Keanu Reeves returns as a formerly retired assassin who’s marked for death in the new action movie “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.’
If you’re going to play a trained fighter, it helps to actually train like a fighter.
At least that’s how Halle Berry felt about taking on the role of mysterious assassin Sofia in “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” (in theaters Friday), in which she stars opposite Keanu Reeves and does most of her own stunts.
For the movie, Berry got fit enough to take down men with her legs, deal with blows to the stomach, dodge knives, deliver punches, shoot guns and leap through the air.
We asked her longtime personal trainer Peter Lee Thomas about what it took to turn Berry, 52, into an action star.
She often worked out twice a day
Five days a week, for 60 to 90 minutes at a time, the actress focused on fitness with Thomas. Three or four of those days, Berry also took fight training in forms like Jiu Jitsu.
That wasn’t all: There was also dog training (Sofia has attack dogs) and weapons training.
“The weekends, she usually took off. It’s the best time for family,” Thomas says.
She trained like a MMA fighter
Though Thomas and Berry have been training together for five years, when it was time to prep for “John Wick,” “we had to really crank up her training,” he says. That meant Thomas, who has studied mixed martial arts, trained Berry like a fighter: She shadowboxed, wore a sauna suit and skipped rope.
There was a sweaty warm-up
First up in the “John Wick” workout: The jump rope. So much jump rope. “Anywhere from 500 to 1,000 jump-rope skips,” Thomas says. “She’s so goal-oriented, you have to give her a set number.”
Next, Thomas put Berry through what he calls an “animal flow,” which incorporated Capoeira (Brazilian martial arts) moves and dynamic stretching.
After that, she typically did some shadowboxing and sprawling (dropping down to a push-up, and then quickly jumping back up to a standing position), followed by deep breathing.
“If you’re not sweating, you haven’t warmed up enough,” Thomas says.
Then, a round of pull-ups
Thomas liked to have Berry do chin-ups, slowly lowering down while pedaling her legs
“The goal is to spend one minute” on a single pull-up or chin-up.
Berry can do eight to 10 pull-ups, unassisted. “She’s ultra-strong,” Thomas says.
How strong did she get? Enough to haul a 65-pound sand bag
Thomas tasked Berry with sprinting and climbing stairs while holding a 65-pound sand bag. “You’ve got to pick up your kid,” Thomas jokes.
Holding the sandbag on one side while squatting “is one of several non-traditional ways of attacking the core,” says Thomas. “It truly represents what military personnel fighters go through.”
Finally, she had to flip and punch a bag
Berry’s workout ended with a heavy boxing bag. But instead of hitting the bag as it hung, she flipped it over and over on the ground, and then attacked it. With one knee on the “belly” of the bag, as Thomas describes it, Berry punched the bag with her opposite hand 10 to 20 times before switching sides. Finally, she’d straddle the bag with both knees and hit quick left-right punches for 30 to 60 seconds.
And after that, she’d do the whole workout gauntlet again for three to five rounds, says Thomas. If Berry had limited time, she’d do the full exercise plan with zero breaks, “like somebody speed-reading a book,” he says.
Age is almost irrelevant
To Thomas’ thinking, Berry’s action career is “just getting started.”
“A lot of my teachers were twice my age and able to run circles around me,” he says. “There’s so much more the body can endure and go through. Training in martial arts is not only going to make her healthier but live longer.”
But not everyone has Berry’s fighting power
“This woman is so hard-working and tough, I had to tell her to stop,” says Heidi Moneymaker, Berry’s fight trainer on “John Wick.”
But Berry’s relentless approach may have gotten her in trouble: The actress broke three ribs while stunt training.
“She did go through a lot of strains and bruises,” Moneymaker says. “But even if she was dog-tired, if I said, ‘How do you feel?’ she’d say, ‘Great, let’s go again.’ “
The training isn’t over
Berry is back in the gym, because the actress has another action role coming up: She’s preparing to star as a disgraced MMA fighter in her directorial debut, “Bruised.”
Fully recovered from her injuries, “this woman could walk through walls,” Thomas says. “She’s a titan.”
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