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Acting Like An Athlete

It was Alexander Graham Bell who coined the phrase “Preparation is the key to success.” For an actor, that motto is especially true if they want to look convincing in their roles. Once they are cast, it can often take months or even years to be skilled enough to look the part.

When that part requires mastering a sport, the preparation requirements are that much more rigorous. We created a list of five of our favorite roles where the actress wowed us not only with her acting skills but with her athleticism as well. Perhaps the lesson to be learned is that with the right preparation, we can all find our inner athletes…

Margot Robbie

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In 2017, Australian actress Margot Robbie starred in the blockbuster hit “I, Tonya.” The film brings to life the true story of Tonya Harding, the first American woman to complete a triple axel during a competition, only to have her reputation and career come crashing down when her ex-husband conspires to injure Nancy Kerrigan, another Olympic hopeful.

In addition to inhabiting Harding’s persona for the role, Robbie had to go from lacing up skates for the first time in her life to being convincing as one of the most talented skaters in the world.

To truly become Harding, Robbie trained hard…. really hard. She skated five days a week for four hours a day for five months even foregoing Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve celebrations to be on the ice training.

Ultimately, remarkably, Robbie’s touching and stunning performance even won her the 2018 Critic’s Choice Award for Best Actress in a Comedy.

Kirsten Dunst

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Bring It On! In the 2000’s this film debuted at number one in the box office, and gave audiences an inside look into the world of competitive cheerleading. This witty and sassy film became a classic for many and even inspired five other films in the Bring it On series.

In this first film, Kirsten Dunst became head cheerleader, Torrance Shipman, and was the captain of the Rancho Carne High School cheerleading team. But before the cast of Bring It On could dazzle the judges at competitions, the entire cast had to attend cheer camp.

This camp was unlike any you could imagine… it was intense. The cast hit the mat for ten hours a day for three to four weeks. During that time, they learned cheers, dance routines, and how to stunt. Yes, they even learned the iconic “Brr it’s Cold in Here” choreography. But all of that training paid off as Dunst and the rest of the cast were able to convincingly perform almost all of the stunts shown in the movie.

Now 20 years later, Dunst is interested in having a Bring It On reboot. We’d certainly watch!

Hilary Swank

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In the 2004 film, Million Dollar Baby actress Hilary Swank teamed up with icon Clint Eastwood and brought the stories from F.X. Toole’s book Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner to life on the big screen.

Swank, who had never boxed before, took on the role of Maggie Fitzgerald saying that preparing for the role was the hardest thing she had ever done.

With just 90 days to learn a new sport and become a knockout in the ring, Swank trained six days a week. She spent two and a half hours boxing and an hour and a half to two hours lifting weights every session.

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In addition to training her body, Swank fueled herself very differently than how she was accustomed.

“I had to eat 210 grams of protein a day. I do not know if you guys are aware of intake of protein. I had to eat 60 egg whites in a day and I couldn’t. So every morning I would drink them.”

Even with a lot of training, Swank said she was constantly learning new things about the sport. Swank’s hard work and preparation for the film was evident in this inspirational film that was recognized as a stand-out by the industry. Swank won the 2005 Oscar for Best Actress, and the film won the 2005 Best Picture award.

AnnaSophia Robb

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The story of surfer Bethany Hamilton losing her arm to a shark only to return to the water to learn to surf again as soon as she had doctors’ clearance was stuff of international legend. The 2011 film, Soul Surfer, based on her remarkable journey was eagerly anticipated by millions. American actress AnnaSophia Robb won the coveted role of Hamilton but had her own long journey ahead.

Before starring in this film, Robb had never surfed before so had to start with the very basics. She began by training for two weeks in Colorado practicing swimming, breath-holding and core strengthening exercises while working on her balance.

Next, Robb trained in Hawaii for six weeks where the movie would ultimately be filmed. During that time, she spent two hours a day in the ocean with additional rigorous on-land training as well. Her persistence paid off.

“Surfing is so much work,” she said. “It’s one of those things that I just love, but it’s so hard.”

She did indeed grow to love the sport along the way, all while receiving accolades for her convincing performance.

Demi Moore

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In 1997, Demi Moore took on the groundbreaking and intense role of fictional soldier Jordan O’Neill in the action film G.I. Jane.

In this cult favorite movie, O’Neill becomes the first woman to train in the U.S. Navy Special Warfare Group. In order to prepare for the role, Moore had to undergo extraordinary training but as with so much in her life, she dove in bravely and wholeheartedly.

“I was looking for something a bit more physically challenging for my next film,” she said. “I was not interested in just stepping into a man’s character in an action movie.”

To prepare for the challenge, Moore’s trainer had her lifting weights two hours and running six miles every day. To fully immerse in the role, Moore hired Navy SEAL instructor, Stephen Helvenston, who taught her how to realistically portray a member of the elite military unit.

It wasn’t just Moore’s amazing performance in G.I. Jane that got people talking. The film addressed some of the complexities of gender roles in our society. This film is over 20 years old, but the message still resonates today.

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