How much should real life bodily transformation reflect reel life bodily transformation? Actors going to tremendous lengths to reinvent and transform their bodies for a role seemed genuinely shocking back when Robert DeNiro parlayed such preparation into an Oscar for turning Travis Bickle’s slight taxicab operator’s body into the intimidating muscle-bound physique of boxer Jake LaMotta.
Today, it is almost expected as part of the job of movie star that an actor be willing to put in twice as much time in the gym as in front of the cameras. But what do you if the character you are playing has been famously put through a physically demanding story? Do you allow the authenticity and realistic expectations of what your character would likely have done in the interim to intrude upon the professional expectations of real world business operations? Such is the question facing Josh Hutcherson as he prepares his body for the rigors of filming the sequel to the wildly successful “The Hunger Games.”
Groundwork for that initial foray into the world of fighting for your life as a contestant on the ultimate reality TV show was a different thing altogether. Hutcherson was faced with the job of getting his own body into the kind of shape that would maintain the sense of realism and the suspension of disbelief necessary to accept an actor in a role where certain physical expectations are to be expected.
Accepting the role meant that Hutcherson had to put on 15 pounds of bulk and submit to fitness training under the guidance of a former Navy SEAL in order to transform his physique so that it was believable it could survive and, indeed, thrive, under the warlike conditions faced by his character. The sequel to “The Hunger Games” comes with a different challenge that is more inextricably tied to the fiction of Hutcherson’s character.
What would a guy do under the circumstances faced by Hutcherson’s character? He’s just ended a grueling and torturous competition marked by extreme demands upon his body and a lack of easily accessible food. Would he head to the nearest fast food joint and spend a few weeks gorging? Would he have headed to Disney World? Just how does one respond to the rigors of taking part in “The Hunger Games”?
According to Hutcherson, his character Peeta would not have pigged out or sought escape in a virtual world, but would instead have recognized the value of getting into even better physical shape and adopting a more nutritional diet. The upshot is that preparations for “The Hunger Games” were based on getting into shape in a manner dictated by what his character would be doing on screen. Physical preparation for the sequel to “The Hunger Games” is dictated just as much by activity that may not make it onto the screen as activity that will.
In other words, Hutcherson is being asked to engage in a physical preparation for his role that is much closer to what Robert DeNiro faced during his infamous time off from shooting “Raging Bull” when he went on an eating binge designed to undo all the hard work that had gone into sculpting his body into the muscular physique of Jake LaMotta at the height of his boxing career. In order to go from lean mean fighting machine to great big tub of goo, DeNiro had to base his preparation around the lifestyle LaMotta chose to indulge in following his own grueling and torturous life of competition. The difference being, of course, that DeNiro had to condense years of such a lifestyle into just a few months.
For more from Timothy Sexton, Yahoo! Contributor Network’s first Writer of the Year, check out:
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