Turkey Day is upon us, our country’s annual holiday that brings families together and forces them to fill their mouths with stuffing and yams so they can’t discuss politics. But imagine if you got paid to gorge on your favorite goodies and then found yourself in the running for a coveted prize because of it. Then you won said coveted prize for doing what comes all too naturally for most of us – packing on the pounds.
As Oscar mavens know all too well, sacrificing a trim physique for a role of a lifetime is a regular ritual for movie stars seeking awards glory. It thrills me that two presumed lead actor candidates this year have fully engaged this tradition. Viggo Mortensen packed on 45 pounds to play Italian bouncer and chauffeur Tony Lip, who does like his food, in “Green Book,” which opens wider this week. He is joined by Christian Bale, Hollywood’s king of kilos, who chewed his way to 40 extra pounds to portray portly politico Dick Cheney in “Vice,” due on Christmas Day.
As you digest your Thanksgiving repast this week, give a salute to these Oscar nominees and winners who ate their way to glory.
*Shelley Winters in 1972’s “The Poseidon Adventure”
This onetime bombshell, who won two supporting Oscars for a work in 1965’s “A Patch of Blue” and 1959’s “The Diary of Anne Frank,” put on 35 pounds to play Bella Rosen in this all-star disaster thriller. Winters, who did her own swimming in the film, was never able to lose the extra weight.
*Robert De Niro in 1980’s “Raging Bull”
Blame this guy for popularizing the act of binging your way to an Oscar. Not only did De Niro add 20 pounds of muscle to his usual 145 pounds to get into fighting shape as boxer Jake LaMotta. The production shut down while he ate his way through Europe, mainlining pasta and drinking vanilla milkshakes, for scenes depicting the older and out-of-shape retired boxer.
*Renee Zellweger in 2001’s “Bridget Jones’s Diary”
The actress went from a size 4 to 14 by eating 4,000 calories a day to play this weight-obsessed singleton. She was granted a Best Actress nomination for her efforts. She would end winning her lone Oscar for her supporting role as tomboyish mountain woman Ruby Thewes in 2003’s “Cold Mountain.”
*Charlize Theron in 2003’s “Monster”
She morphed from gorgeous to grunge as real-life prostitute and serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Theron went the Krispy Kreme doughnut route and potato chip route to add 30 pounds to her usually sleek frame. The shift in image worked wonders, allowing her to win Best Actress. Even better, the weight pretty much just melted off.
*Hilary Swank in 2004’s “Million Dollar Baby”
Legend has it that the actress, who previously won an Oscar as a transgender male in 1999’s “Boys Don’t Cry,” transformed once more to star in this story about a female boxer. Swank consumed 210 grams of protein for 90 days in a row (in the form of egg whites) to build up 19 pounds of muscle on her previously 110-pound frame.
*George Clooney in 2005’s “Syriana”
While matinee-idol good looks might get you magazine covers, it often works against dashing leading men seeking awards recognition. That may explain Clooney went the pasta route, gaining 35 pounds and shaving his hairline to play CIA operative Robert Barnes. The ruse worked, resulting in a supporting Oscar win but it also caused recovery problems after he suffered a spinal injury while doing a stunt.
*Christian Bale in 2013’s “American Hustle”
As con man Irving Rosenfeld, who is recruited by the F.B.I., Bale gained 40 pounds, turned his hair into an elaborate comb-over and changed how he stood, which herniated two of his disks. It did the trick, resulting in a supporting actor nomination.
*Bradley Cooper in 2014’s “American Sniper”
To play the lead role of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, Cooper ballooned up to 225 pounds, much of it muscle, by eating 6,000 calories daily. He also worked out with a trainer four hours daily for several months to bulk up his body. At his strongest, Cooper could deadlift 425 pounds for five steps of 10 reps each. The physicality he achieved resulted in his third acting nomination in a row.
Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own 2019 Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominations are announced on January 22.