How Jack Huston got his Ben-Hur body
THE RED BULLETIN: How did you go about getting in shape for Ben-Hur?
JACK HUSTON: I trained for three months before the film and then all the way through. I lost 14kg. Ben-Hur was a slave who spent five years in the galley of a slave ship. You basically weren’t fed and you rowed all day long, so we did a lot of physical activity and a lot of weights, but at the same time, it was a lot of trimming down.
So it was as much about losing weight as toning up?
Exactly. I went down to about six per cent body fat, but I was very, very strong. It was the strongest I’ve ever been. We worked out every day.
It was very intense. And then we did all the training with the horses. I’ve ridden all my life, so I felt very confident and comfortable with horses. But then the chariots are something that no one has a grasp on. I mean, you just don’t get on chariots anymore. When you do you see a guy rocking a chariot..?
And how was that?
It’s brutal. The most important thing is it’s all your legs. Your stability, the absorption of shock, everything is going through your legs. You’re consistently in a sort of squat position. Everyone has a different style of riding and you develop one just like anybody else. Toby [Kebbell, who plays villain Messala] and I had such different styles. I guess mine was more refined and his was a bit more animalistic, which worked really well for those two characters.
How long did it take to hone your style?
We trained a lot for that. We had about four months of training just with horses and chariots.
Why did you opt to do it all for real, given what’s possible with CGI these days?
The film is meant to be immersive. When you go too heavy on things like CGI you’re trying to create an experience, as opposed to experiencing the experience. I think that reads. You can see it on our faces and you can feel it. All eyes are going to be on this chariot race because the last one was so spectacular. Plus now we’re able to do some things that they weren’t able to do back then, which is why I wanted to experience everything - to really be on those horses. That’s why we put so much into it. Anything practical that we were able to do, we did.
During the film shoot you had a trainer, a chef and a nutritionist all working to balance your intake levels, plus you were taking around 60 supplements a day. Was it a test for your willpower?
Oh man, I was in Rome of all places, the worst place to be when you’re not on carbs and alcohol. It was insane. When I was done with filming, everyone thought I was going to have the best pasta or pizza. But there was this little place around the corner from the De Russie hotel, which did burgers and hot dogs and French fries and onion rings. And I went and got two of everything.
Did you eat it all?
I ate it all. It was the best day. Everyone said, “You’re never going to be able to eat all that. You’re mental!” My girlfriend was like, “Are you having a laugh?” I said, “Just watch me.” So I took my time, and I made it my mission. I did it, I ate it, and I laid down afterwards. I was just happy.
That’s completion-level eating…
It was! But I’d been waiting for it and I wasn’t going to deprive myself. I’d done a lot of work to earn it – the shoot was brutal, not just on the chariots, but in the slave ship scenes. I was in a loincloth rowing all day around hundreds of sweaty guys, also in loincloths, covered in sweat and oil. Brutal!