There was a time in his life when he couldn’t deadlift 500 pounds and thought you’d be out of your mind to tear through 6,000 calories of steak and chicken every day just so you could recover in time to train again at 4 AM the next morning. Jackman had another life, a life that existed well before he could lay claim to one of the best bodies in Hollywood—a flawless six feet two inches of taut, striated muscle that’s now as much a part of his portrayal of Wolverine as the character’s wild facial hair and adamantium claws.
Jackman was once a scrawny twentysomething—athletic, but by outward appearances, frail. He scoffed at the guys who lifted heavy weights, saying he didn’t see any practical application for it, while he worked the front desk at—of all places—a gym. In other words, he was as easy as targets come.
“Everyone joked that I was the ‘before’ model,” Jackman says. “I was so skinny. I never lifted a weight except to clean up at the end of a shift. Now I’ll probably always make it part of my life.”
Jackman picked up the iron for the fi rst time when producers told him to gain weight for an Australian production of Beauty and the Beast; but his metamorphosis into statuesque über male really began in earnest when he landed the role of Wolverine in 2000’s X-Men. He had no choice but to get serious about training hard and eating clean. When the world saw the results, Jackman became a superstar, and the rail-thin kid who’d cracked jokes about the “meatheads” was gone forever. Fast-forward 13 years. Today, Jackman is reprising his role for an unprecedented sixth time in this summer’s The Wolverine and, as of this writing, already filming 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Comparing his physique in The Wolverine to that of his first appearance as the character yields only a few similarities. Jackman was, of course, in excellent shape for the original fi lm, but he’s a world apart now—bigger but leaner, more vascular and athletic. He’s undergone one of the most remarkable physical transformations in Hollywood history, one made all the more astonishing when it sinks in that his physique for the original fi lm is still one that most men would kill for. There’s no radical approach he can credit for this—his body is the manifestation of 13 years of consistent hard work and clean eating. It’s a body that would never have been possible if he’d taken it easy between projects, scrambling to get back into shape when he had to.
"As Will Smith puts it, ‘It’s easier to stay in shape than to get into shape," Jackman says. “Drastic changes are very tough on the body. I never stray too far in terms of my strength training or fitness level; that way it never feels like climbing Mount Everest to get back.”