Hollywood Men: It’s No Longer About Your Acting, It’s About Your Abs
If society is not going to stop being so judgmental against women in regards to their physical appearance, I am happy to see that the same pressure is being applied to males now.
This actually is a trend that is several years old. Several years ago, I started seeing more and more articles about how men are being judged almost as harshly as women are in regards to looks, age, and weight.
More males are going in for cosmetic surgery, and not just on their faces, but they are doing things like getting “pec implants.” More and more males are developing eating disorders at younger and younger ages.
- But what’s really interesting is the fact that for decades in the entertainment industry, women were the ones expected to be the eye candy. Years and years and years of young, thin but curvy starlets draped over leading men. Somehow, though we’ve made progress in terms of using ladies for window dressing, instead of arriving in a place where it’s less about aesthetics, it’s men who are being held to new, unrealistic standards. Hill says that recently, “a major production was pushed back several weeks when the star told producers he needed more time before he could go shirtless.”
(Link): Building a Bigger Action Hero
- By Logan Hill May 2014
A mere six-pack doesn’t cut it in Hollywood anymore. Today’s male stars need 5 percent body fat, massive pecs, and the much-coveted inguinal crease – regardless of what it takes to get there.
Acting skill – even paired with leading-man looks and undeniable charisma – is not enough to get you cast in a big-budget spy thriller or a Marvel Comics franchise.
For much of Hollywood history, only women’s bodies were objectified to such absurd degrees. Now objectification makes no gender distinctions: Male actors’ bare asses are more likely to be shot in sex scenes; their vacation guts and poolside man boobs are as likely to command a sneering full-page photo in a celebrity weekly’s worst-bodies feature, or go viral as a source of Web ridicule.
A sharply defined inguinal crease – the twin ligaments hovering above the hips that point toward a man’s junk – is as coveted as double-D cleavage.
Muscle matters more than ever, as comic-book franchises swallow up the box office, in the increasingly critical global market. (Hot bodies and explosions don’t need subtitles.)
Thor-like biceps and Captain America pecs are simply a job requirement; even “serious” actors who never aspired to mega-stardom are being told they need a global franchise to prove their bankability and land Oscar-caliber parts.
…To get that hungry look, trainers stress calorie-conscious diets and exercises that pump up fat-burning metabolism. No actor can gain 10 pounds of muscle in a six-week period, but he can lean down to reveal the muscle underneath.
Trainers talk about the “lean out” – the final, preshoot crash period when actors drop their BMI (body-mass index) to its bare minimum and unveil muscle definition.
But maintaining extremely low body fat for the duration of a multimonth shoot is nearly impossible and often dangerous: The stress can make an actor ill, damage internal organs, and make him susceptible to other injuries.
Matt Damon, who dropped 40 pounds without supervision for 1996’s Courage Under Fire, got so sick that he was beset by dizzy spells on set, impairing his adrenal gland and nearly doing serious damage to his heart. Even in the best-case scenario, calorie deprivation can exhaust an actor, making him light-headed, distracted, and fatigued.
…. Since 5 percent body fat is nobody’s natural condition, fitness plans are geared to peak on the days of the sex scenes or shirtless moments.
To prep for these days, trainers will dehydrate a client like a boxing manager sweats a fighter down to weight.
They often switch him to a low- or no-sodium diet three or four days in advance, fade out the carbohydrates, brew up diuretics like herbal teas, and then push cardio to sweat out water – all to accentuate muscle definition for the key scenes.
..The last-minute pump comes right before the cameras roll. Philip Winchester, the hero of Cinemax’s action series Strike Back, recalls seeing the technique for the first time on the set of Snatch: “Hundreds of extras were standing around,” he recalls, “and Brad Pitt would drop down and do 25 push-ups before each scene.
I thought, ‘Why is he showing off?’ ” Then Winchester figured it out. “I realized he was just jacking himself up: getting blood flowing to the muscles. I’d always wondered, ‘How do actors look so jacked all the time?’ Well, they don’t. Now we ask: Is it a push-up scene? When I shot that Strike Back poster, I was doing push-ups like a madman, saying, ‘Take the picture now! Take it now!’ ”
… A fat Superman would never fly. A pudgy Spiderman can’t swing. And an actor who can’t get jacked on deadline doesn’t have a shot at being a leading man in today’s Hollywood. Given the choice between acting chops and physique, producers and directors will often choose the better body.
… An out-of-shape actor can force a director to recast roles, reshoot scenes, or use CGI effects, often at great expense. Once he is signed on for a role and a production schedule is set, the actor is expected to do whatever he has to to get in the shape required of his character. Fitness budgets are baked into most contracts; studios typically pay for trainers, nutritionists, and even home-delivered meals. Some studios make a point to hire their own trainers so they can control the outcome.
… Over the years, studios have come to rely on the service of guys like Harley Pasternak, who has been building camera-ready bodies since his late teens. “The rewards can be enormous,” he says of developing the sort of body that can sell a trailer on its own. So can the hazards of not working out: “There’s no worse feeling than knowing you didn’t put the work in, and that your man boobs will forever be on film.”
… Shoot days have gotten longer in film and television, so an actor’s endurance is key. A single injury can shut down a shoot and drive production over budget, so there’s increasing pressure for stars to stay fit, or perform injured if they don’t. “There are greater demands physically than 10 years ago,” says veteran action-film producer Randall Emmett (Rambo, Broken City, Righteous Kill). “You’re shooting 120 days for some of these movies now – 12 or 14 hours a day.”
… There is an easier way to go from flabby wimp to sinewy screen predator. Sometimes a superhero’s journey begins with the needle prick of a syringe full of human growth hormone (HGH), testosterone, or steroids.
