How do actors train for action movie roles? How do they get in shape?

Emily Blunt in ‘Edge of Tomorrow

Who trains actors for action movie roles?

Being an actor and winning a part in an action movie is exciting. Until you realize how much work you are going to have to do to get into shape for that role.

How do actors train for action movie roles? Do they train themselves? Does the studio hire a celebrity trainer for them? If so, what kind of trainer, and what do they have these actors do? And for how long?

Until I moved to Los Angeles over a decade ago, and became friendly with people in the movie industry, I had no idea how actors train for action movie roles. Then I worked for a woman for a while whose job it was to train actors in how to carry and shoot fire arms, and how to look authentic while they were doing it.

All of a sudden, a whole new world opened up for me. A world where I learned just what happens when actors train for action movie roles, and just how much they have to work to get in shape by the time shooting on the film begins.


A world that is explained in an excellent video published last month by Vanity Fair. A video with celebrity trainer Jason Walsh explaining exactly what he does when an actor needs to be trained, and how he and the actor make sure the training is tailored to the role they will be playing.

Bradley Cooper in ‘American Sniper

How do actors train for movie roles?

The variables — The first thing a celebrity trainer looks at with their client is the variables involved in the role they have just accepted.

As Jason Walsh explains in the video, he needs to know if they are going to be in the desert while playing that role? Will they be carrying heavy equipment, and how physical is the role? How long do they have to train? How much physical training has the actor done in the past? Or is he or she a novice?

Safety — Walsh says, no matter how intense the training he gives the actors he works with, he still has to make sure safety is a priority. After all, if a major celebrity gets injured, filming on the set immediately shuts down and can stay shut down for weeks.

So he trains actors to be strong, fit, resilient, and confident, while still doing everything they will eventually end up doing on set safely.


Workouts tailored to the role and the actor — Walsh gives an example of training Bradley Cooper for his role in American Sniper. A role requiring him to be able to look and act like his character Chris Kyle — a super strong, ultra-fit, military sniper who weighed 225 lbs — while Cooper himself was lucky if he weighed 185lbs dripping wet.

With just 12 weeks to get Cooper bigger for the role, Walsh admitted this was the one he worried about the most.

But he put together a workout program that sometimes required Cooper to be at the gym twice a day. The program along with an increased calorie diet did, however, enable him to gain 40 lbs in just 12 weeks.

The Vanity Fair video below has more detail about Bradley Cooper’s specific training program, and how it allowed him to eventually be able to lift 425 lbs.

It also looks at John Krasinski‘s training program for his role as a Navy Seal in 13 Hours, Emily Blunt‘s for her role as Sergeant Rita Vrataski in Edge of Tomorrow, Brie Larson‘s for Captain Marvel, and Alison Brie’s as a wrestler in Glow.

He even trained Emma Stone for a dance role in La La Land.

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