Actresses who did serious training for a role

In an era where action flicks and superhero stories are Hollywood's bread and butter, we're finally getting the strong female leads we've been lacking for decades. It's not enough for the female stars of these films to be talented and beautiful; they also have to acquire a very particular set of skills (and sometimes, a very particular set of muscles to match) in order to fulfill the physical demands of their roles. 

From soldiers and spies to intergalactic assassins and psychotic ballerinas, these women put in maximum effort before the cameras ever began rolling, in order to be in peak condition when it came time to kick ass onscreen. That means hard work, specialized training, being highly attuned to their diets, and pretty much whatever else it takes to get in the best shape for the role. These women did it all, and then some, and we've got al the details about their training regimens.

Gal Gadot

Gal Gadot already had the face to play one of the DC universe's most notoriously gorgeous heroes when she was cast as Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — but it took some serious work in the gym to turn her long, lean, runway model's body into an Amazonian temple of muscle for Wonder Woman's stand-alone flick

Gadot, who was unable to do a single pullup at the start of her training, spent nine months bulking up for the role. By the time she was in costume and in front of the cameras, she'd gained 17 pounds — "And it's all muscle," she told Glamour

"I feel so much better now. When you feel strong, it changes everything — your posture, the way you walk. I look at photos from five years ago and think, Whoa, I was too skinny." And it wasn't just the physical transformation she had to accomplish; Gadot also had to learn to ride horseback and swing a sword in service of the film's intense battle scenes.

Scarlett Johansson

Between playing Natasha Romanoff — aka Black Widow — in the Iron Man and Avengers franchises and a cyborg assassin in Ghost in the Shell, Scarlett Johansson has had to pretty much stay in constant peak physical condition since 2010. But for the latter role it wasn't just about her body, she had to know how to handle a wide variety of lethal objects, too.

Johansson describes her training regimen for Ghost in the Shell as "a lot of repetition and then a lot of tactical training, which I'd never done before — with room clearing and all that stuff, to just be as efficient with the weapons as possible." While that sounds hardcore, for sure, it still sounds like a lot more fun than the strict weight-lifting and diet routine she followed for Avengers, which she described as, "Workout like a dude, eat like a rabbit."

Alison Brie

Until recently, Alison Brie was best known for playing Trudy, the long-suffering wife of Pete Campbell on Mad Men — a role that required serious acting skills but absolutely no stunt work. So when she landed a starring role as Ruth Wilder on Netflix's original series GLOW (that's Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling for the uninitiated), she had to train like a madwoman to get in literal fighting shape. 

Sometimes, that meant intense workouts where she and her fellow GLs of W hurled weighted objects onto the gym floor; sometimes, it meant carrying her 220-pound trainer, Jason Walsh, around the room on her back. Walsh said his goal for the training regimen was to turn Brie into someone who could both dish out and take a hit. "Alison would be jumping off ropes and landing on people and flipping. I wanted to get her resilient so she didn't run the risk of injury," he said.

Jennifer Lawrence

In order to play master archer and dystopian heroine Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games franchise, Jennifer Lawrence had to not only act her butt off, but also whip herself into peak physical condition and acquire a slew of survival skills. Lawrence's six-week training regimen included the usual time in the gym, where she did sprints and cardio conditioning for the action-packed films — and of course, she had to learn to hold a bow like a pro.

Given everything the fictional Katniss had to do to survive her time in the televised death match that was the annual Hunger Games, it makes sense that Lawrence had to train like Katniss would have in advance of the Games. This helps explain the somewhat unusual components of her workout routine, which she said included, "Rock climbing, tree climbing — and combat, running, and vaulting." She must have slept somewhere in there, too, although who knows when she would've had time for it!

Hilary Swank

Few actresses have ever gotten into the kind of shape that Hilary Swank did for her Academy award-winning role as a champion boxer in Million Dollar Baby, and now that we've gotten the scoop on how she did it, we understand why! Swank had to overhaul her entire lifestyle and adopt a tightly regimented routine in which her workouts, her meals, and even her sleep were all planned out down to the minute.

"My training was two and a half hours of boxing and approximately an hour and a half to two hours lifting weights every day, six days a week," the actress said. "The producers asked me to gain 10 pounds of muscle. I gained 19 pounds of muscle. I started at 110 and went to 129. And in order to do that, I had to eat 210 grams of protein a day. Now, your body can only assimilate so much protein, so I had to eat every hour and a half." 

