The Movie Role That Wrecked Tom Holland's Health

Tom Holland is one of the biggest young stars in Hollywood today. The 25-year-old actor was catapulted into international super-stardom when he first suited up as Spider-Man in 2016's "Captain America: Civil War." Joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a sure-fire way to join the Hollywood A-list, and Holland was no exception. Since becoming an Avenger, the British actor has had the chance to show his acting chops in various non-superhero films, including the crime thriller "The Devil All the Time," the fantasy adventure "Chaos Walking," and the gritty drama "Cherry."

The 2021 film "Cherry" proved to be Holland's biggest departure from playing the MCU's wholesome Peter Parker. The film follows a young former soldier who struggles with PTSD after returning home from fighting in Iraq. Holland's character, the titular Cherry, navigates the true horrors of addiction and turns to a life of crime. Playing such a troubled and nuanced character was quite the challenge for Holland, who has revealed just how much of a toll the film took on his health. 

Tom Holland had to lose a lot of weight, then quickly gain it back

In an interview with British GQ, Tom Holland revealed the health difficulties he faced filming "Cherry." Production began with the scenes of Holland's character in the throes of addiction, and his appearance had to reflect that. "I lost around 27lbs by running in a bin bag every day," Holland told GQ, revealing his trainer told him to "eat only 500 calories a day and run ten miles." 

While this would be a difficult turn for any actor, it was made worse by needing to bulk back up for his scenes as an army medic. "It was brutal...I got very sick, actually. And it's changed my relationship with food completely," Holland shared. 

The experience was so grueling that Holland has sworn off doing anything similar in the future. In the same interview with GQ, he said, "I think I would find it very difficult to find a role that would warrant that sort of abuse on my body again." Holland elaborated, "This role took me to some of the darkest places I have ever been, emotionally, physically, anythingly ... I would never go back there again, not for anyone. I am pleased I did it, but that door is now closed and locked."

Engaging in such an intense physical transformation for a role is difficult for any actor. While Holland may not be taking on such projects again, many other actors have undergone brutal transformations for the sake of a film — with a few being known for doing so time and time again. 

Christian Bale's career is full of shocking physical transformations

Christian Bale might be the actor best-known for his jaw-dropping physical transformations. He shocked audiences in the 2004 thriller "The Machinist," playing an emaciated insomniac. The actor lost 66 pounds for the role and was fully committed to truly capturing his character. "I had been to a nutritionist and when I had got down to what she had told me was a healthy weight, I just went, 'You know what? I can go more than this. I can keep going.' So I lost another 20 pounds below what she said I should stop at," he told BBC Wales. Shockingly, just six months after filming wrapped for "The Machinist," Bale had to bulk up to play Bruce Wayne in the first of Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, "Batman Begins." 

The actor quickly gained weight after his "The Machinist" role, so much so that Nolan asked Bale to actually lose weight yet again. "I gained too much weight in the run-up to 'Batman Begins,'" Bale told Train magazine. "I wasn't the size that Christopher Nolan wanted, so I had to cut down 20lb or so just before shooting — I was a lot beefier at first." However, this was far from the last time Bale rapidly changed his physique.

Other actors have experienced similiar brutal transformations

Christian Bale had to go through the same rapid physical transformation again for 2010's "The Fighter," playing a man addicted to crack cocaine.  Though a pattern was emerging, Bale shared that he didn't actively seek out such physically grueling roles. "... I didn't take this job because I went, 'Oh, there's a physical transformation needed.' I always go, 'Damn! There's a physical transformation needed!' " he joked to MTV News

While Bale hasn't had to starve himself for a role since "The Fighter," he has had to quickly gain weight. He's done this twice, first for 2013's "American Hustle," and again in 2017's "Vice" where he was unrecognizable playing former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. Now, in his upcoming performance as Gorr the God Butcher in "Thor: Love and Thunder," Bale is no doubt back to his Batman-era muscular physique.

Tom Holland and Bale are far from the only actors who have undergone extreme physical transformations for a role, with the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, and Joaquin Phoenix also known for dramatically changing their appearances to suit a character. We admire these stars for their commitment to their craft — though we certainly don't envy them for the toll it takes on their bodies, and don't blame Holland for passing on doing it again in the future.