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Hugh Jackman Has Been Building a Better Wolverine … for More Than a Year

Mark Deming
Movie Talk
July 31, 2013
Hugh Jackman weightlifting
Hugh Jackman weightlifting

He keeps going and going ...

Anyone who thinks being a movie star isn't hard work should spend some time with Hugh Jackman. The 44-year-old tour de force has been spending some serious time at the gym — for more than a year, now — for his seemingly never-ending Wolverine role.

Jackman tweeted a picture of himself dead lifting what looks to be more than 300 pounds of iron in training for Wolverine's next "X-Men" adventure.

And that bar sure looks to be having some trouble handling all that weight!

[Related: Wolverine Burgers? Spidey Donuts? What’s the Deal With Unhealthy Hero Grub?]

Not long after wrapping production on "The Wolverine" late last year, Jackman made his way onto the set of "X-Men: Days of Future Past" this spring — reprising, yet again, his grimacing, steel-clawed character. Add to that all the weight he dropped for "Les Miserables" and you've got a Jackman who has been putting his body through the wringer for many months on end — 18 on our count.

When Jackman jumped into his workout for "The Wolverine" last summer, he was eager for advice. He recently revealed that he turned to Hollywood's favorite wrestler-turned-franchise-saver, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. "I rang him, and I said, 'Mate, the Rock! Hey buddy, I need some tips! I lost some weight on "Les Miz," and I need to really bulk up, get in shape,'" Jackman said during a red carpet interview for the premiere of "The Wolverine." "He said, 'Here's the deal. Three hours a day in the gym, six hours in calories, eating really lean, and you're going to do that for a minimum of six months.' So I signed up and I did it, and let me tell you, the Rock is crazy! That is insane! But I did it, the results are there."

[Related: 'Wolverine' Post-Credits Sequence Opens Door For Next X-Men Film]

Jackman and his trainer devised an exercise routine built around cardio and lots of weight training, particularly barbell bench lifts, back squats, pull ups, and deadlifts that not only build muscle but give his body the definition that suits a powerful, steel-knuckled mutant. Jackman also went on a strict diet to keep himself lean: oats and berries for breakfast, protein smoothies after the first workout of the day, turkey and veggie stir fry for a high-protein snack, chicken breast with snap peas and asparagus for lunch, walnut trail mix for mid-afternoon snack, tuna steak with broccoli and cauliflower for dinner, and another protein smoothie before bedtime. No sweets, few carbs, and not a lot of variety for a few months.

But anyone who has seen "The Wolverine" (in theaters now) can attest that the discipline paid off. Only trouble is, Jackman has had to keep looking strong, as shooting on "X-Men: Days of Future Past" is expected to last until September. And his latest bar bell photo proves that Jackman isn't slacking off one bit.

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Jackman had a very different body transformation challenge getting ready to play Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables." The first scenes Jackman shot were set in prison, when the one-time thief was starving, and Jackman began working out and skipping meals to look appropriately skinny.

"[Valjean is] actually written as an ox of a man, so I had to eat seven times a day with no carbohydrates, but then you had the exercise," Jackman said late last year. "I'd wake up and do 45 minutes of [cardio] on an empty stomach, eat something, go to the gym, do a vocal warm-up, and then after lunch I'd go back to the gym again. Otherwise, I'd just become skin and bones."

Jackman both fasted and stopped drinking water to drop another ten pounds in the final days before shooting the scenes of Valjean at his most desperate. Director Tom Hooper said, "I was worried. I thought, 'This is probably the kind of thing I should discourage.' I said, 'Have a sip of water.' But he was very determined."

[Related: See the 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' Comic-Con Press Conference]

Jackman was able to bring himself back to normal weight through the rest of the shoot, reflecting the ups and downs of his character's luck. But after "Les Miz" wrapped, Jackman dove head first into training for "The Wolverine" ... and he hasn't stopped.

After this, maybe Jackman should take a break and try booking a role where his character eats a nice pizza every once in a while.

Watch 'The Wolverine' Insider Access: