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Rob McElhenney, George Clooney, and More Stars Who Gained Weight for Roles (Photos)

TV’s Rob McElhenney gained 50 pounds this season. See photos of stars who have packed on the most weight for a role. By Marlow Stern.

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Rob McElhenney, the creator and a star of the FX series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, decided to pack on 50 pounds to make his character funnier this season, which premieres Sept. 14. From Christian Bale’s 99-pound Batman gain to the 60-pound addition that got Ryan Gosling fired from a movie, see photos of actors who gained the most weight for roles. By Marlow Stern.

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Christian Bale, <em>Batman Begins</em> (99 lbs.)

The dedicated Welsh actor slimmed down to a downright frightening 121 pounds—by starving himself on a four-month diet of coffee and an apple (or can of tuna) each day, totaling about 275 calories—to play Trevor Reznik, an industrial worker who hasn’t slept for more than a year and begins having bizarre visions, in 2004’s The Machinist. And just after Bale wrapped filming, director Christopher Nolan informed him that he had been cast as the Caped Crusader in Batman Begins. In just two months, Bale packed on 60 pounds for his Batman screen test through a high-carb diet of bread and pasta. He then packed on an additional 39 pounds for the role in the next three months, bringing his weight to 220 pounds, by following a strict diet of chicken, tuna, and steamed vegetables, and daily three-hour running and weight-training sessions. “He worked harder than anyone I've ever trained," Bale’s trainer, Efua Baker, told People. "Every morning he would look different from the day before." 

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Vincent D’Onofrio, <em>Full Metal Jacket</em> (70 lbs.)

Talk about earning your stripes. For his Hollywood debut in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 Vietnam War film Full Metal Jacket, actor Vincent D’Onofrio gained 70 pounds—breaking Robert De Niro’s then-record weight gain of 60 pounds for Raging Bull—for his role as the tormented recruit, Pvt. Gomer Pyle. The gain, which took him seven months on a diet of greasy foods, brought D’Onofrio’s weight to 280 pounds. D’Onofrio would later gain 45 pounds for his role as Pooh-Bear, a noseless meth dealer in the 2002 film The Salton Sea

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Jared Leto, <em>Chapter 27</em> (67 lbs.)

He ain’t Jordan Catalano no more. To play John Lennon’s pudgy assassin, Mark David Chapman, in the 2007 film Chapter 27, the usually svelte Jared Leto gained an impressive 67 pounds through a diet that was just, well, gross. “[I did it by] eating everything you think you're not supposed to—pizza, pasta, ice cream, but my little trick was I would take pints of chocolate Häagen Dazs and put them in the microwave and drink them,” Leto told Starpulse. But the grossest part? “The sick thing is, I would actually pour olive oil and soy sauce into the mixture as well—to get me bloated even more,” said Leto. Sadly, it was mostly for naught—the film grossed only $56,215 in North America, and received mostly negative reviews. 

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Russell Crowe, <em>Body of Lies</em> (63 lbs.)

In order to play a CIA agent who’s let himself go in Ridley Scott’s 2008 espionage film Body of Lies, Russell Crowe gained a whopping 63 pounds, doing away once and for all with his toned, Maximus physique in Gladiator. Crowe said he delighted in his weight gain, telling Extra, “I'll have that cheeseburger for breakfast, thank you!” However, the Aussie didn’t turn to booze as a way of gaining weight because of his kids. “There are a whole lot of things I don't do anymore because it affects my level of patience,” said Crowe. “I don't want to be in that place where I'm exasperated with these beautiful children."

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Robert De Niro, <em>Raging Bull</em> (60 lbs.)

One of the most renowned method actors ever, Robert De Niro gained a then-record 60 pounds for his role as boxer Jake LaMotta for director Martin Scorsese’s 1980 film, Raging Bull. De Niro had put 20 pounds of muscle on his 145-pound frame for the film’s earlier scenes to portray a convincing middleweight boxer, but then took a four-month hiatus in order to gain 60 pounds of chunk for the film’s latter scenes, depicting LaMotta as a nightclub owner and shell of his former self. According to Vanity Fair, the actor went on “an eating binge in Europe” and “had made all of 1900 in Italy, and a portion of The Godfather, Part II, and knew all of the best pasta restaurants.” After De Niro put on the weight, Scorsese was worried about his labored breathing, but the gain would eventually pay off with De Niro winning the best-actor Oscar for his convincing performance. 

