This article originally ran in the 2014 November/December issue of Scene Magazine.
How did you connect with James Marsden on The Best of Me?
I was introduced to him through Denise Di Novi. I met Denise on The Lucky One when I worked with Zac Efron and we’ve kept in touch since. She knew James’ character had to look a certain way for this film so she connected us. James reached out to Zac Efron to get a reference check on me as well and Zac gave me a great endorsement. James ended up working on D-Train (also shot in New Orleans) so he actually started with me about a month before we filmed The Best of Me. That worked out really well because once he started filming The Best of Me, the filming schedule got a little nutty and they were working long hours.
Who is James Marsden’s character in the film and what kind of look was required?
James plays a character named Dawson, an oil rig worker. The character he played needed to have this rough, burly kind of look. Not someone who’s extremely in shape and ripped up but more of a tough guy. The blue collar worker. The guy who goes out, eats like a man and his weight lifting is manual labor. So we tried to focus the training on mimicking that look.
James is a relatively thin guy. He’s got a fast metabolism and it was all about trying to put some decent size on him. I checked out some online images of different oil rig workers and I’ve got a couple buddies who work on the rigs so I asked them what their days are like. They’ve got little gyms on site and they’ve got decent dining facilities where they can eat fairly healthy so I used those as guidelines.
What were some of the goals you set together to achieve that look?
Normally, the biggest part of a transformation is the nutrition aspect but in James’ case, because of his body type, his metabolism and the schedule we had, training was actually a lot more important than the nutrition. In very few instances do ever I say that. Nutrition was still a big factor though as we had to incorporate different foods around the times we trained and then took a couple of supplements that you can buy from GNC or Vitamin Shoppe that helped with endurance, recovery and performance.
What were some of the nutrition goals you set together?
When we started out, I really had to understand how his body worked in the gym and with nutrition. He can pretty much eat whatever he wants so with a guy who has a metabolism like him, we had to be sure to eat the right foods around the right times. We added some red meat in, added some carbohydrates around his training time and he drank some aminos while we trained. These are just a few things that helped him build muscle and get through the training sessions because the training was pretty tough. I had him drinking a lot of water too. Being on set and sweating all day can take its toll and dehydrate you pretty quickly. His schedule was pretty hectic so we tried to keep it as consistent as possible with the food. Catering helped us with his meals as much as possible.
What were some of the training goals that you set with James?
His schedule was really sporadic. He was filming D-Train, he was having meetings for The Best of Me and he had his press stuff going on for X-Men, which was really hush-hush. He’s also got a family back in L.A. so he was constantly leaving to go from one place to the next. I knew we were going to have to do some out-of-the-box type training, not your traditional weight training. So we used a lot of volume training, super sets and giant sets, things that to really shock the body, shock the muscle and force it to grow in a short amount of time. There’s more!