When it comes to prepping for the role of a superhero, putting on a fancy cape and costume just isn’t going to cut it. Though that may have worked in the past, actors nowadays are required to go to great lengths to achieve the ideal body image for superhero roles. This is not an easy feat to achieve. It requires commitment and dedication on behalf of the actor to not only get into shape, but to make physical changes in their appearance to bring comic book characters to life.
Marvel Studios, both before and during the MCU, have invested time and money to have their actors change their look for a role. It happens quite often that the requirements and stress of the expectations can get to an actor. Other times, it can also change their lives.
In fact, many actors are thankful of the transitions that Marvel asked of them. Not only does it result in the birth of great characters with awesome action scenes, it also helps to improve the lives of the Marvel actors we all know and love. True, changing one’s appearance for a spot in a Marvel film can be like a double-edged sword. On the other hand, the long-term rewards can be more beneficial to a person, both physically and emotionally.
Here is a list of 15 Actors Who Changed Their Looks For Marvel.
15 Chris Hemsworth - Thor
Apart from his role as Thor, Chris Hemsworth is also known for his performance in Australian soaps. Although he was far from being overweight, there is a stark difference with his appearance then, and his bodybuilder appearance now.
When he was asked to play the role of Thor, Hemsworth was forced to undergo a major physical overhaul, under the guidance of his personal trainer, and ex-Navy seal, Duffy Gaver. Hemsworth also followed a specific diet, consisting of mostly egg whites, vegetables, brown rice, as well as chicken and red meats.
Despite the results of training, Hemsworth has expressed dissatisfaction with the diet and regimen that comes with being Thor. This dissatisfaction was so strong that he even clashed with Marvel over returning to the diet and training for Thor: Dark World.
All this while losing, and regaining, weight in between roles for Rush and Thor: Dark World.
14 Chris Pratt - Guardians of the Galaxy
One of the most interesting things about Chris Pratt is the way he goes back forth between body images for a role.
When he left Parks in Recreation to star in the film Moneyball, he lost weight, but then later worked to regain that weight upon returning to Parks and Recreation. However, this pattern continued when he lost weight again to play a Navy Seal in Zero Dark Thirty, only to put on 60 pounds for the film Delivery Man.
When the time came for him to adopt the role of Star-Lord, Pratt was required to lose weight fast. After the most arduous physical training of his life, Pratt finally succeeded in transforming himself into the image of Star Lord.
It is truly unbelievable how far Pratt goes with his weight swings from one role to another.
13 Ryan Reynolds - Blade: Trinity
Prior to his Blade: Trinity days, Ryan Reynolds admits to living in a very unhealthy lifestyle. However, that all changed when he was chosen to play Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity.
To prepare for the role, Reynolds was required to follow a six-day a week workout regimen and subsist on 3200-calorie diet. In three months, Reynolds acquired 25 additional pounds of muscle.
Not only did the experience of prepping for Hannibal King make him stronger, it also inspired Reynolds to challenge his limits.
Since, then he has gone to take on numerous physical challenges such as running a marathon and being asked to play superhero roles like Deadpool. If it were not for Marvel casting him as Hannibal King, the Reynolds we know today might never have come to exist.
12 Hugh Jackman - X-Men Franchise
Since the beginning of the X-Men franchise, Hugh Jackman sported a physique suited for the role of Logan, aka Wolverine. However, when you compare his current appearance, with the one he had at the start of the franchise, there is a noticeable difference.
It was not easy for Jackman to get the body he has know. In addition to following a strict diet, Jackman also had to train six months for every X-Men movie over the course of a 17-year contract.
His recurring role as Wolverine has also made him somewhat of a professional expert when it comes to body building. Many actors turn to him for advice on how to obtain the perfect body.
It’s hard to believe that Jackman’s acting origins were originally based in theater.
