There have been notable transformations for a single role in the past decades. Who would forget Robert DeNiro‘s stint when he inflated his body for his role in Raging Bull? Vincent D’Onofrio even set a Guiness World Record for the most weight gained for a single film role for his mind-blowing presence in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.
Contemporary actors, however, will not be left behind. In fact, in recent years, we have seen celebrities shed off their glamorous skin and almost magically transform to give life to some of cinema’s most unforgettable characters. Here is a list of the top 9 most amazing celebrity transformations that rocked Hollywood in the past 10 years.
9. Renee Zellweger, Cold Mountain (2003)
Although starring opposite the ravishing Nicole Kidman will surely make anyone look “unpretty”, Renee Zellweger surely has the spotlight all on her in Cold Mountain. Fortunately for Renee, she has a more interesting role to play — a boyish country girl who never runs out of spirit and humor. After losing an Oscar (also to Nicole) the year before, she came back with a vengeance, winning her much-deserved, first Oscar for this role. She mastered every twist and turn of a farmer’s daughter, who is full of spunk and energy that you wouldn’t think she was that jazz-singing murderess in the hit musical Chicago. Transformation is not really a stranger to Renee as we have seen her gain lots of baby fats like a sack of french fries for her portrayal of Bridget Jones.
8. Edward Norton, American History X (1998)
As if his good looks aren’t impressive enough, Edward Norton takes everyone’s breath away with his intense acting skills. He surely showcased this in American History X, where he played a white supremacist. One of the scariest transformations to date, Edward gained more than 30 pounds before filming. As he ate a lot, he made sure the gym was his second home for his desired toned look. Like many other transformations, this schoolboy-looking wonder was able to transcend the physical by owning the character. This performance earned him his second Oscar nomination.
7. Nicole Kidman, The Hours (2002)
Many people think that it was all in the nose. The truth is, Nicole Kidman’s highly depressing performance is more than that. The nose just added to the character that Nicole had already created for The Hours. Yes, Nicole had to say goodbye to her doctor-that’s-what-I-want nose and wore a scarily large nose plus additional makeup to look like the famed writer Virginia Woolf. But even without it, she would still have won that Oscar. Her performance is beyond the physical. She perfected the accent, gestures and the overall character of an incestuous, insane genius. The result is a performance as beautiful as she is.
6. Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
Boys Don’t Cry may only be a moderate success at the box-office but a huge chuck of it can be credited to the acting, especially Hilary Swank‘s. In fact, it is the performance of her career. Hilary plays a lesbian who falls for a woman. The greatest challenge for the production staff was how to make Hilary look like a boy given the sexy curves and beautiful face. All they could do was cut her hair short, wrap her chest with tape tight and put her in some masculine shirts. All the rest depended on Hilary’s impressive acting capabilities. The result is an Oscar and several other recognitions. Way to go, Hilary!
5. Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There (2007)
If Cate Blanchett‘s portrayal of Katherine Hepburn and Queen Elizabeth do not impress you, then you should see her in I’m Not There, where she took on the role of the iconic music legend Bob Dylan. One of the most brilliant actresses of our time, this Australian goddess inhabits the amphetamine-loaded young Dylan with mastery and accuracy that, to a certain extent, are creepy. It’s just unfair. Why are there people like Cate, who can effortlessly pull off any role she is given? All bitterness aside, Cate steals the film from her costars as she mimics Dylan’s every sneer and jitter perfectly like she doesn’t have delicate fingers, small frame and pleading eyes. She is so intense and convincing in this film that even atheists would believe in miracles.
4. Felicity Huffman, Transamerica (2005)
Another superb actress to switch genders in a movie is Felicity Huffman as she plays a cross-dressing man, who discovers he (yes, confusing pronouns) has a son a week before his sexual-reassignment surgery. In Transamerica, Felicity leaves her Desperate Housewives character on the boob tube and takes on a scared, lonely man who wants to live life the way he wants to — as a woman. Although her physical transformation leaves the audience jaw-dropped, it is still Felicity’s emotional nuance that makes this film very effective. In preparation for the role, she had to learn to lower her voice all the time, perfect the movements and absorb the entirety of the character to the point that it became hard for her to get out of it. All the hard work paid when he received a Golden Globe nod, although she failed to take home an Oscar.
3. Eric Bana, Chopper (2000)
If you think Eric Bana‘s greatest transformation for reel is when he turns green and become the Incredible Hulk, you’re wrong. Long before this comic book adaptation, Eric ran away with Australia’s highest film awards for his portrayal of Mark Read, a legendary criminal, in Chopper. Even his die-hard fans must not have recognized him when he shaved his head and put on 30 pounds just to look like Read. Not to mention he spent five hours getting his body all covered in tattoos. The transformation is not just physical for he is able to capture every mood and emotion of the character as if he were a completely different person. Despite the film’s limited release beyond the Australian borders, critics were able to acknowledge his work and his talent, making his mark as an established actor.
2. Christian Bale, The Machinist (2004)
One of Hollywood’s most underrated actors, the gorgeous Christian Bale proves he is more than just a pretty face. As an insomniac in the psychological thriller The Machinist, he delivers impressive acting skills while looking very far from the caped superhero we see today. Unlike many in this list, he did not have makeup or special effects just to make it believable. He had to lose a whopping 63 pounds just for this role. He is the perfect epitome of a dedicated actor, willing to embrace his character in a level that is almost crazy. As if it wasn’t enough, right after the filming of The Machinist, he had to gain a ridiculous 100 pounds within six months in order to look fit for his Batman role. Now, who wouldn’t drool over and swoon after a guy with such passion?
1. Charlize Theron, Monster (2003)
It had always been a fact that Charlize Theron, indeed, had one of the most beautiful faces in Hollywood. But in the indie Monster, she proves she is also one of the most talented. This South African beauty took everyone’s breath away upon the release of the movie. Her incredibly convincing portrayal of Aileen Wuornos, a muderer sentenced to death, makes the audience forget that the actress playing that role is, in fact, a goddess. Some may even forget that it is just acting. Not only did she gain some extra girth just to get into the character but she also had to sport thin feathered hair and mottled skin. When she was nominated for an Oscar, the other nominees surely didn’t stand a chance. So what’s her score on the human transformation scale of one to ten? How about a 100?
Acting is not just a job. It’s also an art. Like all artists, actors need to possess the passion, dedication and above all, talent in order to pull off a role no matter how impossible they might seem.
Since the birth of Hollywood, the movie world has seen countless stars who have successfully shocked and impressed the world with their portrayal of characters who are so far from their real personalities. Some actors desperately try to gain or lose weight to make their character believable. Some “de-glamorize” themselves because they know that the easiest way to grab an Oscar statuette is by looking utterly ugly on the big screen.
Although some needed a helping hand from costume designers and makeup artists, it cannot be denied that their performances are beyond physical but truly an emotional transformation.