Awards season in Hollywood is around the corner, and there is a ton of buzz regarding the performance that Brendan Fraser gave in “The Whale.” Fraser plays a morbidly obese character, and he was required to wear a fat suit to give him the accurate look of a man weighing in at 600 pounds.
But, since it’s 2022, there has been a lot of scrutiny regarding whether or not actors should be portraying people who are of a different size than them, and if it’s right that they wear a fat suit. Over the years, many roles have called for actors to wear fat suits, and more often than not, the prosthetic is used for comic relief. That particular trend has understandably worn out its welcome for many people around the world, who feel that weight isn’t something to simply be used as a laugh.
In this video, we’re taking a look at a bunch of actors and actresses who have donned a fat suit for various roles. Stick around, as Facts Verse presents: Actors Who Wore Fat Suits and Completely Transformed.
A recurring joke on Friends over the years was that Monica was a formerly fat person. And while so many aspects of Friends hold up, there are definitely elements that feel a little crunchy when viewed through a modern day lens. The amount of ‘gay panic’ jokes is a lot to swallow, for example. And another is the borderline ridiculous fat suit that they stuck Courteney Cox in for numerous flashback episodes. The whole premise of the bit was simply that Monica was … gasp… fat! And that was about the extent of it. And sure, the jokes that they wrote around that fairly insulting premise were often clever, and on par with the writing level of the show. But when you watch these episodes back, it starts to feel pretty tone deaf and cringey.
Paulson portrayed Linda Tripp in the show, ‘Impeachment: American Crime Story.’ Of course, since she was portraying an actual person, efforts were made to have Sarah look as much like Linda as possible. This included making her look larger than she really is. Sarah met production halfway by gaining 30 pounds for the part. But that apparently wasn’t quite enough for the realistic look they were seeking. So, she donned a fat suit. In more recent times, Paulson has admitted to regretting that choice. She says that she wishes she had thought it through more fully, and that the experience taught her a valuable lesson. However, she was quick to point out that it’s not a decision solely in the hands of an actor. There are many voices and opinions that are weighed when it comes to costume and makeup decisions on every show and film. And often the actors are simply told what is required of them, and asked to agree to it. She said that in focusing too much on an actor’s physicality, it diminishes the other important, internal work the actor is doing to prepare for and perform a role.
In 2021’s ‘The Thing About Pam’, Renee Zellweger was in a similar quandary as Sarah Paulson was in playing Linda Tripp. That’s because Renee was playing a real person: Pam Hupp. Hupp is a convicted murderer, currently serving out a prison sentence for her crime. Renee didn’t feel bad about using a fat suit to play Hupp though. In March of 2021 she was interviewed by Entertainment Tonight about the role. She pointed out that when it comes to portraying a real person, it’s all about creating an authentic look and accurate physicality. She said that in trying to make her look like the real person she was portraying, the only real option was to use a fat suit. She also talked about how essential is it for actors to try to get into the mind of the people they are playing, especially if it’s someone real that the audience might know. Zellweger said that she felt she would be better able to get inside Hupp’s mind if she could physically resemble her as much as possible.
On “This Is Us”, Chris Sullivan portrayed Toby, a man who struggles with his weight. Over the course of the show, as Toby’s weight fluctuated, Chris needed to wear a fat suit at certain times. But as opposed to people like Sarah Paulson, Chris didn’t regret the decision to wear one. He joked that it must have been that the show overall was too good, so people were looking for anything they could to possibly find fault with. He also noted that in today’s society, people have made a bit of a hobby of moral outrage. And that while perhaps well intentioned, sometimes this outrage gets pointed in directions that aren’t needed or helpful. He pointed out that it’s simply a part of the costume he needed to wear to play the character. This was especially true given that we see the character in a variety of different weights over the years. So it would have been logistically impossible (and quite unhealthy) for Sullivan to be constantly losing and gaining weight, depending on how big the character needed to be.
On perhaps the far other end of the spectrum is Mike Myers in his portrayal of “Fat Bastard” in the Austin Powers films. Not only was this character portrayed as fat strictly for laughs, but Myers literally put that description into his name. Of course, it was all meant to be for the sake of silly fun, and Myers played a large variety of characters, each with their own levels of makeup, protheses, etc. So in a way, he was also being inclusive by making one of those characters a larger person. But, despite that, the joke in the films was simply that he was fat. Or perhaps that he was fat AND Scottish. But regardless, it feels pretty cnrige worthy on a rewatch.
Ryan Reynolds sported a fat suit in the flashback scenes in the movie “Just Friends.” And while the suit was certainly played for comedy, it wasn’t perhaps as overt and cringey as it was in the case of Courteney Cox and Mike Myers. That’s because the suit was used as part of the overall costume, meant to realistically portray Reynolds’ characters’ younger self as being awkward and uncool. So along with making him overweight in the flashbacks, they also gave him zits, a bad haircut, etc. The point being, the fact that the character was fat wasn’t the joke. The jokes in these scenes were a lot more about how nerdy and unsure of himself the character had been, as opposed to the chiseled and confident man he is in the current timeline. And obviously, similar to the case of Chris Sullivan in “This Is Us,” the logistics of not wearing a fat suit would have been impossible and unhealthy. You could argue they could have used a Ryan Reynolds lookalike to play his younger, fatter, self, but that would also have meant a lot less of the star in the movie. Plus, who looks like Ryan “gorgeous” Reynolds?
The late Robin Williams was a fearless performer. So it was no surprise that he gave his all to his role in Mrs. Doubtfire. In it, his character resorted to pretending to be an elderly British nanny, in an effort to spend time with his kids. Now, in this instance the fat suit was almost a must. That’s because in order for his ruse to work, he needed to look drastically different than he did in the rest of the film. Otherwise, his kids and ex-wife would have immediately caught on to his little ruse. So, amongst many other changes he applied to himself for his “Mrs. Doubtfire” costume, he wore a fat suit. Considering he was a fairly skinny guy, this made sense within the world of the movie. The fat suit was no less important to the costume than the wig, the glasses, the fake nose, and on and on. CBS News reported that the entire costume, which included the fat suit, sold in 2015 at auction for $20,400.
The movie “Shallow Hal” hasn’t aged particularly well. In it, Gwyneth wears a fat suit for much of the movie, and as with Courteney Cox’s portrayal on Friends, the joke seems to simply be “She’s fat!” Of course, the counter argument is that the entire movie is about seeing people’s inner beauty. So it’s hard to think of a way to get across the point of not judging someone for being fat, without showing them being fat. Perhaps they could have used some other physical attribute instead…
Obviously there are a variety of reasons that have led to actors and actresses needing to wear a fat suit to play specific characters. Sometimes, the choice is made for purely comedic reasons. One can hope that in these types of situations, the joke isn’t solely that the character is fat. It’s a lot easier to swallow if it’s part of a larger comedic context, such as with Ryan Reynolds’ character in Just Friends. Because the more we rewatch people in fat suits who are simply playing the “look, the person is FAT!” card, the more cringe worthy it feels.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Do you think that actors should avoid wearing fat suits, and that TV show and movies should always jut look to cast larger actors? Let us know in the comments below!