The Actors’ Fat Suit
6/5/2009 12:30 PM
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When an actor manipulates his / her physique for a role, should we admire his / her commitment to his / her craft? Or should we raise an eyebrow, because such drastic body changes can be, ya know, dangerous?
Tricky question, guys. Very few fans and critics highlight this health-of-the-actor angle. If anything the phenomenon is seen as “real acting.” Movie stars wear fat-suits—actors gain the weight.
Recent noteworthy examples that come to mind include George Clooney, who pudged up for his Oscar-winning effort in “Syriana” or Tom Hanks who both slimmed and ballooned for his demanding role in “Cast Away.” But I think the most popular modern case is the “class-all-his-own” Christian Bale, who seems to gain and lose serious poundage with the ease of a wardrobe change. Between “The Machinist”, “Batman Begins”, “Rescue Dawn” and “The Dark Knight”, Bale has ping-ponged between buff and dangerously underweight with startling rapidity over the past five years. And he fielded his share of criticism for it, to be sure. Kidney problems, gallstones, all the medical complications that arise with rapid weight loss, people knocked him for risking.
Bale is horse of a different color. Whether it’s muscle or flab, most actors gain weight for roles, rather than lose it. The ones who wear fat-suits, we roll our eyes at—I’m thinking specifically of Sharon Stone, who didn’t receive nearly enough praise for her heartbreaking turn in Alpha Dog, because viewers couldn’t look past the fat suit. But when actors gain the weight legitimately, they’re heralded as true artists.
Why?? Is it “cheating” to wear a fat suit? Why is that even significant within the context of fiction? Actors have readier access to tools that will help them lose that “natural” weight they put on—fitness equipment, trainers, pills, surgery. Not to mention, preparing for roles is largely what they do for a living. I’m about as impressed with these wealthy professionals adding and dropping pounds as I am with their drool-worthy movie-star homes. (Which probably include full, private 24-hour gyms.) Isn’t the ability to change their look something we should simply expect of them?