YouTube Hall of Fame: The Worst Movie-Star Transformations Ever

In theaters this week are Clint Eastwood’s slightly anticipated Razzie-contending Hoover biopic J. Edgar — featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and 50 pounds of sweaty, wrinkled silicone as the titular FBI director — and Adam Sandler’s terrifying-looking Jack and Jill in which he plays his own sister. To celebrate, Grantland’s YouTube Hall of Fame is remembering the worst and least explicable movie-star transformations ever.

Fisher Stevens in Short Circuit

Rafe Bartholomew: John Wayne did yellowface. So did Marlon Brando. Katherine Hepburn? You bet. Yul Brynner? Duh. If so many legendary actors have crude Asian stereotypes on their résumés, then what makes Fisher Stevens’ turn as Indian engineer Ben Jabituya in Short Circuit (and the renamed Ben Jahrvi in Short Circuit 2) so horrendous? Well, Wayne, Brando, Hepburn, and Brynner all did their racial damage before 1960, while Stevens broke out his Kwik-E-Mart accent and mocha foundation in the late 1980s. Were we really so ignorant 25 years ago that a white guy from Illinois could spit malapropisms like “I have to go to the Jack” and “Her pants are blazing for you, Newton Crosby!” and audiences wouldn’t mind? Apparently, yes. Thankfully, the Short Circuit movies had the perfect antidote to Stevens’ unfortunate transformation: the open-hearted humanism of a military robot who has been struck by lightning and brought to life. Johnny Five Alive!

Rebecca Romijn in X-Men

Rembert Browne: Calling Rebecca Romijn’s change from normal human to Mystique in the X-Men movies a “physical transformation” is like calling what I do before I get in the shower a “physical transformation.” She’s just nude. Birthday suit. Bucket naked. Sure, I’m hating because I’ll never forgive her for dropping the “Stamos” from her name (you’re my boy, Uncle Jesse), but I was always baffled by the fact that she somehow made stealing people’s identities while wearing only blue body paint not sexy. Then again, a lot of that had to do with the red Gordon Gekko slick-back she was rocking throughout the movies. And the jaundice eyes.

Courteney Cox on Friends

Katie Baker: Let me preface this by saying I’ve always been Team Seinfeld, but man — I don’t know if there was a more eye-rolling storyline than Fat Monica on Friends. The fleshy flashbacks were always so minstrel — Hey, who ordered the pizza? Oh, the big-haired big girl! Who wears ugly-ass clothes that aren’t even era-aware in their hideousness? Hahaha, Courteney Cox in a fat suit, that’s who. I know taking too seriously a show that featured “Smelly Cat” and Matt LeBlanc is probably missing the point, but what was always fun about Friends was how (ridiculous real estate aside) it usually managed to keep things just this side of relatable, even when dealing in caricature. That was the case with latter-day stick-figured Monica — we’ve all known (or been) people who “got skinny,” and her OCD caterer archetype rings pretty true. But the fat version who dressed like Charles Nelson Reilly and danced around for studio-audience yuks before, LOL, getting winded? Something just never quite added up, other than, presumably, the fictional calories.

Jared Leto in Chapter 27

Andy Greenwald: $187,488. That’s not the average price for a condominium in Sheboygan, or the fine levied against Rob Ryan for eating a cheerleader last week in Philly, or the amount of money earned by Warren Buffett’s secretary in the time it took for you to read this sentence. It’s the total global box office for Chapter 27, the misbegotten 2007 film starring Jared Leto as Mark David Chapman, the man who murdered John Lennon, and Lindsay Lohan as a redheaded groupie named, wait for it, “Jude.” (By contrast, the last Harry Potter flick earned $38,672 on its opening domestic weekend. Per theater.) It’s unjust, of course, to judge a work of art — well, let’s just call it a “work” — by profitability alone. Still, the low gross seems particularly cruel considering how hard Leto worked in return for such a paltry sum. Living for weeks on a diet of, no joke, microwaved smoothies of ice cream mixed with soy sauce and olive oil, the former Jordan Catalano packed on 70 pounds in order to portray the tubby assassin, instantly transforming himself from heartthrob into heart-diseased.

Was it worth it? I can’t say for sure. Like the vast majority of humans on Earth, I never saw Chapter 27 and have little desire to do so (“Makes you feel bad for, and about, everybody — including the wretched souls who made the thing.” — Roger Ebert.) But the film’s failure always makes me think of poor Jared Leto huddled in his Hollywood home, desperate to be considered a serious artiste, as a warm trickle of umami-rich Rocky Road dribbled down his chin. The thing is, by most reasonable metrics Leto’s already got it made — a teen dreamboat who managed to maintain a modest, if patchy, career in front of the screen while finding even more inexplicable success with 30 Seconds to Mars, the prog-rock band he started with his brother. But then “reasonable” has never seemed like a word Leto has much interest in — a single spin of the subtle-as-a-sledgehammer “This Is War” will convince you of that. One suspects Leto looks at James Franco with a mixture of seething fury and naked jealousy. “You mean to tell me this goofball collects advance degrees like they’re pogs, collaborates with scenester performance artists, and still gets nominated for Oscars? Did you see how fat I got?”

