket is complete without hearing how the lead actor learnt to load a flintlock musket, moved into a prison cell, underwent mock interrogations and trained as a butcher. And that was just Daniel Day Lewis. Cobblers, you say? He did that as well, in Florence.
Some of the most eye watering stories are about extreme body transformations, although these don’t always bring the actors the plaudits they expect. Tom Hardy packed on 30lbs to play Batman villain Bane, but fans still complained it was a poor effort as the “real” Bane was twice the size and could lift 1500lbs. Tough crowd. So here are the nominations in the prestigious MAN v FAT “Don’t Try This At Home” category.
It didn’t start with Daniel Day Lewis. In 1941 he initially put on weight to play the older Charles Foster Kane, then dropped 50 lbs to play the younger version of his character. It seems a wilfully perverse way of going about it and he achieved it all on a diet of orange juice and boiled eggs. It was the start of a lifetime of weight troubles for Welles, who used to order three steaks at one sitting and eventually had to go on a crash diet to play an obese Falstaff in Chimes at Midnight.
Having gained 30lbs for his role in A League of Their Own in 1992, Hanks lost 50lbs in 2005 for Castaway. Not bad going for a man who once said his only concession to healthy eating was to remove the buns from his cheeseburgers. However, Hanks has revealed he suffers from Type 2 diabetes, which he thinks is a result of his on-screen weight fluctuations.
I’m cheating a bit here because, although the famously chunky actor did lose weight for 21 Jump Street, he went on to transform his appearance just to, you know, look better and get healthier. His description of how he went about losing weight is refreshingly free of Hollywood bullshit. Hill said he called Channing Tatum and asked “If I eat less and go to a trainer, will I lose get in better shape?” The answer, apparently, was “Yes, you dumb motherfucker, of course you will, it’s the simplest thing in the entire world.” Hill consulted a nutritionist only to see if a way could be found to lose weight while still drinking as much beer as he wanted, a cry from the heart which will resonate with many of us in the MAN v FAT family. Sadly, that final frontier is still to be crossed, but please do try this at home.
Jonah Hill may be refreshingly down to earth but our Matthew comes across as a bit more Hollywood. He slimmed down to 9.5 stone for his role as an AIDS patient in Dallas Buyers Club, sometimes losing 7 pounds in a week. His descriptions of how he did it vary widely. In one interview, he said he ate nothing but two egg whites, a bit of chicken, a small pudding and two Diet Cokes a day for three or four months. On the other hand, at a press conference he alleged he ate only one portion of tapioca a day “I found tapioca pudding and I found the tiniest little antique spoon in New Orleans, a little bitty sugar spoon, and I would eat it with that so it would last longer,” he said. “Oh it was great! I could make it last an hour.” See, that’s where the rest of us are going wrong. We’d just use any old spoon from the cutlery drawer. But for an A-lister, only a tiny antique spoon from New Orleans will do.
The rapper lost 54lbs in nine weeks for his role as a cancer patient in Things Fall Apart. He achieved this by following a liquid diet, which sounds pretty extreme. Not half as extreme as the way he previously lost weight back in 2000. He managed that by getting shot in the jaw.
And the award goes to… CHRISTIAN BALE
If you had to name one group of people more notorious than actors for unhealthy weight loss, it would have to be boxers. They starve themselves for the weigh in and then pile on weight for the fight a few days later. Bale lost 30lbs to play Dicky Eklund in The Fighter but Eklund wasn’t just a boxer, he was a crack addict to boot. So how do you pull that one off? Bale did it brilliantly.
He also lost 60lbs for The Machinist, even though this was only required because of a typo in the script. The writer, 5 foot six and skinny, had typed his own weight rather than how he expected Bale to look. Bale insisted on starving himself anyway. Bale reportedly ate only a tin of tuna and an apple every day, which we definitely don’t recommend.
The reason he wins my Don’t Try This At Home award is that accounts of his on-set behaviour suggest that these diets don’t make Christian a happy man. Crash diets can work, but if you’re going to have a half hour screaming fit because someone walked into your line of sight, better stick to something less Hollywood…