If you don't know Rawson Marshall Thurber, you definitely know his job – he has written and directed a number of hit films, including Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story from 2004 and more recent blockbusters like Central Intelligence and Skyscraper. His latest film, Red Notice, stars Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot and is now the most watched Netflix movie of all time. But Thurber is also successful in a completely different area: in the gym. (The photos don't lie.)
Unlike most fitness transformations in Hollywood, Thurber didn't go to the gym to fill in a superhero costume or show off on camera. Instead, he takes a long-term perspective – a fitness-centered lifestyle so that he can be an active father to his three young children for years to come. It's hard work, but it's worth it.
"This physical confrontation with my kids is more important to me than eating a donut," he told Men & # 39; s Journal.
Just over a year after starting his fitness journey, it's clear that the sweat is paying off. We spoke to Thurber about his approach to fitness, training with his wife ("I couldn't have done it without her"), how the gym compares to Hollywood, and more.
Men's diary: when did you start fitness for the first time?
Rawson Marshall Thurber: Well, I've always been athletic. I played third division college football for a year before hanging up my spikes and focusing elsewhere. I've always loved exercise, so I've been to the gym every now and then for most of my life.
But regarding this recent fitness journey, it started when I was doing Red Notice in Atlanta. I spoke to my wife, Sarah, and we shared our goals. For me, the main goal is to be a healthy and fit father for a long time to come. I started having children a little later than most, and I want to be in my children's lives in meaningful ways for the next 40 years. I thought, "No time like the present to begin."
That was really the main motivator. My wife is also athletic, she used to be a pretty serious ballerina. We decided to go on this trip together and that was the best part: sharing this with her. The mission was to get in the best shape of my life, for myself but most of all for my family.
How did you start
I had never had a coach before. For me it was always like this, "If you need someone to count the reps for you, you've got a motivational problem." I just never really saw the value in it. Then I saw my friend Kumail Nanjiani transform, and apparently the world reacted to it with such overwhelming enthusiasm and joy.
When Sarah and I talked about doing this together, I thought, "If we can do this and really want to achieve something, then maybe it's about finding someone who can be our Sherpa on this mountain top."
So I turned to Kumail and said, “Congratulations, I'm very happy for you and what do you think of your trainer, Grant Roberts?” He said, “I love him. Let me introduce you. "That was key – meeting Grant and having him not only count the reps for us, but also walk us through the build process and the various stages.
We considered a few other coaches, but when we met up with Grant and spoke to Kumail it was a no-brainer. He was right for us, he had the right approach and he understood our goals.
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What is your typical fitness routine like?
Sarah and I started exercising four times a week for an hour in the morning with Grant's help. We put the kids in the car, drop them off and drive straight to the gym and work out.
Obviously, you are alternating the parts of the body that you are working on. Usually it's either one piece at the top and one piece at the bottom, or there are alternating muscle groups. So if we work on our chest, maybe we do chest, then triceps or biceps, something like that. Or we do a shoulder workout with a few hamstrings.
By working four days a week, we can double a muscle group. Whatever we want to emphasize, we do it twice a week. My wife and I usually have different opinions about what to double up. And Grant will share it because he's a smart man. So Sarah could support herself on her legs and I on my shoulders or chest or something else. He keeps it peaceful.
You and I are both very happy with the result. I know this is going to sound cheesy, but the best part was sharing this with my wife and doing this together. When she is tired, I help her to collect herself. And when I'm tired, she helps me with the rally. We had a close marriage before, but this together brought us closer together.
You're no stranger to the gym, but does this lap feel different because of your long-term goals?
Oh, very. Anyone who has kids will tell you that it will change your life in the best way. It changes your priorities: what was important to you before you had children is not that important after you have children. When I was younger, I went to the gym to get stronger, bigger, and faster for every sport I did. And when I stopped doing sports, it was more about vanity than health. How do I look good without a shirt? But now it's just become a deeper goal in life.
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Have your kids noticed a difference since you started?
No, they don't notice. The only thing they notice is when Daddy goes into the garage to drive the peloton, that's pretty much it. Or when I sit on the rowing machine, my daughter sometimes likes to go with me.
