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Why do actors juice?

For the same reason athletes do. The stuff works.

In Hollywood, fit is forever in. A muscular body can be the difference between a callback and a fruitless audition, particularly with the recent proliferation of comic book projects demanding fantasy-style bulk.

A casting call this year for an upcoming “Wonder Woman” television series reportedly sought “super-buff, worked-out, bodybuilder-type guys to play soldiers that appear to be on steroids.” Wink-wink.

Harvard University psychiatrist Emily Fox-Kales, who wrote a book on body image in Hollywood, said the prototypical leading man physique has come a long way from the era of Clark Gable and Cary Grant.

“The old actors were seldom displaying the kind of muscularity you started to see with Stallone and Schwarzenegger,” said Ms. Fox-Kales, author of “Body Shots: Hollywood and the Culture of Eating Disorders.” “The movie star body has become more pumped up, this uber-masculine idea. Since the 1980s, men have been looking for a body ideal that reconfirms the social power they feel they’ve lost.

“This recession has hit hard. Women are going to college and graduate schools at much higher rates than men are. There’s a lack of manufacturing jobs. We’re in a ‘mancession.’ What you always see in Hollywood is the ideal people are yearning for — in both the movies that are produced, and the bodies on the screen.”

Similar yearning puts equivalent pressure on female entertainers, who can never be young enough or thin enough. In her autobiography, actress Dixie Carter — who died last year at age 70 of complications from cancer — admitted to using growth hormone in an effort to look younger.

Likewise, during Roger Clemens’ congressional testimony about his suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs, the former big league pitcher claimed his wife was injecting growth hormone in order to tone up before posing in a New York Yankees-themed bikini for the “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit issue.

“If you’re a model, you won’t be very viable if you don’t conform to the standard 5-10, 110-pound body,” Ms. Fox-Kales said. “Athletes and entertainers are the same. They feel their body is their ticket. They have to endure whatever they do to their bodies in order to make it.”

The entertainment industry, Ms. Fox-Kales said, trades in the impossible: a steady stream of unattainable, superheroic physiques, augmented by steroids and plastic surgery, backlit and made up and digitized to perfection. On campus, she now sees otherwise healthy male students struggling with the masculine equivalent of anorexia, a body image disorder nicknamed “bigorexia,” in which sufferers see the proverbial 98-pound weakling in the mirror, no matter how large and muscular they are.

Mr. Jackson insists that he is now off the juice. He also is hawking his own line of nutritional supplements and may soon headline a Chippendale’s exotic male dancing show in Las Vegas.

Still, he worries about other actors.

“In the Hollywood community, you’re by and large dealing with insecure egomaniacs, people pleasers, who get off on acceptance,” Mr. Jackson said. “We need that. We need adulation. Maybe if I take growth hormone, I’ll do great, people will like me and I’ll like myself.

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