doing it for the role

How 9 Beautiful Stars Got Hideous to Play Regular-Looking People

Photo: Cinelou Releasing, Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Does “going ugly” for a role pay off? Maybe you go up 50 pounds, maybe you lose 50 pounds. Either way, you don’t look like yourself, which is tragic because you are a movie star. But often that’s the strategy a star will take to “get noticed” outside of his or her beautiful fame bubble. Take Jennifer Aniston, whose turn in Cake, which opens wide this weekend, has her face makeupless and covered in scars. Turns out it takes a lot of work to look this … normal. Here’s a brief history of stars figuring out how to transform into “uglier” roles.

Photo: Cinelou Releasing

Jennifer Aniston (for 2014’s Cake)
“It’s interesting when you stop exercising. It really was interesting how my serotonin levels went down. My stamina was shot. I was cranky. I was irritable. I’m usually really not any of those things. I found myself short. I was hungry like crazy. You realize exercise is just so important to our soul. Not just being able to fit into skinny jeans, to your state of mind, your soul, all of that. I surrendered into it. I actually didn’t fight it. I didn’t think oh this is horrible. It was such a part of what I enjoyed about mining this character.” (Us Weekly)

“There was not a lot of home time so I was pretty much going home, going to sleep … I didn’t do anything physically … I pretty much let myself fall apart physically and that was really important for me. It actually was extremely liberating.” (Vanity Fair)

Photo: Columbia Pictures

Christian Bale (for 2013’s American Hustle)
“I ate lots of doughnuts, a whole lot of cheeseburgers and whatever I could get my hands on. I literally ate anything that came my way. I was about 185 and went up to 228. I’m still working it off.” (People)

Photo: Sony Pictures

Gwyneth Paltrow (for 2011’s Country Strong)
“The director, Shana Feste, didn’t want me to have any definition whatsoever, so I had to stop working out. I was so bad with the food and alcohol in Nashville … If you saw me naked compared to what I looked like when I did Iron Man 2, when I was exercising every day — I’ll get it back together, but I’ve never eaten so much fried food and white flour in my life, ever. Oh, God.” (Harper’s Bazaar)

Photo: Miramax

Renée Zellweger (for 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and 2004’s Bridget Jones’s Diary: The Edge of Reason
“Can I just tell you my body is whacked by the time we finish one of those. It doesn’t know what has happened because it thinks there’s supposed to be a baby and there’s no christening. Did you see that movie about fast food, Super-Size Me? I had a panic attack with all the specialists talking about how bad this is for you, long term, putting on that much weight in short periods of time and they’re all saying, ‘You must stop this now or you’re going to die’ … It sounds like heaven. For two days it’s bliss and then you’re full, OK? And you can then indulge all your fantasies about over-eating. Fantasies about non-stop chocolate consumption or your fantasies about ordering the pizza and the spaghetti and the garlic bread. Then after a week your glucose levels are going crazy. You’re up and down and all over the place. It doesn’t feel good, and no one wants to hear that, but it’s the truth.” (Daily Mail)

Photo: Roadside Attractions

Vanessa Hudgens (for 2013’s Gimme Shelter)
“It was fun, it was really fun. Just because it’s so rare that you get to do that. I put on 15 pounds, ate whatever I wanted. I’m not complaining. I cut off all my hair, which really set the tone … And then, I just kinda tried to make myself as ugly as possible, whether that was the way that I walked or my mannerisms or the tone of my voice.” (E! Online)

Photo: Miramax

Javier Bardem (on 2007’s No Country for Old Men)
“It’s funny because I saw that photo and I didn’t pay attention to the haircut because it was more of the way he was dressed as well as anything, but I guess they pay attention to the haircut. So, I went to the trailer and they cut it and I saw it and I said, ‘What the hell is that?’ But that helped a lot actually, because in a way he gave this reality to the character, this dimension of being very methodical. Everything is in place. It’s kind of mathematical, like perfectly structured which is the way I thought the character should be: perfectly clean. I thought this could help, but not for my private life though.” (

Photo: New Market Films

Charlize Theron (for 2003’s Monster)
I just — I didn’t want it to be the kind of thing where transforming me into Aileen — which we had to do and I knew we had to do — where it became just about prosthetics and a fat suit … And I think I knew very early on that part of me understanding her journey of who she was … The only way I was going to do that was to really truly get myself in a place where I felt the same things she might have felt. She wrote in a letter when she-she was a prostitute, she never took her shirt off. She had a baby when she 13; she didn’t like her body. So, I wanted to get my body to a place, where I felt like, you know, naturally I’m very athletic looking and I didn’t — I don’t know how I could have played that part with this body. I knew I had to transform my body to get myself into her physical skin — the way she moved in her body. And so, I think, for me as an actor, I really… I love that aspect. I don’t think — I mean, I’ve tried very hard in my career to change and transform. But, I’ve never done anything like this. But you know, you try [in] as many subtle ways as you possibly can do [for] a characterization. You know, I come from a dance background; I told stories with [my body] for 12 years. That stayed with me. I still feel that’s part of my job. Tell it with your mouth instead of this … I didn’t want it to be a caricature, wear a fat suit, put some prosthetics on my face. (Stumped Magazine)

What did it take for you to gain the weight for the role?
“A ton of potato chips!”

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Nicole Kidman (for 2002’s The Hours)
“I have a process where I try to find the character through a pair of shoes or through things like, how am I going to walk? How do I feel as her? I would sit in the make-up chair, just listen to music and put my head back and they would apply it all and then I would step out of the trailer and I was Virginia. I loved the process and I loved having that patrician profile … It was almost like a dance to get there and then I’d step on to the set and it was very liberating, and very freeing. It was smoking cigarettes, the hanky, the way in which the dress fell, the nose, the hair … all of it came together, and then my voice changed as well.” (The Telegraph)

Photo: Universal Studios

Cameron Diaz (for 1999’s Being John Malkovich)
“It’s funny ‘cuz I didn’t choose this role thinking, ‘I found a role nobody will recognize me in.’ There were no descriptions and we didn’t ‘find’ Lottie until after I had already gotten the part. Spike had taken pictures of people he met on the street and brought them in saying, ‘These are who I think the characters could be. And we found that look … I didn’t realize that people weren’t going to recognize me until I put the costume on and I stood around talking to people working the production. I just assumed they knew it was me, but they thought I was a stranger … People’s looks definitely have something to do with the way that they treat you. I don’t think Lottie was an unattractive person. There were guys on the set who, as a blonde, would never look at me and, as Lottie, they were more curious. There’s me as Cameron and how people see me and what they think: ‘Oh you’re beautiful and glamorous.’ (Cranky Critic)

How 9 Beautiful Stars Made Themselves Hideous