Go thin to win – the actors who lost weight to gain Oscars

Matthew McConaughey lost 40 pounds for his role in Dallas Buyers Club. If he snaps up an Academy Award as predicted, he'll join Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway and Daniel Day-Lewis

You might find there’s something not quite right about the trailer for Dallas Buyers Club. The sunken face of cowboy Ron Woodruff will be familiar, but placing him might be tricky.


The skinny Texan sits in a hospital gown after being diagnosed with HIV. Have you got it yet? Those flimsy forearms, that wispy midriff, those jutting cheekbones: they belong to Matthew McConaughey, not long ago seen as a buff and bulging male stripper in Magic Mike.

McConaughey lost an alleged 18kg for his latest role, which sees him sporting arms you wouldn’t trust to take your coat for you, let alone whisk you up on stage for a personal dance. 

Following the recent premiere of Dallas Buyers Club at the Toronto International Film festival, McConaughey is being tipped for a Best Actor nomination. Yet he isn’t the only star to have put himself through a gruelling diet in pursuit of an award-winning performance…

Christian Bale lost a third of his body weight to play drug-addict Dicky Eklund in boxing movie The Fighter, and won Best Supporting Actor at the 2011 Oscars. It wasn’t the first time he had shed weight for a part either: he lost 28kg for 2004 film The Machinist. 

Anne Hathaway’s much publicised body transformation for Les Misérables last year also ended in an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She lost 11kg, but was quick to emphasise it was only to help in her portrayal of Fantine. “I crawled inside the misery of the character,” she said.

Hathaway’s co-star Hugh Jackman also stripped body fat through a rigorous diet in order to give credence to his first scene as the imprisoned Jean Valjean, a role for which he received a Best Actor Oscar nomination.

Natalie Portman lost over 9kg to gain the physique for troubled ballerina Nina, and drew the concern of her director Darren Aronofsky. “At a certain point, I looked at [Natalie’s] back, and she was so skinny and so cut,” he told Access Hollywood. “I was like, ‘Natalie, start eating.’ I made sure she had a bunch of food in her trailer.” She won Best Actress at the 2011 Academy Awards, the same year Bale won his award for The Fighter.

Daniel Day-Lewis’s techniques to prepare for roles have been much-commented upon, and part of the transformation in order to play the rail-thin American President Abraham Lincoln certainly involved losing weight. It earned him his third Best Actor Oscar in 2013. Day-Lewis was also nominated for an Academy Award after playing the wrongly convicted Gerry Conlon in film In The Name of the Father: he lived on prison rations, lost over 13kg in weight and spent long periods living in the jail cell on set.