Aaron Taylor-Johnson may have already played two superheroes in Kick-Ass and Avengers: Age of Ultron, but when he accepted the role of Spider-Man villain Kraven in Sony Pictures’ Kraven the Hunter, it presented the biggest physical challenge of his career.
Transforming your body into a lean, shredded machine has become par for the course for any actor when they take on a superhero role; just look at Kumail Nanjiani, who got yoked for Marvel’s Eternals (despite not even having a shirtless scene in that movie). In Kraven the Hunter, however, the character’s physique is front and center, just as it is in the original comics.
In a recent interview with Esquire, Taylor-Johnson reflected on his realization, upon reading the comics, of the importance of the aesthetics of Kraven, saying: “Huh—the costume is my stomach and my arms.”
In order to build the kind of body that the world’s greatest hunter would possess, the actor gained around 20 pounds of muscle, reaching 200 pounds at his biggest, through months of heavy weights sessions. Not only that, but he leaned fully into Kraven’s animalistic physicality: part of his prep for the role involved learning to run on all fours.
Taylor-Johnson added that he also worked hard to give the character some interiority beneath all that muscle. He studied the wildlife photography of Peter Beard, spent time deer-stalking with real hunters to get to grips with the “emotional turmoil and sense of guilt” that come with killing an animal, and shadowed radical conservationist Damian Aspinall, whom he sees as a “punk-anarchist” version of Kraven.
“You just grab little things,” he said, “and they rub off, in ways, and they come in handy.”
Philip Ellis is News Editor at Men’s Health, covering fitness, pop culture, sex and relationships, and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV, and he is the author of Love & Other Scams.