"Eternals" is a different kind of superhero movie in more ways than one. Firstly, it’s the most diverse Marvel picture to date — it introduces the MCU’s first deaf superhero, it contains Marvel’s first onscreen LGBTQ kiss, and it’s directed by an Asian woman (Oscar winner Chloé Zhao). But another major difference is that most of the heroes here don’t necessarily look superhuman. Speaking to Screen Rant during a set visit, producer Nate Moore said that the actors brought in to play the Eternals (powerful extraterrestrials that came to Earth to protect humankind several thousand years ago and have been living on the planet in secret ever since) were told that they didn’t have to bulk up. "This isn’t the movie where we have to work out a ton," Moore said.
This was music to the ears of Brian Tyree Henry, who plays Phastos in the film. "I remember the first time that they were like, ‘We want you to be a superhero,’ and I was like, ‘Cool, how much weight do I have to lose?’" the actor said during an interview with Variety. "And Chloé was like, ‘What are you talking about? We want you exactly as you are.’" It’s refreshing to learn that the cast wasn’t put under any pressure to transform their bodies, but some of them didn’t get the memo. In fact, most of the stars worked out in one way or another to get in shape for "Eternals," and here’s how they did it.
Lauren Ridloff did a lot of leg days
Deaf actor Lauren Ridloff made history when she won the role of Makkari in "Eternals," the first deaf superhero to feature in a Marvel movie. It was a huge moment for Ridloff, who "didn’t dream of becoming an actor" as a child because she didn’t see deaf people onscreen, she told The Hollywood Reporter. Now, she looks set to take Hollywood by storm.
Ridloff broke through playing the badass, bicep-flexing survivor Connie on "The Walking Dead." She was in good shape for the AMC show and was still looking lean when Marvel came calling. She didn’t know much about the Eternals when she first met with Chloé Zhao, but when she learned that Makkari was super fast, it almost seemed meant to be. "In high school I joined track because I thought the coaches were cute. Instead I fell in love with running," Ridloff revealed in an Instagram post. "It’s a forever thing now."
Ridloff was already a seasoned runner when she accepted her "Eternals" role. To her surprise, Marvel trainers advised her to stop running so she would better resemble her character. "I was like, excuse me, stop running?" she said when the cast of "Eternals" all sat down with Entertainment Weekly. "Really what they wanted to do was focus on building the symmetry of somebody who looks like a sprinter, and they tend to be a bit more muscular. So I focused mostly on building muscle, especially my legs."
Boxer Barry Keoghan worked out with his Eternals co-stars
Heaving appeared in Christopher Nolan’s "Dunkirk," Barry Keoghan was already accustomed to huge movie productions when he landed the role of Druig in "Eternals," though playing a superhero in a Marvel movie is obviously extra daunting. When he stopped by Evoke magazine to chat about his part in the big MCU film, Keoghan admitted that all the hype made him want to transform his body. "I changed my physique a little because of the pressure of things, but I usually wouldn’t," he said. "There’s this whole stigma attached to it that you need to be fit. But you don’t have to be a superhero. You can be anyone."
Keoghan hit the gym with fellow Eternals Richard Madden and Kumail Nanjiani ahead of filming, sharing his progress with his Instagram and Twitter followers. Lifting weights with his co-stars got him looking a lot more cut than usual as Druig, though his regular routine actually keeps him pretty fit. The Irish actor has long had a love of boxing, and he’s been training in the sport for years. He likes to squeeze in "as much boxing as I can," he told OTB Sports. "I love a bit of pad work and sparring. Training is brilliant, it is not only good to look [good], but to feel good mentally. It is brilliant for the mental health. I train a lot for that reason, to feel good and push my day forward."
No pain no gain for Richard Madden
Richard Madden got into great shape to play Ikarus in "Eternals," and it’s a good thing he did. "There was a lot of time on wires because my character flies, which was just physically f***ing draining," the Scottish actor told Wonderland magazine (via the Daily Mail). To prepare for the role, he hit the gym hard — so hard it hurt. Replying to a post-workout mirror selfie snapped and shared on Instagram by co-star Barry Keoghan, Madden simply said: "The pain on my face."
Running was also a big part of Madden’s "Eternals" routine, something he’s been doing regularly since recovering from a debilitating injury in 2016. "I could barely walk, was on crutches and miserable," he said in an Instagram post. "Today I ran 22km (half marathon) and am feeling happy and grateful to be where I am doing what I love (and to be back on my feet)." He also doesn’t mind a bit of an incline — the actor posted a shirtless selfie from his hike in California’s Topanga State Park in 2020, giving followers a rare glimpse of his "Eternals" bod.
His hard work clearly paid off, though Madden has been critical of the expectations put upon actors in Hollywood in the past. In 2019, the actor accused the industry of "projecting a very unrealistic body image" during an interview with Men’s Health. "I’ve done numerous jobs where you’re told to lose weight and get to the gym."
Salma Hayek uses yoga to maintain her muscles
When she sat down for an interview with AARP, Salma Hayek admitted that she couldn’t quite believe her luck when Marvel offered her the part of Ajak, the wise matriarch of the Eternals family. "I was shocked to get that role in my 50s," Hayek said. "I felt a sense of gratitude and excitement." She was already in great shape when joined the cast, having done extensive training for previous action projects. "We did a lot of kickboxing, dance type workouts with strength training and ball work," Sara Shears, who trained Hayek for her role in Oliver Stone’s "Savages," told Shape. "Salma is super petite, so adding in the strength training really gave her some nice muscle definition and lines to accentuate the beautiful body she was born with."
