It's no secret that actors need to get in really good shape before action films so they look good on camera, and some actors are constantly doing shirtless scenes to show off their bodies. But in the past couple decades, particularly with superhero films on the rise, Hollywood has gotten far more demanding about what an actor has to look like with their shirt off. It's no longer simply a matter of "getting in good shape" -- actors now have to do vigorous (and sometimes dangerous) workouts for nine-month periods leading up to certain roles, follow ultra-strict nutritional guidelines, and partake a series of bizarre (and sometimes quasi-legal) tricks right before shirtless scenes just so the movie can capture the hyper-jacked, mega-chiseled look that studios now demand.
Here are some of the bigger action stars in movies today talking about the ridiculous regimens they have to go through every time they need to film a shirtless scene.
Jason Momoa: 'That’s All They Want - Me With My Shirt Off!'Photo: Justice League/Warner Bros.
Jason Momoa has spent the majority of his career playing muscle-bound warriors and the like. While he looked impressive for his role in Game of Thrones, he stepped up his game to play Arthur Curry, AKA Aquaman, in the eponymous film. Momoa was already a big guy, but he had to get into superhero shape in order to play Aquaman.
The Aquaman Workout is intense, but for Momoa, it's all part of the job. Momoa knows he's often a target for a particular part because of his ability to get into shape for a role. He once joked, "That's all they want - me with my shirt off!"
For a guy who famously loves to drink Guinness (Momoa has his own signature called the Mano Brew), laying off the carbs for a part is exhausting. The actor must cut the foods he loves for a much slimmer diet. He may take a break every once in a while to indulge in something yummy, but his plan is centered around dropping fat, toning muscle, and then working out like a madman right up to the point the director calls, "Action!"
Kumail Nanjiani: 'I’m Glad I Look Like This, But I Also Understand Why I Never Did Before'
When stand-up comedian and Silicon Valley star Kumail Nanjiani was cast in Marvel's Eternals, he spent a year getting into superhero shape. He showed off his transformation on Instagram, joking, "I never thought I’d be one of those people who would post a thirsty shirtless, but I’ve worked way too hard for way too long so here we are."
Nanjiani offered a healthy dose of reality to accompany his rock-hard abs and biceps, giving thanks to his wife, nutritionists, catering company, and the budget that helped him along the way:
I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t have a full year with the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world. I’m glad I look like this, but I also understand why I never did before. It would have been impossible without these resources and time.
Months later, the actor and comedian would discuss how his transformation affected his mental health, for better and for worse. "I don't want to discount people who genuinely have debilitating body issues," he told Men's Health. "I don't have that. But I did start getting some body dysmorphia. I'd look in the mirror and I'd see my abs - and when I looked again, they would fade. I would just see the flaws."
After posting his shirtless photo online and receiving positive feedback, Nanjiani said he understood that he was focusing too closely on the negative. "It's something that I'm trying to be aware of and be better at, because that's not a good way to be. You want to be easy on yourself," he said.
Liam Hemsworth: 'I Would Actually Hear His Stomach Growling'
If Hollywood has taught us anything, it's that the Hemsworth genes are at the top of the evolutionary ladder. Like his brother, Liam Hemsworth hardly need blush while taking off his shirt, but even he had to prepare intensely for a scene in The Dressmaker in which he shows off his physique.
Getting ready for that scene wasn't easy, as co-star Kate Winslet can attest. It seems that Hemsworth was likely starving himself. While filming the shirtless scene, Winslet claims she "would actually hear his stomach growling."
In an interview with E! News, Hemsworth said, "I didn't eat for weeks!" While he was likely exaggerating, he did finally indulge in some favorite snacks as soon as the cameras stopped rolling:
I think I ate a lot of chips after that day. As soon as you get your shirt off scene done, you’re like, all right, let’s head to McDonald’s or wherever. I don’t actually eat McDonald’s, but somewhere with burgers and fries!
In terms of his workout, Hemsworth didn't stray from his normal routine, which includes a ton of cardio. He loves boxing, surfing, and running, so these play a large role in his exercise regimen. In addition to cardio, he does bench presses, military presses, neck presses, pull-ups, and lateral raises.
Tom Hardy: 'No, I Took Smarties. What Do You F*cking Think?'
Comic book characters often have muscle groups exaggerated into impossible levels, but none comes close to Bane. The Batman villain is constantly juicing himself up with Venom, which makes his muscles fill up like they're balloons. As a result, he gets ridiculously humongous. In order to realistically play the character in a live-action setting, Tom Hardy had to bulk up like never before.
Most of the time, an actor or athlete will vehemently deny taking enhancements or human growth hormone. The same can't be said of Hardy. When he was asked if he channeled Bane in real life to prepare for his role - i.e., took substances to help him gain muscle - the actor replied, "No, I took Smarties. What do you f*cking think?" At least the guy was honest about it.
Of course, you don't get to pack on a ton of muscle without also working out intensely, and Hardy certainly did that to prepare for his role as Bane. If you're interested in emulating his workout routine, you can find it here.