Swank also described drinking ten egg whites per day and sleeping nine hours per night — but with a midnight alarm so that she could get up and choke down a protein shake in the wee hours of the morning.

Demi Moore

For her role as Lieutenant Jordan O'Neil, the first female Navy SEAL, in the 1997 film G.I. Jane, Demi Moore famously got in such peak physical condition that she was able to do one-armed pushups. To nail the part Moore trained with an actual Navy SEAL instructor, Stephen Helvenston, and eschewed stunt doubles, even for the movie's most intense scenes involving a brutal obstacle course

She said, "I could have come in and asked to let the stuntwoman do the obstacle course, but I felt I would have walked away having missed an opportunity experiencing, first-hand, what these people actually go through in training; it's the whole reason for doing this film in the first place."

But just one trainer wasn't enough for Moore, she went the extra mile by also hiring celebrity trainer Gregory Joujon-Roche to ensure she wouldn't be left behind the other hardworking actors on set. "I didn't want any special treatment just because of who I am or my position in the film," she said.

Uma Thurman

In order to play Beatrix "The Bride" Kiddo in Quentin Tarantino's modern-day Kill Bill duet of kung fu films, Uma Thurman had to be able to kill David Carradine's Bill, and defeat everyone who stood in the way of that goal, in several dozen different ways — and at least two languages. 

Thurman described the litany of skills she had to train for, saying in an interview, "Three styles of kung fu, two styles of sword fighting, knife throwing, knife fighting, hand-to-hand combat, Japanese speaking. It was literally absurd." 

Needless to say, it took a serious investment of time and effort to take it from absurd to awesome. Said Thurman of her grueling regimen with martial arts master Wu Ping, "They trained me five days a week for three months from nine in the morning until five o'clock at night and we were not to be late and I never got to leave early."

Linda Hamilton

While some folks were swooning over the then-awe-inspiring special effects in James Cameron's 1991 sequel to Terminator, others were far more impressed by the musclebound guns of its leading lady, who became a "feminist icon" following the film's release. 

Linda Hamilton trained like a maniac for her return to the role of Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, putting in 13 weeks of work before shooting even began. Her training regimen saw the 112-pound actress doing loads of cardio, weight training, weapons training, and judo, as well as eating a very vintage-1990s diet that included virtually no fat. 

"I learned to load clips, change mags, check out a room upon entry, verify kills. It was very vicious stuff. And it was sheer hell," Hamilton said, but she was willing to do it for the part. Still, the grueling training still wasn't enough to satisfy her trainer. 

Hamilton said, "He would have liked to have had me swimming in the ocean at dawn with a 50-pound pack. But I have a son who needed me too."

​Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie doesn't just accept physically demanding roles, she seeks them out and then looks for ways to make them even more hardcore. In a special feature included on the Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life DVD, the movie's director revealed that Jolie came on board with a list of new skills and new fighting techniques she wanted to learn for the film — requiring her to train in everything from horseback riding to stick fighting, before all was said and done. 

Jolie clearly got a taste for pushing herself to the limit. Seven years later, she completed a grueling training regimen in two new martial arts in order to play the title role in Salt. "For her fight training, we got her learning a combination of Muay Thai and Krav Maga very early on," the film's stunt instructor, Simon Crane, explained. "The training, at the early stages, took up about three to four sessions a week, lasting approximately two hours each. When we started filming, we trained during lunch breaks or on the weekends."

Zoe Saldana

Even though her actual face and body never appeared onscreen, Zoe Saldana went through an absolutely killer training regimen for her performance as Neytiri in James Cameron's 2009 mega-hit Avatar

Not only did the actress need to learn archery, martial arts, and how to ride a horse bareback, she also had to learn in Na'vi, the fictional language featured in the movie. Of learning the language, she told Latina magazine, "I had such a fun time getting to know the language, trying to find it within me to find the tonality, the pronunciation, everything."

And the six months she spent mastering those skills were just the beginning, as she then had to learn how to do it all, while wearing a motion capture suit and head camera. All together, Saldana spent a whopping 18 months preparing for this role.

There's little doubt that the intense training left Saldana well-prepared for the training and regimented diet that were required for her role as Gamora in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise and for the Avatar sequels that are in the works.

Natalie Portman

How intense was Natalie Portman's training regimen for Black Swan? The actress herself probably sums it up best, "There were some nights that I thought I literally was going to die." To prepare for her role as the star of Darren Aronofsky's thriller about a mentally unbalanced ballerina, Portman spent a full year developing the basic ballet skills required to execute the film's choreography — dancing for five hours a day, every day. 

