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Actors Who Weren't Allowed To Change Their Appearance During Filming

We've all heard stories about actors who went to extraordinary lengths to transform themselves for a big role; actors who dedicated themselves physically to add muscle to play a superhero, slim down to play a tortured soul, or shaved their head to get into character. From Christian Bale in "The Machinist" to Natalie Portman in "V For Vendetta," actors often spend untold amounts of energy and hours to make sure they fit the physical requirements of their parts.

But sometimes actors are forbidden to make changes to their physical appearance while filming. We're all aware of the horror stories of women who were pressured to stay thin in Hollywood, but even in more recent years — when those kinds of studio pressures have been rightly recognized as going too far — some actors have still been strictly prohibited from changing their appearance while filming. It's bad enough when it's during a three month shoot for a big, blockbuster Hollywood production, but even worse when it's during filming of a decade spanning film series or a long running hit television show. The pressure on those behind the camera to make sure their popular stars stay looking the way the audience expected them to often had them hand down uncomfortable physical limitations and restrictive rules to their on-screen talent.

Whether it's by studio decree, at the demand of an overbearing director, by contract, or by law, we've compiled a list of actors who were not allowed to change their appearance while filming.

Rebel Wilson wasn't allowed to lose weight

Not only was "Pitch Perfect" star Rebel Wilson not allowed to lose weight, she was paid to stay overweight, even as she wanted to get healthier and shed pounds. For actors like Wilson known for their signature look, it can be hard for them to make major physical transformations and still maintain their superstar careers. But living an unhealthy lifestyle for the sake of their jobs can have disastrous consequences for actors. Wilson opened up in an interview in The Sun in 2020 about the pressure she faced to stay overweight, and how she was paid big bucks to keep her look.

"I had a job where I was paid a lot of money to be bigger," she told The Sun, "at times which kind of can mess with your head a bit." In the "Pitch Perfect" series, Wilson played a character known for her heavy look, "Fat Amy" and it paid dividends for Universal Studios. She admits that one of the main reasons her own acting agency signed her was so they could have a heavier actress on their roster, but for Wilson, she never wanted to stay overweight.

Avery Brooks couldn't shave his head or grow a goatee

Avery Brooks played the tough-as-nails Commander Benjamin Sisko in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," and it was always the actor's intention to play the character with a bald head and a goatee. But infamously, producers of the show refused his request to cut his hair and grow a beard for his career-defining role. Over the years, many reasons were given, including not wanting two bald leads for their franchise after chrome-domed Patrick Stewart captained the Enterprise for seven seasons. Some said it was to set him apart from his previous role as Hawk on the ABC action series' "The Man Called Hawk," and "Spenser: For Hire," as the character was very different than Sisko. 

But in the 2018 documentary, "What We Left Behind", showrunner Ira Steven Behr finally set the record straight: while there were concerns about comparisons to Hawk, studio executives were afraid that his bald head and facial hair would make him look "street," a regrettable studio euphemism. After two years of Brooks pressing the matter with producers, the studio compromised midway through the show's third season in 1995, allowing him to grow a goatee as long as he kept his hair. They relented fully a year later when Brooks finally sported his now trademark bald head and cropped beard, and that's how he remained for the rest of the show's run.

Tom Holland wasn't allowed to lose weight

In 2015, a lesser known Tom Holland starred in "In the Heart of the Sea," the Ron Howard directed-epic that told the true story that inspired "Moby Dick." Sailing the high seas aboard the U.S.S. Essex, the wayward ship and crew were attacked by a giant whale, leaving them ship-wrecked, starving, and fighting for survival while stranded on a small, remote island. For their roles, most of the star-studded cast — which also including Holland's future "Avengers: Endgame" co-star Chris Hemsworth — went on special diets to slim down for to portray the crew as emaciated, malnourished castaways lost at sea.  

Not so for Holland, as he told the Independent. Unlike most entries on this list, this was not a case of overzealous, controlling producers or a demanding director throwing out dictatorial directives, this was the law: being underage when filming began in 2013, Holland was legally barred from losing weight for the role, thanks to a well-meaning provision that was designed to protect child actors from abuse. While costar Hemsworth was limiting himself to a single egg, crackers, and a piece of celery a day, Holland attempted to find ways around the rigid rule, gaining weight before filming, and naturally shedding the pounds over the course of the shoot.

