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A winning transformation

March 01, 2004|Susan King

The academy has always loved it when an actor or actress undergoes a major transformation in character. Sometimes a simple dye job can do the trick; other times the change is more radical. (Think Nicole Kidman's prosthetic nose, transforming her into Virginia Woolf in "The Hours.") Tip to the ambitious: Putting on a few pounds never hurts.

Charlize Theron

This year's best actress, Charlize Theron, illustrated dramatically the powers of illusion such a change can accomplish as she submerged beauty under 30 extra pounds and special prosthetics to become almost unrecognizable as prostitute and serial killer Aileen Wuornos in "Monster."

Robert De Niro

The chameleon-like De Niro won a best actor Oscar for 1980's "Raging Bull," Martin Scorsese's poetic tragedy about the rise and fall of pugilist Jake LaMotta. Scorsese first shot all the scenes when LaMotta was in his physical prime and then shut down production while De Niro packed on the pounds to play the older LaMotta -- a bloated has-been working in a nightclub dive.

Linda Hunt

The diminutive Caucasian actress not only turned herself into a Chinese-Australian photographer in her award-winning supporting performance in 1983's "The Year of Living Dangerously," Hunt transformed herself into a very believable man. Hunt is the only award-winning performer to have won an Oscar playing a member of the opposite sex.

Hilary Swank

The former "Beverly Hills 90210" regular won a best actress Oscar for 1999's "Boys Don't Cry," playing the role of a young woman who decides to live her life as a man. With her close-cropped hair, loose-fitting pants and T-shirts, the self-confessed girlie girl made an indelible impression as the tragic figure.

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Susan King

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