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Back in the 1980s, Hollywood action movies preferred their male leads to have gigantic arms. They wanted Hulk Hogan lookalikes with Popeye biceps who could conceivably one punch any human being into a coma. More recently, however, the standard of badass bodies has changed quite a bit. Now, Hollywood action movies prefer their male leads to have more chiseled stomachs and well-defined features. Why the change? Well, apparently Brad Pitt had a whole lot to do with it.
It sounds counterintuitive, but instead of gaining weight to play the muscular Fight Club star Tyler Durden, he actually shed pounds. Audiences couldn’t tell that on the big screen. Instead, they simply saw a dude who was as cut as possible, and that role completely changed the game for both actors and stars looking to land parts as physically intimidating alpha males.
Here’s a reminder of what Brad Pitt looked like for the role…
And here’s what trainer to the stars Mark Twight told Men’s Journal about that lean, hungry body…
"Everyone thought he was huge, but he was, like, 155 pounds. If you strip away fat and get guys to 3, 4 percent body fat, they look huge without necessarily being huge."
Twight isn’t the only one who saw his body as a gamechanger either. Every single trainer interviewed for the magazine’s exhaustive story on the evolving masculine body in Hollywood openly spoke about Pitt’s influence and how they still strive to make their clients look like he did in Fight Club. Why? Because it’s actually way easier to do. Actors often spend about two months or so getting in shape for action films. That abbreviated time schedule doesn’t allow the necessary workouts for the actors to put on ten or fifteen pounds of straight muscle, no matter how hard they try. So, trainers instead push "calorie-conscious diets and exercises" that can drop body mass indexes and let the camera capture the muscle naturally embedded beneath the stomach.
The alteration has been a giant blessing for many actors who couldn't have otherwise done action movies, and it's been a bit of a blow to the big hulking dudes who normally would have cleaned up on all of those roles. That being said, it seems like in a perfect world, there will always be a place for both of those groups. Now, the landscape has just changed enough where no one can get the lead role in a blockbuster film based on his body alone.
For most actors, inspiring much of Hollywood to change its shape would be enough of a legacy, but Pitt didn’t stop there. Apparently, he added one little extra flourish to the whole process. Just seconds before filming for Snatch and many of his other films, Pitt would drop to the ground and start firing off push-ups. At the time, those on the set apparently thought he was showing off, but actually, he was increasing blood flow to his arms and various other muscles so as to look as jacked as possible for the final cut. Now, that pre-shot routine is standard operating procedure for action movies.
Let me just sum up this entire conversation by saying Brad Pitt is a total badass, and if you haven’t seen Fight Club before, you should drop what you’re doing and go knock that out right now.