The 38-year-old Venezuelan actor pulls his box-office weight this Christmas, starring in a remake of the nineties surf-heist classic Point Break (and in David O. Russell’s Joy). Pro tip: If you’re going to fill Patrick Swayze’s wet suit, you’d better take it to the extreme.
“I haven’t always thought about it this way, but many characters I’ve played have been quite physical. I spent two months in military boot camp for my first movie, [the 2004 Venezuelan film] Punto y Raya. I played an assassin in The Bourne Ultimatum and a special-forces agent in Vantage Point. Even in Joy, I got to do something I’ve never done before. I can’t spoil it, but I flexed some different muscles. I’ve only done heavy weight lifting for one movie, Wrath of the Titans, because I needed to become a Greek god in five weeks and because the armor weighed 15 pounds!
“I play Roberto Duran in [2016’s] Hands of Stone, so I became a boxer. I underwent the same preparation as any amateur fighter. People think boxing is in the fists, but it’s not. You start with the feet—months and months of just feet. When you throw a punch, if your ankle is not well positioned, then you’re not going to have the strength you need in the arm. Duran fought as a lightweight, so I had to lose 20 pounds. I trained with Panamanian coaches in the slums he came from. His sons took me to the attic of a furniture store—five flights up, there’s a ring. The guys there don’t care that you’re an actor. They were told, ‘Teach this guy to fight.’ I couldn’t go to a fancy gym for that. I’m a peaceful guy, but training that way changes the way you walk down the street, knowing you can give a good combination and sit someone on his ass.
“I was still in fighting shape when we started Point Break, and what I’d learned about balance and core work in boxing helped me with surfing, rock climbing, and snowboarding. They all build on each other. But at the same time, I wanted to create a body for Bodhi that was different, because he has a different physicality. I did much more functional training mixed with CrossFit, Power Pilates, and yoga. Laird Hamilton taught me tow-in surfing, which is when you’re towed out to the wave by a Jet Ski. Now, regardless of how much you try, you can’t just become a big-wave surfer. That’s not going to happen. But it’s good to be in the water—to understand the philosophy and the Zen of it.
“I just wrapped Gold in Thailand with Matthew McConaughey. He’s also very committed to his characters, physically—and he had to get big for this one, so he ate whatever he wanted. He’d be sitting there having a big bowl of Bolognese while I was eating my tuna salad, and I would think, You asshole.”
—As told to David Walters
Photography by Tetsu Kubota
Want DAILY news on Edgar Ramirez?
Subscribe to WEB OF EDGAR RAMIREZ YOUR #1 SOURCE