In describing how the members of the Fraternity live their lives, you cannot overemphasize the importance of physical acumen. Their bodies are very much a part of their arsenal. Although the Fraternity of assassins are not superhuman, they do possess certain powers specific to their characters, which even the most regular gym-goer would be hard-pressed to mimic.
That necessitated quite a bit of physical training for the most active among the Fraternity, namely McAvoy and Jolie. McAvoy, in particular, had to do a convincing job of turning his body from that of a couch potato into a sleek, sinewy killer in record time.
Personal fitness trainer GLENN CHAPMAN, hired to ready the normally thin actor for his role as Wesley, explains: “The biggest challenge training McAvoy was the weight gain. I think he weighed around 62kg [137lbs] when we started training in London two months before the shoot, and we got him to 74kg [164lbs] at his heaviest point in Prague. The time we had to train was limited, and he needed bulk, so we did a combination of different types of training—sometimes weights, interval training and training at different speeds.”
Even after signing on, McAvoy was fairly unaware of the physical work ahead of him, and he confesses: “I’d rather eat dog poo than go to the gym. The training was a big change for me—sometimes my trainer pushed me so hard that I was on my knees wanting to be physically sick. He made me eat really, really horrible food at bad times of the day, but it seemed to do the trick. It gave Wes the body he needed.”
There was a dramatic change to McAvoy’s body shape in a short period of time. Although his training program was rigorous and intense, it was never the goal to give Wesley an overly bulky physique. McAvoy says, “We needed to keep Wesley as a character the audience could believe went from a convincing geek with small muscles, through this transformation, to someone who is bulkier…but not so big that you couldn’t hide it.”
McAvoy’s personal training underwent a necessary period of adjustment after he arrived for the shoot in Prague, as the sessions had to adapt around the shooting schedule. Fight training and kickboxing took away from his daily workouts, as he had to concentrate on learning the actual fight scenes for the film. McAvoy observes, “Size doesn’t necessarily equal power a lot of the time. That really helped me in this movie. It doesn’t really matter whether you look big or not; it’s whether you can make that jump or lift yourself with the force and power of your thigh. As soon as we started doing the action sequences and I didn’t have time to do my personal training at the end of the day, I could feel my muscles starting to disappear. My costumes felt a bit bigger on me than they did at the beginning of the shoot.”
For McAvoy, who is in almost every scene of the film, Wanted turned out to be the most physically demanding movie on which he had ever worked. Despite that, he still insisted on doing his own stunts. The stunt coordinators found the actor willing to give into the physical work the job required, with McAvoy often stepping in for his stunt double. He reasoned that the audience expects it.
Of his many manuevers, there was one that particularly pleased McAvoy: “My favorite stunt was jumping over the “L” train, which I did completely by myself. I had a stunt double, of course, who did the more dangerous things and makes me look incredibly good…but jumping over the bridge was all me and it was incredibly cool to do.”
His tutor would join him in much of the film’s action. “There’s one scene where my character, Fox, gets to beat up Wesley,” says Angelina Jolie. “All of the stunt team kept telling me that James has the qualities of a stuntman when it comes to taking a punch and throwing himself onto the floor—and they were right. He’s really great to work with. It’s always fun to do a scene where you get to jump around and punch people, but you don’t want to hit too hard, especially if you’re wearing brass knuckles. It can be funny or strange or even dangerous, but it really comes down to working with someone as good as McAvoy.”
Unfortunately for Wesley, it’s not only Fox who gets to subject him to a beating…so do fellow Fraternity brothers The Repairman (played by British actor MARC WARREN) and The Butcher (actor DATO BAKHTADZE).
Bakhtadze went through two weeks of harsh, strict stunt training for his knife fight with McAvoy. Bakhtadze says, “I arrived in Prague about two weeks before I was due to shoot, and that wasn’t a great deal of time for the fight coordinator to turn me into a killing machine! The stunt team helped me understand how to fight, not just with the weapon, but with emotion. It’s not all about the knife swing or knife swirl; it’s about what makes you want to do that move in the first place.”
Producer Marc Platt adds, “Our actors, all of them, loved doing stunts, particularly McAvoy and Jolie. There was a lot of training for this film, especially with McAvoy, whose character has to literally transform. You’ll be able to tell how much his training paid off in terms of making it a real and exciting experience for the audience.”