zoe saldana gamora josh brolin
Source: Instagram

13 Marvel Stars and Their Dramatic Transformations to Get Into Character


Feb. 1 2021, Updated 3:08 p.m. ET

Sometimes method acting doesn't always go as planned. You can have the ability to drop weight like a college wrestler on diuretics, but if you don't know how to effectively do anything with the role, then your work is probably going to be for naught. Just ask Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson who dropped 54 pounds for All Things Fall Apart. Don't remember it? Well, that's probably because the indie project didn't get much love from audiences.

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Films that do get a lot of love, however, are anything, Marvel. It seems like the studio can do no wrong: from universally adored films like Thor: Ragnarok, to lesser-known heroes and not-so-celebrated flicks like Captain Marvel, Disney's hero-owned franchises make bank at the box office.

And it seems like the actors who are partaking in these flicks know they've got the chance of the lifetime on their hands and treat it as such.

Playing superheroes are a big, big deal, not just because of the life and career-changing implications, but also because of the responsibility it takes to actually looking like a hero. Whether that's undergoing a ridiculous body transformation, spending hours in a makeup chair, or going to other great lengths off-camera to embrace the role, here are how some Marvel who put in a ton of work to fully embrace their character.

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Robert Downey Jr. for 'Iron Man'.

iron man rdj

Seeing RDJ in Avengers next to some super jacked dudes like Chris Hemsworth and Evans, and a CIG behemoth like Hulk, it's easy to forget that the man who was credited for helping to kick off the entire MCU actually got himself into pretty darn good shape. A longtime Wing Chun practitioner, RDJ was reportedly only 151 pounds for the first Iron Man flick, but went up to 175 pounds for the second movie.

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Personal trainer Brad Bose delineates his strategy for RDJ: "We didn't want him to get ripped to shreds or look like a bodybuilder because his character is a playboy millionaire. He needed muscles that looked full and functional. I wanted him to be constantly challenged: it's the only way to stay interested and motivated and ready to push yourself that bit harder. We decided on using equipment such as kettlebells and Indian clubs that require a good deal of skill, so you always have to give 100 percent to ensure that you are progressing," Bose said.

Paul Bettany as Vision.

paul bettany vision
Source: Marvel
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Paul had to spend a whopping 3 hours in the makeup chair prior to going on camera for Age of Ultron so directors could bring Vision to life. But that's not all, the way his costume was designed made for what the English actor calls an "isolating" experience in his interview with Business Insider. The mask that goes over his ears prevented him from hearing well, plus, there was the fact that his full-body costume necessitated liquid cooling, like Thor's.

Kumail Nanjiani for 'The Eternals'.

kunail nanijiani
Source: 20th Century Fox | Instagram
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Comedians aren't usually uber-jacked, in fact, they're usually the opposite. But there are some exceptions, like Joe Rogan, and Kumail Nanjiani. The Stuber star played on the meek, nerd stereotype quite well in the buddy-action flick starring another Marvel mega star, former WWE standout-turned-legitimately-great-actor Dave Bautista.

Kumail debuted his new body in a ridiculous thirst trap photo on Instagram and it looks like he's only getting in better and better shape as time progresses. he got uber-ripped for Marvel's The Eternals, an origin flick of sorts that tells the story of a race of immortal God-like characters from the Marvel universe who helped turn Earth into what it is.

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Tom Holland becoming an acrobat to play Spider-Man.

Holland was always fairly active as a child, taking an interest in dance from a young age after watching a Janet Jackson music video. He also participated in gymnastics classes, a passion of his that he took even further when he discovered he was in the running for the role of Peter Parker in Spiderman. The young actor made his debut in Captain America: Civil War, teaming up with Tony Stark's group of heroes.

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Holland has posted plenty of videos of his training routines and montages, showing off his athletic prowess, showing just how dedicated he was to fully embody the web-slinger's agility both on and off-camera.

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow.

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black widow
Source: Marvel

Playing covert special agent Natasha Romanoff in Avengers comes with its own set of challenges: she's basically Captain America but with Guns, so there isn't a lot of CGI trickery to rely on for her stunts. Scarlett didn't just pack on glamour muscles for the role though, she had to adopt an athletic performance routine. Her trainer, Eric Johnson said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, "We treated the process like an athlete preparing for competition. By placing more emphasis on her performance, her physique just followed."

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Mark Ruffalo becoming the Hulk.

mark ruffalo
Source: Marvel

Major Hollywood studios have been able to create some absolutely incredible worlds out of just CGI and green-screen, and it's not just superhero flicks that are utilizing VFX, either. However, Marvel Studios is definitely one of the biggest VFX players in the world and their acumen can be seen in full effect with the transformation Mark Ruffalo undergoes every movie to play the Hulk, a process he called "humiliating" in an interview with GQ as per The Independent.

