Transformations of Another Kind

J.K. Simmons has morphed into a nearly unrecognizable version of himself

Actors have shown time and again that they’ll do almost anything for a role.

Simmons is proving an actor’s lifestyle can be a good excuse to get in shape, and he’s also proving it’s never too late to do it.

They’ll lose or gain extreme amounts of weight in relatively short periods of time, altering their physical features for a proper portrayal or just using the endeavor as an excuse to get in shape and bulk up for the big screen.

Academy Award-winning actor and State Farm pitchman J.K. Simmons, 61, has done just that. His trainer shared pictures of Simmons’ astonishing transformation and the “Whiplash” actor found himself going viral.

Because of his beard and bulging biceps, many have speculated Simmons is using his upcoming role as comic book character Commissioner Gordon in “Justice League” as an excuse to take his workout to the extreme.

Simmons had gotten in good shape for last year’s “Whiplash” — but it’s nothing like the ripped physique he’s got now.

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According to his trainer, Aaron Williamson, the actor just wanted to take his workouts to “the next level.” The weight-training sessions have been devoted to helping “make certain areas more round and make things pop more,” Williamson told The Daily Beast.

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“J.K. has little aches and pains here and there,” Williamson said, “so we do a lot of what I call ‘blood volume training,’ where you hit the muscle from different angles and hit it in a way where you’re doing supersets and drop sets — so you’re really stressing the muscle out without using heavy weights, which is much easier on your joints and tendons.”

Simmons, of course, is not the first actor to alter his body in an extreme way for a role.

Robert De Niro famously — and dramatically — altered his appearance to disappear into a character. On top of wearing a prosthetic nose, De Niro gained 60 pounds for the role of real life boxer Jake LaMotta in 1980’s “Raging Bull.” He later won an Oscar for the performance.

The trend has continued ever since. Vincent D’Onofrio gained a record 70 pounds for his role as Lt. “Gomer Pyle” in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 classic film, “Full Metal Jacket.” D’Onofrio memorably played one of the most recognized soldiers from any military film. However, the transformation came with consequences, both physical and social.

“It changed my life. Women didn’t look at me — most of the time I was looking at their backs as they were running away. People used to say things to me twice, because they thought I was stupid,” D’Onofrio told The Chicago Tribune about his weight gain a year after the film.

Walking around with a shaved head and massive weight was not the only drawback for the actor. D’Onofrio required knee reconstruction surgery after filming, due to the weight gain.

Tom Hanks, for his role as a marooned man in 2000’s “Cast Away,” gained 40 pounds for the beginning portion of the film and then spent the next year losing enough weight to look like a deserted and starved plane crash survivor. This was on top of the acclaimed actor already shedding dramatic amounts of weight for “Philadelphia” and gaining weight for “A League of Their Own.”

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Hanks revealed in 2013 that he had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Though he claimed it was strictly from not eating healthy foods and not taking care of himself enough, many speculated part of the problem may have been Hanks’ fluctuating weight for the job.

“I’ve talked to a number of actors who have gained weight for roles, and just the sheer physical toll it puts on one’s knees and shoulders — no one wants to do it again,” he told The Guardian at the time.

Another actor who has a career of all shapes and sizes is former Batman Christian Bale. For “The Machinist” in 2004, Bale lost a startling 63 pounds by reportedly consuming only an apple and can of tuna every day.

Then, just six weeks after finishing “The Machinist,” he bulked up heavily for his role as the caped crusader in “Batman Begins.” The rest of his career has consisted of similar weight gains and losses for roles in films like “The Fighter “and “American Hustle.”

What is it that motivates an actor to put himself at such physical risk? The payoffs can be big.

Charlize Theron won an Academy Award for her role as real-life murderer Aileen Wuornos in 2003 movie, “Monster.” On top of a 30-pound weight gain, Theron shaved her eyebrows, freckled her clear complexion with make-up, and wore fake yellowing crooked teeth. Many felt she truly vanished into the haunting role.

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Not all actor transformations are quite so eerie and unhealthy. Simmons is proving an actor’s lifestyle can be a good excuse to get in shape, and he’s also proving it’s never too late to do it.

Whatever the reasons, with the release of “Justice League,” Simmons’ portrayal of Commissioner Gordon is going to be giving the much younger Batfleck a strong run for his money in the tough-guy department.

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