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Ryan Gosling, <em>The Lovely Bones</em> (60 lbs.)

While most actors gain kudos or awards in recognition for gaining extreme amounts of weight for a role, Ryan Gosling got fired. Yes, the Oscar-nominated actor with the pinup looks put on 60 pounds after he was cast in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, because he thought it would service his character, grieving dad Jack Salmon. “We had a different idea of how the character should look,” Gosling told The Hollywood Reporter. “I really believed he should be 210 pounds.” To accomplish this task, Gosling drank melted cartons of Häagen Dazs ice cream, but when he showed up on set, Jackson was unimpressed and ultimately replaced Gosling with Mark Wahlberg. “Then I was fat and unemployed,” said Gosling. 

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Rob McElhenney, <em>It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia</em> (52 lbs.)

While most movie actors gain weight to disappear into their roles, Rob McElhenney, the creator and one of the stars of the FX TV series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, just did it for fun. The actor gained 52 pounds, going from 160 to 212, by consuming five 1,000-calorie meals a day. “As I started off I was doing it with chicken breast and rice and vegetables,” McElhenney told The Wrap. “But when you're four months in it and you have to muscle down 1,000 calories for the third time or fourth time in a day and you have to either eat three chicken breasts, two cups of rice and two cups of vegetables—or one Big Mac—you start to see the Big Mac and realize it's a lot easier to get down ... And then every once in a while I would eat three doughnuts. And every day one of my meals was a high-calorie protein shake.” While McElhenney didn’t feel lethargic at all, there was one tiny downside. “My legs and my gut got so big that my penis looked even smaller,” said McElhenney. 

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Benicio Del Toro, <em>Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas</em> (40 lbs.)

Oscar-winning actor Benicio Del Toro has always been one to fully immerse himself in his characters. For his role as the titular revolutionary leader in Che, he lost 35 pounds to accurately portray Guevara’s desperate final days. And in Terry Gilliam’s 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Del Toro gained 40 pounds to play Hunter S. Thompson’s deranged sidekick, “Dr. Gonzo” (a.k.a. Raoul Duke). To put on the 40 pounds, Del Toro consumed lots of doughnuts daily, according to the film’s Criterion Collection DVD commentary; and in one scene, he even went so far as to burn himself with real cigarettes. 

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George Clooney, <em>Syriana</em> (30 lbs.)

Undergoing a radical body transformation often spells Oscar, and it did in George Clooney’s case for his role as CIA agent Robert Baer in the 2005 film Syriana. Fitness freak Clooney put on 30 pounds in 30 days, feasting on bowl after bowl of pasta (and grew a beard) to portray the real-life Baer. “The truth is, it’s not nearly as fun as it sounds, the idea of putting on that kind of weight, but at the end of the day, in general, that’s what we do for a living,” Clooney told The Tech. “So my job was just to eat as fast as I could, as much as I could … But mostly you just ate until you wanted to throw up, and made sure you didn’t throw up. So that was my job for a month, was eating.” The gorging on food paid off, as Clooney was awarded the best-supporting-actor Oscar for his performance—his only Academy Award to date. 

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Charlize Theron, <em>Monster</em> (30 lbs.)

In addition to shaving off her eyebrows, donning prosthetic teeth and tons of blotchy makeup, former model Charlize Theron packed on 30 pounds to portray real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the 2003 film Monster. “I first began stuffing myself with Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but after a while I got sick of them,” Theron told Guerrilla Traveler. “I love potato chips, so that was a good thing for me. I’m a salty girl so I had my secret stash with me of potato chips at all times.” Theron, who was completely unrecognizable in the role, won the best-actress Oscar for her performance. 

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Renée Zellweger, <em>Bridget Jones’s Diary</em> (28 lbs.)

The typically slender, squinty-eyed actress gained 28 pounds for her Oscar-nominated role as the titular spinster in 2001’s Bridget Jones’ s Diary. Zellweger did so by gorging on a diet of pizza and doughnuts, and told The Daily Mail, “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.” Despite her concerns, she gained the weight again for the 2004 sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and will reportedly pack on the pounds once more for a third installment in the film franchise.