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The most jaw-dropping movie transformations #DarkestHour

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That can't be Gary Oldman... can it? Sometimes an actor will have to do something truly drastic in order to transform into a character – and Oldman's blistering role as Winston Churchill in World War II biopic Darkest Hour is exactly that. 

With incredible physical transformations normally going hand in hand with awards success, there’s already plenty of buzz around Oldman’s portrayal. Here are some more of the most jaw-dropping actor-to-character transformations in movie history.


Christian Bale – The Machinist & Batman Begins

Whilst Bale’s physical transformation to play insomniac Trevor Reznik in The Machinist (2004) is extraordinary enough, when considered alongside his next role as the Dark Knight in Batman Begins (2005), it is nothing short of ridiculous.

Dropping a huge 60 pounds from a diet of coffee and apples, Bale’s skeletal frame in The Machinist is one of the most visually arresting things about this disturbing character study. The character he plays is obsessed about his rapidly decreasing weight, and it is truly terrifying to watch this well-known actor fade before our very eyes.

Even bulking up to a normal size would be quite the feat, but Christian Bale doesn’t do things by halves. Following his appearance in The Machinist Bale was poised to don that familiar mask and play Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.

Gaining an astonishing 100 pounds in around 6 months, Bale ended up being too big for the bat-suit and had to shed some extra pounds in order to suit up in time for filming. This is not a diet we would recommend, but for your commitment to your characters, Christian Bale, we salute you.


Charlize Theron – Monster

One of the most beautiful women on the planet playing a serial killer? Surely not. Long before she was kicking ass as Furiosa in Mad Max Fury Road, Charlize Theron had to undergo a serious physical transformation in order to pass as real-life murderer, Aileen Wuornos.

As well as gaining around 30 pounds Theron also had to have her eyebrows partially shaved and bleached, and her luscious blonde hair thinned and frayed to give her the required bedraggled appearance.

Add to this some unflattering dentures and deliberately weathered and worn skin, it’s hard to believe this is really Charlize Theron, but the transformation was all worth it as she took home the best actress Oscar in 2004.


Robert De Niro – Raging Bull

Few actors have to undergo a transformation across the course of an entire movie, but in order to bring life to real life boxer Jake La Motta in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980), legendary De Niro had to go from fit to fat.

At the peak of his career La Motta is beefed up and in impeccable physical shape, but later we see him much later in his career, and being the method actor he is, there was no fat suit waiting for Mr De Niro. With a deliberate four-month hiatus in filming, De Niro reputedly ate his way across Italy in order to gain the required bulk, putting on a whopping 60 pounds.

Cheese and pasta doesn’t sound like the worst diet ever, but we think we’ll live this one to the professionals.


Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler & Southpaw

In order to pull of the gaunt appearance and slender frame of sleazy reporter Lou Bloom in Nightcrawler (2014), Gyllenhaal dropped around 30 pounds, dining on a rather unappealing diet of elaborately flavoured chewing gum and almond tea. With so few calories, exercise would be the last thing on anybody’s mind, but in order to achieve the necessarily physique, Gyllenhaal also ran around 15 miles a day during the filming.

On the other end of the scale, to play beefed up brawler Billy Hope in Southpaw (2015) he did around 2,000 press-ups a day, a five mile run and of course some intensive boxing practice. It is hard to believe that it is the same actor playing these characters, but that's why Gyllenhaal is as revered as he is.


Tom Hanks – Cast Away

When portraying a man stranded on a desert island for a number of years, a gruelling physical transformation is expected. Like the aforementioned Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks also had to both gain and drop weight for Cast Away (2000).

Playing a FedEx executive who is left stranded on a remote island after a plane crash, Hanks gained around 50lbs to cut a more rotund figure in the initial stages of the film. Following the crash which leaves him “cast away” from home, he has to learn to survive both physically and emotionally.

With limited rations available to the character, it would naturally lead to a drastic change in his appearance, so again, like De Niro, a filming hiatus was deliberately scheduled at the appropriate moment so that Hanks could drop the weight needed. (During this time director Robert Zemeckis shot suspense thriller What Lies Beneath with Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer.) 

Committing to both gaining and losing the necessary weight required to realistically show the change in this character shows true dedication, and we’d expect nothing less from someone as wonderful as Tom Hanks.


Check out Oldman's remarkable transformation in the Darkest Hour trailer and let us know @Cineworld if you think he's poised for his first Oscar. The movie is released on 12th January 2018.


Sarah Buddery is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.