Actors Who Transformed for Roles, Became Unrecognizable This Year

Skarsgård told USA Today that acting normally while weighed down by a prosthetic suit was “pretty hard.”

Stellan Skarsgard at a film festival.


Stellan Skarsgård.

Christoph Soeder/picture alliance via Getty Images

“You set your mind to just accept it,” he said of sitting in the makeup chair. “Don’t panic and sit still, watch the experts paint every vein by hand. It’s quite fascinating.”

Jessica Chastain underwent a dramatic transformation as Tammy Faye Bakker in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”

Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker


Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”

Searchlight Pictures

Chastain covered herself with the dark bronzer and thick foundation characteristic of Tammy’s late-’90s style.

Chastain said the “heavy and hot” makeup she wore, which took 7.5 hours to apply, did “permanent damage” to her skin.

jessica chastain


Jessica Chastain.


Chastain “freaked out” when she saw herself in full hair and makeup during the first screen test, she told The Los Angeles Times in August.

“I was like, ‘I don’t know how to act like this.’ People think it’s easier, but it’s not. You have to reach through the makeup — you can’t let the makeup be the performance,” she said.

Andra Day lost 40 pounds, cut her hair, and began smoking to more closely resemble Billie Holiday in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”

Andra Day Billie Holiday


Andra Day as Billie Holiday in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”


“It was a pretty significant transformation,” Day told Vogue of becoming Holiday.

Day said that she starved herself in order to lose weight for the role.

Andra Day at the 2018 Oscars.


Andra Day.

VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

“To be honest with myself, it is not great to say, I did starve myself a lot when I was on set,” Day told Entertainment Tonight in February. “I am fast and Billie is like molasses. So cigarettes slowed me down, alcohol slowed me down, starvation slowed me down, not sleeping slowed me down and I needed it.”

Lady Gaga’s own hair and makeup team helped age her for her portrayal of Patrizia Reggiani in “House of Gucci.”

Lady Gaga pointing to her ring


Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani in “House of Gucci.”


Instead of prosthetics, Gaga’s creative team relied on permed wigs and makeup to help age the star.

“She said, ‘I don’t want to see Gaga on screen,'” Gaga’s hair stylist Frederic Aspiras told Variety in November. “It sounds easy, but it wasn’t. It was ultimately about the slightest nuances.”

Gaga described her trailer on set as a “science lab” full of 15 wigs.

Lady Gaga in a purple dress


Lady Gaga.

John Phillips/Getty

“There were murals and murals of Patrizia and all of her looks over the years, but what was really important to me was that her heart shined through … and that when you were watching this film and you saw her you weren’t seeing her clothes, you were seeing her,” she told InStyle in November.

It took Jared Leto 3.5 hours to put on the bald head and prosthetics to become Paolo Gucci in “House of Gucci.”

Jared Leto in "House of Gucci."


Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci in “House of Gucci.”

United Arts Releasing

“It was more important to me that Jared looked believable — we didn’t get stuck too much on Paolo’s look, because Jared has completely different bone structure,” Leto’s makeup artist Göran Lundström told The Hollywood Reporter. “I just tried to get the personality of Paolo in there.”

Leto is known as an actor who immerses himself in roles.

Jared Leto in a gold suit and fur coat


Jared Leto.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Among his previous transformations, he gained almost 70 pounds to play Mark David Chapman, the man who killed John Lennon, for “Chapter 27” in 2008, and he lost 40 pounds to play an HIV-positive transgender woman, Rayon, in “Dallas Buyers Club” in 2013. The role, while deemed a controversial casting decision by some, won him an Academy Award.

“When you make that kind of commitment, there’s something that happens. You’re compelled to dig even deeper, to work even harder, to discover something more rewarding and richer,” he told Entertainment Weekly in November.

Sarah Paulson was unrecognizable as Linda Tripp in “Impeachment: American Crime Story.”

Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp in "Impeachment: American Crime Story"


Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp in “Impeachment: American Crime Story.”

Kurt Iswarienko/FX

It took Paulson around 3.5 hours to transform into Tripp on set.

Paulson told the Los Angeles Times that she regretted wearing a fat suit to play the part and “wouldn’t make the same choice going forward.”

Getty Images sarah pauls oj simpson fx


Sarah Paulson.

Getty Images

Paulson gained 30 pounds to play Tripp, but she garnered criticism for also wearing an extra 4.5 pounds of padding. She told The Los Angeles Times in August that it’s “very hard for” her to talk about wearing a fat suit “without feeling like I’m making excuses,” adding that she thinks the controversy over her wearing extra padding is “legitimate.”

“I think fat phobia is real,” she told the publication. “I think to pretend otherwise causes further harm. And it is a very important conversation to be had.”

Analeigh Ashford wore a prosthetic nose in her portrayal of Paula Jones in “Impeachment: American Crime Story.”

Analeigh Ashford as Paula Jones in "Impeachment: American Crime Story."


Analeigh Ashford in “Impeachment: American Crime Story.”


Ashford told Glamour that it took her three hours to get into hair and makeup to play Jones.

“There was something about her spirit that came so naturally to me,” Ashford said of playing Jones.

Analeigh Ashford in 2020.


Annaleigh Ashford.

Dominik Bindl/Getty Images

“What’s really fascinating is that even though her hair changed and she got braces and had a nose job, she always had the same mascara and eyeliner,” Ashford told Glamour. “I felt like her eye makeup grounded her in this kind of sweet, special way, and her accent and her cadence and the timbre of her voice also really stayed kind of consistent through all those years. Those were things that I focused on.”

Farmiga said wearing a prosthetic nose for the role was her idea.

Vera Farmiga at the Hawkeye premiere.


Vera Farmiga.

Amy Sussman/WireImage/Getty Images

“I asked if I could tweak my face with minimal prosthetics to honor the incredible, beautiful, angular bone structure that supported Livia’s angular, aggressive, sharp traits,” Farmiga told Rolling Stone. “Livia is a character that has many, many sharp angles, and very few curves.”

Kumail Nanjiani trained for a full year to gain muscle for his role as Kingo in “The Eternals.”

Kumail Nanjiani dressed as a superhero named Kingo in "Eternals."


Kumail Nanjiani in “Eternals.”

Sophie Mutevelian/Marvel Studios

“I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t have a full year with the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world,” Nanjiani wrote on Instagram when he revealed his transformation for filming in 2019. He added, “It would have been impossible without these resources and time.”

The film was finally released this year.

“If I’m playing the first South Asian superhero, I want to look like someone who can take on Thor or Captain America, or any of those people,” he told USA Today in October. “I was like, I want this to be believable. I want to feel that kind of powerful in this role.”

Emma Stone wore black and white wigs and heavy makeup to play Cruella De Vil in Disney’s “Cruella.”

cruella emma stone


Emma Stone as Cruella De Vil in “Cruella.”

Laurie Sparham/Disney

“I took a photo of Emma the first time we did the full Cruella look — the full make-up, nails, and the wig,” Nadia Stacey, the film’s hair and makeup designer, told Elle. “When you look at it you can see this naughtiness, almost evil, in her eyes. She just became Cruella straight away.”

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