She’s busy with producing as well as acting nowadays, and creating time for working out can be tricky. "Some people have the discipline to exercise in the morning, and I didn’t develop that," Hayek told People. "I don’t have time to exercise. I am working." So how does she get in superhero shape when a project like "Eternals" comes along? Hayek maintains a healthy diet (she has her own juicing company) and uses a yoga-derived technique that can be executed throughout the day. "Even when you brush your teeth, you’re working the muscles," she explained. "You relax them and focus on the parts that need to be used, but never with tension."
Angelina Jolie felt ‘a little nuts’ training for Eternals
Angelina Jolie trained six days a week while preparing to play Lara Croft in "Tomb Raider." Her action thriller "Salt" was even tougher, though she got plenty of support from stunt coordinator Simon Crane. Jolie and Crane developed a good relationship and have since worked on many movies together, the fight scene expert told Self. "The training, at the early stages, took up about three to four sessions a week, lasting approximately two hours each," Crane said. "When we started filming, we trained during lunch breaks or on the weekends."
Crane revealed that he likes to incorporate elements of Muay Thai and Krav Magha into Jolie’s action sequences, and she clearly wanted to make sure she was up to scratch on her martial arts in time for "Eternals." Speaking to OK! magazine, Jolie revealed that her children helped her prepare. "My son Knox does some weapons classes and Viv does karate so I’ve been jumping into all their classes," she said (via Metro). "It’s been fun and going to the gym together is really good."
Jolie also took up ballet because she wanted to make her character, Thena, "as feminine as possible," she told Entertainment Tonight. All in all, prepping for her first Marvel movie was a pretty wild experience. "It is one of the weirdest things to train for because you’re throwing things, grabbing things, breaking things in half," the Oscar winner told Entertainment Weekly. "You feel a little nuts."
Kumail Nanjiani’s stunning shirtless photos made headlines
The only "Eternals" cast member to go full-on superhero with his workouts was Kumail Nanjiani, who went viral after revealing his jacked new look in 2019. The actor, best known for his comedic roles, decided that he wanted to bulk up to play Bollywood star Kingo, and he attacked the challenge head-on. "I wanted to look like someone who could believably hang with Thor or Captain America, so I knew that I really had to transform my body," he told Men’s Health, giving readers a detailed breakdown of his favorite "Eternals" workout. He went heavy on his shoulders, using a mixture of front and lateral raises, and also on his biceps, for which he mixed cross body and hammer dumbbell curls with regular curls, he revealed.
Nanjiani ended up becoming so big that Marvel actually had to rein him in. Getting mega jacked was never a requirement from the studio, and when they saw just how muscular he had become, they reminded him that Kingo was a movie star, not a bodybuilder. "But he wanted to do it," producer Nate Moore told Screen Rant. "At some point I had to call him. [I] said, ‘Kumail, I think you got too big,’ because we saw him I think on Kimmel or something." Nanjiani later told The Hollywood Reporter that he has "come to hate" his topless workout photos, saying, "It got so much bigger than I thought it was going to get."
Gemma Chan has a strong core
Marvel fans were a little confused when Gemma Chan was cast as Sersi in "Eternals," given that the British actor had already appeared in MCU film "Captain Marvel" as the Starforce member Minn-Erva, a completely unrelated character. She was warned in advance that she would need to get in shape for her "Captain Marvel" role, on account of the suit being so heavy and restrictive. "It’s almost like a resistance suit, trying to snap you back into this superhero pose," she told Studio Movie Grill. "You just need to really work on your core strength." Just wearing the suit and carrying her rifle was a workout in itself, she added. "It was a lot of effort. My arms were killing me by the end of every day."
Sersi is very different from Minn-Erva. She’s not a fighter, but Chan still looked fighting fit as the Eternal. The actor was "looking fitter than ever" at "Eternals" red carpet events, said Women’s Health magazine, and that’s because she upped her game in 2020. "I’ve just started Pilates which is brutal — so brutal, deceptively so," Chan told British Vogue. She went on to reveal her morning workout routine, saying: "It’s a blend of yoga, sun salutations, and a little bit of Pilates core work. It only takes about 10 minutes but I find that if I do that in the morning, it sets me up for the day ahead and my posture is better."
Kit Harington is always in great shape
Kit Harington’s Dane Whitman becomes the hero known as Black Knight in the comics, though we’ll have to wait a little while to see that transformation on the big screen (producer Nate Moore all but confirmed that he wouldn’t suit up in "Eternals"). Harington’s character is a civilian rather than a superhero in Chloé Zhao’s film, so he didn’t feel the need to get jacked like some of his castmates, but he still came into the movie looking great.
Marvel confirmed that Harington had been cast in the film in August 2019. The following month, Harington revealed how he bulks up for roles during a chat with Men’s Health — and it’s definitely not the diet of an average citizen. As a hard gainer, Harington consumes a whopping 5,000 calories per day when he’s preparing to shoot. He will be "eating all the time," he said. "Loads of good carbs, like brown rice and sweet potatoes. And lots of chicken." That accounts for the mass, but what about the muscle?
Harington has worked closely with Dalton Wong in the past, and the celebrity performance coach spilled on their intense sessions during a Men’s Journal interview. Wong has the actor do "a lot of full-body movements, rather than the typical isolation exercises," he revealed. Harington’s favorite workout is done with either 20 or 30-pound dumbbells and consists of pendulum lunges, weighted push-up rows, and lateral dumbbell lunges, finishing on a kneeling curl and press.