Actresses at Their Best When Roles Demand They Look Their Worst

PHOTO Juliette Lewis
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In Hollywood it's all about beauty, glamour and allure. But those standards get set aside when Tinseltown's most bankable actresses decide to go totally ugly for a role.

Juliette Lewis is the latest one to nail a radically deglamorized performance.

In "Conviction," a new movie based on a true story of an unjust imprisonment, Lewis plays Roseanna Perry, a witness whose testimony put Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell) behind bars. Kenny's sister Betty Anne (Hilary Swank) gets a law degree with the sole purpose of finding evidence that will exonerate her sibling.

VIDEO: The actress talks about her new romantic mystery, co-starring Kin Basinger.
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On left, Juliette Lewis in "Conviction." Credit: Ron Batzdorff / Fox Searchlight.

Lewis' performance is what film critics love to call "vanity-free." When the crime occurs, Roseanna already is showing signs of a tough life -- too much alcohol, sloppy speech and not enough dental care. Years later, her appearance has been transformed for the worse, so much so that some viewers might not even recognize the actress behind the makeup.

Although she doesn't get much screen time, Lewis' high-impact performance is memorable. And at awards' time, these celluloid transformations are often what stick in the minds of voters. Ask Charlize Theron.

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Charlize Theron.

Theron won the 2003 best-actress Oscar for portraying Aileen Wuornos, the prostitute convicted of murder, in the movie "Monster." By the time Theron had put on about 30 pounds, donned prosthetic teeth, given her mouth a perpetually downturned scowl, and entrusted makeup artists to render her skin woefully splotchy, she was pretty much unrecognizable.

In an interview with SplicedWire.com, Theron said, "I think her [Wuornos'] body represented a lot of demons for her."

After Theron had read one of Wuornos' letters, she told her director she wanted to put on some weight.

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"We never discussed it like this big thing, like some aim -- 'We're gonna gain 30 pounds,'" said Theron. "It wasn't about getting fat. Aileen wasn't fat. Aileen carried scars on her body from her lifestyle, and if I'd gone to make this movie with my body -- physically I'm very athletic -- I don't know that I would have felt the things Aileen felt with her body. It was about getting to a place where I felt closer to how Aileen was living."

Theron's Oscar followed the one awarded to Nicole Kidman the year before. In "The Hours," Kidman portrayed the novelist Virginia Woolf, wearing a large prosthetic nose.

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Nicole Kidman.

In an interview with ugo.com, Kidman said they went through three different noses, and that applying the prosthetic took two-and-a-half hours.

"The main thing was saying, 'Do we really want to go this route?' Was it going to be a distraction or was it going to help create the character?" she said. "When I had the nose on, I wasn't recognized at all."

More recently, Christina Ricci donned a pig snout to portray the title character from "Penelope," who was born with a porcine nose.

Video of Christina Ricci on ABCs Top Line
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"We had a couple different noses that they tested at one point," Ricci told collider.com.

She said some on the project wanted the "really cute Miss Piggy snout," while others wanted "this really hideous, awfully unattractive snout."

The snout she eventually wore fell somewhere in the middle.

Last year, Mariah Carey went drab and makeup-less -- and sprouting a facial mustache -- for her much-praised performance as the empathetic social worker in "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire."

Video: Actress shows off her pipes and dancing skills at award show.
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