The Avengers Cast Went To Shocking Extremes To Prepare For Their Roles

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No actor has the skills necessary to fully inhabit a superhero onscreen, but most do everything they can to create the perception of superpowers. This is particularly true in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where actors are routinely put through gruelling workouts and diets—that sometimes span many months—in preparation for their roles. While watching Avengers: Endgame this weekend, remember that it’s not all fun and games acting in the MCU. The people playing these superheroes also make some very human sacrifices.


Black Panther

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Thanks to his extensive martial arts background, Chadwick Boseman had a head start when he was cast to play T’Challa. However, that didn’t stop him from moving to Florida for an intense training regime with Marrese Crump, who gave him an enlightening education in Muay Thai, Capoeira, and various Filipino martial arts.


Black Widow

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Unlike most of her MCU peers, Scarlett Johansson had less than two months to prepare before tackling the role of Black Widow. Fortunately, she had the support of seasoned stunt performer Heidi Moneymaker to prepare her for onscreen battle. “Luckily, Scarlett is such a professional and works incredibly hard,” Moneymaker has said. “She learned all her fights and performed them with perfect execution.”


Captain Marvel

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Many of the Avengers have grown used to the rigours of MCU prep, having gone through the process several times, but the shock is still relatively fresh for Brie Larson. For Captain Marvel, she went through nine months of intensive training with Rise Movement and Rise Nation founder Jason Walsh, who reserved his harshest demands for the final months. According to Walsh, the positive impact on Larson went beyond physical prowess, drastically improving “her whole mentality and psychology.”


Captain America

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In preparing to play Steve Rogers, Chris Evans went through a typically gruelling Marvel training regime, but “the worst part was the eating,” he once said. “Just constantly ingesting food and ingesting protein, you get to a point where you’re so full, but you just have to keep eating if you’re trying to gain weight.”


Hulk

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Mark Ruffalo wanted to create a “rakish and thin” Bruce Banner, but the diet necessary to get him there resulted in some Hulk-level freak-outs. “It was one meal a day, two shakes, no dairy, no meat, no caffeine, no sugar, no love, no fun, no sex, no drugs, no wine, no women,” he told Paste Magazine. “The first week I had to lock myself away from my family, so I didn’t kill somebody.”


Thor

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Weighing in at a muscular 500 pounds, comic book Thor set the fitness bar unreasonably high for actor Chris Hemsworth, but the actor did everything possible to get there. Working with Art of Strength director Michael Knight, he developed a daunting, two-part regime. “The first was a bodybuilder-type protocol focused on high-weight, low-rep moves designed to pack on maximum size, while the second consisted of total-body circuits designed to shift his excess fat while maintaining muscle,” Hemsworth said, adding that he also had to eat—a lot. “I basically overfed on protein and endless amounts of chicken breast and steak and fish and vegetables and brown rice.”


Hawkeye

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In order to bring Hawkeye’s archery skills to the screen, Jeremy Renner trained with Olympic athletes, but some of their expertise conflicted with his character’s distinctive approach to the bow and arrow. “Real archery is not superhero Hawkeye archery,” he once said. “So [the training] kind of helped, but it kind of got in the way as well.”


Iron Man

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While there’s no doubt that Robert Downey Jr. went through the same intensive dieting and workouts as the other Avengers, director Jon Favreau handed him the lead in Iron Man because of preparations the actor unknowingly did in his once-troubled personal life. “The best and worst moments of Robert’s life have been in the public eye,” Favreau explained. “He had to find an inner balance to overcome obstacles that went far beyond his career. That’s Tony Stark. Robert brings a depth that goes beyond a comic book character having trouble in high school.”

Avengers: Endgame arrives in theatres tonight. Check out the trailer below.