Alexander Skarsgard on Playing Tarzan, His Workout Regimen and Filming Scenes in the Buff

Alexander Skarsgard as Tarzan

“I didn’t want any muscle mass that didn’t serve a purpose, because animals don’t have that.” – Alexander Skarsgard

After a long break, Tarzan returns to movie theaters with this summer’s The Legend of Tarzan, starring Alexander Skarsgard as the famed jungle man. It takes much more than a loincloth to play the famed hero — and as Skarsgard tells the New York Times, in some cases he didn’t even have that.

Tarzan has a long legacy in film — the first Tarzan movie, Tarzan Of The Apes, was released in 1918. Skarsgard reveals that he watched Tarzan films growing up because of his father’s interest in the character. He says, “My dad is the biggest Tarzan fan ever, and we watched the old Johnny Weissmuller movies when I was a kid. “So I was super excited about the idea of playing Tarzan. And I was curious: This is a story that’s been told 100 times over the past 100 years. What’s their take on it?”

Of course, being that this is a Tarzan movie Skarsgard spends much of the film shirtless. Naturally, Skarsgard’s workout regime was extremely challenging. He explains, “I didn’t want any muscle mass that didn’t serve a purpose, because animals don’t have that. So the first phase was three months of bulking up, which was 7,000 calories a day of meat and potatoes and weight lifting. I put on about 24 pounds of muscle and fat. Then we switched to a much stricter diet, six small meals a day, and I started working with the choreographer Wayne McGregor.”

Keeping with that logic, Skarsgard also spent much of the film nude, which means he had to be very comfortable with being naked on camera. He says, “I’m totally comfortable if it makes sense. And for those scenes, I felt, why would he be wearing a loincloth? That kind of prudish behavior is very human. So it wouldn’t make sense for him, being raised by apes, to say, ‘Excuse me, guys, I actually want to cover up here.'”

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