25 Extreme Actor Transformations

From Robert De Niro's pasta gut to Nicole Kidman's stick-on nose.
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25 Extreme Actor Transformations Newsweek

Actor Christian Bale has become so famous for his acting transformations it feels as though they must be part of his standard contract.

Shortly after gaining 40 pounds and shaving his head for his role as Dick Cheney in the politician's upcoming biopic, he's now been photographed looking tan and lean on the set of Ford v. Ferrari. In a part far from the overweight veep plagued by health problems, in this film he plays angular racing car driver Ken Miles.

In the past, the British actor has starved, gorged and exercised himself into a plethora of characters, from superheroes to drug addicts. But the 43-year-old actor told The Guardian earlier this year that it's starting to take a toll.

"I've got to stop doing it. I suspect it's going to take longer to get this off," he said, referring to his Cheney belly. Whether this will really be his last metamorphosis remains to be seen—he said something similar in 2013, after playing a bloated conman in American Hustle.

Although Bale may be king of the on-screen chameleons, he's far from the only one. The so-called "Stanislavski's system", pioneered by the Russian actor and director Konstantin Stanislavski in the early 20th century, encourages actors to psychologically experience and embody their character rather, than just simply represent them.

Many Hollywood method actors have taken this embodiment beyond the psychological and into the physical realm. Bale himself has said that unless he takes on his character, "I find I start laughing because I'm too aware that it's still me… It's helpful not to look like yourself. If I look in the mirror and go, 'Ah, that doesn't look like me,' that's helpful."

However, this kind of physical and mental dedication to a role can take its toll on an actor. Shia LaBeouf is known for going all-in during filming, pulling his own tooth out and not bathing for four months while playing a WWII soldier.

Other times, it allows actors to rebel against their public image and Hollywood's rigid beauty standards. In his 2014 New York Times op-ed, actor James Franco suggests that Marlon Brando's famous weight fluctuations were one of the many ways the actor "defied the studio system's control over his image."

Others take a dimmer view of the on-screen makeover, suggesting that it's a cheap way for an actor to signifying their dedication to the part in front of the awards ceremony committees.

Whatever the reason behind them, movie transformations are, at the very least, mesmerizing examples of the plasticity of the human body. These are 25 of the wildest examples of on-screen transformations, from Robert De Niro's pasta gut to Nicole Kidman's stick-on nose.

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Christian Bale in The Machinist (2004) Kevin Winter/Getty Images