Operation Transformation

A look at actresses who went through huge physical transformations to play a role

Rooney Mara is almost unrecognisable as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. This got us thinking, which other actors have gone through huge physical transformations to play a role on the silver screen? Brogen Hayes takes you through her top five…


Charlize Theron – Monster

Theron’s transformation from blonde beauty for Monster was fairly surprising. She gained over two stone, filled her mouth with prosthetic teeth and dulled her clear complexion for the role. The hard work paid off however, Theron won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos.

Renee Zelwegger – Bridget Jones’s Diary

Renee Zelwegger could easily have donned a fat suit for the titular character in the film adapted from Helen Fielding’s best selling series of books. Instead, the actress binged on doughnuts to bulk out to a size 14, then lost all the weight in time for awards season.

Cameron Diaz – Being John Malkovich

In 1999, Cameron Diaz was best known for her beauty, especially since her breakout performance in The Mask. It was a brave move for Diaz to ugly up for the role of Lotte Schwartz in Being John Malkovich, but her performance as the beleaguered wife of a puppeteer was one of her best, and it still holds up, over 12 years later.

Mariah Carey – Precious

Mariah Carey tried to make a film career for herself in the dreadful 2001 film, Glitter. Thankfully, her second big movie role – in 2009’s Precious – was slightly less self-indulgent. The singer turned actress dowdied herself down for the role as the welfare case worker in Precious and was almost unrecognisable. Carey’s performance was almost universally praised and we began to forget all about Glitter… Didn’t we?

Hilary Swank – Boys Don’t Cry

Unlike many of the women in our top five, Hilary Swank actually dropped weight to change her appearance for Boys Don’t Cry. Swank played Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was beaten, raped and murdered, and in preparation, she lived ‘as a man’ for a month. Her transformation was so convincing that her neighbours began to believe that the ‘man’ often coming to Swank’s home was her brother. Swank won the Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Brandon Teena

Words – Brogen Hayes