As intense as that sounds, it pales in comparison to what some professional ballerinas, like Boston Ballet's Dusty Button, say their daily training is like. That's probably why, once production on Black Swan kicked into gear, those five hours of daily dancing for Portman turned into 16

Those hours spent dancing, in combination with an ultra-restrictive dancer's diet, saw Portman shed 20 pounds from her already-thin frame. Fortunately, the actress' misery had company; her co-star Mila Kunis had to endure a similarly grueling routine.

Daisy Ridley

In the years since Star Wars: The Force Awakens made Daisy Ridley a mega-star, nasty internet trolls plus the pressures of fame ended up chasing the actress off Instagram, where she used to diligently document the workout program that helped her get into Jedi condition (this is why we can't have nice things, trolls). 

But thankfully, some vestiges of Ridley's hardcore training are still available — on the actress' official Facebook page, where you can watch video supercuts of her intense workouts, and in the archives of the internet, where writers at sites like Men's Fitness were awe-inspired by gym sessions that included "air squats, bent-over rows, box jumps, TRX work, and bench presses (among other things)." 

Ridley definitely didn't skimp on the sweaty work that helped make her look like such a badass athlete onscreen — and that's before we even get to the part where Ridley also had to get handy with a lightsaber, an arduous process the actress discussed in a behind-the-scenes extra from the movie's Blu-Ray (via The Mary Sue.) Learning to wield the deadly energy blade required three months of sword combat training, but also daily workouts of whatever muscles you use to keep your mouth shut — because the fact that her character ever picks up the Jedi weapon at all was one of the film's best-kept secrets. Training so intense you can't even talk about it? That's hardcore.

Emily Browning

Emily Browning wasn't alone when it came to getting her butt kicked in the gym as she and her Sucker Punch co-stars prepared to star in Zack Snyder's action-packed fantasy in 2011. According to a report from the AAP (via the Sydney Morning Herald), the actresses' training routine as an all-day affair, beginning with "4.5 hours of martial arts and empty-hand weapons training each morning under the tutelage of stunt co-ordinator Damon Caro, who prepared Gerard Butler and David Wenham for Snyder's Ancient Greek epic 300 and Matt Damon in the Bourne films." And after lunch? "[Ex]-Navy Seals tortured the actresses with weight training, body-weight pull ups, pulling tires and other primitive forms of exercise."

Browning had the farthest to go in order to transform her body and acquire the combat skills to make herself believable as a warrior, and even her co-stars weren't quite sure she could do it. Jena Malone described her doubts, saying, "I remember the first day I met her I was like 'Really? This little thing?' but she has incredible will power and was willing to go the distance."

The actress can be seen on a behind-the-scenes featurette looking askance at a set of weights, but that same video also shows her lifting it all, and then some. Of her experience, the actress said, "Learning to fight… was the most fun I've ever had on a film, I think. Learning to use a sword — it's a pretty amazing feeling to be able to do that."

Anne Hathaway

After dropping 25 pounds from her already-slender frame to play a dying, poverty-stricken French prostitute in Les Miserables, Anne Hathaway was no stranger to transforming her body for a role — but it takes more than a starvation diet to get into the kind of shape that makes a skin-tight leather cat-suit into a flattering, functional wardrobe option. And when it came to playing Selina "Catwoman" Kyle in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, Hathaway had to hold her own onscreen against the famously intense (and seriously ripped) Christian Bale, which meant no skimping on time at the gym. 

In an interview with Cinema Blend, Hathaway described how her trainers used combat choreography and muscle memory to completely change the way she moved, saying, "They've given me a martial arts exercise that I have to do all the time to teach me grace and proper stance and fluid movement. It looks so gentle, but when you're actually doing fight choreography it's 'Oh my gosh, that's actually a block. Oh, I'm hitting somebody's throat right now.'"

According to Shape, Hathaway's pre-Catwoman program also included a highly regimented, near-vegan diet that had her eating mindfully but constantly, with meals every two hours. And the actress found a good way to make sure she didn't skip workouts: a hardcore fitness squad in the form of her stunt doubles. Hathaway gushed, "We've been working out together and it's really inspiring to see a girl work out tougher than the boys."

Rebecca Ferguson

For Rebecca Ferguson, preparing for her star turn in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was an almost-impossible mission unto itself: to get in butt-kicking, gun-slinging, opera-rooftop-rappelling shape in just six weeks before shooting began. 

