Thor Stuntman

M&F: You’ve been in tons of movies and Thor: The Dark World is your latest venture. What specifically was your training for Thor?

Bobby Holland Hanton: The training for Thor was the most intense training I’ve ever had to endure doing a movie. I think a combination of things—one being that Chris is 6’1. So I’d have to wear two-inch lifts every day. It was like trying to do stunts with high heels on. So that took a while to get used to. And the fact that he’s just a bigger guy than me—he’s an athlete, so I think if he wasn’t an actor he’d be a stunt performer himself or an American football player, because he’s huge. So that was a big challenge for me to try and see the kind of size that he wanted to be. The size I was in at the time—it wasn’t small, but not any size like Chris. And then figure out a training program for myself to try and match his kind of size. He’s got big arms anyway. So I ended up, before we started shooting, maybe two months before, I started training twice a day, about an hour each session, maybe 5 or 6 days a week. And then when we got Chris in during closer to shooting, maybe 2 weeks before we started, I upped my training to an hour and a half a session twice a day, six days a week to try and gain that size and I had to focus a lot on arms. His arms are huge and they were on show a lot with costume, like a vest-armor. So I would focus on that and isolate that. My general circuit training would stay the same, and then at the end of the session I might focus maybe twenty minutes just on arms.

What about diet?

Diet changed, massively became strict. The strictest I’ve ever had to be. Chris [Hemsworth] is not just big, but he’s super lean. So to try and put on the size and stay lean is what I found the hardest. I mean I’ve had to put on size before and not be so lean or not put on as much size and still not be so lean. But the combination of the two made it very difficult. I got a nutritionist to help me with that, because I think I got into the realm of stuff I needed a bit more help with. Eating every two hours, small amounts. It was very important for me to eat within half an hour of waking up, to kick start my metabolism.

What kind of stuff did you eat?

It was high protein, good fats, good carbs. No carbs in the morning, I’d just have a protein breakfast. Grilled chicken or turkey with spinach and natural nuts, boiled eggs and a green tea or some water or something like that. Those were the only fluids I could really have. I would still let myself, one day a week, have one cheat day, which I needed to get through and keep myself sane, because it’s so difficult to try and maintain that diet for so long. No sugar, no salt, nothing was grilled in sauces. That was very difficult, and on my cheat day I’d have a two-hour window where I’d eat whatever I want. Ice creams, chocolates, cakes, and try and stuff as much in as possible, even if I felt sick or not. And funnily enough, towards the end, I didn’t feel sick. Because I wanted it so much. I could just keep eating the crap food because I craved that sugar and salt. So the diet was very difficult to maintain. I found it—it made me kind of unsociable in a way because you can’t go out with friends or family because you’re picking what you can and can’t in the menu. It was an experience. It was a big challenge for me.

Get the full Thor workout in the November issue of Muscle & Fitness >>

You doubled for Batman. What’s the difference in preparation for Batman rather than Thor?

They’re completely different characters. Christian Bale was more my natural size. So I just maintained my normal training that I would normally do involved in our stunts. Mostly circuits. And I think there was a little bit more flying about on Batman than Thor. The superhero movies—everyone knows what they are. They’re pretty manufactured. In that respect they’re quite similar.

Is it as miserably hot in the Batsuit as I think it is?

It was when we filmed in Pittsburgh. When we filmed in Pittsburgh in the summer it was pretty intense. But the group we had was great. We’d cut and go straight into an air-conditioned tent, take the mask off, and get some air. They were fantastic. It was very hot, for sure.

What kind of steps do you take to make a stunt done safely?

I think what’s important for us, as a stunt team is to make a stunt done as safe as possible, as weird as that sounds. It’s dangerous. I think that’s why we start a movie two months before we start shooting, so we’ve got prep time to get all the stunts and make them right. It’s just thinking about every single angle of what could and couldn’t go wrong. Sometimes there’s things you’ve got no control over—if it’s a hard hit, it’s just one of those things you’ve got to suck up. It’s part of the job that we do. But we generally try and spend a lot of time rehearsing with the best team around. There’s mats; we wear helmets and pads, because it’s a profession that people want to maintain for a long period of time. It’s a skill. It’s not like anyone can just jump off something and hurt themselves. You can do it once, but it’s all about being able to do it over and over again and making it look as real as possible. So I think that comes down to the rehearsal time.

How do you recover after such a hard day?

Sometimes you get beaten about. The first thing I like to do is go home and have a really hot shower. We have a lot of makeup and prosthetics that’s quite difficult to get off. I use Dove Men+Care, the odor-guard, which is great. It helps me have a hot shower and relax and make me go to sleep easier at night. The good thing about the Dove products is that it doesn’t keep your skin dry, it keeps it moisturized and fresh and gives me a good night’s sleep.

What did you do before you were a stunt guy?

Before I was a stunt guy, I was a gymnast. From the age of four till about seventeen. It was a long career, but when I finished I was still fairly young. I played a little bit of semi-pro soccer back in the UK before I got into live acrobatic shows and high diving shows. Ten years ago was when I did my first live show, so I’ve had a lot of experience around the world performing live. And I think that’s really helped with the film side of it now. On the spot changes and being quick if something goes wrong, you have to know how to carry on.

You’ve had to do some crazy tests?

There’s a criteria in the UK to become a professional stuntman. It’s the stunt register. I think there are 12 disciplines that you can choose from. You have to be elite at six. Lucky for me I already had three at the time: gymnastics, trampoline and high diving. So I just needed three more, and I chose kickboxing, scuba diving and swimming. And I have to say hands-down for me swimming was the most intense and difficult. It was like the equivalent of the SAS swimming test; it was insane. Breath-holding, clothes on, long distance swims. That was really hard, and it was a real achievement when I finished that and passed the test. It was six months, training every day.  

Get the full Thor workout in the November issue of Muscle & Fitness >>