Here's ten actors - from Michael B. Jordan to Robert De Niro - who became legitimate professional athletes for movie roles. The requirements of an actor will vary depending on the role, but playing an athlete can be one of the most challenging to believably pull off. This could largely be attributed to the physical demands of the roles.
These roles are only possible through sports movies, which continue to be a popular genre of film. The biggest release of the year was Creed II, which brought Jordan back in the role of Apollo Creed's son. Jordan has not only brought great emotional performances to the franchise in his two films, but has also bulked up to play the boxer. His ability in the ring shined with Ryan Coogler's one-take in Creed, and for the sequel he was asked to stand toe-to-toe with Florian Munteanu, a legitimate Romanian boxer. It only further highlighted his physical transformation, which is why he comes in at the top of Screen Rant's Actors Who Became Pro Athletes video.
Jordan's impressive muscle gain to play Adonis Creed in both Creed and Creed II is the most recent entry on the list, while others can be older, such as Jordan's franchise co-star Sylvester Stallone, who trained himself into tip-top shape to play Rocky Balboa from the 70s all the way through the 2000s. However, not everyone underwent huge physical transformations and instead honed their existing abilities, like Charlie Sheen in Major League or Kevin Costner in Tin Cup. Here's the full list of stars utilizing real life skill to bring to life original sports stars and some real life athletes.
This list is full of memorable turns, but the undoubted heavyweight in terms of the sport at the center of these roles is boxing and wrestling. Jordan, Stallone, Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler, Robert De Niro for Raging Bull, and Hillary Swank for Million Dollar Baby. All of them had to pack on muscle for their respective roles, while also training relentlessly to make themselves formidable fighters in the ring. This may be why this sport in particular has delivered so many memorable turns, as it can require a lot more out of the actors from a physical perspective. These aren't the only examples for some of these actors playing athletes though. Stallone and De Niro played older fighters in Grudge Match, and Jordan may need to keep his impressive physique for future Creed films.
This list also just scratches the surface of noteworthy performances. Sticking with the world of fighting, both Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton in Warrior, Will Smith in Ali, and Jake Gyllenhaal in Southpaw all transformed their bodies to play their respective roles. Additionally, a recent example like Margot Robbie becoming a capable skater for I, Tonya is also worth mentioning. Thanks to the popularity of sports movies, there should be many other impressive turns to come in the genre - and maybe even more from those featured in this list.