And now, you will fly to him, and you will battle him to the death.
Black and blue. Fight night.
Thanks to good habits Henry Cavill developed during his first stint as Superman, trainer Mark Twight, who trained him for “Man of Steel” and was on board again for this film, had different work for him to do for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” since the actor maintained his physique.
“In my mind I had set myself an even higher standard for ‘Batman v Superman’ than we set for ‘Man of Steel,’ which, in itself, was going to be a challenge,” Cavill relates. “Fortunately, however, Mark Twight was generous enough to train me throughout the filming for ‘Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ in a manner that would set me up wonderfully for the training required for ‘BvS.’”
Twight was impressed with Cavill’s commitment. “He has trained himself into a condition of having genuine horsepower,” the trainer says. “Henry’s ideas for what he can do with his body have completely changed. Three years ago, he would not have thought about running up Gibraltar Rock to raise funds for the Royal Marines, but he did in 2014. When we were first in Vancouver, hiking up the Grouse Grind was a bridge too far. It’s a product of how comfortable he has become with his own physicality.”
Cavill notes, “Once pre-production started on ‘BvS’ I was handed over to Michael Blevins. Together, Michael and I worked on a mass gain program, which would result in me being 20 lbs heavier than I was even during the peak of my mass gain on ‘Man of Steel.’ We then went through the leaning process to bring me down to shooting weight, which was achieved through performance-based training as well as conditioning. The great thing about working with Michael is that despite this being the hardest work I had yet done training for a role, he managed to make it an enjoyable experience, and became a good friend because of it.”
The role of Batman required Ben Affleck to appear intimidating enough to go up against Superman. “It was important to me that Batman be bigger because Superman is infinitely stronger than the best that humanity has to offer,” explains director Zack Snyder. “Theoretically, the best that man can do is still nothing in the face of Superman, but I wanted him to look like he stands a chance. Ben is 6’4”; with his boots on he’s 6’6”. And he’s handsome, smart, charismatic and mature. For the road-weary Batman that we wanted, Ben was perfect.”
Slight height advantage aside—Cavill is 6’1”—Affleck still had to amp things up. Batman may be aging and battle scarred, but he’s still Batman, and thus the actor spent more than a year training for the role. “I had to get into really great shape and I had to be as flexible as possible,” he says. “In some ways, the work before the film was more taxing than working on the film itself.”
Second unit director and stunt coordinator Damon Caro, also returning from “Man of Steel,” worked with Snyder to determine both heroes’ appropriate skill level and techniques for the various fight sequences. “Zack and I discussed how much more improved Superman would be since we saw him last,” Caro says. “He’s been saving people, but he hasn’t necessarily been fighting anyone, so his technique is probably right where it left off. But his wisdom and tactical planning would have advanced just from experience.”
With regard to Batman, Caro says, “One thing that was really appealing about him is that he’s a more seasoned guy. That was interesting to me because we were sort of past his learning curve since he had so much experience under his belt. So we approached Ben’s fight choreography differently; he’s crafty, he’s got all the skills, the power base and, of course, weapons. Batman is all about covert planning.”
Training for the film didn’t only apply to the men. Because the filmmakers were introducing both Wonder Woman and the mysterious Diana Prince in the film, they needed Gal Gadot’s physique to reflect the dual facets of the character. Having served in the Israeli army, the actress was no stranger to combat training. After discussing the role with the filmmakers, Twight says he trained Gadot with an eye to “develop the particular physicality of the character, who has to integrate into high society as well as being a total hitter when it comes to swinging the sword and battling the bad guys.”
Twight worked with Gadot for over nine months. “I noticed as she became more physically capable, her attitude changed from wondering about her ability to do the role to just knowing that she could sell this. That level of confidence was fascinating to watch develop, that she can be both beautiful and soft and caring when she needs to be and as hard as she needs to be to combat evil.”
Caro also put Gadot through her paces. “We did a lot of martial arts drills, working with her stances, footwork, punching drills, kicking drills, and so forth,” he says. “We mainly focused on her weapons training— specifically sword and shield.”
“Gal had to undergo such a rigorous training process,” Deborah Snyder adds, “yet she was always positive, always wanted to know what more she could do. Her commitment alone proved we really had our Wonder Woman.”
Though Lois Lane never dons a Super Hero suit, Amy Adams was not entirely spared the rigors of stunt training, thanks to a pivotal scene that required that she be underwater. “They had a great team that really made me feel safe,” recalls Adams, “but it was definitely claustrophobic. I was under the water and trapped, and playing that was something I hadn’t anticipated, emotionally. It was intense, until I accepted that I wasn’t actually drowning. We were a team of six people—the divers, the stunt woman, the cameraman—and we all went down together, which was very comforting. It became strangely meditative and relaxing. Except I got really bad swimmer’s ear; that was my war wound! Everyone else had to work so hard that I felt the least I could do was get down there and not complain.”