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Actors Who Refused To Get Ripped For Roles

It's fairly common in the entertainment industry for actors to go above and beyond in preparation for their roles. Whether it's through learning how to sing, perfecting a historical figure's accent, or in some extreme cases, refusing medical treatment that isn't period-accurate (we're looking at you, Daniel Day-Lewis), there aren't many things actors won't do to deliver a great performance. However, in some isolated incidents, actors and actresses have refused to do one simple but transformative method of preparation: exercise.

There are many stories of actors who put themselves through the turmoil of an extreme workout routine to take on a physically demanding role. Brie Larson famously chronicled her fitness regime in preparation for "Captain Marvel" on her social media pages, while more recently, Zac Efron completely disappeared into the role of wrestler Kevin von Erich for A24's "The Iron Claw." 

But not every actor wants to physically challenge themselves for a nigh-impossible superhero physique. Sometimes, they forgo exercise for artistic purposes, believing their characters shouldn't be ultra-thin or beefy. Other times, actors are just not willing to look past the dubious methods that Hollywood has for encouraging actors to lose weight and get shredded. Sometimes, too, actors are simply proud of the way they look without any training. These 12 actors all stood their ground and made the choice not to get ripped for roles, and for some, it may have cost them the part altogether. 

Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage is quite notorious in Hollywood for his commitment to the roles he plays. Whether it's playing Dracula in "Renfield" or a fictionalized version of himself in "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent," Cage takes his work incredibly seriously. However, the one thing he takes even more seriously than the preparation for some roles is the cost it will have on his physical health. This was a primary reason why he backed away from Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler."

While Aronofsky always envisioned Mickey Rourke in the titular role, there was a period of development where studios were more interested in seeing Cage play the part of a professional wrestler at the end of his career. As Cage alleged, he turned the project down due to his own perception of how much preparation the role would require, telling Access Hollywood (via TODAY), "I didn't think I had enough time to achieve the look of the wrestler who was on steroids, which I would never do."

Rourke's preparation was no easy feat, as he later alleged he worked with a personal trainer on cardio, weightlifting, and wrestling practice for months before shooting began. It's no surprise Cage wasn't willing to put in that amount of effort for a role that ultimately wasn't written for him. 

Ryan Gosling

It's hard to imagine there was ever a time in Hollywood when Ryan Gosling wasn't the type of movie star everyone wanted to work with. But in the late 2000s, things got a bit rough for the future Ken. Gosling was set to star in Peter Jackson's 2009 fantasy drama "The Lovely Bones," playing the father of Saoirse Ronan's character, a teenage girl murdered by her neighbor who helps her family solve it from the afterlife. However, Gosling ended up getting fired from the film due to disagreements he had with Jackson. Those disagreements were all about the character's physical appearance.

Gosling later explained to The Hollywood Reporter that he and Jackson "had a different idea of how the character should look ... I really believed he should be 210 pounds." Behind Jackson's back, Gosling spent the film's pre-production process gaining 60 pounds, which he mostly achieved through drinking melted Haagen-Dazs ice cream. When Gosling showed up for the first day of filming, Jackson fired him for the unapproved weight gain. "Then I was fat and unemployed," Gosling joked.

The role ended up going to Mark Wahlberg, but Gosling's efforts to gain weight rather than get shredded didn't go to waste. When Austin Butler was preparing for his critically acclaimed performance as Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann's 2022 biopic, he took his cues from Gosling and also began drinking Haagen-Dazs to play an older, heavier King of Rock 'n' Roll. 

Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham quickly became a household name after the premiere of her HBO comedy series "Girls," which ran for six seasons between 2012 and 2017. The show notably launched the careers of future stars like Adam Driver, Allison Williams, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach, but it was Dunham who took the brunt of the show's publicity due to its frequent use of nudity. Dunham, who also plays the show's lead, Hannah Horvath, faced rampant body-shaming online during the show's run but refused to turn that criticism into an excuse to prove anybody wrong.

Dunham remained proud of the way she looked on the show, telling America Ferrera at a Tribeca Film Festival panel (via The Advocate), "I think people were so ready to believe that I was jumping past some massive hurdle in order to get naked on television, and I was like, that's not where my fear lies." When Dunham did undergo a noticeable weight loss following the end of "Girls," spurred by the end of her relationship with musician Jack Antonoff, she highlighted online criticism against her as an example of the hardships women in the entertainment industry face.

Lately, Dunham has spoken out about how comfortable she is with her current body image. While she has admitted that the criticism throughout her 20s would often feel overwhelming, she said that it's silly to look back on now.

Sam Worthington

Sam Worthington was one of the biggest action stars of the early 2010s, hot off notable performances in James Cameron's "Avatar," "Terminator Salvation," and the 2010 Greek epic "Clash of the Titans." The latter, directed by Louis Leterrier, was a remake of a 1981 film chronicling the Greek myth of Perseus, featuring Worthington playing the demigod challenged with defeating a Kraken. Worthington reprised his role two years later for a sequel, "Wrath of the Titans," this time directed by Jonathan Liebesman.

