Self image is very important in our modern day world, this can be in the shape of size, looks, make up, clothes, it can be linked to the type of music you listen to or your age, class or the programmes and films you watch. Your age can often determine how susceptible you are to the images portrayed in the media. I have never been a person to follow a particular celeb or want to look like them, whether that it is their hairstyle, weight, clothing etc.. I, as most people know love film and there are many actors that I respect for their talents and will quite often watch a film because they are in it. Sometimes actors have to go to extremes to portray a role, dramatically changing what they look like to fit into a part, whether that is to just look like them, maybe go through what their character went through or maybe because they are more likely to gain awards. There are a number of famous actors that have done this, probably the most extreme has to be Christian Bale, particularly in the film The Machinest where he lost a large amount of weight by just eating an apple each day and a cup of coffee. There are also others like Tom Hanks, Charlize Theron, Rene Zellwegger and Robert Deniro who have lost and gained weight for particular parts.
The reason why I am writing this is because recently it was put to Christian bale that his weight changes for the parts he has played were just a gimmick. What do you think? Is it too extreme? Should actors be doing this? Do you think that this is method acting or is it done just to gain awards? In an age of CGI, new make up techniques and prosthetics, does an actor really need to work to such extremes? I personally think that if there are serious effects on the actors health, then it really isn’t worth it. Then you have the issue of how quick the actor can get to their regular shape once they have finished the film. I am a person that likes to look after themselves by going to gym and eating a balanced diet. The thought of having to gorge myself on fatty foods to gain weight brings me out in a sweat, fearing that I would not be able to lose the weight after. I know actors get help and they must have specialists while they are going through this change to make sure that it is safe. I definitely do not think it is a gimmick, gimmicks are generally not so painful, do not need such physical and mental strength and usually involve a bit of fun. I do enjoy their appearance and it does catch you eye when the actor is almost unregonisable in a film due to their weight gain or loss.
In the last week I went to see American Hustle, which is up for many awards, deservedly so because the acting from all involved is top class. The story line is pretty simplistic, but then I think the best films can have the most simplistic story lines. Christian Bale gained a huge amount of weight, shaved his head so he could sport an outragious comb over and grew a beard for the role. The director didn’t ask him to do this, but Christian insisted. So what were they going to do if Christian hadn’t changed his image so much? Add padding? Put a something on his head to make him look bald? Would his performance be any less good? I personally enjoyed the change, but is Christian Bale putting his health at risk? I believe he had major issues with his back due to the posture he had when sitting and walking, which was an affect of the weight. What made the director pick Christian?, considering that he looked nothing like the character? “He wasn’t necessarily in good shape, and he had this combover that was rather elaborate …” states Sydney Prosser. Does this sound like Christian Bale? It doesn’t really matter now as he pulled it off and produced a great performance.
So what will he do next? He lost extreme amounts of weight for The Machinest, bulked up for Batman and The Fighter and gained a paunch for American Hustle, surely he cannot continue to change shape?
Tom Hanks is another actor who has had to change his body for acting roles, for instance he lost weight to play an Aids sufferer in Philadelphia and had to gain and lose weight for Castaway. Tom hanks lost 26 pounds to play Andy in Philadelphia, which is not that much, but then he was much thinner back then anyway. In castaway he went from being overweight at the start, before becoming the food starved Island survivor as the film went on. He lost 50-60 pounds over a year to play the part and grew a beard too. He recently stated that he now has type 2 diabetes, was his continual weight changes a cause? He has now stated that directors will have to take him as he is now.
Its not just the men that go through a change to play parts, women do too. Charlize Theron gained a great deal of weight for her part in Monster playing Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute turned serial killer. Aside from the body change it was a great performance and it’s pretty hard to believe that it’s Charlize under all that weight. Is it harder for women to play roles like this? The media attention and the crazy image that they like to portray gives women a harder time than men. Men can gain a bit of weight, but they do not receive quite the judgement that women do. I think for an actress like Charlize theron to gain that much weight was pretty courageous and I think it proved that she could act and she wasn’t just in films for her looks.
Charlize isn’t the only female to gain a little weight for a role, as Rene Zellwegger had to gain a few pounds for Bridget Jones, How else would she fit into those big pants? She gained 30 pounds and was warned by specialists that this was dangerous, but when duty calls eh? It was a great role for her to play and it really put the spotlight on her, mainly because of her performance, but unfortunately for Rene her weight has continued to grab the story lines. I think as long as you are healthy and happy then weight shouldn’t be such a major issue.
I believe the record for weight gain is still with Vincent D’Onofrio who gained 70 pounds eating all the junk food he could to play his Character in Full Metal Jacket. Before that Robert Deniro was top dog gaining 60 pounds to play Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull. It must be even harder to Bulk up for the part as he did to play Jake in his boxing career then go onto put weight on to play the same person in bad shape and overweight. Its not just the look, it must effect you psychologically as well and put so much strain on your body. I think the dedication to their work shows you that they are not in it just for the fame and physical change does help when it comes to awards, but we are looking at some of the finest actors around when we look to the people above. The awards are well deserved and in no way are they gimmicks!!