Actors Who Went To Great Lengths For Their Marvel Roles

There’s a lot that goes into the casting for fan-favorite Marvel movies. One of the main things the filmmakers look for in an actor is if they look the part. In order for the performers to get these superhero roles, they need to do some intense training. Whether it’s a high-protein diet, spending long hours at the gym, or learning how to fight, these A-listers proved they had what it took to star in these successful Marvel films. Read on to discover which celebrities trained the hardest for their parts.

Kumail Nanjiani Can Still Enjoy Cheat Meals

Kumail Nanjiani is set to star in the upcoming Eternals film that will be out in November of 2021. He will play Kingo, a superhero and Bollywood star, who can project cosmic energy with his hands. In order to land this role, he needed to switch up his daily habits.

According to Jacked Gorilla, Nanjiani now works out five to six days a week for over an hour each time. Each workout focuses on two body parts at a time such as legs and calves or biceps and triceps. He is on a low-carb diet during the weekdays, but is allowed to have cheat meals on the weekends.

Chris Pratt Lost 60 Pounds In Six Months

chris pratt in guardians of the galaxy
Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB
Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB

While some may remember the lovable and slightly chubby version of Chris Pratt from Parks and Recreation, he got serious about getting in shape after landing a leading role in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. Pratt plays Peter Quill/Star-Lord, a half-human, half-alien, who leads the Guardians in order to save the universe.

He had one of the most dramatic weight losses in Marvel movie history by losing 60 pounds in six months for the role. He did all kinds of exercises to get in shape including running, swimming, boxing, and a triathlon. Pratt also ate four thousand calories a day and drank a lot of water.

Chris Pratt Inspired Paul Rudd To Get In Shape

paul rudd crossing his arms in ant man
Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB
Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB

Some joke that it’s hard to tell old photos of Paul Rudd apart from current ones because he’s managed to stay fit for decades. Rudd is best known in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) for his starring role as Scott Lang/Ant-Man in Ant-Man. His character gets to shrink in size, but becomes incredibly strong.

Rudd knew this role meant a lot to fans, so he wanted to get in the best shape possible. He worked with trainers, stopped drinking alcohol, and cut out fried foods and carbohydrates from his diet. He said his approach for this physical transformation was inspired by Chris Pratt’s dramatic weight loss for Guardians of the Galaxy.

Elizabeth Olsen Stepped Out Of Her Sisters’ Shadows

elizabeth olsen in avengers age of ultron
Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB
Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB

In the 1990s, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were a couple of the most well-known child actors in Hollywood. Their younger sister, Elizabeth Olsen, has been able to make a name for herself in the entertainment industry. She gained worldwide acclaim for playing Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Olsen knew this would be one of her most important roles to date, so she needed to focus on getting in shape. Her nutritionist Philip Goglia said, “She wanted to be dense, heavy, and athletic.” This meant she had to eliminate gluten, dairy, and yeast from her diet and eat seven to eight healthy meals per day.

Chris Hemsworth Trained With A Navy SEAL

chris hemsworth in thor
Paramount Pictures, Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB
Paramount Pictures, Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB

Australian actor Chris Hemsworth has become one of Hollywood’s biggest action movie stars. His best-known role is Thor, which he has played in eight Marvel movies. It has also made him one of the highest-paid actors in the world. In order to play one of the most powerful superheroes in the MCU, Hemsworth packed on 20 pounds of pure muscle.

He hired a personal trainer and former Navy SEAL who taught him about old-school bodybuilding. His trainer Duffy Gaver said, “It was just red meat, heavyweights, and some protein powder. He crushed every single workout. He simply decided to look like Thor.”

Robert Downey Jr. Trained Like Bruce Lee For Iron Man

robert downey jr. in iron man
Marvel Studios/MovieStillsDB
Marvel Studios/MovieStillsDB

While Robert Downey Jr. started acting when he was five years old, he didn’t become a worldwide phenomenon until he landed the role of Tony Stark/Iron Man in Iron Man. Since 2008, he has gone on to make 10 films in the MCU.

Director Jon Favreau said Downey Jr. wasn’t the most conventional choice for the role, but he had some kind of a wow factor. Downey Jr. had to gain over 20 pounds of muscle in five months in order to look the part. He used Wing Chun techniques to work out, which was made famous by Bruce Lee.

