The Best Actor Oscar race this year just might turn into the battle of the bulge, pitting a pot-bellied Dick Cheney against a chowhound Italian bodyguard going belly to belly.
In this corner, after packing on about 40 pounds for his role as President George W. Bush’s controversial ex-veep in “Vice,” due in theaters on Christmas day, is Christian Bale, 43. The Welsh actor, who dropped 30 pounds and won a supporting Academy Award for his rail-thin crack-addict boxer Dicky Eklund in 2010’s “The Fighter,” holds the unofficial title of Hollywood’s most dedicated yo-yo dieter.
Bale transformed into musclebound alpha-male sicko Patrick Bateman in 2000’s “American Psycho.” Then he dropped an alarming 60 pounds for his mad insomniac factory worker in 2004’s “The Machinist.” He next put on 30 pounds of muscle to fill out the Caped Crusader’s rubber suit starting with 2005’s “Batman Begins.” The actor then lost 55 pounds as a prisoner-of-war for 2006’s “Rescue Dawn.” After that, he chubbied up to the tune of 43 pounds and thinned his hair for his ’70s-era con man in 2013’s “American Hustle” and earned a lead actor Oscar nod.
Bale got off easy playing a socially awkward investment genius in 2015’s “The Big Short,” “Vice” director Adam McKay‘s humorous dissection of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. He was Oscar-nominated for a third time for his supporting role without stepping on a scale.
But now that he is middle-aged, Bale sought out a nutritionist to safely plump himself to play Cheney. As he told Star2.com late last year, “When I did ‘The Machinist,’ I came up with the absolutely brilliant method of just smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey to lose weight. But then when I tried it once again in my 40s, that didn’t work quite as well. I was waking up with heart palpitations and just not feeling right at all.”
He consulted a specialist who “managed to get me up a good 40 pounds. It’s never healthy to put on that amount of weight in a short amount of time, but I did it in the healthiest manner.”
And, in this corner, is Viggo Mortensen, 60, who ultimately added 45 pounds of girth to his usual trim-and-fit physique as real-life Italian bouncer turned chauffeur Tony Lip for “Green Book,” which opens in limited release on November 16. Helping matters is all the fried chicken he ends up sharing with co-star Mahershala Ali as Jamaican-American concert pianist Don Shirley as they drive to concert dates in the Jim Crow South of the early ‘60s. At one point, Tony even engages in a hot-dog eating contest and wins $50 by wolfing down on 26 franks.
But his main source of calories was location, location, location, as the “Lord of the Rings” actor admits to gobbling a fair share of rich New Orleans cuisine since much of “Green Book” was filmed in the Big Easy. “It was a lot of fun putting it on,” he says, “but less fun taking it off.” Mortensen also built up his biceps with weights to be a believable Bronx-born tough guy. He has been Oscar-nominated as a lead actor twice, for his Russian operative in 2007’s “Eastern Promises” and as an off-the-grid patriarch in 2016’s “Captain Fantastic” But he was in tip-top shape for those films, as his full-frontal nude scenes in both proved.
But that was then, this is now. We will see if Bale or Mortensen’s physical transformations pack the same awards-bait punch as Robert De Niro when he famously ballooned by 60 pounds to portray middleweight boxer Jake La Motta in later life in 1980’s “Raging Bull.” The seven-time Oscar nominee would snare his first and only lead Oscar for his efforts, a companion to the supporting statuette he claimed for 1974’s “The Godfather: Part II.”
Be sure to update your predictions today and 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.