“In Hollywood, the drug of choice is the drug that makes you look good,” says Strike Back’s Winchester. “It’s like the drug scene at a boarding school – it’s all available.”
When actors ask about steroids, trainer Steve Zim tells them about the hair loss and zits, and “that usually ends the conversation in one second.” Steroids also produce rounder, water-retaining muscles instead of the lean, mean bodies currently in vogue.
….Stuntmen often work for day rates, so every day they can’t work is a day they don’t get paid. “The stunt guys are partying hard, in their thirties or forties looking 20, 25,” says one action star. “They’re taking massive hits and bouncing back up again. I asked, ‘What are you guys doing?’ ”
According to the actor, a stuntman told him, “Steroids to get a build, insulin injections to get the cut, then HGH.”
Stuntmen talk about drugs as a calculated risk that’s worth the advantage, so long as they get regular colonoscopies and screenings for prostate cancer. It’s easy to see how an actor – especially one who relies on his brawn or his ability to throw a convincing punch – might seek that same edge.
….In the end, Bennett’s big break had broken him [he prepared for a big movie role by taking steroids, but the movie was cancelled]: “I ended up going back with no money and had to work on a building site as a day laborer for eight months, swinging that pick, jackhammering.”
And since he could no longer afford the hormone supplements, his estrogen levels surged. “It was horrible,” he says, noting that he would sob uncontrollably on the work site. “Everything went kind of soft. I was on my period for two months, crashing on the estrogen.”
…He’s [Twight] still irritated that people think they used CGI to create the muscle he worked so hard to achieve in the 300 cast. “We’re selling this male ideal,” he says. “Is it achievable? Fuck, yeah. It can be done. Ninety-five percent of the people who we have put into condition for these roles have done it clean.”
…A trainer’s personality can be as dominating – and as grating – as any movie star’s, and on-set disagreements are inevitable. Twight and Gerard Butler clashed on the 300 set, and the actor started working with his own trainer.
Though Butler looked convincingly gladiatorial in the film, Twight says he lacked the commitment to lean down like his Spartan brethren. “He’s not mentally equipped,” Twight says. “Gerry does not want to do the work that other people are doing.”
Another actor says Butler was more willing to train than to make sacrifices to slim down. “Gerry goes straight for the cream puffs, man. He works out hard, then he likes to drink beer. He’ll get big, but he’ll never get ripped.”
….Lead actors almost never get fired because they don’t get in shape, though sometimes a shoot will be delayed to give an actor more time. In extreme cases, directors will lean heavily on body doubles, air-brushing, CGI, or old-fashioned padded costuming. “One character on Watchmen didn’t want to train at all and said, ‘Gimme the muscle suit,’ ” says Twight. “He likes to eat and drink and smoke, so the poor guy had to go through three hours of putting on prosthetics every day.”
The munchies would have been impossible to appease on the set of last summer’s Superman – Twight banned junk food and soft drinks from the set, as he continued to sculpt the new Man of Steel, Henry Cavill. The trainer has nothing but praise for Cavill, who had to keep up his physique for a grueling 127-day shoot. “It’s not like you’re peaking a guy for three days for his shirtless scene,” Twight says. “You’re living with this guy for a year.”
For the six months prior to the shoot, Cavill worked out and ate according to Twight’s plan. The film’s producers actually contacted Twight and his wife, Lisa, a trainer, to make sure they weren’t giving Cavill anything illegal. With tarnished heroes like A-Rod and Lance Armstrong, it was important to establish that our most American superhero wasn’t a juicer.
…Twight says there is a secret to Cavill’s transformation. “Yeah, there’s a 90-day miracle, but you’re not gonna fucking like it,” he says, laughing. “It’s hard work. It’s commitment. Self-discipline. Persistence. And mindful attention to all this stuff. Then you can become whatever you want.”
…Science is only making these body transformations easier and more common. For Spike Lee’s Oldboy, Josh Brolin had to embody a 20-year transformation from bloated alcoholic to killing machine; he gained 28 pounds in 10 days, and then lost 22 pounds in three days. “He took saline pills so the weight he gained was water and he could lose it faster,” says Lee. “De Niro talks about how hard it was to lose all that weight for Raging Bull, and how it took months. Josh lost his weight in, like, a weekend.”
…Extreme weight loss or gain has become such a gimmick that lately, it seems many actors and fans are confusing body manipulation with talent. Actor Mark Strong, the star of AMC’s Low Winter Sun, says he is skeptical of this generational shift toward ripped bodies and extreme transformations. “I think a lot of young male actors are trying to prove how good they are by showing you how hard they’re working on their bodies,” he says. “It’s become almost synonymous with being a good actor. People want to quantify acting so that the acting looks awards-worthy.”
…Sometimes that impulse to get fit can disrupt a film. Six-packs and bulky chests can look freakishly anachronistic in a prestige period picture: It’s not just that Tudor princes and Victorian lotharios didn’t have waxed chests and 12-packs – it’s that almost nobody had bodies like these until the last decades of supplements and fitness science.
“Can’t we just go back to when you didn’t have to do all this stuff?” James Franco gripes. “I look to Benicio del Toro. He’s not in the best shape but he still looks cool, man. He’s awesome.”
…. What Yune is really complaining about is this sense that studios see actors as bodies now – interchangeable in a global movie business that’s built more on brands than stars. More than ever, studios are building franchises around fresh, inexpensive faces with bodies that can fill a superhero costume.
“One of the reasons there are so few real movie stars is that there are very few who are distinguishable from one another,” says Nicolas Winding Refn, who directed Ryan Gosling in Drive and Only God Forgives. “Everybody can get a six-pack, so it has no value. Everybody starts to look alike. It’s the soul that makes you a movie star. Not your body.”
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