To transform for the part, Brooks enlisted personal trainer Andrew Schuth to help him amass a further 35 pounds (approx. 16kg) of muscle on his already-hulking frame. The routine was one of heavy lifting and voracious eating. Put simply, Brooks had to consume a staggering 12,000 calories per day.
Hollywood is known for putting actors through their paces when it comes to transforming for a certain role. Far from an exercise in vanity, it instead speaks volumes of the actor’s own drive and dedication to his craft. That CGI could easily replicate such bulk in a few seconds for the screen is one thing, but Brooks knows that if you’re going to take on a job, you have to be fully committed. In an interview with Men’s Journal he explained, “I knew that I had to be this guy. I know that sounds crazy. I didn’t want to give them a single excuse not to give me the part, and I felt like it was meant to be.”
He added, “That wasn’t arrogance, but my whole heart was invested in getting the result I wanted.”
Brooks went to Burning Man festival and used the experience to plumb the psyche of the character whose world he would soon inhabit. “I spent a lot of time out in the desert by myself. What better way to connect with a guy whose done several tours in the desert than go out into the desert, stripping yourself down to the bare bones.”
In terms of bulking up for the part, it required a considerably drastic overhaul for Brooks who was previously eating vegan. Now, he was consuming “the equivalent of half a cow a day.” That said, he still tried to keep his diet as sustainable as possible, eating lots of fruits, vegetables and nuts, and eating one animal protein a week. According to Brooks, a day of eating saw him consume vegan protein shakes all day right from the start, then eating 12 to 18 eggs. If his animal protein for the week was chicken, he’d consume four to six chicken breasts with vegetables, before cutting carbs around 5pm. Throughout the training process he didn’t drink any alcohol.
He says of the diet, “I felt like a caveman. It was kind of like the most hardcore paleo diet you ever heard of and I ended up with a caveman body. I felt great and got amazing results when I combined with the I was doing. It’s not something I’d sustain, because it’s expensive and I was eating somewhere around 12,000 calories a day.”
As for the physicality, Brooks continued to work hard in the gym to ensure the weight he was putting on was muscle. The actor and Schuth worked on intense boxing drills, something that would no doubt come in handy on the screen as he performs the role of a human capable of protecting Earth from Outworld monsters. Speaking about the intensity of the workouts and Schuth’s expertise, Brooks doesn’t mince his words. He said: “This guy is a beast. I think my first time working with him I almost vomited. I had to put ice on my wrists and on my neck. That’s who we’re dealing with here. I worked out at every gym I could. For this role, he created a bespoke workout where we did heavy weight and a ton of reps. I’d follow that with fast-twitch movements and plyometrics.”
Some of the workouts included running at full speed on the treadmill while doing jabs with 25-pound dumbbells. He’d then put the weights down and have to run at full speed with the treadmill on an incline, followed by another minute on the treadmill with the incline down. “And that’s just one set,” says Brooks. “That's when you think about killing him. But you start seeing results in days. That’s what makes you submit to it.”
Even during filming with a gruelling film schedule to dictate his daily routine, Brooks still continued with his training, often hitting the boxing ring for two hours before heading to the gym for a further two hours and then doing stunt rehearsal. He admits that some nights he was only getting four hours sleep, but was determined to keep going. If you ever questioned an actor’s commitment, you need only look at Brooks to have your faith restored.
Mortal Kombat will premiere in theatres and HBOMax on April 23.