From Nerd To Absurd: Jake Gyllenhaal, Edward Norton, And Other Actors Who Got Jacked For Movie Roles

Body transformation is not a novel concept in Hollywood. In fact, it’s one of the methods that shows your determination and adherence to a role’s integrity, nudging you ever so closer to that golden statue (i.e. Philadelphia, Dallas Buyers Club, and the list goes on and on…). Certainly, in the history of cinema, there have been countless transformations in terms of body type, from flab to fab, from hulking to sulking — it can go both ways.

With the recent revelation that Jake Gyllenhaal has turned himself into an absolute yoked up monster of epic proportions for his role in Southpaw, I thought it’d be a good time to look back at some of the actors in Hollywood who packed on the muscle for a specific role. I kept some names off the list if the transformation wasn’t entirely eye-bulging, so blokes like Christian Bale were left off simply because he already looked like he was carved out of stone in American Psycho before he bulked up for Batman Begins. Same goes for Mark Wahlberg, who gassed up for Pain and Gain, but really, he was always jacked. And, this isn’t an exhaustive list, as we’d be here forever, but these are some of my favorite body transformations from some of Hollywood’s finest who chugged protein shakes and egg whites in order to fill up the frame.

Jake Gyllenhaal — Southpaw

It wasn’t too long ago — 13 years to be exact — that Jake Gyllenhaal looked like this in Donnie Darko:

Then, of course, he decided to go the emaciated route, for this year’s Nightcrawler:

But, the scrawny, fresh-faced kid from Donnie Darko and the skeletal freak in Nightcrawler are long gone, because now, Gyllenhaal looks like this:

Straight beast mode! Gyllenhaal is in ridiculously shredded shape for the upcoming, Antoine Fuqua (Training Day)-directed Southpaw, in which he plays Billy Hope. He might as well jump into a Mr. America contest after the movie wraps.

Edward Norton — American History X

Norton has maintained the “average man” look for most of his career, even looking incredibly scrawny at times. Here he is in 1996’s Primal Fear:

But in 1998, Norton had to pack on the pounds to play a menacing and murderous neo-nazi in American History X, and he did so in convincing fashion:

Ben Affleck Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batffleck maintains in good shape these days, even showing off his fur-covered abs in a scene in Argo, but there was a time when Affleck had a nondescript frame that looked like it was made of putty:

Since Chasing Amy and Mallrats, Affleck has been steadily getting in great shape, but nothing compares to the hulking beast he has transformed into in order to wear the cape and cowl for the upcoming Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice:

Wonder if Jennifer Garner makes him wear the batcape when he comes home to her at night…

Tom Hardy The Dark Knight Rises

Tom Hardy isn’t always a muscle-laden, mountain of pecs and traps….

…but when he was called upon to break Batman in half — as Bane — he needed to look the part:

Yup. That’s the guy that broke Bruce Wayne’s back and will.

Ryan Reynolds — Blade: Trinity

Reynolds knew he needed to do something in order to transcend from a wiry dude starring in a sitcom about relationships and pizza…

…to an eight-pack-brandishing badass that takes pride in destroying bloodsucking demons in the final Blade film. Reynolds’ yoked physique is probably the only memorable part from this horrid entry in the series.

Thomas Jane — Punisher

Jane has always looked like a guy who’s never been “out of shape” in his life, but in order to embody Marvel’s mortal destroyer of all things evil…

…he needed to update his look a bit:

After the filming for Punisher wrapped, Jane stated that he would never take a part again that required him to train like a maniac.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson — Kick Ass 2

For the first Kick Ass film, Taylor-Johnson looked the part — a geeky kid that was in way over his head in a world of tough guys and brutes:

But, for the 2013 follow-up, Kick Ass has been at it for a while now, and he’s had some time to beef up that scrawny body of his:

Yeah, he seems a bit more prepared this time around.

Chris PrattGuardians of the Galaxy

Who would have thought that this guy from Parks And Recreation…

…would morph into this guy — the hero of our galaxy.

Something about playing a Marvel hero make you want to give up bread and cheese. Speaking of…

Chris Hemsworth — Thor

Hemsworth wasn’t always Asgard’s God of Thunder. Here he is in 2010’s Ca$h:

Not so imposing and god-like, eh? Oh, but what 350lb. bench presses and wielding a mystical hammer can do to a guy…

I feel like I need to get to a gym right now.

Linda Hamilton — Terminator 2: Judgement Day

What would a list of actors who’ve transformed their bodies be without the former Mrs. James Cameron. Before Terminator 2, Hamilton looked like this:

For Terminator 2, James Cameron put his wife through the proverbial wringer, and transformed a svelte victim…

…into a ripped, ass-kicking, robot-destroyer. I bet the divorce was a lot more difficult for James Cameron after she got into this shape.

I don’t know about you, but I just smashed all the mirrors in my apartment. Where are my running shoes?