Aldis Hodge had been preparing to become Carter Hall, aka Hawkman, for years before that black Adam He didn’t even know it yet. As a young man, he read graphic novels depicting the Justice Society of America from DC Comics, of which Hawkman was a member. And with his rise as a professional actor, Hodge has racked up a number of body-hugging performances, building an impressive physique along the way. But he always hoped for a superhero to emerge and give him the chance to really spread his wings.
Hodge got that opportunity when Black Adam star and executive producer Dwayne Johnson personally approached him to offer him the role of Hawkman. men’s magazine I spoke with Hodge about his fitness journey that began as soon as that call came, the workouts in Atlanta, and what it was like in an on-screen battle against Dwayne Johnson as iconic champs Black Adam.
Men’s magazine: Can you describe what it was like when you got that call that you were going to play with Hawkman?
Aldis Hodge: The first time I heard that I was going to play a superhero was in September 2020, the day after my birthday. I got a call from a random number, I ended up becoming the DJ, aka Dwayne Johnson. I thought someone was kidding me at first, but eventually I realized it was definitely him. Then he said to me, “Welcome to black Adam. I was blown away at that moment, and I knew it was time to start.
How well do you know the character of Hawkman?
I’ve always been a big comic book guy. I grew up on graphic novels, and was already a fan of JSA, so I already had ideas. But when I understood that, I took more time to get to know Carter Hall, which is Hockman’s actual identity. I didn’t want to get sucked into all the different versions of the character out there. But one of the indisputable facts is that the man is a superhero with or without armor. The paint he puts on is just an extension and amplification of the strength he already has.
Do you have an idea of how you want to look physically?
I really wanted to raise my physique as much as possible, because this is the first time Hawkman has appeared in a movie. There are a lot of fans of this character who want to do justice. This dates back to 1940. His powers and abilities are incredible. I wanted to push everything to the limit. Our fight scenes in this movie are like no other. I wanted to make sure that what I was doing stood side by side with what everyone was bringing into this, led by DJ.
So when it comes to getting started, what do you do first?
I guess you could say I was preparing for a long time before I actually got the role. I’m not sure if I knew this would be the opportunity, but it’s all about getting ready, because you never know. I was in quarantine at the time, coming from another job, and as soon as I got a call from the DJ, the first thing I wanted to do was get into the gym. I tried to sneak into the hotel but they wouldn’t let me. So instead, I had a few big dumbbells sent to my room and started the process of getting back to my Hockman fitness there. I have Bowflex joints where you can adjust the weight on the dumbbells. Those were great because I was stuck in a small hotel room and could handle those quite a lot. I was there doing chest fly and rows and everything else.
How about the time when you finally managed to get into a real gym?
Everything went to the next level when I was able to get into a proper gym. I felt like a kid who goes to the candy store every day, because I’ve always wanted to have one of those gigs that forced me to push my training to the next level—an excuse to take it that physical. Before getting this movie, I made a bio of soccer player Brian Banks and spent a lot of time with actual Brian Banks training. I took a lot of what I learned with him. That was a few years ago, so my body was in a different place when I started this journey. I was really good at building muscle, but I didn’t cut the fat the way I needed to so I hit up the DJ for a little guidance. He put me on his team who helped me get into the metabolic science of exercise.
Who were some of these key players?
In terms of the gym, when it comes to bodybuilding, I worked with my friend Miles Humphos, who is a DJ. He’s a great guy who’s amazing at his job, but he also knows how to build a body like nobody’s business. He had so much faith in me, he would take me to the gym and put me at a weight I hadn’t tried before. One day we were doing leg press, and I was expecting to do an easy 400lb weight, which I knew was easy on my range. Miles has that crazy look in his eyes and weighs over 1,000 pounds. I thought he was just doing it for his reps, and I was so proud of him for that. Once that was done, he pointed again and wanted me to knock out a few reps of it myself. I didn’t think he was into me, but he had complete confidence that I did. I was surprised when I managed to hit them. I needed someone like him out there to push me beyond those previous boundaries, and set new standards.
What was a typical training day like?
We start getting up at 4am, then get to the gym by 5am. It will all start with warm-up, stretching and mobility exercises. During those movements, we weren’t even using weights, just body weight as resistance. This time is even more important when you’re bulky because you want to prevent it from getting too big and shutting down as the mass increases. We’d train for three hours until 8 a.m. and then make our way to the sexy gym where we’d work on combat choreography and wire work. On top of that, we were doing the endurance rounds and finishing around 4pm, so we had somewhere around 12 hours a day of training for two straight months, non-stop, until we started shooting the movie.
What are some of the exercises you have been doing during these sessions?
Once we’ve finished warming up, the session may start by putting on some weight, which is a kind of extra warm-up. My starting weight at the time was 185, then I get up to 250 in regular reps, and max out at about 300lbs. Sometimes I have it as high as 315. Along with my friend, Miles, we’ll do a slow tension lift where you push the bar up explosively and then slowly bring it back to your chest while you count five seconds. The movements focused on getting us to deal with tension, fluidity and pressure in different circumstances. There was a constant force being put in, if we finished a set of bench presses we would jump down and hit some pushups just to keep the muscles warm. At the end of the workout, we’ll be doing some paddling to get completely burned out. We’ll try to figure out how fast we can go one mile on the rowing machine. As soon as filming began, the training did not stop. We had to keep up with the pace to keep everything we built.
Can you describe what it was like doing stunt training?
I grew up with martial arts and grew up watching action heroes. Jet Li, Jean-Claude Van Damme and the rest. I was always looking for a reason to live in this space mentally. black Adam Filmed in Atlanta, I got there early to start training with the stunts team. I was working with my sexy wife David Charles Warren in motion and this guy is crazy. I like to do a lot of fighting myself, and I’m good at it, but this brother has a crazy ability in the air. We were working with Chris Brewster, who was our motion coordinator and fight coordinator. I went to Chris and told him I wanted to build a style out of all the martial arts I studied. It’s really about movement and choreography.
I was very impressed with the way she looks in the suit, and that’s a compliment because when it comes to physical beauty, that’s clearly all you have to do. How did it look?
[Laughs] you are right. That’s all I have. There’s not much to hide behind a suit. The only real challenge was seeing through the helmet, as it reduces your vision. I had to learn to convey feelings and act more, because the shield covers part of my face. Working with the suit was fun though.
I’ve always wanted to put on the shoes of a great superhero, in the ultimate action world in any real capacity, and end up doing so playing one of the most badass heroes out there, especially when I go against the biggest action star in the world. Yes, this is the way I wanted to do it. It amazed me how we were able to bring context out of these fight scenes, which was in large part thanks to the partnership between our Director Jaume Collet-Serra and our Director of Photography Lawrence Sher. They composed the fight scenes in a way that I think elevated what we’ve seen in previous superhero movies. The fight we did was beautifully brutal. Everything was huge in a special way. We wanted the audience to see the best of Black Adam and the best of Hawkman.
You definitely brought the best of Hawkman to screen. I hope to see more films with you in your personal capacity. any plans?
There are so many great backgrounds out there with Hawkman that I’d like to explore…the reasons behind how he became what he did before we saw him in black Adam. I think there is a lot to build on when it comes to the JSA and all of its members. I hope to see more of it too.
Black Adam will be released in theaters on October 21.
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