For "Wrath of the Titans," Worthington opted to take a different approach to his character. Since Perseus has had a son by the time "Wrath of the Titans" begins, Worthington felt it would be appropriate if, for this adventure, the character sported a dad bod. He told Variety, "I looked at it as Perseus was half a god and half a dad, and he had decided that he didn't want the god part anymore."

As Worthington admits, it was probably careless of him to just show up the first day of shooting without his chiseled physique, as it led to tense arguments among him, Liebesman, and the studio executives who had funneled money into the project. However, unlike Gosling's experience on "The Lovely Bones," at least Worthington didn't get recast.

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence skyrocketed to worldwide fame after portraying Katniss Everdeen in the 2012 film adaptation of the first "The Hunger Games" book. Coincidentally, "The Hunger Games" was also released the same year as "Silver Linings Playbook," in which Lawrence's performance won her the Academy Award for best actress at only 22 years old. Understandably, this was a whole lot of pressure for Lawrence to be placed under in a few short years, but she's thankful she handled the journey with dignity.

Lawrence described in Variety's "Actors on Actors" series with Viola Davis that she discussed her weight after she was cast as Katniss. However, she pushed back against the studio's demands that she exercise to lose weight for the role, saying, "Along with me being young and growing and not able to be on a diet ... I don't know if I want all of the girls who are going to dress up as Katniss to feel like they can't because they're not a certain weight."

Despite Lawrence's insistence that she wouldn't put her body through hell for Katniss, she did fully commit herself to the role in other ways. Her workouts included things that felt more necessary for the role of a woman fighting to survive in a dystopian sport, such as rock climbing, archery lessons, and cardio. She wound up committing to more rigorous exercise, though, for roles in the "X-Men" series and the spy film "Red Sparrow."

Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher is widely regarded as one of the most iconic actors of all time, thanks to her performance as Princess Leia in the original "Star Wars" trilogy from 1977 to 1983. Since she originated the role in a galaxy far, far away, Fisher had a successful career in film up until her sudden passing in 2016, which included roles in "The Blues Brothers" and "When Harry Met Sally...." Throughout those years, Fisher was outspoken about the darker sides of Hollywood, including her own battles with addiction and mental health.

Before she died, Fisher also got to reprise her role as Princess Leia in Disney's "Star Wars" sequel trilogy, starting with 2015's "The Force Awakens." However, Fisher's welcome back to the franchise wasn't as warm as she might've hoped. In the 2016 documentary "Bright Lights," which focuses mainly on Fisher's relationship with her mother, Debbie Reynolds, a 59-year-old Fisher is shown being persuaded into exercising by a personal trainer hired by Disney to prepare her for her appearance in "The Force Awakens."

Fisher, not one to hide her true feelings, made it very known how much she detested being demanded to lose weight for the role, telling The Guardian, "They don't want to hire all of me — only about three-quarters! Nothing changes ... I'm in a business where the only thing that matters is weight and appearance." Thankfully, Fisher didn't let Disney boss her around for too long, and she ended up refilling her pantries with junk food anyway. 

Margot Robbie

2016 was a pivotal year in Margot Robbie's career, as she followed up her breakthrough performances in "The Wolf of Wall Street" and "Focus" years before with a year full of blockbuster films. Along with a hosting stint on "Saturday Night Live," Robbie appeared in "Suicide Squad," "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot," and, notably, "The Legend of Tarzan," in which she played the Jane to Alexander Skarsgård's Tarzan.

Before Robbie transitioned to producing movies, she was already taking charge of her characters and how they'd be portrayed in films like "'The Legend of Tarzan." Robbie was adamant that she didn't want this film's use of Jane to be as a damsel in distress, as the character has often appeared in past "Tarzan" adaptations. She also said that she felt there was no point in the character being as stripped-down as Skarsgård's character and that she was thankful for the rare opportunity to wear more clothes than her co-star.

Robbie said these changes meant she didn't see a point in slimming down or getting fit for the role. This must have been a relief to her, as she told Australia's TV Week (via LADBible), "It was my first time living in London properly and I wanted to try every pub." Skarsgård, on the other hand, trained for eight months to get in shape for "The Legend of Tarzan," so Robbie was smart to avoid similar preparation for a less demanding role — especially when she had to train extensively for "Suicide Squad."

Kirsten Dunst

By the 2010s, Kirsten Dunst was already one of the most iconic actresses of her generation, thanks to her work as a child actress in "Interview with the Vampire," as well as her iconic role as Mary Jane Watson in Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" trilogy. The 2000s also saw the beginning of Dunst's long creative collaboration with director Sofia Coppola, starring in her dramas "The Virgin Suicides" and "Marie Antoinette." Dunst and Coppola reunited for the 2017 period thriller "The Beguiled," based on a 1966 novel by Thomas P. Cullinan, in which she plays the sole teacher at a girls' school in Civil War-era Virginia.

