Today: May 20, 2024

Best Actress Transformations

Truly great actresses are able to become their characters, alter their image and inhabit their personalities as we forget they’re a movie star and focus on the story that is being told on screen. Dropping the glitz and glamour of their A-list lifestyle and diving headfirst into a role that requires a physical change in their appearance always grabs headlines. Last year Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto shocked audiences with their dramatic weight loss in Dallas Buyer Club, but this year the spotlight is on Jennifer Aniston as she joins the elite group of actresses who have undertaken a drastic transformation to do a character justice.

To celebrate Jennifer Aniston’s critically-acclaimed performance in Cake, we take a look at the top actresses who have changed their appearance for a film role.

Charlize Theron: Monster
The South African-born beauty took on the chilling role of real life serial killer Aileen Wuornos, a former prostitute from Florida who murdered six men in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Theron was virtually unrecognisable as Wuornos after gaining 30lbs and undergoing a serious makeunder. This convicing transformation and Theron’s menancing performance earned her an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

Mariah Carey: Precious
Precious tells the story of an iliterate and abused teenager in Harlem, New York who, whilst pregnant with her second child, decides to take her life in a better direction far away from her damaging parents. Mariah Carey starred as Precious’ dowdy social worker, complete with huge bags under her eyes and even a faint mustache. This was a shock to audiences all over the world as Carey’s look was a world away from the glamourous diva we’re all used to seeing.

Nicole Kidman: The Hours
Sometimes with actress transformations you can recognise familiar features, but in The Hours Nicole Kidman looks like a completely different person. The Australian actress expertly portrays renowned British writer Virginia Woolf, alongside a stellar cast including Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore. Kidman underwent three hours of makeup every day to achieve the optimum appearance, including the application of a prosthetic nose and the alteration of her eye shape, which helped her bag an BAFTA, Oscar and Golden Globe for her performance.

Anne Hathway: Les Miserables
Anne Hathaway plays tragic heroine Fantine in the blockbuster musical where audiences actually see the transformation take place on the screen, as the talented actress’s hair is shaved off before their eyes. Earning her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, Hathaway goes from factory worker beauty to lowly prostitute in a brutal and emotional twenty minutes.

Glenn Close: Albert Nobbs
Cross-dressing is another form of transformation on the big screen and it’s tricky to find a better example than Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs. The Fatal Attraction star plays Nobbs, a woman living as a man in strict 19th Century Ireland. Nobb’s assumes a male identity so she can work in Dublin’s poshest hotel in the hope that one day she’ll have enough money to lead a better life.

Jennifer Aniston: Cake
Arguably better known for her lighter roles, Jennifer Aniston delivers a stunning, moving and darkly comic performance in Cake, which arrives in cinemas February 20. The Friends star plays Claire Simmons, a woman suffering from chronic pain after a harrowing accident who now winces with each tentative step. With scars that line her body, Jennifer Aniston’s performance is emotional, raw and unlike anything you’ve seen before – making Cake a must see film this February.


Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email:

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