Brie Larson Got Strong Enough To Pull A Jeep

brie larson in captain marvel
Walt Disney Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Walt Disney Pictures/MovieStillsDB

Brie Larson was the first female to headline her own Marvel film in Captain Marvel. She played Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel where her character had to protect Earth in an alien war. Larson almost didn’t take the part, but realized it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

In order to get in superhero shape, Larson spent nine months doing judo, boxing, wrestling, and training with the Nellis Air Force Base. By the end of her coaching, she was able to pull a five thousand-pound Jeep with a full tank of gas for a whole minute.

Chris Evans Practiced Gymnastics To Play Captain America

chris evans as captain america in avengers age of ultron
Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB
Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB

Chris Evans owes his chance of getting the role of Captain America to his work in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The director saw his performance and knew he would be the best fit for Steve Rogers/Captain America. Evans initially refused to do the Marvel films, but Robert Downey Jr. encouraged him to give it a try.

He had to get serious about training to get into top-notch shape. He spent his time lifting weights, doing gymnastics, and practicing aerobics to gain more speed and agility. After starring in seven Marvel movies, he has become one of the richest actors in Hollywood.

Scarlett Johansson Went To Great Lengths To Play Black Widow

scarlett johansson as black widow in iron man 2
Paramount Pictures, Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB
Paramount Pictures, Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB

It was smart for Marvel to cast Scarlet Johansson as Black Widow because her films have made almost $15 billion at the box office. While she was auditioning for Iron Man 2, she did several things to convince director Jon Favreau that she was right for the part.

First, she dyed her hair red. Then, she worked on her physical fitness by undergoing tough strength training, cardio, circuit training, and mixed martial arts. Johansson also switched to a vegan diet. It was announced that Black Widow, the character’s solo prequel film, will be released on July 9, 2021.

Tom Holland Got Ripped To Play Spider-Man

tom holland as spider-man in avengers infinity war
Marvel Entertainment, Walt Disney Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Marvel Entertainment, Walt Disney Pictures/MovieStillsDB

English actor Tom Holland gained worldwide acclaim for his portrayal of Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the MCU. Born in 1996, Holland is one of the youngest actors to play the lead in a Marvel film. In order to deliver a realistic performance, Holland physically transformed to play Spider-Man.

Holland has a background in dance and musical theater, so that definitely helped with his training. He worked on gymnastics, circuit training, boxing, weightlifting, and participated in electronic muscle stimulation. Boxing was the most important thing for him to learn because he wanted to authentically throw punches on screen.

Hugh Jackman Ate Super Early In The Morning

hugh jackman in x-men origins wolverine
Twentieth Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB
Twentieth Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB

Marvel fans may not know that Hugh Jackman holds the Guinness World Record for having the longest career as a live-action Marvel superhero. Jackman is best known for his role as Logan/Wolverine in the X-Men film series, which he played from 2000 to 2017.

There’s a huge reason why Jackman looks a lot different in the later Wolverine movies. “…I want Logan to look animalistic, savage, carnal, veins popping out, and coiled like a spring,” said Jackman. In order to get that particular look, he ate a lot of lean protein at four in the morning to get the food to digest before his intense early morning workout.

Jeremy Renner Became An Archery Master

jeremy renner as hawkeye in the avengers
Marvel Entertainment, Walt Disney Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Marvel Entertainment, Walt Disney Pictures/MovieStillsDB

One of Jeremy Renner’s most iconic film roles is his portrayal of Clint Barton/Hawkeye in the Thor and The Avengers franchises. His character is a master archer who works as an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. Renner wanted his acting and stunts to be convincing, so he did some intense physical training.

He practiced archery as much as possible and worked out three to five times a week. Renner shared that his character was more known for his skill set than his physique. Also, he updated his eating plan to include lots of lean meat, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

Benedict Cumberbatch Shares A Big Marvel Movie Secret

benedict cumberbatch in dr. strange
Marvel Studios/MovieStillsDB
Marvel Studios/MovieStillsDB

While Benedict Cumberbatch is most famously known for playing the titular role on Sherlock, he also was able to join the MCU. Fans can see Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange in Doctor Strange, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame. He is set to reprise his role in the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

He went about getting fit by eating right and exercising regularly, but told James Corden a Marvel movie secret most fans don’t know. “…You are basically told to eat Skittles and drink coffee [the day before] because it dehydrates you,” said Cumberbatch.

