Charlize Theron Says Gaining and Losing 50 Pounds for Her Latest Role Sent Her Into a Depression

“I was not that fun to be around on this film.”

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Though Charlize Theron had a few vital things in common with her character in her upcoming film Tully—for one, they’re both moms—she did have to put herself through a “very long” physical transformation to fully step into Marlo’s shoes. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight this week, Theron shared that, over the course of nearly two years, she gained 50 pounds for the role and then lost it all, a process that had an unexpected impact on her emotional well-being. “I just—I wanted to feel what this woman felt, and I think that was a way for me to get closer to her and get into that mindset,” Theron said. “You know, it was a huge surprise to me. I got hit in the face pretty hard with depression. Yeah, for the first time in my life I was eating so much processed foods and I drank way too much sugar. I was not that fun to be around on this film.”

The South Africa–born actress said that the three-month weight gain process started off on a high note. “The first three weeks are always fun because you’re just like a kid in a candy store. So it was fun to go and have breakfast at In-N-Out and have two milkshakes,” she said. “And then after three weeks, it’s not fun anymore. Like, all of a sudden you’re just done eating that amount, and then it becomes a job. I remember having to set my alarm in the middle of the night in order to just maintain [the weight].” She continued, “I would literally wake up at two in the morning and I’d have a cup of cold macaroni and cheese just next to me. I would wake up and I would just eat it. I would just, like, shove it in my throat. It’s hard to maintain that weight.”

In contrast, there were absolutely no high notes in the weight loss process, which Theron told ET “was hell.” “There’s nothing fun about that. It took about a year and a half. It was a long journey, very long journey,” she said. “And it’s hard because I had press junkets and movies around it and nobody knew that I had done it for this. And I think in the beginning everybody thought I was wearing—like, when the first photos came out, everyone [thought it] was, like, prosthetics. And then I went on press junkets and it was like nobody knew.”

Losing the weight was also much more difficult than the last time Theron put her body through a major physical transformation, for her Oscar-winning role as prostitute turned serial killer Aileen Wuornos in 2003’s Monster. “I was worried. I was like, this is taking a really long time,” she told ET. “Because on Monster, I just didn’t snack for five days and I was fine. You know, your body at 27 is a little different than your body at 43, and my doctor made sure to make me very aware of that. Like, ‘You are 42. Calm down, you’re not dying, all good.'”