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Vanity vs acting

In the world of Hollywood acting, despite there being so many versatile and very talented actors/ actresses, beauty seems to be an integral aspect as to what makes one a ‘star’. With many actors and actresses possessing the sheer element of being, well, beautiful, it can often seem, and I hate to say it, as though acting can be a vain profession. No doubt actors may enjoy the attention of the public eye, especially when crowned as ‘the world’s sexiest man’ or ‘hottest women’, because, who wouldn’t, but it’s not a coincidence that many of these titles are won following a successful film, in which the star is made to look incredible.

Obviously if a role requires a star to look beautiful, it is accepted without question but what happens when they are asked to play a character that necessitates them altering their appearance in a negative way? The most drastic change that we witness frequently in actors is dramatic weight loss and weight gain. It is rather shocking to see actors alter their bodies so drastically but really shows their true dedication to the art of acting over vanity. To put their well worked out bodies and health at risk to fit a role for OUR entertainment is very admirable. So, I hereby present the top 4 actors who have done just this:

1. Natalie Portman

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2007                                                          2011

In 2011, the beautiful and very talented Natalie Portman took the lead role in The Black Swan. To play a ballerina required Portman to up her game in terms of fitness. Portman worked out five hours a day six days a week. Losing 20 pounds left her with a very slim frame with her bones visible and in a lot of the scenes she looked ill. You have to hand it to her for the dedication though, most of us can’t stick to a diet or work out regime for more than a few days! As well as this, back in 2005 Portman shaved her hair off to play one of the leading roles in V for Vendetta. Despite the ‘shaved’ look becoming quite a fashion trend for women’s hair, going from long to completely bald is still rather shocking. Portman even said in an interview that “people will think that I have cancer”, indicating the health problem presumptions that follow such an appearance change. Henceforth, Portman proved again, her willingness to sacrifice her good looks for film.

2. Renée Zellweger

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2003                                                   2013

Back in 2001, slim actress Rene Zellweger adapted to a diet that consisted of 4,000 calories a day in order to gain 20 pounds to play Bridget Jones. 4,000 calories a day is double the average daily intake for a woman and introducing a new diet which consisted of grease, fat and sugar dramatically increased her risk of health problems. Going from a size 6 to a size 14 is sadly and unfairly often what celebrities are scrutinised for in the media, although it shouldn’t be, and it’s surprising that Zellweger did it twice, proving her dedication to acting over vanity. Zellweger soon bounced back to her very slim self.

3. Christian Bale

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2000                                                    2004

Ever since Bale began his acting career he has gained weight, lost weight, buffed up and buffed down for various different roles. We saw him toned and well built in American Psycho in 2000 but in 2004 Bale infamously shocked the nation with his skeletal like figure in The Machinist. Bale lost his toned body to play an insomniac, losing a shocking 63 pounds. According to sources, the actors diet consisted of water, coffee and fruit for a period of four months! Astonishing dedication and his performance was admirable and gained much critical acclaim.

4. Matthew McConaughey

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2012                                                    2014

The most recent body transformation is Matthew McConaghey’s. From buff to barely enough in the drama Dallas Buyers Club (2014). Most of you may know McConaughey for his roles in romantic comedies where he can be found shot shirtless showing off his 6 pack. Well, in his latest role, McConaughey shed three stones to portray an aids sufferer and in doing so, became very weak. In an interview he revealed that “It changed my life for four months. I lost a lot of power and strength”. He lived like a hermit and didn’t expose himself to sunlight in order to keep his skin pale and dull. Despite his jaw dropping appearance, his performance was stunning and showed a new, more serious side to his acting ability – where it’s not all just about looks.

 Do you respect actors that choose roles over vanity?



  • Being a performer myself I highly respect them but as long as it doesn’t hurt them in the long run. I wouldn’t do anything that was going to permanently damage myself. You only have to look at Hugh Jackman in ‘Les Miserables’ to see what extraordinary lengths these people will go to for their career! x

  • Rachel Holmes Rachel Holmes says:

    That’s cool that u can relate by being a performer :) do you have any experiences of altering your image that you could share :)? x

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