To get into the role of an overweight Marine recruit, in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ he had to pack on 75 pounds. It required some discipline. “My usual breakfast consisted of steak, three eggs, a half a loaf of bread and a quart of milk,” D’Onofrio said. In the film, D’Onofrio starts out as a slow-witted oaf. Everyone is surprised when the inept recruit transforms into a vicious demented killer after his spirit is crushed by the extremely ruthless drills and taunts of the villainous drill sergeant.
Prepping for the character altered not just his looks, but his life as well. “Women didn’t look at me; most of the time I was looking at their backs as they were running away. People used to say things to me twice, because they thought I was stupid.”And his body became foreign to him. “My thighs were tremendous, my arms were tremendous, even my nose was fat. I had a tough time trying my shoelaces, but this was the only way I could play Leonard, because I had to be weak-minded in the same way,” explained D’Onofrio. It affected his self-perception.
Emma Stone Becomes an Athlete in ‘Battle of the Sexes’
Training to become legendary tennis pro, Billie Jean King, in 'Battle of the Sexes,' Emma Stone upped her game. She worked out with celeb trainer Jason Walsh until her slight figure was transformed into the physique of a professional athlete. Walsh commended Stone for her work. He limited her diet to protein shakes, primarily.
She gained 15 pounds and the physique of a competitor. The tennis pro always bounced the ball twice before serving. Always. Stone mastered Billie Jean King’s signature bounce, and she nailed the part, even though it was her first time portraying a real person. She played King in the historic 1973 match against Bobby Riggs. Stone was set on getting it right. “Every scene was so immensely important,” said the 2017 Oscar-winning actress.
George Clooney Hit a Low Point on the Set of ‘Syriana’
George Clooney won the Best Actor Academy Award for his role as a CIA operative in 'Syriana' (2005), yet he endured more pain than he had ever known while filming it. In one of the stunts he performed, something went wrong. A spinal injury left him in excruciating pain. Clooney was lying in a hospital bed completely immobilized, and suffering headaches on par with that of a stroke. “You start thinking in terms of, you don’t want to leave a mess, so go in the garage, go in the car, start the engine,” Clooney considered.
The injury kept him from the publicity rounds for 'Ocean’s Twelve,' released in 2004. In the end, surgery was able to correct the injury, but he still gets headaches occasionally. To prepare for the role of agent Robert Barnes, Clooney shaved back his hairline to age himself. He doesn’t look back fondly on filming the Oscar-winning role. "It wasn’t the fault of the film or director," he explained. “It’s just that everybody has that year where you age a decade, and this was that one for me.”
Renée Zellweger Beefs Up (Again) in ‘Edge of Reason’
Playing the titular character in 'Bridget Jones’s Diary' required a significant weight-gain commitment for Renee Zellweger, so when the sequel, Edge of Reason, came around, the same 30-pound weight-gain requirement did too. Zellwegger said, “I knew that it was essential in repeating the journey...And if you’re not going to become the character and be the character, then I don’t really see the point in undertaking the experience.” Gaining weight was not her concern, delivering her best “Bridget Jones” was all.
To fill out from a size 4 to a 14, she ate burgers with the crew, sampling all the local burger joints. Keeping the weight on was a bit more difficult than she thought because the demanding schedule of the shoot kept her on her toes and burning calories. And, according to a crew member, some measures had to be taken. “In one scene they had to pad out her bottom,” said the crew member.
Matt Damon “Ate Nothing but Chicken” for ‘Courage Under Fire’
Transforming his body to play an army medic Specialist, Andrew Ilario, in 'Courage Under Fire' (1996) was an enormous sacrifice for award-winning actor Matt Damon. He said, “I had to run about 13 miles a day, which wasn’t even the hard part. The hard part was the diet.” The same thing every single day. “All I ate was chicken breast!," Damon shared on Reddit.
Losing weight produced a drastic transformation. The Massachusetts-born actor got down to 139 pounds, which was a big drop from his normal weight of 190 pounds. It took a significant strain on his health; Damon was placed on adrenal gland medication for a year to repair damage from extreme stress. But it was worth it. Damon’s method-acting commitment impressed director Francis Ford Coppola, who gave him the lead in 'The Rainmaker' the following year.