Moms, agents, God—they routinely get tearful shout-outs while actors clutch their just-won trophies at the
Academy Awards. But it’s increasingly becoming the case that stars’ nutritionists deserve mentioning alongside
that holy trinity in thank-you speeches. This awards season Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence, and Sally Field join the ranks of actors who turned to drastic diets to physically transform themselves for their award-bait new roles. From Hathaway’s oatmeal-paste diet for Les Misérables to Renée Zellweger’s Bridget Jones doughnut binge, here’s a look at what other Oscar-minted stars ate—or, more often, didn’t eat—for their award-worthy performances.
Sally Field, ‘Lincoln’
To authentically capture the look of Mary Todd Lincoln in Lincoln, a role she fought years to land, Sally Field tacked 25 pounds onto her slight 5-foot-2, 100-pound frame—that’s an astounding 25 percent increase in body weight. To do it, Field gulped down a protein drink called pro-Gain—“Oh God, it was just disgusting,” she recalled—and supplemented it with brown rice. Ultimately, the weight gain proved too much for wee Field’s body; the 66-year-old’s knees eventually required surgery from carrying the added heft.
Zellweger, ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’
Before winnowing away before our very eyes, Renee Zellweger was more famous for putting on weight. A strict ban on exercise and a switch to gluttonous gorging on cheese pizza and doughnuts helped Zellweger score her first Oscar nomination as the titular pudgy, unlucky-in-love writer in Bridget Jones’s Diary. And she was committed: “One doughnut does not do a thing,” she said. “You’ve got to eat 20 a day for at least five weeks to get results.” Zellweger famously rose to the challenge by adopting a 4,000-calorie-a-day diet.
Tom Hanks, ‘Castaway’
In 1994, Tom Hanks lost 30 pounds to play a dying AIDS patient in Philadelphia, winning his first Oscar for the role. (Take this excuse—any excuse, really—to blubber at his perfect, heartbreaking acceptance speech.) But that’s nothing compared with the 50 he dropped to play a modern-day Robinson Crusoe in Castaway. First, Hanks pudged up to play a pilot in the first half of the film. Production was then stopped and resumed the next year after Hanks had lost the drastic amount of weight.
George Clooney, ‘Syriana’
Being paid to pig out and put on weight—and win awards for the exercise, natch—sounds like the average person’s dream. But George Clooney, it need not be said, is not the average person. The former Sexiest Man Alive put on 30 pounds to play a potbellied CIA operative in Syriana, and won Best Supporting Actor for his performance. Yet, “there was nothing fun about it,” Clooney said about the pasta-heavy diet that transformed his body for the film. “It’s just that everybody has that year where you age a decade and this was that one for me.”
Anne Hathaway, ‘Les Misérables’
“I dreamed a dream” … of a hamburger, am I right, Anne? Anne Hathaway, currently hailed by Oscar gurus as the Best Supporting Actress frontrunner for her turn as the doomed mother Fantine in Les Misérables, recently revealed that she dropped a startling 25 pounds—15 of which she shed in just two weeks—off her already slim frame to believably portray a woman suffering from tuberculosis in the film. To achieve the gaunt results, Hathaway said, she subsisted on just two squares of dried oatmeal paste each day.
Christian Bale, ‘The Fighter’
Christian Bale’s extreme roller-coaster weight transformations are notorious by this point. His intense commitment to changing his body for a role first surfaced in 2004’s The Machinist, for which Bale subsisted on a diet of water, an apple, and one cup of coffee every day in order to drop 65 pounds from his six-foot frame. He then only had five months to bulk up from an underweight 121 pounds to a more superhero-befitting 220 pounds to play Batman in Batman Begins, and then again in The Dark Knight.
Charlize Theron, ‘Monster’
Silver-screen siren Charlize Theron was practically unrecognizable under layers of skin makeup, teeth implants, and the 30 pounds she gained to play serial killer Aileen Wuornos, a performance that won her the Best Actress Oscar for Monster. Putting on the pounds was a matter of pure indulgence for the star. “I first began stuffing myself with Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but after a while I got sick of them,” Theron said. She also had a “secret stash” of potato chips on hand at all times.
Swank, ‘Million Dollar Baby’
After being cast in Million Dollar Baby, Hillary Swank had just 30 days to learn how to box—and to make her body look like a boxer’s. Four hours of boxing and weightlifting helped with the first part, and, to pack on a crushing 19 pounds of muscle, Swank ate 210 grams of protein daily. That meant eating every hour and a half, and resorting to drinking egg whites (eating eight to 12 eggs in a sitting would otherwise be impossible). She won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance.