People joke about actresses having to live on a diet of kale, dehydrated water, and intense fantasies of sniffing a single chicken wing, but maintaining a figure that looks incredible in a movie involves a lot more than just denying yourself every possible pleasure. So if you're feeling bad about skipping the gym this week/lifetime, you can console yourself with the knowledge that looking the way beautiful people do onscreen is really, really hard.
Rob McElhenney put on 50 pounds for the seventh season of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia solely on the basis of "It would be funny." And if you can look beyond the health concerns of a man shoving 5,000 calories into his mouth daily to give himself a Santabod, it was. The month after the season wrapped, he dropped 23 pounds simply by not eating as much (click through to this interview if, for some reason, you want to learn about how all this affected his penis). Then, when the 13th season rolled around, it was time to innovate again, so McElhenney took Mac in the other direction and got jacked instead.
Dwayne "The Fast & Furious Guy Who Used To Wrestle" Johnson's box office appeal does not come from subtle performances in nuanced family dramas. He makes a very good living convincing people to pay to see him punch helicopters apart. And to do that, he needs to maintain a physique normally acquired by pushing all a video game's character creation sliders to their extremes.
As of 2015, Dwayne "Nine-Time Slammy Award Winner" Johnson was eating seven meals a day that added up to over 5,000 calories (and also spending massive amounts of time exercising, lest he end up looking like Season 7 Mac). A typical day's consumption included a dozen eggs, two potatoes, rice, vegetables, chicken, steak, and 2.3 pounds of cod. FiveThirtyEight estimated that he was eating $1,400 worth of cod a year, and we estimate that he was desperately looking for ways to freshen up the experience, be it through cod and cheese, codshakes, or intravenous cod injections.
Hugh Jackman played Wolverine for 17 years, and if the character had one consistent trait throughout various timelines, it was that he was absolutely jacked. Despite an in-universe diet consisting primarily of beer, whiskey, and any bullets he accidentally swallows, Wolverine perpetually looks like he could go win a bodybuilding competition whenever he gets done stabbing people. And for Logan, Jackman attained that look by cutting water.
Cutting water is like trying to be a ripped camel. You chug around three gallons of water a day in preparation, and then once you're good and liquided up, you cut all fluids from your diet for 36 hours. Oh, sure, Jackson also maintained excellent health before embarking on a three-month diet and exercise regimen that would destroy us, but the water cut is a final step that sheds a few more pounds and really makes your muscles pop (through your dried-out, semi-mummified flesh).
20th Century Fox
This is a common strategy among bodybuilders, who absolutely shouldn't be doing it, because most don't have access to the elite medical care at Jackman's disposal should something go wrong. There are relatively safe and sane approaches to the tactic, but ultimately, you're still trying to give yourself a competitive edge by making yourself miserable (and forcing yourself to pee like every 20 minutes). Jackman even went out of his way to caution audiences not to emulate him during the press junket for Logan, and while the man could still kick our asses today, we can't imagine that he was sad to see the character finally buy the X-Farm if it meant he could eat a brownie now and then instead of having to dehydrate himself.
Anne Hathaway was given the rare honor of a non-terrible Catwoman role, but in return, she had to pay the terrible price of torturing her body and soul until she fit into a wildly impractical leather fetish suit. Because we expect many of our female action heroes to kick ass while also looking like they could win a beauty pageant, Hathaway was stuck with 1,500-1,800 calories a day (the average woman takes in 2,000).
Warner Bros. Pictures
Hathaway is vegetarian, so imagine Selina Kyle coming back home from a long day of burglary and Bane-foiling to nosh on some almonds, sesame seeds, miso soup, and maybe, if she had really earned a treat, a yam. Hathaway also had five days a week of working out, stunt training, and dance class, but giving up taste and free time paid off when media outlets declared that she was in "purr-fect shape." Ugh, you know what? When that happened, we all should have acknowledged that celebrity body standards were a mistake and just crammed Danny DeVito into a Catwoman outfit instead.
Henry Cavill's earliest roles were on the extremely British Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Midsomer Murders, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips, which didn't require any significant physicality from him, beyond being able to execute an absolutely withering sneer when served subpar crumpets. But then he started picking up roles that required increasing swoleness, until he was gifted with the swolest role of all: Superman.
According to what we can only assume are the unbiased Cavill scholars of henrycavill.org, playing America's greatest hero required sacrifice beyond learning how to sound far less sophisticated. There was once again a daily diet of up to 5,000 calories, although Cavill at least had some variety, thanks to pancakes, protein shakes, chicken and turkey, tuna, oatmeal, and a variety of vegetables, which we're starting to suspect are better for you than the chips and dip we eat because they have "onion" in the name.
Warner Bros. Pictures
Cavill also trained with Mark Twight, a mountain climber turned trainer to the stars who brags that his gym offers all the comforts of a Siberian prison camp. That may only be marketing hype, but he did call his gym "Gym Jones" and claim that his favorite drink is Flavor Aid, so he might also be crazy. Anyway, Cavill's workout was an intense regimen featuring endless weightlifting, the horrors of CrossFit, and some bizarre combination of rowing and kettlebell lifting dubbed "The Tailpipe." It was designed to work him to exhaustion (see Twight potentially being a lunatic, earlier in this paragraph). Cavill was in the gym five days a week, working hard to get every body part that might potentially flit across the camera looking like it could belong to an alien god.
It all sounds exhausting, but at least it wasn't really new for Cavill, as he'd previously had to become more muscle than man for Immortals, a hit film everyone who's anyone knows so well that it would be pointless to elaborate on it further. And surely all the hard work and sacrifice and giving up of his Skyrim time was worth it when Cavill got to play Superman in, uh, three absolutely garbage movies beloved only by people incapable of comprehending this sentence. But then he got to dominate discussion of a Mission: Impossible trailer solely by showing off his arms, so it all worked out in the end.
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Bawitdaba, pass the green beans.
It's hard out there for millionaire purveyors of garbage pizza.