Although the art of acting can be taught, learned and perfected, being an actor is anything but easy. It not only requires hard work but also perseverance. In an attempt to elevate their performances to refreshingly unexpected levels, actors invest long periods in the preparation of a role and sometimes go to extremes for the sake of their craft. From learning esoteric skills, to losing-gaining pounds, to spending hours in the makeup chair – they seem to be doing it all. While some efforts do not seem to yield results, some do particularly well. Let us take a quick look at some on-screen transformations that worked :
To play ballet dancer Nina Sayers, Natalie Portman went on a carrots and almond diet and worked out between 5 to 8 hours a day. This worked for Natalie – she won an Oscar for her performance.
To prepare for his role as President Lincoln, Day-Lewis spent over a year reading about Lincoln. Apparently, he also practiced Lincoln's high-pitched voice. His performance earned him the Oscar.
In order to play Gandhi, Kingsley not only studied photographs and biographies, but he also shaved his head and lost 20 pounds on Gandhi's vegetarian diet. He did not win one, but three awards for his performance.
Robert De Niro
In Raging Bull, De Niro played boxer Jake LaMotta. He changed his body type twice for the film. First, he built muscles to look like the boxer in his heyday. Thereafter, he lost 60 pounds to portray the boxer's later years. All his efforts paid off – he was the recipient of an Academy Award and the Golden Globe Award that year.
To play the role of CIA Agent Bob Barnes in the oil/political thriller Syriana, Clooney gained over 35 pounds, grew a bushy beard, and shaved back his hairline to look just right. It worked out well for him — he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the role.
Blanchett was one of the six actors and the only female among them to portray legendary rocker Bob Dylan in the 2007 biopic. She not only strapped down her chest but also donned a wig, leather jacket, and dark shades. Her impersonation was pretty impressive and it won her various supporting actress awards.
The Elephant Man tells the story of Joseph Merrick, a severely deformed man from 19th century London. Hurt's transformation into Merrick was aided by prosthetic costume which was modeled from actual casts of Merrick's body. Because of the costume, Hurt had to revise his resting and eating habits. He earned various award nominations for his role and the film earned an award for makeup.
Hilary Swank was relatively unknown in the 1990s. This changed when she took on the role of a transgender teen, Brandon, in Boys Don't Cry. Swank not only spent weeks researching and reading novels on transgender people, she lived as a male for a month, cutting off her hair, and strapping down her chest. Her portrayal won her a Best Actress Oscar.
Let us know which one you think worked best!