In an interview with Lifescript, Ferguson's trainer Sam Eastwood described training the actress six hours a day, six days a week, in the month and a half before the film began principal photography. And considering who her fitspiration was, Ferguson's goals weren't exactly easy to attain. "She had to be strong and she had to be able to fight for 10 minutes and go at it again and again and again," Eastwood said. "Rebecca had to be tough and as strong as Tom Cruise but still have a long, lean, muscle-toned body."

As for Ferguson, she says that everyone involved in the movie was more or less conspiring to make sure she never missed a workout, from the nutritionist who planned her meals to the chauffeur who picked her up at the airport for her first day on set. "I arrived at Heathrow airport, and the driver took me directly to the gym," she told Shape. But now that it's over, says Ferguson, she actually misses the super-strict diet and training regimen she endured to make Mission Impossible a reality. "I've actually never felt so pure as I felt during this filming."

Sofia Boutella

After cutting her teeth as a backup dancer for Madonna, Sofia Boutella was no stranger to working hard and getting sweaty — but she took it to a whole new level when she was cast as the amputee assassin Gazelle in the 2015 action film Kingsman. As the henchwoman to Samuel L. Jackson's deranged villain, Boutella's character and her bladed prosthetic limbs (added after the fact with CGI) were serious business that required serious time in the gym to perfect. 

In an interview with Coach, Boutella explained her approach to leg day, saying, "The leg work I do is about performing one movement over and over again for long enough until the muscle goes numb — that's when I know it's working. It takes me around half an hour so I put on some music and repeat the exercise until I can't feel myself doing it any more. It's hardcore, but it's worth it. The feeling of being able to kick with greater strength each day is empowering."

Boutella also had to learn a new skill set in order to pull off Gazelle's extensive fight scenes — which also took some getting used to, although not in the way you might think. "I trained taekwondo every day for three months in preparation for the part, although I already had the flexibility and movements down from dancing," she said. "I just found it pretty strange to end a routine by punching someone in the face!"

Maggie Q

It might be hard to believe if you've ever watched her tangle on-screen with a bevy of bad guys, but Nikita and Mission Impossible III star Maggie Q didn't start out as a martial artist — and nothing bugs her more than the idea that she was born knowing how to fight. 

In an interview with Collider, she said, "I'm half Asian, so people immediately go, 'Oh, you do kung fu,' like that's what we do. We wake up, we do kung fu, we brush our teeth. It's just assumed that you're not working your ass off to make this believable and make this something great, and we absolutely are. All of us. I'm not a wushu champion. I was an athlete when I was a kid. I was a swimmer and a runner, but all this action stuff is such a challenge."

For Maggie Q, it was a challenge she started tackling at the age of 17, when she was discovered by martial arts icon Jackie Chan while working as a model in Hong Kong. Recruited by Chan to be part of an elite club of new action stars, the actress received a thorough education in the kung fu star's special brand of butt-kicking, which is as technically precise as it is fun to watch onscreen. Since then, she's gone from being a girl who'd never thrown a punch in her life to one of the few actresses in Hollywood who does all her own stunts.

Michelle Rodriguez

Unlike some of the other ladies on this list, Michelle Rodriguez has never been a stranger to intense training for a role. The actress had to completely transform her body for her very first role, when she landed the part of a scrappy fighter in the 2000 boxing drama, Girlfight. The actress trained from anywhere between two and six hours a day in order to look like she belonged in the ring, packing on nearly ten pounds of muscle through weightlifting and dedicated protein consumption. 

Rodriguez worked so hard that she was virtually unrecognizable . "I looked like I'm on steroids; I looked like a dude," she said in a 2001 interview — and while she didn't retain her boxer's physique after shooting wrapped on Girlfight, she's been one of Hollywood's number one go-to girls for physically demanding roles ever since. 

These days, Rodriguez stays in more or less peak physical condition all the time — and then supplements her normal workout routine with whatever skills-based training she needs to perform in a given movie. The actress has undergone everything from helicopter flight training for her role in Avatar to a quickie driver's ed course for Fast and the Furious (that's regular driving, not stunt driving; Rodriguez didn't have a license when she was cast in the franchise). And as a permanent member of the Furious team, she stays combat-ready by training with weapons on the same tactical course frequented by fellow action veteran Keanu Reeves.

