Extreme physical transformations are an occupational hazard for Hollywood stars. So revered are actors who shed major poundage that it can (and regularly does) lead them all the way from the gym to the podium at the Oscars. One only needs to glance at last year’s winners, notably, Best Actor Matthew McConaughey, who dropped 45 pounds due to his liquid-only diet to play an AIDS patient for The Dallas Buyers Club.
Here are few tips from a handful of movie stars on both sides of the pond about their evertransformative physiques as well as the torturous hours spent at the gym and their food intake (or lack of), all for the love of their craft (and the money):
Tom Hardy, 37, laments the punishing regime he had to endure in order to drop 30 pounds for Mad Max. He said to Collider.com, “Losing 30 pounds, for me, meant smoking and eating one meal a day. Imagine a hungry wolf, or when you put a cat in the bath. You grab a cat by the throat and stuff it under the water. That’s what I’m going to look like. But like a puma. I had to look like a puma – very hungry and very dangerous. Plus of course I had to do months of fight training. Horrible.”
In contrast, when Hardy was required to gain weight for Warrior (2011) he said at the time, “I put on 20 pounds for that role so I ate chicken, a lot of chicken.” To play the MMA fighter it was imperative for the film’s success that he appeared authentic. “I was on a carbdepleted diet with 5 to 6 meals of protein separated throughout
the day,” he told Quora.com. “So, it was chicken and also broccoli but not much else. Eating in this way ensures your body will not store fat but it’s tough to keep it up while following a grueling workout routine.”
Hardy rarely steps foot onto a set or sees the inside of a gym without his personal trainer and ex-marine, Pnut (named for the way he looks) who has trained Hardy for many years. Pnut tends to stick with an old-fashioned routine of muscle confusion by altering Hardy’s workouts into four 20-minute sessions a day with an emphasis on strength training in the morning as well as evening before bed.
He believes that once you’ve become accustomed to the routine then it’s important to add two more sessions in the middle of the day.
Starring in American Sniper, for which he has earned an Oscar nomination this year, Cooper, 40, added 40 pounds of bulk to his sinewy frame in just 10 weeks to play Chris Kyle, a reallife Navy SEALS veteran.
Trainer Jason Walsh put him through the paces beginning with a morning regimen at the ungodly hour of 5am with structural exercises that included a series of dead lifts and squats. The second workout late in the afternoon was oriented around muscle-building
and traditional exercises.
To beef up to 225 pounds from his regular weight of 185, Cooper had to ingest more than 6000 calories a day. He explained to Men’s Fitness, “If it’s pizza and cake, that’s one thing but eating that much gets old quick.” He took in five meals a day along with energy bars and the post-workout drink Plazma.
And when Cooper played ‘Faceman’ in The A-Team (2010), he was in the best shape of his life by ridding his diet of all sugar, salt and flour and hit the gym for two hours a day doing strength training and core work.
This entailed the 3-2-1 Method (3 cardio circuits, 2 strength training circuits, 1 core workout – each for 10 minutes). He supplemented his daily sweat sessions by speed-hiking. “I would love it if it didn’t take much work to look like that but that is a tremendous about of work and discipline and that ended when those (shirtless) scenes ended.”
When the Irish-born actor Jamie Dornan, 32, came on board for 50 Shades of Grey to play an Adonis he had only four weeks to train after Charlie Hunnam made a surprise departure.
Dorman had no choice but to hit the gym, and thus his title ‘The Golden Torso,’ was born. He achieved the desired look by focusing on his upper body with bodyweight drills. He told Men’s Fitness, “There’s a lot of hanging around on sets so I use any downtime to work on my arms and core with press-ups and crunches.” While his exact regimen is under wraps, he does say, “It’s really all about press-ups every day. I’ll aim to do around 50 first thing in the morning and loads more throughout the day, whenever I have time. I also like to go swimming as often as possible.”
Bulking up is old hat for Hugh Jackman. He’s played Wolverine seven times and is rumored to appear as Wolverine again in Xmen: Apocalypse.
