Ruby View: Losing weight to gain roles

Anne Hathaway lost 11 kilograms for her role as consumptive prostitue Fantine in the yet-to-be-released big screen musical Les Miserables. Natalie Portman shed nine kilograms for her Oscar-winning role as a ballerina in 2010’s Black Swan and Christian Bale dropped a huge 28 kilograms for the The Machinest (2004).  They weren’t the first to shed kilos for roles and they won’t be the last – but, is it healthy for stars to actively discuss the weight they lost for certain roles?

Anne Hathaway’s turn as Fantine in the forthcomingmusical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, which also stars Australia’s own Hugh Jackman, has received a lot of media attention. Her vocal talent is the key focus of the film’s trailer, but it’s her hauntingly thin appearance that has people talking.

While it’s easy understand the desire of an actor, and directors, to want to transform completely into a character, it’s harder to believe it is beneficial to normalise the weight loss through the press.

“I had to be obsessive about it – the idea was to look near death,” Hathaway told Vogue in a recent interview.

The 30-year-old star told Vogue she first shed five kilograms to begin filming and then later dropped another seven by eating nothing but two thin pieces of oatmeal paste a day.

“Looking back on the whole experience – and I don’t judge it in any way – it was definitely a little nuts,” Hathaway reflected in the interview.

“It was definitely a break with reality, but I think that’s who Fantine is anyway.”
Christian Bale went to even more extreme lengths to lose 28 kilograms to play emaciated insomniac Trevor Reznik in The Machinist by barely sleeping and surviving on a diet of coffee and apples.
Bale then went on an extreme binge fest once filming had wrapped up in the hope to gain weight in order to be a convincing Batman.
“The director, Christopher Nolan, asked me to try and put on as much weight as I could because he would find it very difficult to convince the studio to cast me if I was a beanpole,” Bale said.

“In doing so I overdid it because I was enjoying gorging. I was ignoring advice about taking it slowly because my stomach had shrunk, and I should just go with soups”

Bale has said he jumped straight into overeating pizza and ice-cream which resulted in his stomach expanding quickly, resulting in getting sick.

“In that short amount of time (six weeks) I did actually go from 121 (pounds) right back up to 180 (pounds) which is way too fast so that resulted in some doctor visits to get things sorted out,” he said.

If it is deemed necessary to talk about the weight loss in relation to the film and the character then the implications of yo-yo dieting, self-starvation and extreme weight fluctuation need to be made clear.

For Natalie Portman, the extreme dieting that helped her into the role of dedicated ballerina Nina Sayers in Black Swan paid off in the form of a shiny Oscar.

“[Natalie] took [the role] very seriously. These dancers get really, really skinny,” director Darren Aronosky told Access Hollywood.
And it’s true, ballerinas are thin. Fantine was on the brink of starvation. However, these actors shouldn’t be coming out with the details of how they lost the weight to transform for a role. It can send the wrong message to many impressionable people, female and male.
These transformations should be talked about for what they are: hard on the body and detrimental to health. Just as important as it can be to represent people realistically in film and TV, it is important to represent the risks inherent in extreme dieting and playing with weight.
If you are at risk of an eating disorder please contact The Butterfly Foundation for help.

1 Comment

Filed under Mind, Body and Soul, Ruby Views

One response to “Ruby View: Losing weight to gain roles

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts and I am waiting for your next post
    thank you once again.

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