In an era where action flicks and superhero stories are Hollywood’s bread and butter, it’s not enough for the female stars of these films to be talented and beautiful; they also have to acquire a very particular set of skills (and sometimes, a very particular set of muscles to match) in order to fulfill the physical demands of their roles.
From soldiers and spies to intergalactic assassins and psychotic ballerinas, these women put in maximum effort before the cameras ever began rolling, in order to be in peak condition when it came time to kick ass onscreen.
Gal Gadot already had the face to play one of the DC universe’s most notoriously gorgeous girl heroes when she was cast as Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — but it took some serious work in the gym to turn her long, lean, runway model’s body into an Amazonian temple of muscle for Wonder Woman’s stand-alone flick.
Gadot, who was unable to do a single pullup at the start of her training, spent nine months bulking up for the role. By the time she was in costume and in front of the cameras, she’d gained seventeen pounds — “And it’s all muscle,” she told Glamour. “I feel so much better now. When you feel strong, it changes everything — your posture, the way you walk. I look at photos from five years ago and think, Whoa, I was too skinny.” And it wasn’t just the physical transformation she had to accomplish; Gadot also had to learn to ride horseback and swing a sword in service of the film’s intense battle scenes.
Between playing Black Widow in the Iron Man and Avengers franchises and a cyborg assassin in Ghost in the Shell, Scarlett Johansson has had to pretty much stay in constant peak physical condition since 2010, But for the latter, she had to know how to handle a wide variety of lethal objects, too.
Johansson describes her training regimen for Ghost in the Shell as “a lot of repetition and then a lot of tactical training, which I’d never done before — with room clearing and all that stuff, to just be as efficient with the weapons as possible.” Hardcore, for sure, although it still sounds like a lot more fun than the strict weight-lifting and diet routine she followed for Avengers, which she described as, “Workout like a dude, eat like a rabbit.”
Until recently, Alison Brie was best known for playing Trudy, the long-suffering wife of Pete Campbell on Mad Men — a role which required serious acting skills but absolutely no stuntwork. So when she landed a starring role in Netflix’s GLOW (that’s Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), she had to train like a madwoman to get in literal fighting shape.
Sometimes, that meant intense workouts where she and her fellow GLs of W hurled weighted objects onto the gym floor; sometimes, it meant carrying her 220-pound trainer, Jason Walsh, around the room on her back. Walsh said his goal was to turn Brie into someone who could both dish out and take a hit. “Alison would be jumping off ropes and landing on people and flipping. I wanted to get her resilient so she didn’t run the risk of injury,” he said.
In order to play Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games franchise, Jennifer Lawrence had to not only act her butt off, but also whip herself into peak physical condition and acquire a slew of survival skills. Lawrence’s six-week training regimen included the usual time in the gym, where she did sprints and cardio conditioning for the action-packed films — and of course, she had to learn to hold a bow like a pro.
But when the actress was asked about her workout routine, she ticked off some unusual items, too, “Rock climbing, tree climbing — and combat, running, and vaulting.” She must have slept somewhere in there, too, although who knows when she would’ve had time for it!