Every actor’s approach to step into their character’s shoes is unique. Sometimes they gain or lose weight, while others use the extra boost of CGI or an exceptional makeup and hair department to alter their appearance. The list below highlights five beloved actors who transformed into award-winning and memorable film roles.
Andy Serkis in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Some actors might let CGI do the heavy lifting, but Andy Serkis’s innate ability to craft memorable characters while using special effects is legendary. For the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Serkis wore a motion capture suit in front of a green screen on set, perfecting the Stoor hobbit’s creepy voice and hunched posture. Other CGI-based roles he’s mastered include the ape Caesar in the Planet of the Apes reboot, the titular gorilla in Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and Supreme Leader Snoke in the final Star Wars trilogy.
Charlize Theron in Monster
South African bombshell Charlize Theron is easily one of Hollywood’s most beautiful and talented actresses today. She’s delivered compelling performances in drama, action, and comedy throughout her career. However, the role of serial killer Aileen Wuornos put her on the map as a serious contender. Changing her physical appearance included gaining 30 lbs., bleaching and shaving her eyebrows, wearing contacts and dentures, and donning layers of dowdy makeup. Theron landed an Academy Award for Best Actress for her ability to capture Aileen’s tremendous emotional anguish and unnerving physical presence.
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
As new adaptations of comic books like Batman are rebooted, the competition for actors to exceed previous portrayals of favorite characters becomes tougher. No other performance may beat Heath Ledger’s incredible turn as The Joker in The Dark Knight. He developed the character by writing in a journal to establish The Joker’s mindset, practicing his deranged laugh, and collaborating with makeup artist John Caglione Jr. to apply the sinister clown-like makeup. The results cemented his performance as one of cinema’s best villains ever and earned him a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Christian Bale in The Machinist
Christian Bale should be one of the first names to pop into your head when you think of an actor who is a masterful chameleon. One example is his role in The Machinist where he plays a machinist who suffers from a debilitating case of insomnia after a tragic accident. Bale lost 60 lbs to embody the character’s skeletal emaciation with a regulated dieting schedule for four months. The Welsh actor has also gone the opposite route by gaining 40 lbs for his role as Dick Cheney in Vice. No matter what role he chooses to tackle, he’s willing to go the extra mile to bring the character to life.
Jim Carrey in How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Comedian Jim Carrey developed an iconic reputation for his wide range of absurd physical comedy, exaggerated facial expressions, and cartoonish voices. His role as The Grinch in a live-action version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas gave him the ability to combine all three elements. However, preparation for such a challenging character came at a price. Applying the facial prosthetic took three to eight hours a day, prompting Carrey to work with a CIA agent to teach him how to endure the excruciating wait in the makeup chair. Carrey also faced other challenges such as impaired vision by wearing yellow eye contacts and had difficulty breathing in the costume. The film is now a popular addition to celebrate the holidays, and the makeup team won an Academy Award for their groundbreaking efforts.