Getting in shape for a role is just another part of the job for actors now, with shredded superhero transformations helping them get into character and more convincingly portray gods, robots and super-soldiers on screen. But when it comes to depictions of training in movies, is what fans are seeing even remotely realistic?
In a recent series of YouTube videos, powerlifter Mark Bell and bodybuilder Stan Efferding watch training sequences from a range of Hollywood movies and offer their expert opinion.
Starting with the training montage from Rocky II, both Bell and Efferding concede that Stallone’s performance is pretty good, and admit that neither of them could complete a one-handed pushup. “What I like is the noises and faces,” says Efferding. “That might be where I learned it from!”
They both respected Bradley Cooper’s deadlifting technique in a scene from American Sniper, although as Efferding pointed out, “I’m not sure that deadlifting is great for your sniper job.”
A clip from the 2017 Baywatch reboot, in which The Rock and Zac Efron compete in a weight lifting contest and each attempt to carry a pair of refrigerators, prompted Bell and Efferding to both recall the time Franco Colombu was injured during a very similar challenge in the World’s Strongest Man competition.
The verisimilitude of the bodybuilding world in movies became more questionable in an excerpt from Pain and Gain; specifically the moment where lead actor Anthony Mackie wins first place in a competition against two other men whose physiques more closely resemble those of pro bodybuilders. “Not sure how he got in first there,” says Efferding. “”It’s probably the best shorts, maybe that was the category.” Bell added:”Yeah, those other guys are jacked.”
Neither of them takes the vast difference between reality and fiction too seriously though. “Any time I see lifting in any TV show, any kind of reference to training in any capacity, I always think it’s fun, I always think it’s funny,” says Bell. “And they always make fun of us; we’re always mocked, we’re always the meatheads, right?”
“Behind the scenes in reality, though, they’ve always been fans,” says Efferding. “Actors would come in, and they’d always want to bodybuild behind the scenes.”