Colossus is one of the biggest and strongest members of the X-Men. How did you pack on the required muscle mass? As an actor I try to be a kind of chameleon, in that I’m in shape all the time and I can go in either direction, adding weight or dropping weight. So with that part I just had to go back to eating every two hours and working out twice a day. I concentrated on clean eating, keeping the calorie count up and keeping my metabolism running well enough so that I was putting on lean muscle – I didn’t just want bulk, I wanted to keep the definition that I had but make it look more like comic-book character muscle. A little bit larger than life. I had about three weeks to prepare, which isn’t that long. Putting on lean muscle takes time – you need enough time to break the muscle down and build it up properly. Luckily you always look 10lb [4.5kg] heavier in front of the camera, so if you focus on broadening your shoulders and keeping definition in your arms you can make yourself look bigger than you really are! I think I put on around 8lb [3.6kg] – not a ton, but as much as I could without completely burning myself out.
What would a typical training session involve? I went back to the days of playing sport, where I started off focusing on heavy basic weight moves – bench presses, overhead presses, back squats, front squats – and do five sets of five reps or six sets of three with a really heavy weight to really break down the muscle. Then I would go into a CrossFit-derived workout: one minute of max reps of two or three different exercises back to back, like bent-over rows coupled with step-ups, for ten to 12 minutes. There’s a cardio element that made sure that my body stayed lean and defined but there’s also a strength and size element that really hit the muscles hard. And then at the end it would be more core, abs and maybe biceps and triceps work to finish it off.
Actors do their fair share of stunt work on action films like this. You’re covered in metal for most of it – how did you find that? I’m a 6ft 6in [1.98m] actor, so it’s hard to find stunt performers who are that size. I’m fortunate that I’ve got an athletic background and I’ve done stunt work before. But we had a great stunt team on this film. I’m more than happy to try and do as much as I can on a film, unless it’s something very specific that I know I can’t do or that I know I’ll look like a fool doing it – that’s when it’s time to call in the pros!
You played American football at college and for British Columbia Premiership rugby union team Capilano when you were younger – have you always been into sports? I grew up with three brothers and both our parents came from big athletic backgrounds, so as young kids they just threw us into sport. It was the easiest way to fill our time – I guess you could say I had a short attention span – so we just bounced around everything that we could. We played soccer in the summertime, did skiing or snowboarding in the winter, and then hockey and basketball at school. I played [American] football when I was a teenager and I was offered a college scholarship because of that. I came to rugby late and I wish I’d gotten into it earlier because it kind of combines all the elements of other sports in one – it has that flow and movement of a soccer game, you’ve got little elements of basketball skills, you’ve got the physicality of football but you tackle properly in rugby, and then the camaraderie and team aspect was amazing. Sport has always been a really important part of my life – I really enjoyed every aspect of playing team sports and just being as physical as possible.
How has your training changed generally since your sporting days? I used to spend so much time in gyms doing sport-specific training, but my training has changed since I’ve been acting. I don’t need to train five days a week in a gym anymore – I don’t usually need to be that big or bulky, so I like to go in and train three days a week for some intense weight training to keep the muscle on. Outside of that, living in California, I try to do more outdoor activities – surfing, hiking that sort of thing. I just try to stay as active as possible. Lately I’ve been trying out Pilates, which can make you extremely lean and really stretches out your muscles.
How tough is it maintaining your training during a busy film shoot? It can be really tough, but the great thing about these films is you have access to great food thanks to the catering. Sometimes you’re working weird hours and you’re leaving your hotel before the gym’s open, so I bring those rubber resistance bands and try to do some sort of Tabata workout in my hotel room. I’ve done things like filled my suitcase with all my clothes and then just lifted that, or I’ll do biceps curls with the chair in the hotel room – you kind of have to get creative and use whatever you can find that will help. Sometimes they have weights on set – for this one they had a whole gym for Hugh Jackman, so I jumped in there whenever I got a chance!
So what can we expect from Colossus in this movie? These characters have all grown up a lot since X-Men: The Last Stand. You see Colossus falling into that role of the protector, using that size and strength and being more aggressive to defend his fellow mutants. It was fun for me to see his evolution as a character. He’s really cool.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is released nationwide on 22nd May
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