Douglas Booth: “Holding up Your Shirt to Snap Your Abs in the Mirror Makes My Skin Crawl”
Star of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies and owner of the UK’s finest jawline, Douglas Booth, hits the gym
Did you have to get in shape for your role in Pride And Prejudice And Zombies?
The girls did a lot more than me. That’s what’s so cool in this film; it’s flipped on its head, and it’s the girls that are the heroes and the guys that are being rescued. So I didn’t do too much. I did some riding though, and got used to my horse, but I’ve ridden since I was a kid and I love to ride.
Will you be giving Bruce Lee a run for his money?
I haven’t done any proper martial arts training, but I’d love to, because it’s important for my job. I’ve had to learn some sword stuff in the past, but no martial arts. Although I used to do judo and karate as a kid, when I was really young. I remember going to karate, then coming back and watching EastEnders and Gladiators.
Does riding a horse count as exercise?
One hundred per cent. The next day your core is really sore – if you haven’t done it for a while, it feels like you’ve done a big leg and core workout. I’m not a technically perfect rider but I started when I was young in London, and they taught me the Western style, which is very relaxed. Then my parents moved away when I was about ten, and I remember going riding and jumping off the horse and clicking my heels behind me like some sort of young cowboy. The owner almost dropped down dead, she was like, “What are you doing?”
What’s your most impressive personal best?
I love to mountain bike and I used to do it a lot, but I had quite a bad accident so I haven’t done it much since. We used to go to Morzine in the Alps. We’d get a lift up and then do a lot of downhill – you cover about 70/80km a day. The toughest was the Sierra Nevada in Spain though – I went and it was so hot, like 40°C, and we started the day with a 27km climb. We had CamelBaks that we’d stop and fill but you’d literally be sweating it out as you were drinking. We dropped down to the town to have lunch but I couldn’t get out again – the guide had to put a bungee rope around me to help me back up the hill…
Have you ever pulled a muscle in less-than-heroic circumstances?
Yeah, probably on the dancefloor in the midst of some terrible moves. You know, like trying to do a slutdrop or something stupid. One of those ones where you wake up and cringe as soon as you open your eyes: “Did I actually do that?”
Which excuse for avoiding the gym are you most ashamed of?
I’m most ashamed of the fact that I have no excuse. I have a bit of tendinitis at the moment, which makes it tough to train. I want my body to keep up with my will – I want to do it, but my body can’t necessarily take it.
Which health product would you rescue from a burning building?
Water is pretty healthy – I’d take some and cover myself in it to stop burning to death. Honestly, if my house was burning, a protein powder would not be first on my list…
Would you ever get Arnie-massive for a role?
Of course – I think through my 20s [he’s 23] I’d like to build my body up to a place of strength, but I’ll work towards anything for a part. I’ve lost weight for a role but I haven’t put it on yet. I’d definitely be willing to give it a go, although I think it’s unhealthy to do it to the Christian Bale extent – it must put your body through a lot of stress and can’t be good for your organs. Apparently it’s not as fun as you’d think – OK, you eat whatever you want, but the quickest way to do it is to just drink ice cream. The calories go straight on, but it makes your body feel gross and gassy. And the hardest thing would be the amount of work you’d have to put in to get it off again.
What’s the worst type of gym behaviour?
We all look in the mirror, but it’s the real exhibitionism that I just can’t understand. I don’t mind someone grunting or screaming, because that means they’re putting in effort and pushing themselves, and there’s no problem with that – I’ve definitely screamed at the gym. It’s the exhibitionists, you know? That’s their life, that’s what they do, but it doesn’t make them interesting. I’m not into gym selfies either – holding up your shirt to snap your abs in the mirror makes my skin crawl.
What do you think of leg day?
Absolute hell. It’s got to be done, though. The trouble is it’s like going to work out your arms then having to walk out of the gym doing a handstand. You’ve got to use them for the rest of the day, that’s the bastard thing about it.
Do you ever lose control, calorie-wise, after a gym session?
When I’m going regularly I eat pretty well – there’s no point putting all that work in if you’re going to ruin it afterwards. But when you don’t go, you’re like, well, it makes no difference.
Have you ever vaped?
No. I don’t smoke at all, but I suppose vaping is better than smoking. Leo [DiCaprio] does it and it looks cool, so…
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is in cinemas on 11th February.
Get the Coach Newsletter
Sign up for workout ideas, training advice, reviews of the latest gear and more.
Gary Ogden wrote for the print edition of Coach between 2015 and 2016, writing features, interviewing celebrities and covering entertainment. He has also written for ShortList (opens in new tab).