Do you have a favorite exercise?
I am a big fan of shoulder work. I like side dumbbell flies and land mine shoulder presses. We load plates onto a 45 pound bar that rests at a 45 degree angle. You crouch, pick it up and press it over your head. And when Grant really wants to get it mean, he turns it into a thruster where you crouch with your glutes and push yourself up, then with your arms so you get the whole body.
Do you have a fitness symbol? Someone you really look up to?
Mathew Fraser (five-time CrossFit Games Champion) is there for me. I've made three films with Dwayne Johnson, so I noticed he went to the gym once or twice. And then Kumail – the dedication and willpower it takes to make that kind of transformation is really inspiring.
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How do you keep fit during production?
Actors have a lot of time to train. As a screenwriter / director, you will never be redundant on the set; You have no days off. And you are usually very early and very late. For me, the only real option was to wake up and do something before the call, even if it's only 15 minutes. Something is better than nothing – that was my motto. Even if it's bodyweight exercises, even if it's a hundred push-ups and a hundred squats, that's something.
How does fitness fit into your work as a writer and director? Do these two sides of your life complement each other in any way?
They're analog in that it takes the same level of focus, dedication, and commitment in the gym that it takes to write a script. Part of writing a script is consistency. Some days aren't your best, just like at the gym. Some days you have a great six page day and other days it's a page and a half and it's awful. But you put your ass in the seat and grind.
When I make a movie I always try to remember what my goal is and what I love about it. With Red Notice, my goal was to entertain the world. I wanted to give them two hours of laughter and fun, thrills and chills. If you have a big enough “why”, you can manage almost any “how”. When you keep an eye on the price, you can take care of all the little things because you know what your ultimate goal is. The same when exercising. My big “why” is that I want to be a healthy, vital and lively father to my children for the next 40+ years of my life. This is what gets up my ass at the gym.
One of your favorite films is Dodgeball, which is almost an anti-fitness film – the Globo Gym team are the bad guys. Did you draw on your gym experiences while writing and making this movie?
I think I've been to enough gyms and exercising enough with people who take it too seriously for it to be easy to write White Goodman and the Globo Gym Purple Cobras. I always felt more like the average Joe myself, so this was super fun to write. Having spent time in the gym during my inglorious athletic career, it's got all sides and I definitely used that for dodgeball.
Red Notice has a lot of really high intensity fight scenes. Does it help you to be fit to write or direct those action scenes?
I don't think being someone who focuses on their own fitness has helped me when writing action sequences. I think loving action sequences helped me write them. But the real key factor is having a fabulous stunt team. We had George Cottle as our stunt coordinator and we had three incredible stunt doubles: Tanoai Reed, the stuntman of the year, Jonny James, who is Ryan Reynolds double, and Stanni Bettridge for Gal Galdot. They are all fabulous, fabulous athletes. Ryan, Gal and Dwayne are incredibly fit people too. You can't find more talented physical actors than these three, I guess.
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Red Notice was a huge success. Why do you think it is so popular with the audience?
I think one of the main reasons Red Notice was so successful was that the movie itself was really fun. It's big stars, big action, big laughs – it's for everyone, and we did it that way. I can't tell you how many messages I've received where someone says, "My husband and I saw it with our teenagers and we all enjoyed it." Or, “My wife and I went to see it with our parents and our 9 year olds and we all loved it.” These messages are just so encouraging. It's a movie for people who love movies and it has no other intention than to entertain. And I think two hours of fun, joy, laughter and action is what the world wants right now, considering the last couple of years have been really tough for everyone.
This is your third film with Dwayne Johnson. Have you ever trained with him?
Never. I'm still waiting for my invitation to Iron Paradise, but be careful what you wish for. I think if he invites me, I'm not sure I would go. I get tired just watching his videos.
Which is harder: building a successful career in Hollywood or getting a six pack?
A successful career in Hollywood depends on three things: hard work, luck, and talent, probably equally. The only thing you can control is hard work. Getting abs – that's persistence and hard work too. But you don't need luck or talent to get abs. So maybe it's a little harder to have a successful career in Hollywood.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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