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How Tobey Maguire Got Ripped To Play Spider-Man

Long before all the Avengers were getting ripped to battle Thanos, Tobey Maguire went through a total body transformation to take part in Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" movies. He worked out six days a week for months on end and carefully planned five daily meals in order to look like a muscle-bound character straight out of a comic book panel. In the process, he changed the standard for how superheroes should look on the big screen. Maguire is undoubtedly the reason that Andrew Garfield got ripped to play Spider-Man in Sony's rebooted franchise, and he's arguably influenced every superhero actor in the past two decades to bulk up.

What really makes Maguire's transformation special, though, is that it's about so much more than just his muscles. Alongside lifting weights, the actor trained in gymnastics and martial arts to be able to truly bring the character to life onscreen in his own way. Maguire went through a grueling training process for 2001's "Spider-Man," and he fought his way through a chronic pain condition instead of compromising on stunts in "Spider-Man 2." Without Maguire's incredible dedication, Raimi's films wouldn't have been nearly as successful, and who knows if superhero blockbusters would ever have come to dominate cinema. You've seen his films, and loved at least two-thirds of them, but now take a look at how Tobey Maguire got ripped to play Spider-Man.

Coming in fit

Tobey Maguire went through a nearly unbelievable amount of training to portray Spider-Man, but he didn't join the production without any fighting and fitness experience whatsoever. Maguire spoke with Howard Stern about how he became a part of the first "Spider-Man" film. According to Maguire, director Sam Raimi wanted him for the lead role from the very beginning, but the executives at Sony needed a little bit more convincing that he could convincingly play the wall-crawler. Despite the success of his previous work, Maguire needed to send in a traditional audition tape to convince the film executives that he could act the part. Even after viewing the tape, there were some doubts about whether or not he would be able to fight baddies like a real-life superhero.

Raimi stepped in to help Maguire secure the role. The two of them film a short video of Maguire performing some fighting moves and taking out some anonymous villains while wearing a blue unitard. Maguire wanted to show not only that he could handle some intense fight scenes, but also that he wasn't too far from looking the part, so he pulled the unitard down around his waist to show off the muscles he already had. The tape did the trick, and shortly after sending it in Maguire was able to join the project and start his superhero training.

Putting in the time

Tobey Maguire might have come into "Spider-Man" with some fighting capabilities and muscle definition, but that didn't exclude him from going through a grueling amount of training. Maguire said that prior to filming he spent five months training six days a week to get into shape. Every day Maguire worked out for four hours, lifting weights and training his body to move like someone with superhuman strength and agility.

"For someone like me who wasn't exactly a fitness freak, it was a chance of a lifetime to work with top trainers in different disciplines to get in great shape," Maguire explained in an interview, adding, "I'm going to try to stay buff as long as I can, but it takes a lot of discipline and staying away from your favorite junk food." The amount of time and effort required to maintain that Spider-Man body would be too much for anyone other than the most dedicated gym rat. Maguire can hardly be blamed for later admitting that he left his training regimen by the wayside when the film was done.

Celebrity trainer

Tobey Maguire's primary trainer on the "Spider-Man" movies was Gregory JouJon-Roche of Holistic Fitnes, who had previously worked with stars like Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Demi Moore (via Superhero Hype). JouJon-Roche described his method as focusing on both body and mind for the stars that he trained. "It's about getting in touch with yourself, knowing your limitations, knowing how your body works."

JouJon-Roche's unique approach allowed Maguire to really embody a superhero. It gave him the abilities and the confidence to take on big stunts and perform as much of his own action as possible. Of course, the training also ensured that Maguire looked the part, too. "I call it the champagne shot," JouJon-Roche said of the scene where a shirtless Peter Parker realizes that his spider bite has entirely transformed his body. "That was day one of shooting. We did all that, and we were like, 'Oh yeah!'" They certainly weren't the only ones. 

Becoming a martial artist

In a behind-the-scenes clip, Scott Rogers, the co-stunt coordinator on "Spider-Man 2," talked about the difficulties of developing Spider-Man's fighting style. He wanted to rely on real fighting techniques without making Spider-Man look like a kung fu or gymnastics expert. The fights "really had to have Spider-Man's signature" on them. However, because Tobey Maguire wanted to be able to perform as much of Spider-Man's fighting as possible, he needed to familiarize himself with all of the techniques that were combined to create the Spider-Man style.

Luckily he had the help of martial arts expert Steven Ho, who previously played Donatello in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze." The former ninja turtle had high praise for Maguire's work ethic when it came to his fight training. "He was into it as an art form," Ho said, "as opposed to just, you know, learning the tricks he had to learn to look good on camera." Maguire was dedicated to becoming Spider-Man, not just looking the part.