Emily Blunt

Some actresses would be daunted by the prospect of taking on a role intended for a professional dancer in a hotly-anticipated sci-fi film without a single ballet class under their belt — but not Emily Blunt. When she auditioned to play a ballerina in The Adjustment Bureau, she sealed the deal with a promise to the director. She described the promise to Women's Health, "I told him, 'I'll work my ass off for you. I've never had a pair of ballet pumps on my feet before, but I will seem like I have.'"

To prepare for the part, she worked out six days a week, two hours a day at a fitness studio in New York — and then headed over to the Cedar Lake ballet company for another two hours of schooling. Her grueling schedule also included a diet dominated by poached fish and "tons of fruit," all with the goal of transforming her physique so that she'd look right at home in a troupe of professional dancers.

"My shoulders puffed out," Blunt revealed to Women's Health. "My back looked like there was a barrel of snakes in it. I had an eight-pack!"

Since then, the actress loves taking on roles that require intense pre-production training. In 2014, she committed to another six-day-a-week, two-hours-a-day regimen and learned gymnastics and Krav Maga in order to play supersoldier Rita Vrataski in Edge of Tomorrow. Said Blunt, "I wanted her to look lethal, so I was willing to go all the way."

Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron was no stranger to kicking butt onscreen when she took on the starring role in Atomic Blonde; not only had she just played the fierce, relentless Imperator Furiosa opposite Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road, but she'd also played the titular warrior in the 2005 sci-fi thriller Aeon Flux. But for this film, which featured multiple hardcore fight scenes choreographed by John Wick director David Leitch, she took it to the next level. In an interview with Variety, she explained, "I'm coordinated because I was a dancer, and I definitely have movement memory, but I've never been a fighter. I'm also really tall and a girl. That tends to make you look like you're Big Bird."

To avoid comparisons to the gawky avian character from Sesame Street, Theron trained for four hours a day in the exquisite art of beating up folks — and worked through the kind of injuries that only a serious action hero could handle. Theron cracked two teeth while training for the film, which bummed her out not for aesthetic reasons, but because it got in the way of her busy butt-stomping schedule.

"Having to cut one of the teeth out and root canals. It was tough. You want to be in your best fighting shape, and it's hard," she said. "I had to put a donor bone in there to heal until I came back, and then I had another surgery to put a metal screw in there."

Taraji P. Henson

Taraji P. Henson might be a middle-aged lady, but she didn't let that stop her from committing all the way to her role in Proud Mary. In order to play this hardcore professional assassin, the 47 year-old Henson committed to grueling workouts, combat training, and a crash course in aggressive stunt driving — all to make it look real onscreen. And it looks real, she shared, because in many ways it is. 

"When you see the action, it's like 'Oh, that's fine. I can do that.' It doesn't look too dangerous," she said. "But one false move, and you hit the wrong bone at the wrong angle you can tweak it or break it."

In an Instagram post announcing the upcoming film, she shared a picture of herself in silhouette, sporting a serious pair of guns (as in biceps) as well as a serious pair of guns (as in weapons.) "I can NOT BELIEVE I am doing most of my stunts in this BADASS FILM," she wrote. "My body is bruised and tired but the process was sooooooo EXCITING!!!! I amazed my dang on self on this one!!!!"

Alicia Vikander

Moviegoers would have had a hard time believing Alicia Vikander in the role of adventure junkie Lara Croft if she showed up to the Tomb Raider reboot looking like her regular skinny self. The Swedish Oscar-winner called herself "a petite girl" in an interview with E! News, and told The Graham Norton Show "I had never lifted a thing with my arms" prior to her preparation for Tomb Raider. No wonder her trainer described her arms as "underdeveloped."

Not wanting to disappoint fans of the Angelina Jolie films or the video game franchise that inspired them, Vikander hit the gym harder than ever for four months. She told E! her workouts included cycling, MMA training, boxing, swimming, and, because this is Croft we're talking about, climbing. It was her hope that she could tone up enough that viewers could buy Croft overcoming stronger enemies and death-defying stunts. Vikander ended up adding 10-12 lbs. of muscle, which helped her better fill out Croft's trademark tank top.

This new and improved physique would be short-lived however. "It takes three weeks for you to lose it all," Vikander told The Graham Norton Show. "I thought I was going to stay like this."

Lupita Nyong'O

Someone forgot to tell Lupita Nyong'O you're not supposed to enjoy bootcamp. She took part in a six-week session along with her Black Panther co-stars — sometimes working out as early as 3 a.m. and for as long as four hours — and called the intense experience "fun."

