Daniel Radcliffe was faced with the challenge of portraying real-life Israeli adventurer, Yossi Ghinsberg, who was stranded in a Bolivian jungle for three weeks, in 1981. Radcliffe subsisted on a starvation diet of one chicken breast and one protein bar a day to prepare. “It’s not recommended, it’s a really unsafe way to lose weight.” Radcliffe admitted.
Ghinsberg survived by foraging fruit and eggs from nests in the Amazon. He was stranded without tools or training. He lost 35 pounds and suffered disease and infection until he was rescued from the rainforest by local people. Radcliffe’s diet, while extreme, lasted only two weeks. And he doesn’t claim to be a method actor. “I’m not a method actor, but it would seem weird if I was playing this guy stuck in the jungle and going home, having a lovely steak dinner at the end of the day.”
Tom Hardy Dives into Charles Bronson
Bulking up to play the notorious British prisoner and fighter, Tom Hardy transformed himself into Charles Bronson in just five weeks. When asked about his method for gaining 40 pounds of muscle in just weeks, he said, “I did press ups, push ups, abs work and resistance training with the help of my boy Pnut, who is an ex U.S. Marine.”
According to Hardy, “I put on about 7 pounds a week—no steroids.” But he did mow through Häagen-Dazs, pizza, and Coca-Cola for dessert after his daily serving of chicken and rice. He had to put on pounds to look like the big brawler that Bronson was a young bloke. As an aside, Hardy shared what Charles Bronson thought when he heard Hardy was going to be playing him. Bronson said, “This kid will never be able to play me.” Hardy returned in two weeks; Bronson was impressed. In the end, Hardy said, he thought I did a good job portraying him.
Matthew Fox Gets Fit in ‘Alex Cross’
The character Fox strove to embody for the crime thriller, 'Alex Cross,' was a psycho-serial-killer called Picasso. Fox endured a brutal diet and exercise regime and sacrificed any and all appetizing foods, consuming, at least, one bland meal per day. At the end of it, Fox told Men’s Journal, “It’s gonna take a long time before I can confront eating another plate of steamed broccoli and chicken breast.”
And the actor is not committing to the same workout routine any time soon! Fox had a specific look in mind—menacing and deranged. Looking back, he says being Picasso for two months was a draining experience, mentally and physically. But, “The physical preparation was almost a relief, in some respects, from the headspace,” Fox said, saying of the shoot, “It was one of the more challenging experiences I’ve ever had.”
Jake Gyllenhaal Transformed in ‘Nightcrawler’
'Nightcrawler,' a film about an articulate but depraved paparazzo crime reporter named Lou, was showered with accolades. Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance earned him a Golden Globe Best Actor nomination. Playing a wildly ambitious low-life reporter, who chases cop cars and ambulances, or beats them there, to score sordid footage of the criminal element in action, was a dark mindset to embrace.
To get into Lou’s head, Gyllenhaal rode along with actual paparazzi ambulance chasers. He also got into character by transforming his body into the gaunt, sunken look, apparent on the reporter’s hollow face. So, he starved himself, subsisting on kale and chewing gum. On top of that, he would run 15 miles back home from the studio each night. He shrunk his 180-pound body down by 30 pounds.
Robert De Niro’s Epic ‘Raging Bull’ Performance
Robert De Niro is known as the original when it comes to extreme commitment to method acting. He transforms his body and his mental space to deliver amazing performances. In Martin Scorsese’s 'Raging Bull' (1980), he outdid himself. The film traced the Italian boxer’s career over several decades. De Niro was able to document the drastic changes in LaMotta’s appearance, gaining 60 pounds, the most any actor had ever put on for a film role.
For most shoots of 'Raging Bull,' De Niro had to maintain the physique of a boxer. But in the last few scenes, De Niro was required to portray an aging, overweight LaMotta. De Niro was never so committed to a role as he was to this one, and he won a Best Actor Award for it. To pack on the extra 60 pounds and keep it authentic, De Niro held off production of the film while he traveled to Italy to consume as much pasta as possible. When he returned, he was transformed into a doughy aging Italian man.