11 Chris Evans - Captain America
When it comes to preparing for a superhero role, Chris Evans is no stranger to the expectations that Marvel demands of its actors. Prior to being in Captain America, Evans also got himself into shape for the role of Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four.
However, to compare Evans' portrayal of Johnny Storm to his portrayal of Steve Rogers, is like comparing night to day.
Even Evans himself confirmed that getting ready for to play Captain America was difficult. According to an interview with Men’s Health, Evan’s described the workout as so intense, that he would find “any excuse possible not to go.” Yet still he persevered through the pain for his role. His workout consisted of incorporating workouts targeting a variety of muscle groups, as well as a high in protein diet, with a steady supply of carbohydrates.
10 Robert Downey Jr. - Iron Man
As the oldest entry on this list, you’d think Robert Downey Jr. would be taking it easy with his workouts. However, you’d be wrong.
Despite his age, Downey Jr. is in the best shape of his life. According to Men’s Fitness, since 2003, he has adapted Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun technique into his daily routine.
When the news came that he would be playing Iron Man, Downey Jr. needed to up his workout regimen.
In addition to his Wing Chun training, Downey Jr. also added in some weightlifting to his workouts. After months of training Downey Jr. acquired his Iron Man physique with an additional 25 pounds of muscle. Not only is he in the best shape of his life, his new bod also happens to be a hit with the ladies.
9 Dave Bautista - Guardians of the Galaxy
As a semi-retired professional wrestler/MMA fighter, Dave Bautista is as fit as they come. So, when it comes to his role as Drax the Destroyer, his changes tend to lean more towards the artistic.
In an interview with Business Insider, professional makeup artist David White explains how it originally took five hours to turn Bautista into Drax. The process involves brush spraying Bautista with a chemical and medical adhesive mix to attach prosthetic pieces of Drax’s skin onto his body. This is followed by the artists sequentially applying paint to Drax’s tattoos. Finally, they are sealed with a fixative to endure the filming process.
Co-star Chris Pratt explains that this process requires Bautista to remain immobile while standing up for hours each day.
Though not on the same level as the other entries, Bautista contributes his fair share of physical effort when it comes to changing his appearance.
8 Rebecca Romijn - X-Men
Much like Bautista, Rebecca Romijn required quite a bit of time to apply her makeup to play Mystique. However, unlike Bautista, Romijn’s process was nearly twice as exhaustive.
In the first X-Men film, transforming Romijn into Mystique required eight hours of non-stop make-up application. In other words, Romijn began make-up application at midnight every day so that she could make it to the set before 9 AM.
Romijn also describes the painting process as slightly uncomfortable, explaining that she needed to adopt some “fairly awkward positions” to help the makeup artists apply the blue body paint, and silicone scales onto her body.
Despite the awkward moments, Romijn explains that the eight-hour process of turning into Mystique was crucial to her character. In an interview, she states that “nine hours of make-up makes you the villain you need to be to be Mystique.”
7 Andrew Garfield - Amazing Spider-Man
Prepping for his role as Spider-Man was no walk in the park for Andrew Garfield. For four months, Garfield devoted seven hours a day to training to become the next Spider-Man. Though it was a very demanding experience, he pulled through with the help of trainer Armando Alarcon. In the sequel, he devoted ten months of training to get into shape.
Following his training, Garfield’s appearance has become a stark contrast to his former appearances in films like Never Let Me Go.
However, Garfield has expressed that there were downsides to working out his body. He initially describes it a being an empowering experience. Although, he also admits that the experience was also an existential dilemma, and described it as a “very confusing time in my life.”
6 Paul Rudd - Ant-Man
Rudd’s initial appearance is far from what it is today. Upon learning that he would starring as Scott Lang in Ant-Man, Rudd immediately got to work on his superhero transformation.
Rudd chose to work with CrossFit BMF, a training facility responsible for training other Marvel actors like Scarlet Johansson and Chris Hemsworth. Under the guidance of his trainers Brendan Johnston, and Richard Louis, Rudd pushed himself to surpass his limits. From there he not only transformed just for the sake of his role, but for himself as well.