The actress and director, by this point, had an incredibly close relationship, but it was on "The Beguiled" where Dunst had to put her foot down in a rare moment, telling Variety she fought back when Coppola suggested that she lose weight for the role, "It's so much harder when you're 35 and hate working out ... I'm eating fried chicken and McDonald's before work. So I'm like, 'We have no options! I'm sorry I can't lose weight for this role.'"

When Dunst does have to exercise, she also prefers alternative methods than getting shredded through lifting weights, admitting that she prefers fun activities like ballet dancing over diets and restrictive workouts.

Bob Odenkirk

For most of his career, Bob Odenkirk has never been a go-to action hero. The future "Better Call Saul" star got his start as a comedy writer for "Saturday Night Live" before making a name in the sketch world with "Mr. Show" and his collaborations with Tim & Eric. Following his rise to fame playing Saul Goodman in "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul," Odenkirk decided he wanted to try something new with the 2021 action film "Nobody."

Still, it was tough to get taken seriously as Odenkirk prepared for "Nobody." Nevertheless, the actor embarked on a two-year fitness plan with his trainer. As he alleged to The Guardian, even he had certain limits about how far he would go: "I was totally against bulking up ... I didn't want to look like a superhero. I've had friends who do these superhero movies, and they do that kind of weight training, and it's all about their biceps and all that s***. I said: 'I want to do my own fighting, but I also want to look like a dad.'"

As it turns out, this more realistic approach to getting ready for a movie might have saved Odenkirk's life. Notably, the actor suffered a heart attack on the set of "Better Call Saul" during its final season, but he credited the "Nobody" training with keeping him in good health — without that, he said, the heart attack might have been fatal.

David Harbour

David Harbour has never been opposed to undergoing massive physical transformations for roles. He got shredded to play Hellboy, and he also gained and lost weight numerous times for seasons of the Netflix series "Stranger Things." However, when it came to Harbour's introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he took a different approach than others who have had the same opportunity.

In 2021's "Black Widow," Harbour portrayed Alexei Shostakov, aka Red Guardian, a super-soldier created by the Soviet Union as their answer to Captain America. When we meet him in the present-day, Alexei has spent years in Russian prison — but as is often joked about in the film, Alexei's time in prison has not seen him starve, but actually pack on a few pounds. That was Harbour's idea. He told The New York Times the decision came after he had already put on weight and grown his hair out for "Stranger Things," saying, "I was like, 'Let's use the weight.' So I started eating even more. I got up to 280 pounds, and I loved it."

What's impressive is that, for a flashback sequence at the beginning of "Black Widow," Harbour had to slim back down and lose 60 pounds at the very end of production. However, the actor is probably thankful that he gets to reprise his role as Red Guardian in the MCU's "Thunderbolts," as he'll probably get to pack the pounds back on. 

Florence Pugh

David Harbour wasn't the only star of "Black Widow" who eschewed exercise routines. The 2021 film was also the MCU debut for Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova, the adoptive sister of Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff. The role also came shortly after a successful few years for Pugh as a burgeoning star, with "Midsommar" and "Little Women" launching her into A-list movie star status. However, Pugh didn't enter the MCU with naivete.

Smartly, Pugh was wary of the experiences some actors have when they get ripped for a superhero role, informed by some of her own experiences as a young actor. As she explained to Elle, she was direct with Marvel regarding her workouts upon getting the role, saying, "I wanted to know whether it was them or me calling the shots. That was a big deal for me. I didn't want to be part of something where I was constantly checked on. And people making sure I was in the 'right' shape. That's not me at all."

This approach was likely informed by Pugh's experience playing professional wrestler Paige in "Fighting with My Family." She described her fitness routine to prepare for the film as brutal and challenging. While it may have been something she appreciated in order to do her own stunts in that film, there's probably no need for her to go above and beyond for a CGI-filled film like "Black Widow." 

Robert Pattinson

The role of the Dark Knight is no simple feat for any actor, so it makes sense that Robert Pattinson was a little intimidated by the preparation process for Matt Reeves' 2022 film "The Batman." However, Pattinson came into the project with certain expectations already set about how he wanted to play the role and what he wanted to avoid. He described to GQ his aversion to getting super-ripped for any role, saying, "I think if you're working out all the time, you're part of the problem." 

The production process for "The Batman" was even further complicated when everything got shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Warner Bros. provided the actor with meals in quarantine, he ignored his personal trainer's recommendations to continue his routine indoors with a Bosu ball and singular weights. Even his "The Batman" co-star, Zoë Kravitz, kept up her five-days-a-week training regime during lockdown.

What actually interested Pattinson, in terms of his Batman training, was learning martial arts, which he practiced with Brazilian mixed martial arts instructor Rigan Machado for three months prior to shooting. Although the actor has ended up relenting to workout culture after returning to set for "The Batman," he remains adamant that a lot of fad diets and workout trends are nonsense. He told ES Magazine, "If you're just watching your calorie intake, it's extraordinarily addictive — and you don't quite realise how insidious it is until it's too late." The moral is that unhealthy habits aren't worth the superhero look.