It's funny that I'd be posting this only a few days after I've posted an interview with Jeff Bridges, because this is pretty much the polar opposite in terms of performances.
I'll admit it… I'm a tech nerd. I love the way technology and performance are increasingly combined for an end result these days. But I am also a huge fan of performances where an actor pushes themselves to a physical extreme in pursuit of a transformation that no computer could accomplish.
One of the defining performances I saw as a young film fan growing up was Robert De Niro's in "Raging Bull." I studied that film, looking at the way De Niro took himself from lean, polished, chiseled physical perfection to this bloated, ruined bag of fat, and it stuck with me because I couldn't imagine that being the same person. Since then, we've seen other actors who have pushed themselves to extremes in order to create striking images and give life to stunning characters.
Christian Bale practically built his early career on his ability to waste away to almost nothing, and if you saw Matt Damon in one of his early roles in "Courage Under Fire," what he did to himself in the film actually hurt him. One of the reasons I would consider Michael Fassbender one of the most promising actors to emerge in the last few years is because of his harrowing work in "Hunger." It's dangerous to push your body to extremes in either direction, which is one of the reasons we can't look away when we're watching it.