Skinny, sensitive actors don’t cut it in Hollywood anymore: You’ve got to be as muscular as possible at all times, because the highly coveted, star-making superhero roles all require big, buff bodies. Of course, it’s a lot easier to attain all that muscle when you’ve got a personal trainer paid for by a studio, but still, it’s impressive to see just how thoroughly our modern-day superheroes have had to reinvent themselves for their roles. Click through to see Chris Pratt, Andrew Garfield, and even more actors who’ve engineers some crazy transformations to fill out those super suits.
Ask Henry Cavill about his incredibly buff body and he’s likely to tell you he grew up an overweight kid, which earned him the blunt nickname “Fat Cavill.” Still, by the time he’d hit 18 in The Count of Monte Cristo (left), Cavill had lost nearly all that baby fat, and for later roles in The Tudors, Immortals, and Man of Steel (right), he’d bulk up to bodybuilder proportions. Cavill got so big to play Superman, in fact, that producers contacted his trainer Mark Twight to make sure he wasn’t taking steroids. “Someone in production had me more than pinky swear,” Twight’s wife Lisa told Men’s Journal. “They told me that they’d be drug-testing Henry.” They didn’t have to: “I gave them a list of every supplement, with contact numbers,” said Twight, who also trained the Spartans for 300. “It’s hard work. It’s commitment.”
At first glance, Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man is much slimmer than Tobey Maguire’s, but that doesn’t mean that the actor was slacking: For months, Garfield worked out for seven hours a day to get in shape for the first Spider-Man (right, contrasted with his slender look in Never Let Me Go). And while Garfield was enamored of his new body, he found the whole process a bit disconcerting. “It doesn’t belong to you, you’ve never associated yourself with having a body [like that],” he told Total Film. “And when you realize you can manipulate your body, it’s empowering, but it’s just so much work, and now you’re like, ‘Fuck it, I don’t ever want to do that again. I’d rather eat doughnuts.’”
Christian Bale may be the patron saint of the actor bulk-up/slim-down, and he pioneered his approach back in 2000, when the formerly willowy actor put on muscle for American Psycho. “The ‘body thing’ starts to take over your whole life,” he told Flaunt that year. “I found myself unable to help looking at someone else and going, ‘Oooh, they should work out more’ or ‘They’ve really worked on their shoulders.’” Bale dramatically lost that weight four years later for his virtually starved performance in The Machinist, and once he knew he could do that, he started pulling it off in between bulked-up Batman movies: After Batman Begins (right), he dieted to play a P.O.W. in Rescue Dawn, and in between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, he dropped all his muscle tone for The Fighter (left).
The athletic Evans worked out pretty hard for his first superhero stint in the Fantastic Four franchise, but when you compare his physique to the supernaturally swollen one he had to accrue for Captain America, there’s no contest. “I don’t think my body is supposed to be as big as it got for Captain America,” he later told Men’s Health. “There was a strain on some joints. After a month and a half of training I found my right shoulder would click and my left pec would hurt.” Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that Evans kept his shirt on for Captain America’s two subsequent film appearances.
How much has the superhero bulk-up changed over the last decade and a half? Just look at Hugh Jackman, who was in admirable shape when he doffed his shirt for the original X-Men back in 2000, but is now yolked within an inch of his life for this summer’s X-Men Days of Future Past. (Jackman’s muscle-building diet is so precisely plotted that his shooting schedules are constructed around it.) Wolverine’s mutant power keeps him from aging at a normal rate, but it sure doesn’t inhibit gaining muscle.
Even when he used to appear on Australian soaps (left), Chris Hemsworth was used to being objectified, so when director Kenneth Branagh tentatively asked him if he would go shirtless for the first Thor, he recalls Hemswprth replying, “Do I mind? I’ve spent six months getting into shape for this! No, I don’t mind.” The actor might have since soured on all that bodybuilding: Deadline reported that Hemsworth clashed with Marvel because he “wasn’t anxious to go back into that arduous diet and training regimen and subsist primarily on egg whites for Thor: The Dark World,” and when Marvel majordomo Joss Whedon added a shirtless scene to that sequel, Hemsworth wasn’t nearly as gung-ho.
When you think of Tom Hardy, you’re probably picturing the muscle-bound brawler from Warrior or The Dark Knight Rises (right), but back when he shot 2006’s Scenes of a Sexual Nature, he was just your average bloke. That all changed when he started working out with personal trainer Pnut for Warrior, who kept Hardy in the gym all day and added even more bulk to him when he played Batman’s fearsome foe Bane. Now Hardy is so bonded with Pnut that he considers the man his closest friend and spiritual advisor, and made the personal trainer the godfather of his young son.
The only thing that’s consistent about Chris Pratt’s body is that he’ll change it dramatically on a dime. As Bright on Everwood (left), he was your standard-issue young hunk, but after the show was cancelled in 2006, Pratt spent three years gaining weight, which would serve him well as the adorably round Andy on Parks and Recreation (center). The only problem is that as Pratt’s career continued to heat up, his extracurricular roles kept encouraging him to slim down. The actor whittled himself down to an athletic figure for Moneyball, then chronicled his quest to gain the Parks and Rec weight back in a 2010 Vulture slideshow. Once he’d done that, he again had to get back in fighting shape to play a Navy SEAL in 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty … and then he put on even more chub to play Vince Vaughn’s friend in Delivery Man. Was poor Pratt done with all these wild weight swings? He was not: After he was cast as the lead in this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy (right), he had to whip himself into buff shape yet again, transforming his physique completely until he was in the best shape of his life.