Shailene Woodley’s Dramatic Weight Loss Is Just the Latest in Hollywood’s Unhealthy Saga

For weeks, Woodley restricted herself to a daily diet of a can of tuna, a little steamed broccoli and two egg yolks.
July 3, 2018
4 mins read

Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life? Lately, the answer seems to depend on how committed the actors are to their diets.

Many movies have received critical acclaim for their portrayals of real-life scenarios, from historical events to notable news stories ripped straight from the headlines.

A strong desire exists within the theatre and film worlds to portray events in as realistic a manner as possible, but in some instances, attempts to be accurate come with potentially dangerous consequences for the actors involved.

In order to portray a competitive ballerina in “Black Swan,” actress Natalie Portman admitted to restricting herself to an unhealthy diet and exercise regime in order to quickly drop 20 pounds.

Portman told Entertainment Weekly about the physical and mental toll filming the movie took on her health,saying, “There were some nights that I thought I was literally going to die. It was the first time I understood how you could get so wrapped up in a role that it could sort of take you down.”

Similarly, actor Tom Hanks has undergone more than one serious weight loss in order to portray characters more realistically, dropping 30 pounds for his role as an AIDS patient in “Philadelphia” and then, over 50 pounds for the movie “Castaway.”

Tom Hanks’s role in “Philadelphia” required him to jeopardize his own health. (Image via MoMA)

Hanks has publicly attributed his frequent weight loss and gains for movie roles as a part of the reason why he developed Type 2 diabetes. “The gaining and the losing of the weight may have had something to do with it because you eat so much bad food and you don’t take any exercise when you’re heavy,” he said.

More recently, actress Shailene Woodley detailed the severe calorie cutting required for her to portray Tami Oldham, a woman whose ship became lost at sea after a storm, in the new film, “Adrift.” Woodley cut down to eating only 350 calories per day, an amount that is dangerously lower than the recommended daily caloric intake of 1,200 for women.

“I can’t sleep when I’m hungry,” she said, “so I would have a glass of wine to basically pass the f**k out. For the last two weeks, I had a can of salmon, some steamed broccoli and two egg yolks every day – 350 calories. It was f**king miserable.”

Although Hollywood’s efforts to portray realistic situations are certainly admirable, the physical and mental safety of actors should be a heavier priority when creating films. Rapid weight loss, calorie cutting and extreme exercise plans can take a serious toll on the body, leading to potentially serious health consequences.

No one should have to undergo such serious conditions to be able to successfully portray a role, even the ones based on real people. Although less realism might lessen audience engagement, having an unhappy audience rather than an ill, unhealthy star is a much better alternative.

Kate Maxwell, NC State University

Writer Profile

Kate Maxwell

NC State University
Political Science


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