Brie Larson has so far put in nine months of training to get in shape for her lead role as Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel. Larson’s Instagram feed has recently been packed with demos of her smashing pull-ups, press-ups with heavy chains around her waist, hanging knee raises and weighted walking lunges in the gym to build her functional strength. She’s also been introduced to plyometrics and is doing box jumps higher than the height of her hips.
Brie Larson Workout Routine Photo Gallery
Of course, with great power, comes great responsibility. Which is why so many actresses are now ramping up their pre-filming training regimes to stratospheric levels in order to live up to audience expectations of how female action characters should look, and convincingly pull off their fight choreography and stunts. A-list personal trainer Liston WingateDenys (listonwingatedenys.com), who trained Thandie Newton for her role as crack-shot smuggler Val, in Solo: A Star Wars Story, is all too familiar with the pressure action actresses are under from film studios and movie fans. ‘It involves a huge amount of work to get in action-woman shape, and generally speaking, actresses graft harder than the guys.
If I tell them they need to train three times a day and eat five or six small meals a day for three months, not including their stunt training, they’ll get on with it,’ he explains. ‘This might be because they feel they have more to prove, but also because women in the media gaze are under constant scrutiny to stay in shape, or bounce back after having a baby. Some of the costumes are so skin-tight, showing off every curve (or lump and bump), and often, actresses have to get in shape to fit the costume, as the studio has a clear idea of how they want them to look, rather than the costume being made to fit them.’
So, looks aside, what does it take to get action-ready? ‘Stamina is essential to get through the long days of filming, as well as physical and mental focus, because contrary to popular belief, there can be a lot of standing around on set, but you need to be ready to perform at a moment’s notice,’ says Wingate-Denys. ‘You also need strength, speed, power, agility and flexibility. A dance background is also helpful when it comes to picking up fight choreography. Ideally, I like to have around 12 weeks to get someone in the desired shape, but sometimes studios only give you six weeks, which can be really intense. In some instances, actors can be doing more physical work than learning their lines.’ Someone who knows all about the process of getting action-film ready is model, dancer and actress Sarah Smith, who endured a gruelling six-month fitness and fight-training bootcamp to get in peak physical condition to play one of the Amazon warriors in Wonder Woman, and is going through the audition process for the second movie due out next year.
‘I was pushed to new extremes during training, mentally and physically,’ says Smith. ‘We were trained in an almost scientific way and the coaches pushed us as hard as they could without breaking us, challenging us to complete tasks that seemed physically impossible. But it’s amazing what the body can achieve in the end.’ So with action women lighting up the cinema screens right now, how does Smith feel to be part of the process that’s changing attitudes to what women and female characters can achieve? ‘It’s amazing to be a part of this movement at an exciting time where everything is transitioning,’ she says. ‘Historically in film, women were always allowed to be slim, but now, active women can be strong, empowered, and feel comfortable in who they are.’
‘You only have to look at the poster for upcoming film Ant-Man and the Wasp – which not only places Evangeline Lilly’s character Wasp in front of Ant-Man, but also shows her with a messy, sweaty, after-gym ponytail suited to someone who’s been kicking ass all day, rather than the typical perfectly coiffed hair-dos we’re used to on female superheroes – to see positive change occurring.’ And with Brie Larson starring as Carol Danvers in Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie Captain Marvel, due for release next year alongside Wonder Woman 2 – plus constant rumours circulating for an all-female Avengers movie refusing to die down – it seems the wait for more and better representations of women in film is finally almost over.
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