Hollywood: Starving for perfection

Antonia Campbell-Hughes

Emaciated: Antonia Campbell-Hughes (Photography via Flickr).

In the crazy world of Hollywood method acting, suffering for one’s art usually means weight gain, rather than weight loss – think Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones’ Diary or Charlize Theron in Monster. Unlike us mere mortals these slim, beautiful thespians go through the excruciating experience of gaining weight, all for the sake of ‘art’. But it would seem this pain of weight gain is often vindicated with praise bestowed upon the artist for their brave interpretation – ala Theron in Monster. Yet in the past cinematography has been far less likely to demand the labourers of the silver screen drop a couple of pounds – Michael Fassbender, who shed two stone for his emaciated role in Hunger, remains a rarity.

But recently, the reserve has been true with the waif like Anne Hathaway, who lost an astonishing seven kilograms from her slender frame to play a tuberculosis victim in the upcoming film adaptation of Les Miserables. More recently numerous photographs surfaced of Matthew McConaughey looking practically emaciated as he plays assumes the role of an AIDS-infected man on upcoming The Dallas Buyer’s Club. Famed for his chunky, buff Magic Mike body McConaughey has reportedly lost 14kgs to support cheekbones that resemble craters.

And earlier this autumn there was Antonia Campbell-Hughes, who underwent a rapid, drastic diet to play kidnap victim Natascha Kampusch in 3096. Speaking to the Evening Standard Campbell-Hughes said: “There was an understanding from the beginning that I would suffer as much as she did.” As ever, when photographs of withered, gaunt looking actors surface the media is quick to speculate about the particular crash diet these actors have endured.

Yet the latest actor starving for attention has given a more honest, frank account of the ‘crash diet’. Jared Leto is set to join McConaughey on The Dallas Buyer’s Club set as he plays a HIV-positive transsexual woman. Much like his co-star Leto has undergone a drastic body transformation; however unlike McConaughey he has distorted his physique in little over a month, having only recently joined the project. Speaking to Vulture Leto said: “Sometimes it’s hard to hold on to water. But for me, it’s not about the most weight I can lose, it’s more about representing the character.”

Jared Leto

“It’s about representing the character”: Jared Leto.

Leto is no stranger to starving for perfection, having gained and lost weight for past films. Most notably he piled on the pounds to play John Lennon’s murderer in the 2006 film, Chapter 27.  As of yet, Leto has yet to reveal how much he has shed for his latest role.

While willing enough stars maybe showered with critical acclaim perhaps Hollywood should be more concerned regarding the welfare of their workers. Matt Damon who lost an amazing 18kg for his role in the 1996 film, Courage, was once told that the process almost caused permanent shrinkage of his heart. And while such crash diets are monitored by health professionals, there maybe lingering psychological issues for actors, as they risk developing eating disorders as they crave the success associated with hunger.

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