You might remember actor Sam Claflin as Finnick, the uber-athletic former champion from the “Hunger Games” movies.
He’s also played a leading man in a number of other films and TV spots, including “Me Before You” and “Snow White and the Huntsman.”
But he said making a career out of playing the heartthrob ain’t what it used to be, according to a recent interview in The Sydney Morning Herald. In fact, he says there’s an ugly side to becoming an action star these days that people don’t seem to want to talk about.
Claflin said men in Hollywood face enormous pressure to live up to unrealistic body standards.
The last time most of us saw him on screen, Claflin was sporting a lean and athletic look, but there was a lot we didn’t see.
“I remember doing one job when they literally made me pull my shirt up and were grabbing my fat and going, ‘You need to lose a bit of weight,'” he told the Herald. “This other time they were slapping me. I felt like a piece of meat.”
If it sounds familiar, it’s because women in show business go through this all the time. The truth is that the constant pressure to look flawless in front of the camera is damaging for men, too.
“I’m not saying it’s anywhere near as bad as what women go through but I, as an actor approaching each job, am insecure — especially when I have to take my top off in it — and so nervous,” he said. “I get really worked up to the point where I spend hours and hours in the gym and not eating for weeks to achieve what I think they’re going for.”
It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when actors didn’t have to appear chiseled out of stone before they’d be considered for a role.
“In the ’50s and ’60s, it was never an issue,” Claflin said. “James Bond never had a six pack. He had a hairy chest. Marlon Brando in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ had an incredible body but he was by no means ripped to within an inch of his life. There’s a filter on society that this is normal but actually it’s anything but normal.”
While actresses are being held to absurd standards of beauty and told they’re too old to play the lead by the time they hit 30, men have it a little different.
They’re spending months and months working themselves into peak physical condition through brutal exercise and diet regimens and dropping to almost dangerously-low body fat and dehydration levels.
All in the name of looking ripped.
The pressure on professional actors to push their bodies beyond their limits is bad, but the effect it has on regular people might be worse.
When the only women allowed to appear in movies have to fit a certain aesthetic, it rubs off on young women everywhere. It’s similar for men when every time they turn on a movie or TV show, all the guys look like bodybuilders.
It’s time for Hollywood to loosen the reigns and display more body diversity on-screen.
We get it — Thor has to have big muscles. He’s a demigod. But does every spy, dad, police officer, and accountant we see have to have six-pack abs? Does every actor need to dehydrate themselves before each shoot so you can see the veins in their biceps?
The effect on-screen may be striking, but the effect it’s having on people in the real world is anything but.