Emma Watson couldn't change her hair

Growing up on the set of a TV show or movie is hard enough for child actors, but spending the entirety of your adolescence in front of the camera — as the cast of the "Harry Potter" movies did from 2001-2010 — can be especially difficult. After production had completed on the series, the young actors were finally free to open up and talk frankly about what it was like to grow up on screen. From being forbidden snacks and treats on the set to problems with alcohol as they got older due to the stress of fame, there was seemingly no end to the rules, restrictions, and problems encountered by the young cast as they made their way to adulthood as budding superstars.

Emma Watson who seemed to get the worst of the often draconian rules set by the studio, directors, and crew. This including the odd rule of being forbidden to wear undergarments that might accentuate her growing female figure. What seems to have frustrated her the most, as she told Metro, was that for more than a decade she was not allowed to cut or change her hair. after completing "The Deathly Hallows Part 2," Watson famously chopped off her long flowing locks and sported a pixie cut, as her first act of independence off the set of "Harry Potter."

Tom Welling wasn't allowed to gain weight

In 2001, the WB Network decided to mix together the teen soap opera and superhero genres and created "Smallville," about a young Clark Kent before he became Superman. Cast in the coveted role of the teenager who would one day become the greatest superhero who ever lived was Tom Welling. For over a decade Welling inhabited the role of the young Clark Kent, and for over a decade he had to maintain his perfectly trim buff bod. Producer did not allow him to beef up too much, to slim down, or to gain weight. 

According to Welling in a 2006 interview with Seventeen Magazine, he wasn't even allowed to play basketball over fears of injury, saying "what if I get a black eye?" Welling had to believably play a teenaged version of Superman, one who didn't quite know the limit of his super strength, which meant staying trim enough not to look like a beefed up adult superhero— but in good enough shape that he'd be a believable young hero — as well as the object of his teen audience's envy or affection.

Jon Hamm wasn't allowed to grow a beard

Set in the offices of a New York City ad agency in the 1960s, AMC's "Mad Men" followed the life, career, and rampant womanizing of the suave Don Draper, played by the charismatic and dashing Jon Hamm. The series ran for seven seasons, airing from 2007 to 2015, while the show covered the years 1960 through 1970. Playing out in the background of the hit cable series we saw everything from the death of JFK to the moon landing. Perhaps one of the most historically accurate period dramas on television, "Mad Men" faithfully recreated the era, down to the characters' attitudes, their wardrobes, the props, and even the branded products.

To keep in line with this accuracy, and likely to stay true to the nature of the conservative Don Draper, producers wouldn't permit lead actor Jon Hamm to grow any facial hair. "Mad Men" makeup artist told OK Magazine that they had to shave his face two or three times a day while shooting. Mustaches and beards were out the window for Hamm, limited to the younger, hipper men on the series like Sam Rizzo, or in some instances older characters who were trying desperately to portray themselves as younger and hip. Hamm had a tendency to grow enormous, untamed beard whenever the show was on hiatus, probably just because he wasn't allowed to during filming of the show.

Guddi Murudi wasn't allowed to lose weight

Restrictive, controlling producers aren't limited to Hollywood or America, nor are attitudes toward the overweight "funny sidekick." Look no further than Bollywood star Guddi Maruti for proof. Maruti has acted in dozens of films in her native India, with a career that stretches back to the early 1980s. Though she is unknown to most American audiences, the story of how producers prohibited her from altering her appearance is all too familiar.

She quickly earned a reputation as the overweight comic relief characters, similar to Rebel Wilson. And like Wilson, producers and directors pressured her to maintain her large frame, at the risk missing out on roles. As Maruti herself said in an interview with Rediff.com, "my weight was my bread and butter." In the same interview she was asked if she had ever attempted to lose weight for herself, and her response was unfortunate and disheartening: "Yes, five or six years ago. When I was working, I was not allowed to lose weight. If I would even say it, people would panic. When I did 'Sorry Merry Lorry,' I lost 10 kilos. One day, [writer and director] Adi Pocha looked up from the monitor and said, 'Guddi, [the title of our film] is 'Sorry Merri Lorry.' You hardly look like a lorry.' So I had to gain weight again."

