Actors have gone through some mind-blowing body transformations for their roles. Method actors in particular are wont to dedicate months of pre-production to dieting—either gaining or losing weight—in order to achieve certain authentic looks for their characters.
Take Jared Leto, for example, who got himself down to a mere 114 pounds for his role in Dallas Buyers Club where he played a transsexual woman suffering with AIDS. Conversely, Chapter 27 saw a much heftier Leto, fleshing out on pints of chocolate to play John Lennon’s killer.
But there’s one Hollywood actor who’s notorious for enduring extreme diets multiple times over for his iconic roles: Christian Bale. In one interview, notable actor Matt Damon even said that Bale “is cut from a different cloth” for his ability to yo-yo diet with such restraint.
Here are some of the most shocking and extreme Christian Bale body weight transformations, ranging from a skeletally thin frame to a beefed-out figure that’ll make any man jealous.
8. Rescue Dawn
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The British actor slimmed down considerably to play this malnourished fighter pilot who’s held captive in the Vietnamese jungle. Christian Bale lost 55 pounds and his co-star Jeremy Davis lost 40 pounds.
They both grew real shaggy beards and went all-out to achieve their characters’ looks of true emaciation. Yes, Christian Bale is really eating live maggots on-screen in Rescue Dawn!
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It’s rare to see Christian Bale in a film where he isn’t either stick-thin or Hulked-out. For this actor, there is no in-between. Reign of Fire is no exception, where we see him as the latter: tanned, bulky, toned, with visible six-pack abs.
His workout routine for Reign of Fire—which, according to Bale, consisted of working a different muscle group each day—prepared him for his later embodiment of a ninja-trained Batman.
Christian Bale had no choice but to lose weight for Ford v Ferrari. Why? Because he literally couldn’t fit in the car otherwise.
Sports cars are notoriously narrow and uncomfortable, and following the release of Vice (another film featuring an extreme Christian Bale body weight transformation), he was forced to shrink down.
When co-star Matt Damon asked how he lost 70 pounds so quickly, Bale simply replied: “I didn’t eat.”
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Although plenty of prosthetics were used to turn Christian Bale into paunchy Vice President Dick Cheney, he still lost 40 pounds to ensure authenticity in the portrayal.
A shaved head and bloated belly show Bale in a different light to the ripped image we’re used to in, say, American Psycho. And how did he achieve this look? Pies (apparently).
Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins may not have seen Bale at his bulkiest, but what’s so impressive about this particular role is the speed at which he put on all that weight: Just six months prior, he was shooting The Machinist at his skinniest weight (more on that below).
In that time, Bale went from hauntingly skeletal to superhero muscular, putting on 31 pounds for his iconic portrayal of Batman, and then a couple more pounds for its sequel The Dark Knight.
As Bruce Wayne himself has no powers, Batman has to make up for it with cool gadgets and martial arts. A skinny Batman just won’t do.
3. The Fighter
In The Fighter, we’re greeted with another sunken-faced Christian Bale, this time playing a boxer with a drug habit. He accomplished his 145-pound physique with lots of running (rather than starving).
And it was definitely worth it for the Academy Award. Bale even claimed to feel healthy during production, despite his wilted frame.
If you’ve seen American Hustle, the image that likely sticks out most in your head is Christian Bale slumped in a chair with his stomach protruding over his shorts. He put on 95 pounds for his role as a gold-chain-wearing conman in the 70s.
Allegedly, this landed Bale in some trouble for his next movie Exodus: Gods and Kings, where he was required to get lean again within a matter of weeks. But being Bale, he pulled through.
The Machinist not only marks Christian Bale’s most challenging body transformation, but represents the most extreme body weight transformation by anyone in the history of cinema.
Clocking in at a startling 120 pounds, Bale’s figure was reduced to nothing but a bag of bones for his role as a paranoid insomniac. Viewers were horrified to see Bale’s extreme physique, tattering on the verge of constant collapse.
Bale claimed to enter a “zen” state of mind during filming as he lived entirely off coffee, cigarettes, and one apple a day (which definitely didn’t keep the doctor away, who prevented Bale taking his commitment any further for health reasons).