Did you do any specific training to prepare for the film?
I trained about six times a week, up to twice a day. I was doing lots of intervals with weights, and mixing them with cardio and fartlek runs – I wanted to be as lean as possible. My character (Angel) is supposed to be trapped in this fight club, so he’s in a very primal, ravenous state, but he still has superhero muscles. I missed food so much, I tell you.
Have you ever pulled a muscle in less-than-heroic circumstances?
I badly sprained my ankle playing basketball the day before my first day of filming on X-Men, and I was terrified that I was going to be fired because I couldn’t walk properly. I was walking around with a cane, but somehow I managed to pull it together to do the scene and walk three steps. Luckily, my character flies so I didn’t have to be on my feet too much, although I still had to land on them. It was a bit embarrassing and not really the most professional moment of my life.
Which excuse for not going to the gym/working out are you most ashamed of?
I have many. The best one is that there’s a baby living below me, and I have a mini gym in my house, so I’ll be like “Oh, I couldn’t possibly exercise now because of the baby downstairs.” I’m just a nice guy.
Have you ever ordered healthily in a restaurant, then scoffed someone else’s chips?
I don’t really do that because I get so annoyed if someone does it to me. I’ve never ordered healthily in a restaurant because I hate going “Oh, can I get that meal but without the potatoes? And do you put any salt in your food? Can you take that out please?” I had to be that guy during X-Men, but I hated it.
Shouting in the gym – annoying or essential?
Breathing is essential, but shouting isn’t. I hate it when someone’s giving it all that, especially if they’re not even a big guy and they’re using bad technique. You see them swinging their arms doing biceps curls and you’re like: “Are you kidding me?”
What’s the most extreme thing you’ve done in the name of good health or fitness?
It’s not that extreme, but a few days before my shirtless scene I was trying to dehydrate by cutting out salt. I had a 10-hour flight from London to San Diego for Comic-Con, then a flight from San Diego to Montreal. Flying can dehydrate you anyway, so I had a blinding headache for three days.
What’s the longest you have gone without alcohol in the name of good health?
I’ve always found that hard. I’ll drink vodka soda or other healthy equivalents like tequila, but I don’t think it’s good to let working out ruin your life. I know guys who don’t go out because they can’t drink and it sets them back. Some people like to live that way and it’s fine, but I’d rather enjoy myself and not have to say no to social opportunities.
What would you rather we didn’t see in your fridge?
There’s nothing. I’m not ashamed of my cans of beer or my pizza – I like to have that in my downtime. The good thing about acting is that if you need to be in shape for something, you just go all out, and when you don’t, you can relax. It’s like interval training, but for life – a three month sprint then a three month walk.
Have you ever let yourself go at any point in your life?
I was at least a stone heavier before I started acting. Looking at pictures on Facebook, I do look pretty bloated. I cut that out when I started really getting into acting because, sadly, that’s important in this industry.
Who’s your fitness idol?
I’ve got a couple. One is Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike). He’s in ridiculous shape, and his book Evolution is a great guide to working out. More recently, I’ve noticed Justin Theroux (The Girl On The Train). You see him shirtless and he’s absolutely ripped. He’s probably my latest fitness idol, but I’m not ready to put down the beer just yet…
Ben stars as Angel in X-Men: Apocalypse, which is available on DVD and Blu-ray now