The Jonas Brothers had to stay looking young

Between 2007 and 2010, the Jonas Brothers — Nick, Joe, and Kevin — starred in a variety of projects on the Disney Channel, including headlining their own hit series, "Jonas." In a interview with Vulture in 2013, Joe Jonas finally talked openly about the restrictive life of a Disney Channel star after years of silence; from the lack of creativity forced on their songwriting, to the demands of the studio on their physical appearance, total control over their careers, and even holding sway over their love lives. But keeping the Jonas brothers looking young was perhaps the studio's top priority.

"I had to shave every day because they wanted me to pretend like I was 16 when I was 20," Joe told Vulture. Jonas intimated that Disney may have pressured them with the power they held over the success or failure of their careers. The three brothers went along with every uncomfortable limitation and demand because they thought that their show might be their only shot at maintaining stardom. Joe Jonas admitted to the magazine his fear of losing everything, saying "we were terrified that it could all be taken away from us at any moment." 

Renee Zelwegger wasn't allowed to lose weight

For "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" lead actress Rene Zellweger was asked to gain weight to reprise the role of the title character Bridget Jones. She had previously gained and shed around thirty pounds for the first film in the series three years before, and was now not as heavyset as producers wanted. The normally slim actress dedicated herself to the transformation, rather than use makeup or heavy prosthetics to make her appear heavier. But during filming on both films, Zellweger was forbidden by producers to shed any weight; her pounds were carefully tracked and her size monitored and scrutinized to ensure on-screen continuity in the finished film.

Once the productions had wrapped, the actress was given permission to resume her normally healthy diet and exercise routine and return to her usual weight. A source told the Irish Examiner that "Renee is thrilled that she can stop gorging on fatty food. She's started eating healthily again and is working with two personal trainers in a bid to lose the excess weight. She liked having curves, but she is looking forward to being slim again."

In an interview for Vogue, Zelwegger said she also gained weight, though not nearly as much, for the third film, "Bridget Jones' Baby." She also voiced an understandable frustration about how actresses often receive undue scrutiny for their weight on film.

Kit Harington Was Not Allowed To Cut His Hair

For eight seasons Kit Harington played Jon Snow, the would-be King of Winterfell on "Game of Thrones." Snow was a fan-favorite, and Kit Harington's luscious locks were almost as identifiable as Snow himself, and a critical element to his popularity. In fact, his dark flowing mane was so crucial to the show that it was apparently written into his contract for the HBO series, as he was not permitted to cut it off. 

On a 2014 episode of "Live! With Kelly and Michael" (via The Hollywood Reporter), Harrington revealed the fine print clause in his contract for "Game of Thrones," telling the hosts that "I didn't realize this until recently and then I kind of, I wanted to cut it — I've had long hair for ages — and they were like, 'No, no, no, that won't be happening.'" The disagreement over his cut was followed by "ridiculous conversations ... between agents and managers and HBO ... Can we have four inches off or can we have an inch off? What can we do with this? How curly should it be?" He concluded by noting that "It gets silly."

Chrissy Mess can't stray from transformation

In "This is Us," Chrissy Metz stars as Kate, an overweight woman who struggles to get healthy and slim down. Metz so believably plays Kate because she herself must deal with the same struggle — by contract. To land the leading role on the hit drama, Metz had to sign an agreement that she would lose the amount of weight needed to realistically portray a woman on an extreme weight loss journey.

Metz had to gradually lose the weight over the course of the series as well, so that Kate's weight loss would run "parallel to my life." Metz, who said she was more than happy to agree to the terms, told TV Line about the deal: "In our contract, it did state that that would be a part of it, to lose the weight in the trajectory of the character as she comes to find herself. That was a win-win for me. Because it's one thing to try to do it on your own. But as human beings, it's an ego thing: We're more likely to do something for someone else."

Metz was also quick to get ahead of any potential criticism of negative portrayals of overweight people, saying, "Whether or not I lose weight or stay the same, it's purely a choice of mine for health. Not because I think that plus size, curvy, voluptuous, big bodies aren't attractive — because I think they're awesome and sexy."