Lupita Nyong’o Had To Gain A Lot Of Muscle For Black Panther

lupita nyong'o in black panther
Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB
Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB

Lupita Nyong’o joined the MCU in 2018 as Nakia in the hit film Black Panther. Her character was a War Dog and undercover spy for Wakanda. It was crucial for Nyong’o to gain a lot of muscle and endurance for this difficult action role.

In order to prepare, she trained in Filipino martial arts, silat, jujitsu, and judo. She had work out four days a week and had an additional six weeks of boot camp. “It’s just gaining strength, stamina, and flexibility…I had to get into particularly good shape to be able to do the stunts,” she said.

Mark Ruffalo Didn’t Rely On Special Effects For Hulk

mark ruffalo as the hulk in Thor: Ragnarok
Walt Disney Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Walt Disney Pictures/MovieStillsDB

Marvel cast Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk in several different projects. He can be seen in all of the Avengers films, Iron Man 3, Thor: Ragnarok, Captain Marvel, and the upcoming Disney+ series She-Hulk and What If…?.

Even though Hulk is a creature with super-human strength, Ruffalo still had to work out on top of the special effects. Ruffalo lost 20 pounds in 17 weeks by doing about 500 push-ups per day. He also switched up his eating habits by consuming no more than one thousand calories per day.

Michael B. Jordan Couldn’t Fit In His Costume After Training

michael b. jordan in black panther
Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB
Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB

Michael B. Jordan’s close relationship with director Ryan Coogler was a driving force in him earning the role of N’Jadaka/Erik “Killmonger” Stevens in Black Panther. He played a U.S. Navy SEAL who tries to defeat Black Panther, so he can rule Wakanda.

Jordan trained intensely to portray the antagonist in Black Panther. He gained 15 pounds of muscle with the help of celebrity trainer Corey Calliet. They would work out six days a week with Jordan eating at least six meals each day. According to Business Insider, Calliet shared that Jordan could barely lift 25 pounds when they started and by the end, he could barely fit into his costume.

Karen Gillan Shaved Her Head To Play Nebula

karen gillan in guardians of the galaxy
Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB
Marvel Entertainment/MovieStillsDB

Scottish actress Karen Gillan earned her claim to fame by landing the role of Nebula in the MCU. Nebula is an adopted daughter of Thanos who was raised with Gamora and is the “female villain” of the film. Gillan did a lot of research to prepare for her role, which included shaving her head to stay accurate with ancient Spartan rituals.

She wanted to get her body to be as fit as possible, so she rigorously trained for two months. It was important to build muscle, so she did squats, barbell deadlifts, and weightlifting. Gillan also increased her endurance by running and cycling.

Josh Brolin Put In The Work To Play Thanos

josh brolin in avengers infinity war
Marvel Entertainment, Walt Disney Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Marvel Entertainment, Walt Disney Pictures/MovieStillsDB

One of the oldest actors to land a starring role in the MCU is Josh Brolin. Born in 1968, he is known for films such as The Goonies, True Grit, and No Country for Old Men. Marvel fans know him best for playing supervillain Thanos.

Thanos is one of the bulkiest Marvel characters, so Brolin had to watch what he ate. He eliminated carbs and got to work in the gym. According to his Instagram page, he frequently went to Gold’s Gym to do drop sets and other intense weightlifting exercises.

Gwyneth Paltrow Took Up Dancing To Get In Shape

gwyneth paltrow in iron man 2
Marvel Entertainment, Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Marvel Entertainment, Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB

While Gwyneth Paltrow has started to shy away from acting to focus on her wellness and lifestyle brand, Goop, there are certain roles that fans will always remember. She was cast as Pepper Potts in the MCU and played the role from 2008 to 2019.

In order to assist Iron Man in his quests, Paltrow had to train to look the part. PopSugar says that one thing Paltrow manages to stay consistent on is her fitness routine. She regularly trained with celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson by taking her Method dance cardio classes.

Sebastian Stan Had A Supportive Personal Trainer

sebastian stan in captain america the winter soldier
Marvel Entertainment, Walt Disney Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Marvel Entertainment, Walt Disney Pictures/MovieStillsDB

Sebastian Stan had to get into peak physical shape in order to play Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier in the MCU. He has reprised his role several times in multiple Captain America and Avengers films with the most recent being The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

One person Stan owes his physical transformation to is his personal trainer Don Saladino. The majority of their workouts started with big, bulky lifts. “There is this amazing muscle engagement that you can just feel when you pick up a big weight…it just needs to feel heavy,” said Saladino.