Leto spent a year of his life making himself disgusting to portray one of the more disgusting men — and disgusting crimes — of the past century, and he’s stuck on tour with Shiny Toy Guns. It just doesn’t seem fair. Chapter 27 was supposed to be the project that told the world it was time to take Jared Leto seriously. But, like his jailbird co-star, it was doomed from the start. Because nobody could ever take Jared Leto as seriously as he takes himself.

Mel Gibson in The Man Without a Face

Lane Brown: This is the trailer for Mel Gibson’s directorial debut, the 1993 disfigurement drama The Man Without a Face, about a boy who befriends a hermitic, facially scarred teacher (and suspected pedophile) played by Gibson. At the time of Face‘s release, Gibson had just made Warner Bros. $320 million with Lethal Weapon 3, so the studio owed him one. Still, they probably didn’t love spending $25 million on a movie (it made $24,760,338 at the box office — so close!) adapted from a novel in which the hero actually is a child molester (all suggestions of this were omitted from the movie, thankfully). Despite the title, WB made Gibson show about two-thirds of his face, since in 1993 people could still look at it without throwing up. The movie was terrible, but its trailer is really something. Watch it for the voice-over, soaring score, and casual use of the word “retard.” They sure don’t make them like this anymore.

Martin Lawrence in Big Momma’s House

Amos Barshad: The concept of Big Momma’s House is that Martin Lawrence goes undercover as Nia Long’s grandmother in hopes of tracking down Long’s criminal ex-boyfriend. I saw it only once (in the theater, of course), so I can’t remember all the details. According to Wikipedia, Long and Big Momma are estranged — but how long would you need to have not seen your grandmother to believe she looked like Martin Lawrence in a crappy fat suit? A billion years? But here’s the thing: Despite all that, this movie is almost as good as Lawrence’s 1999 movie Blue Streak. Exhibit A: Paul Giamatti is in it, and he acts the same way he does in his other movies, even though he’s in Big Momma’s House. Exhibit B: This exchange, at the one-minute mark:

    Long: “Oh Big Momma, I thought you may have forgotten all about me.”

    Big Momma: [hugs Long, surreptitiously checking her out] “Oh no, Big Momma could never forget that ass …” [Long makes face] “… ma! Asthma!

Shawn and Marlon Wayans in White Chicks

Daniel Silver: Characters masquerading as members of the opposite sex have been around since before the Bard. A wig, a dress, and a hand placed on crooked hip went a long way for such respected performers as Jack Lemmon, Dustin Hoffman, and Tom Hanks. It’s all in the performance, specifically the way the face expresses emotion. Even if the disguise is a flimsy one, audiences are usually willing to suspend disbelief. I stress “usually” because with the release of the 2004 Wayans brothers comedy White Chicks, audiences were not only asked to suspend their disbelief, they were also burdened with the task of not vomiting or screaming in terror at the sight of Shawn and Marlon’s pale, lifeless masked faces. In the film, the brothers play African-American cops who go undercover as white women over one weekend in the Hamptons. The masks are haunting, and cover up any type of performance given by the brothers. Shawn and Marlon exist in the film as walking, talking mannequins (with no Kim Cattrall upside).

Christian Bale in The Machinist

Michael Philbrick: Why is this movie called The Machinist? Because Giant Bucket of Crazy didn’t test well. Christian Bale, in the role of chronic insomniac Trevor Reznik, decided it would be a great idea to drop 63 pounds (going from 185 to 122) to be more convincing. You know, because things like makeup and special effects didn’t exist in 2004 when they made this. To get to his emaciated state, Bale allowed himself a daily diet of an apple, and if he really wanted to splurge, a can of tuna. Oh, and plenty of coffee and cigarettes. So on a good day his breath only smelled like ass, as opposed to the usual thermonuclear ass. Let’s hope Jennifer Jason Leigh got a little extra in her paycheck for the kissing scenes. Despite all this, Bale claims that the weight loss left him feeling happier and more content than he ever had in his life, but wasn’t able to express that since, says Bale, “I didn’t really have the energy to smile too much.” What? Is that even possible? What happened if he accidentally blinked? Did that mean he had to take a nap? Here’s the even crazier part — he didn’t have to do it. Director Brad Anderson thought Bale would “lose ten, fifteen, twenty pounds maybe, and we’d put him in baggy clothes and we’d fake it a little like you do in a movie,” but Bale said he didn’t “have enough faith in CGI really for doing that.” Thankfully, Bale was the lead in the film and didn’t get the role of Miller — the dude who loses his left arm.

Previously: YouTube Hall of Fame: The Worst Music Videos of All Time
The Deleted Scenes Hall of Fame
YouTube Hall of Fame: When Sitcoms Got Dark
YouTube Hall of Fame: Tom Hanks on Late Night, Pandas on a Slide, and Helen Hunt on Crank

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Filed Under: Christian Bale, Mel Gibson, Movies, Video, X-Men, Youtube Hall of Fame