For Steven Soderbergh’s ‘The Informant,’ Matt Damon transformed himself again. He put on about 30 pounds to play the part of informant Mark Whitacre, in the 2009 film based on a true story. “Don’t call him fat,” Damon clarifies, “It wasn’t necessarily that I needed to be fat. It was that I needed to be doughy,” he said.
To pudge up for the movie, Damon says, “I just stopped working out and basically just ate whatever I wanted.” Adding, “I ate a lot of In-N-Out, a lot of burgers, beer…When you’re in your 20s, you can do that kind of stuff. When you’re in your 30s, it’s a whole different ballgame.”
Ewan McGregor Plumps Up in ‘Fargo’
Sitting at dinner with 'Fargo' creator Noah Hawley in Los Angeles, just three months before production was scheduled to begin, Ewan McGregor was 45 years old and in the shape of his life. That’s when he learned for the first time that his physique was not going to be compatible with his new role. “You need to put on weight,” Hawley told him.
His new routine went something like this: “From October until January, when we started filming, I just started eating whatever I wanted. I made sure that I had carbs with everything and French fries with everything. I didn’t have any technique other than eating a lot.” McGregor avoided standing on a scale, so he never weighed himself. When he went to pick up some Levi’s that fit him, however, the change was obvious. The size of the new pair was three inches bigger than his regular size.
Rooney Mara Transformed Herself for ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’
Getting into the headspace of Lisbeth Salander found Rooney Mara dyeing her hair black after chopping it off, taking on facial (and other) body piercings, submitting to severe weight loss, and committing to a 150-day shoot living alone in Stockholm. The character, created by novelist Stieg Larsson, is a dark and repressed young woman. Mara went for the pale and anorexic look to portray her. The final effect had bystanders averting their eyes, a relief for a celeb.
She also researched Asperger’s, because some speculate it is part of Lisbeth’s antisocial bent. When asked if the weight loss she endured was unhealthy, Mara said, “Umm . . . not really.” She barely ate, but that’s not difficult for some. What she struggled with was shooting the violent rape scenes. “I don’t know how to describe it,” she said. “I think, physically, it was hardest,” she told Vogue in 2011.
Ben Kingsley Emulates the Mahatma for ‘Gandhi’
Ben Kingsley, who said he was “frightened but determined to get the role,” also said he had little time to prepare for it. “I was offered the role in September, left for India in October and started shooting in November,” Kingsley recalls. Once he arrived at the land of the Mahatma, he completely immersed himself. “I practiced yoga in the morning...In the evenings I did my shoots and, in the night, I took spinning classes,” Kingsley explained.
Learning to spin thread with an authentic wooden spinning machine, Kingsley thought, would be better than trying to fake it on automated spinning machines. Beyond those efforts, Kingsley shaved his head and lost 20 pounds, authentically, by abiding by Gandhi’s vegetarian diet. He also practiced meditation and studied yoga. This is what it takes, he believes.
Emile Hirsch Deprived Himself for ‘Into the Wild’
Emile Hirsch played Chris McCandless, a man who starved to death in the Alaskan Wilderness hoping to be saved. To get into such a deprived state, Hirsch had to give up food. “I weighed about 156 pounds when I got the part, and I weighed 130 pounds throughout most of the film,” Hirsch said. But, as the character he portrayed neared death, he lost significant body fat. “And then I went down to 115 pounds for the weight loss in the Alaska segment,” he said.
Wasting away like that was a mental and physical challenge. To do it, he explains, “was a lot of running and being very hungry and dreaming of candy all the time.” It was all he could think of! Even though he was starving, candy was all he craved. “It was like, Steak? No. Like a Take 5 Candy Bar. That was like the ideal,” Hirsch said.