Could it be the more weight you lose, the greater your shot at Oscar gold? The 2014 Oscar nominations were announced this morning, and a dramatic physical transformation was rewarded once again. Former Men's Fitness cover guy Matthew McConaughey landed his first-ever Best Actor Oscar nod after dropping 38 pounds to play unlikely AIDS activist Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club. (Of course it helps that he was really, really good in the role). McConaughey spent six months fasting, eating 5 ounces of fish twice a day, and amped up his cardio, burning up to 1,800 calories a day. He follows in the footsteps of fellow method actors Tom Hanks (-26lbs for Philadelphia), Adrien Brody (-30lbs for The Pianist), and Christian Bale (-30lbs for The Fighter). Bale—who notoriously shed around 63 pounds for The Machinist before packing on 100 for Batman Begins—also scored a Best Actor nod for playing a con man with a comb-over in American Hustle.
Best Actor frontrunner Chiwetel Ejiofor underwent a different kind of fitness (mental) to tackle the psychologically challenging role of a free man who spent 12 Years a Slave. Ejiofor initially turned down the daunting task of inhabiting the real-life shoes of Solomon Northup. But once he agreed, he immersed himself into the project, likening the experience to "slipping down the rabbit role"—one in which he'll emerge a winner on Oscar night March 2, we think.
Tying with American Hustle for most nominations (10) is Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity—arguably the most physically demanding movie of all the nominees. George Clooneny quipped that he prepared for his role as an astronaut drifting into space through "[Bikram] yoga and drinking." But stunt coordinator Franklin Hanson doesn't discount what Clooney and star Sandra Bullock (a Best Actress nominee) endured. “Being in a harness on a wire is an amazing amount of core work," Hanson has said about the 12-wire custom rig the A-listers were suspended from. "You use only the balance of your body to keep yourself straight and upright, so there is a lot of muscle and demand on your body and entire core."
Finally, there's Jennifer Lawrence—who you already know as our Dream Girl. A year after the talented Hollywood hottie won Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook, the 23-year-old has a chance to make history as the youngest two-time winner ever if she walks up the podium for her supporting turn in American Hustle.
Click to the next page to see the list of major nominations—along with our ridiculously early predictions.