Spider-style diet

Bulking up to play Spider-Man meant lifestyle changes for Tobey Maguire that went well beyond simply spending several hours a day in the gym. He needed to completely transform his diet to ensure that he was eating enough calories and getting enough protein to transform his body. Maguire told Howard Stern that while preparing for the role he had a nutritionist who helped him plan every single one of his meals. He would sometimes eat five times a day just to make sure he was getting enough energy for his workouts to be effective.

The superhero diet was even more of a challenge for Maguire than for other actors because he couldn't rely on eating traditional protein sources like chicken and red meat. Maguire became a vegetarian in the mid-nineties, and even while working on a role, he's never looked back (via Parade). To keep himself sane during the training process on each of the films, Maguire allowed himself to break away from the intense diet and workout restrictions on a regular basis. "I go on a diet where I'm on my diet six days a week, and I give myself a free day on the seventh day," he told Superhero Hype, adding, "The same goes with my workouts." The regularly scheduled free days gave Maguire the reprieve he needed to keep his enthusiasm going for months on end.

Changing regimen

Sam Raimi's first "Spider-Man" was such a blockbuster success that Sony wanted to get a start on the sequel as quickly as possible. That arrangement worked well for everyone, but it had special benefits for Tobey Maguire. The star wasn't shy about admitting that he let his superhero training regimen lapse after filming the first movie. There's no one on Earth, aside from maybe Dwayne Johnson, who can stay dedicated to getting as ripped as a superhero all the time.

When it came time for Maguire to start hitting the gym for "Spider-Man 2," he found that he hadn't entirely lost his touch and was able to tone down his workout plan from the original film. He worked out "anywhere between two and four hours" while training for the sequel, which was at least an hour less each day compared to his previous schedule (via Superhero Hype). On top of that, Maguire still knew kung fu, and all of Spider-Man's other techniques, so he could change the focus of each workout. He said his hours were spent doing, "a combination of strength training and cardiovascular stuff as well as stretching stuff and whatever else I feel like doing." Training for the sequel was less about getting ripped and more about getting back on his feet.

My back, my back

Leading up to the production of "Spider-Man 2," rumors spread that Tobey Maguire could potentially be replaced by Jake Gyllenhaal because of a serious problem with his back. After completing the film, Maguire clarified what had happened in an interview with Superhero Hype. Maguire said his lower back condition had been affecting him "for several years through 'Spider-Man' all the way until right now," but he could never be certain what would cause the pain to flare up. Maguire was intimidated by the amount of ambitious stunts planned for "Spider-Man 2," and he felt that it was his responsibility to disclose his condition to everyone working on the film.

Maguire spent two weeks taking it easy on his back and worrying about whether or not he'd be able to take part in the film. During that time his back started to get better just as rumors of his replacement started to spread. Maguire started to work carefully with the film's stunt coordinators, and by the time filming began, he was shocked by how good he felt. "In actuality the stunts were easier for me and my back was fine the whole way through ... I don't know what made them better. I was more comfortable in them doing the certain stunts and the aerial stuff was easier." Gyllenhaal might have missed out on an opportunity, but there's no doubt that "Spider-Man 2" is better because of Maguire's presence.

Jumping into stunts

Once Tobey Maguire had settled his concerns about his lower back condition, he wanted to take on as many of the stunts in "Spider-Man 2" as possible. He viewed it as his responsibility to be the man behind the mask onscreen as much as possible. "There are certain things I have to do and want to do because you're bringing life into a character," he explained in an interview. He also admitted to taking a certain amount of pride in being able to truly see himself as Spider-Man in the film, saying, "I like to point stuff in there so you could feel me in there."

Maguire's commitment to the role clearly impressed his coworkers, particularly director Sam Raimi, who occasionally had to hold Maguire back and let a stunt double take over in a scene. "Tobey did a tremendous amount of his own stunts in this picture, as much as I would allow him to do," Sam Raimi said in a behind-the-scenes featurette. "He wanted to do everything."

More than just fighting

For "Spider-Man" and "Spider-Man 2," Tobey Maguire had to completely transform his body. He lifted weights, tirelessly worked on cardiovascular exercises, and mastered a wide variety of fighting techniques. Because he was so dedicated to the role, he even developed gymnastics skills to personally tackle the most ambitious stunts that director Sam Raimi could dream up for New York's friendly neighborhood superhero. Years of training still left Maguire unprepared for the most memorable moment in the trilogy's conclusion: the dance scene.

The actor told Blackfilm.com all about the new training he underwent for the trilogy's final film. "I worked with some people, a choreographer and ... a couple of dance people." He had to learn the right moves to bring Peter Parker's symbiote-inspired overconfidence to life, and fans will likely never let him forget it. Maguire explained that "the basic idea [of the scene] was choreographed" but that he and the rest of the crew "riffed on that and had fun from there." Their fun riffing became the most infamous scene in just about any superhero movie. Maguire may have approached the dance training with the same enthusiasm as his fitness training, but audiences haven't appreciated it on the same level.