Nyong'O told Collider she enjoyed challenging her body and learning new fighting styles for her role as Wakandan spy Nakia, including judo and ju-jitsu. And there was an extra spring in her step, too. Literally. "I get to jump higher than I thought I could jump," she said in the Collider interview. "I get to roll backwards, which I thought I would never do after the age of 8? So it's been fun." Not as fun: She told the Hollywood Reporter she sprained her MCL on the first day of shooting during a fight scene and had to wear a cast for two weeks.

Nyong'O was already a workout enthusiast — which explains her gung-ho response to bootcamp — but the exercising and dieting for Black Panther took her fitness to a whole another level. "I remember coming home for Christmas," the Kenyan-Mexican Oscar-winner told the Hollywood Reporter, "and I couldn't fit into my clothes." 

Margot Robbie

Director Craig Gillespie pulled off the triple axel scene in the Tonya Harding biopic, I, Tonya, using both CGI and stunt doubles. (C'mon, you didn't really think Margot Robbie could land that, did you?) But not all of Robbie's skating scenes involved Hollywood magic. She trained on the ice three times a week for three months and learned five routines in all. Gillespie told People that's actually Robbie turning and spinning when she comes out onto the ice during the end sequence. 

"Sarah Kawahara, who actually choreographed for Nancy Kerrigan, was training me," Robbie told Wonderland. "Before that point I thought I wasn't too bad at ice skating — I used to play ice hockey. I soon realized that I'd just been running on ice, and now there was no padding. My alarm would go off at 5:30 a.m. and I'd want to cry. Sometimes after sessions I'd get back into the car and weep."

Those tears of frustration eventually turned into tears of joy. Robbie's performance as the disgraced skater earned her an Oscar nomination.

Emma Stone

Trainer Jason Walsh has a photo of a feeble Emma Stone curled up into a ball on the ground on his Instagram page. The caption reads "Deadlift PR day. Change takes breaking comfort" and states that Stone was prepping for her role as tennis legend Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes. So in other words, Stone got her butt handed to her during training.

"Emma was very petite," Walsh told W Magazine, "and so we needed to put some size on her, we needed to get her to into athletic shape in general. … When she trained for La La Land, we worked out three to four days a week. With Battle of the Sexes we did five days a week and sometimes two times a day."

Stone trained for three months and put on 15 lbs. of muscle for the role. She seemed almost giddy with the results, telling CNN: "It was the first time I'd ever felt like, 'Oh my god, I can lift a lot of weight.' … You feel like the Hulk, a little bit." Her preparation also included tennis lessons, sometimes with King herself. She told Vanity Fair that she's "uncoordinated" and that it took her "months to learn" how to properly toss the ball in the air. Good thing the film had stunt doubles on set for the tennis scenes.

Rooney Mara

It wasn't enough for Rooney Mara to get her nipple and eyebrow pierced and shave parts of her head for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The then-relatively unknown actress beat out Scarlett Johansson and Ellen Page, among others, for the highly-coveted role of punk hacker Lisbeth Salander, and was determined to go all in, which, for her, meant training in a wide variety of fields.

"I feel like I went to school," Mara told MTV. "I had motorcycle class from 9 to 11, and then I went to dialect class, and then I had skateboarding, and then I had computer training, and then I had kickboxing. I just feel like I learned so much. And that's kind of the most incredible part about my job … I got to acquire all these skills that I never really wanted or needed, but now I have them."

She told the Hollywood Reporter the skateboarding was "to sort of try and change the way that I walk and stand." The kickboxing was more so because she felt self-conscious about the nude scenes (who wouldn't?) and wanted to get in shape. "The character is incredibly comfortable in her sexuality," she told Parade, "and I had to go in making the film feeling the same way."

Michelle Pfeiffer

Michelle Pfeiffer's first day of filming Batman Returns could not have gone much worse. She told the Hollywood Reporter she smacked her whip trainer in the face "with the whip and it drew blood. It completely shattered me." Yikes.

Pfeiffer — who spent three months honing her whip skills prior to the shoot so that she could accurately hit targets and wrap around body parts — rebounded from the incident and was said to have performed all her own whip stunts. "She was better than her stunt people," director Tim Burton told Rolling Stone. "She made the whip beautiful, kind of an art form."

Her most impressive feat: She nailed the department store scene in which Catwoman whips the heads off of four mannequins, one after the other, in a single take, according to The Making of Batman Returns. Or, was Pfeiffer's most impressive feat squeezing into Catwoman's suffocating rubber costume?