Jackman’s rule of thumb is to never stray too far from his optimum shape so as not to endure more hours in the gym than necessary. When he needs to take it up a notch he likes to follow a progressive overload technique which includes bench-presses, squats and dead lifts. He starts with low level weights and gradually increases the weights and lessens the repetitions. To burn off any remaining fat, Jackman relies on circuit training to exhaust the muscles. Jackman, 46, also prefers the old school exercises and avoids using machines.
He talked to Nourish magazine about what he likes to eat when he’s watching his weight. “I like fresh fish, really good baked fresh fish where you cook it whole. It’s simple. You get a beautiful fish, put in the oven, lemon, olive oil, a few herbs and it’s done. And I also like oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon and a little bit of almond butter mixed through. Even when I’m on a diet I’m allowed to have that and it tastes great. But to be in my best shape, which is really lean muscular it’s not only difficult but it’s draining. You feel pretty flat because you can’t have carbohydrates and it’s pretty tough. That’s the hardest part; not having carbs.”
In order to return to Wolverine, he says, “I train from 4am every day and then I eat chicken breasts seven times a day and a bit of overcooked tuna. It gets old fast. But as for getting up early to train, my wife Deb kicks me out of bed and says, ‘Oh, stop complaining. You love it.’ (laughs)
To emulate a superhero, especially the likes of the Norse god Thor, that kind of physical perfection brings a particular pressure like no other role. For the first Thor (2011) Hemsworth gained 20 pounds. He told Menshealth.com, “To pack on that much weight requires a constant intake of food, most of which came from protein sources, vegetables and fruit. You eat all day and eating when you’re not hungry, particularly that amount of food, is exhausting.”
Hemsworth uses a trainer, Duffy Gaver, a Navy SEAL who prefers sticking to old methods and eschews any gimmicks or new machines. Hemsworth, 31, admits, “It wasn’t until Thor that I lifted weights so it was all pretty new to me.”
Hemsworth’s routine for subsequent superhero movies such as Avengers and Thor sequels, looks something like this: For abs he does 60-second plank holds, 60-second side plank holds, 20 Roman chair leg raises, 20 oblique crunches, 20 cable crunches. He repeats this circuit twice a day.
He then follows with leg curls – 3 sets of 10 reps, squats – 3 sets of 10 reps, and leg extensions – 3 sets of 10 reps. He also repeats this circuit twice a day.
2013 was Hemsworth’s most challenging year. He bulked up to play Thor in Avengers, then rapidly shed the weight for Rush to become Formula One champion, James Hunt, for which he got down to 185
Immediately after wrapping, he shot Thor: The Dark World and had to reach his fighting weight and gain back the 30 pounds he dropped for Rush. Hemsworth said the immense weight loss for Rush was one of the most difficult things he’s had to do. In order to get lean as fast as possible he surrendered the lifts for a heavy cardio regimen.
He said to Bodybuilding.com, “That kind of weight loss was a nasty thing to do. I’d rather put on weight any time. I was basically underfed and overtrained for a number of months (reportedly four months) and it was still a squeeze to get into that Formula 1 car. I drank a ton of water which I’d definitely recommend for people trying to cut weight.
It fills you up… to a degree,” he said. “But during that time, food was the last thing I thought about when I went to bed and the first thing I thought about when I woke up.”
Other names we’ve seen transform on the big screen recently include the always-buff Jake Gyllenhaal who dropped 30 pounds to play the creepy ambulance-chasing camera operator in Nightcrawler.
Christian Bale, of course, famously changes his body weight with almost each film. He lost 63 pounds for The Machinist (2004) and packed on 43 pounds for American Hustle (2013).
Evidently, from hearing what these A-listers have to say, when it comes to gaining and losing weight, there are no shortcuts. Your bathroom scales don’t care how many followers you have on Twitter, how much money you have in the bank, or how many personal trainers you employ. There’s no magic pill, but good old-fashioned hard work and discipline.