Natalie Portman and Gwyneth Paltrow Take Bodies to Extreme

Natalie Portman loses 20 pounds, Gwyneth Paltrow gains 20 for latest role.

Dec. 3, 2010— -- When Natalie Portman dropped 20 pounds to play a ballerina in her new movie, "Black Swan," even her director worried the petite actress had gone too far.

"At a certain point, I looked at [Natalie's] back, and she was so skinny and so cut," director Darren Aronofsky told "Access Hollywood." "I was like, 'Natalie, start eating.' I made sure she had a bunch of food in her trailer."

Meanwhile, famously slim Gwyneth Paltrow gained -- then quickly lost -- 20 pounds, and no one, besides Paltrow and her trainer, seemed to notice.

Actresses have often shifted their shapes for a role. But today's crop of waiflike actresses hardly have any weight to lose. And when they do gain weight for a part, the way Paltrow did, the additional weight barely registers.

At least when Renee Zellweger gained 20 pounds to play Bridget Jones, she looked like a normal woman or, as New York Times critic Stephen Holden put it, "utterly real."

But there's nothing real about the weight fluctuations of today's starlets. Keith Ayoob, a registered dietitian and director of the nutrition clinic at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, warns, "Do not try this at home!"

"They do this for a role," Ayoob told, "and it's often not the best thing for their metabolisms and bodies. But if they are getting $10 million for the role, I'm not sure the producer cares if their long-term health is at stake."

Here's the skinny on the latest actresses taking their bodies to extremes.

Natalie Portman

A year before shooting "Swan," 29-year-old Portman went through extreme ballet and cross-training, shedding 20 pounds from her 5-foot-3-inch frame.

"I think it was just the physicality of it all that was the most extreme," she told "I mean, I had never gotten that much training -- to be doing five-to-eight hours a day of [it] was really a challenge."

As soon as filming wrapped, Portman, who danced as a kid, was happy to leave the ballet world behind. She told "Access Hollywood" that she immediately ceased working out and began carbo-loading to bulk up again.

"I was like, pasta, pasta, pasta! No working out," Portman said. "It was pretty immediate. I was ready to leave the ballet life.

"I was like, 'Please don't let there be reshoots ... because I don't think I could get back into the costumes!'"

However, with Oscar buzz growing for "Black Swan," which opens today, Portman has said she would do such extreme training again.

"It's always one of those things where, when you put in a lot, you get out a lot," she told Us.

Maybe a gold statue?

Mila Kunis

Portman's "Swan" co-star Kunis also dropped 20 pounds to play a ballerina.

For three months, the "That '70s Show" star trained, through ballet, cardio exercises and Pilates four-to-five hours a day, seven days a week.

In the end, she became frightened by her own reflection. "I could see why this industry is so f**ked up, because at 95 pounds, I would literally look at myself in the mirror, and I was like, 'Oh my God!'" the five-foot-three-inch actress told E! Online. "I had no shape, no boobs, no ass. ... All you saw was bone. I was like, 'This looks gross.'"

New York dietitian Ayoob figured that Kunis was already at the low end of the normal range on the body mass index, or BMI, when she began training for the role, but afterward she dropped far below the miminum of 18.5.

"She would not be allowed to walk a runway in Spain," he said.

But, he said, there's no question that dancers sink to those levels.

"Their whole world is about deprivation and suffering," he said. "It's a very mascochistic lifestyle."

One that Kunis was apparently happy to abandon. She told E! that it took her only five days to put the weight back on.

Gwyneth Paltrow

Paltrow packed on 20 pounds to play an alcoholic singer in her latest movie, "Country Strong," but admitted she panicked at the thought of not being able to stick to her strict diet and workout regimen, which includes exercising two hours a day, six days a week.

"The nightmare thing about it is I had to stop working out," she told Chelsea Handler on "Chelsea Lately." "At first I panicked, so I would work out a little bit and then I had to lie and be like, 'No I didn't work out.' I'd be on the treadmill and be like, 'I really have to stop this'."

Her trainer, Tracy Anderson, who's also responsible for Madonna's body makeover, also had a hard time watching Paltrow bulk up.

"That was tough for me because we've worked so hard on her body," Anderson told WABC-TV in New York. "She went down from six days a week of training to three, and she ate everything in sight. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes. They filmed in Nashville, so it's a good place to have some comfort food."

But even if few others seemed to notice a heavier Paltrow, the actress couldn't wait to shed the excess with Anderson's combination of dance, cardio and weight exercises.

"It didn't take her very long to lose the weight. It only took her a couple of weeks. It didn't want to be on her anyway. Extra weight isn't something that she owned," Anderson told WABC.

And it was just in time for her debut singing appearance at the Country Music Awards.

Angelina Jolie

Jolie's slim frame is often the subject of much speculation, and earlier this year when her summer thriller "Salt" was released, the buzz intensified.

Reportedly, Jolie tried to lose 20 pounds in 21 days through a liquid detox diet less than a year after giving birth to prepare for her role in which she's disguised as a man. According to an industry source, she succeeded in losing eight pounds at the beginning of the shoot.

That doesn't sound like much, but for Jolie, it was enough to generate headlines about whether the star looked too thin.