In the end, Rudd’s efforts bore fruit. In addition to looking like a superhero, Rudd also possesses the athleticism, and power of one too.
All in all, not bad for the third oldest person on the list.
5 Charlie Cox - Daredevil
Even though his acting career is shorter compared to the other entries, Charlie Cox’s transformation into Daredevil is nonetheless impressive. For Cox, filming a TV show like Daredevil takes up to a minimum of nine months. As a result, Cox sought out help from professional trainer Naqam Washington to get him into proper shape.
However, according to an interview with Business Insider, Cox reveals that before Daredevil, he didn’t have really work out much.
Thus, his lack of a physical lifestyle forced him to step up his training with Washington. Washington chose both MMA and kickboxing styles, as the most ideal to train Cox to keep up with the flexible, high paced action style Daredevil is known for. Eventually, Cox’s training bore fruit and showed promising results during the filming of Daredevil.
4 Aaron Taylor-Johnson - Avengers: Age of Ultron
Fans of Aaron Taylor-Johnson may remember him from his other superhero role, David “Dave” Lizewski in Kick-Ass. Nowadays, he is most well known for having brought life to Pietro Maximoff, aka Quicksilver, in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Despite playing a hero in Kick-Ass, Taylor-Johnson did not really bulk up for his role. This changed in the sequel, Kick-Ass 2, where he underwent high-intensity weight training. His training delivered the expected results of a muscular, yet lean physique.
When he was approached to play the role of Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron, he went to work preparing a new work out routine.
The new training schedule, which focused on his chest, arms and legs, proved useful to prep him during filming, where he was required to perform numerous running and sprinting tests.
3 Tom Holland - Spider-Man: Homecoming
Despite his age, it's astonishing to see Holland’s sport such a ripped physique in Spider-Man: Homecoming. It seems almost impossible to fathom that he was once the skinny, nerdy kid from the film The Impossible.
A major contribution to his current appearance was facilitated by a drive for challenging work, as well as long history in both dancing and gymnastics. It was also thanks to these skills which he demonstrated during his audition for Civil War that helped him to get the part.
In addition to his prior experience, Holland also looked to adopt a new work out routine. He chose to center his workout routine around the field of boxing. He has even been known to practice with his stunt-double Holland Diaz, to improve his hand/eye coordination.
2 Bradley Cooper - Guardians of the Galaxy
Although most would consider this entry as more of a technicality, it would honestly be kind of a crime not to include it.
If there was a gold medal for actors who change their appearance for a film, then Bradley Cooper may be in the lead to take home the gold.
Instead of his usual appearance, Cooper’s image is instead replaced with a walking, talking gun wielding raccoon. The one responsible for creating Rocket’s movements is Sean Gunn, brother of director James Gunn. However, Cooper is the one responsible for providing the voice that ignites the spark that breathes life into Rocket’s feisty spirit.
The process required for Bradley to voice Rocket is long and extensive. Yet, it is worth it to watch Cooper bring one of the MCU’s best characters to life.
1 Karen Gillan - Guardians of the Galaxy
Karen Gillan went to great lengths for her role as Nebula. Firstly, Gillan focused on gaining some muscle to play Nebula. In addition, to working out and subsisting on a high protein diet, Gillan also gained experience in her fight training.
Sure enough, her fight training was beyond intense. At Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con, she jokes about how she practiced each of her routines until they became second-nature, even if she had to do it “six thousand times”.
Finally, Gillan completely changed her look to fit Nebula’s. This includes putting one make-up, her prosthetics, and even shaving her head (which she describes as a liberating experience).
In the end, Gillian’s efforts were worth all the effort, as she successfully transitions from her cheerful personality, and adopts the ruthless and feared identity of Nebula.
Which of these surprised you most? Let us know in the comments!