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mark ruffalo
Source: Marvel

"I’ve done so much motion capture. I have to wear what I call the man-canceling suit, which is this really tight leotard that makes you look big where you want to look small and small where you want to look big. It was so humiliating, and all the actors, whenever I walked on set, would just start laughing at me because they were in their cool superhero costumes and I’m wearing these ridiculous pajamas that made me look like a Chinese checkerboard."

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Chris Hemsworth as Thor.

Chris Hemsworth is never not in shape, even when he's playing characters who are supposed to be "everymen", like 2010's Cash, the guy's always been pretty fit. But he takes that to entirely new heights whenever he's prepping for a Thor role, and he seems to only be getting bigger whenever he tackles on a new role for Marvel's Nordic hero. Plus, he's clearly enjoying the different looks for the hero, like his new get-up for Thor: Love and Thunder.

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Josh Brolin as Cable/Thanos.

josh brolin thanos
Source: Marvel

Brolin had roles as not one but two iconic Marvel characters when he played both the CGI Mad Titan and Deadpool's foe-then-friend Cable (future son of Cyclops). For his Role as the Purple-Population-Destroyer, he had to wear a "man-cancelling suit" just like Mark Ruffalo, and in order to get the other actors' eye levels correct, he acted all of his scenes with a giant Thanos head floating above his own head.

How anyone kept a straight face while he walked around looking like that is utterly remarkable.

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His body transformation for Cable was also out of this world. Sticking to a high protein, low-carb diet, working out for 2-3 hours a day ended up putting Brolin in ridiculous shape for Deadpool 2. The actor shrugged off accusations of steroid use, saying that if he was on gear, he'd totally tell people as there aren't any professional consequences for him in doing so.

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Chris Pratt as Star Lord.

star lord shirtless
Source: NBC | Marvel

Chris Pratt's career is defined by some pretty remarkable character shifts. For example, his "deadbeat boyfriend" character in Parks & Rec wasn't supposed to make it out of Season 1, but he was so much fun to work with, his role on the show extended to one of the most beloved characters on the series. After that, he was nabbing high-profile roles in other flicks until he landed on the role of Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy.

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Fans of the actor were shocked to see their beloved Andy Dwyer pack on so much muscle and lean out, and Pratt began to take on other big-budget leading man roles in Jurassic World and Passengers, not to mention Guardians 2 other Avengers flicks.

Zoe Saldana as Gamora.

zoe saldana gamora
Source: Instagram
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Zoe revealed that it took three hours of extensive makeup work to get her ready to play Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, but for the first flick it took about five hours total, before artists were able to streamline their processes. Back in 2017, she posted a timelapse of her time in hair and makeup condensing 3 hours into 38 seconds.

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Paul Rudd for Ant-Man.

paul rudd
Source: Marvel | Universal

Again, comedians aren't necessarily known for being in great shape, and Paul Rudd was rocking was many would call a "dad bod" prior to taking on the role of Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man. Playing a cat burglar who was a master of infiltration who eventually needed to be able to master using a special size manipulation suit powered by the Pym particle required a fortified frame, something that Rudd enlisted the help of nutritionist Carlon Coker and fitness trainer Richard Louis.

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The NY-based trainer told Men's Journal: "I’ll be honest—I didn’t know who Paul was before I started working with him. The first couple of sessions we did together were rough, but Paul came back every time ready to put in the work. I don’t know if people realize what it takes to get the results he did."

Chris Evans as Captain America.

chris evans cellular captain america
Source: New Line Cinema | Marvel
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Chris Evans' physical transformation for Captain America: The First Avenger has become the stuff of legend. Not only did the man manage to get even more muscular than he already was, but for that pivotal scene, after Steve Rogers is given the super-soldier serum and emerges from the chamber and Peggy Carter beholds his physique for the first time, he did what a lot of actors do on camera for maximum muscularity.

Like bodybuilders, there's a certain amount of dehydration that takes place before shooting these scenes, so the muscles "pop" more. Then actors will "pump" their muscles by performing a few push ups or curling some weights in between takes. Whatever Chris did for this particular scene, it worked. Hayley Atwell (who played Peggy) was so taken aback by his muscles, she impulsively had to touch his chest to make sure what she was seeing was real.

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Karen Gillan as Nebula.

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Source: YouTube

Karen spent a whopping four hours and 15 minutes on average and sometimes more to suit up as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy. Not only that, but the entire process also had another effect on the actress: she had to shave and/or drastically cut her hair, something that was mitigated somewhat for the sequel.

She spoke to Screenrant about the process: "So we've gotten it down to about two and a half hours. And it was five on the last film, so I am happy [and I only had to remove] Half of it. I'm half bald under here. So from here to here, it's shaved and then the top is, you know, I have hair. So we met in the middle."

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