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Will Poulter Said He "Wouldn’t Recommend" Anyone Else Follow His Marvel Workout Regimen, And 14 Other Actors Who Called Out The Toxic Body Standards In Superhero Movies

"I didn’t want to be part of something where...people [were] making sure I was in the 'right' shape." —Florence Pugh

A lot of TV and movie roles come with expectations for the actors who play them to look a certain way — especially in the superhero genre. Audiences and studios alike often expect actors in the Marvel or DC universes to be as buff, fit, or thin as the characters in the pages of a comic book. For many actors, the body-shaming continues after the TV show or movie has wrapped.

Of course, looking exactly like an illustrated character is impossible — and trying to push your body to those limits can be harmful for both the actor and the audience. However, some actors are pushing back against these toxic body standards and praising those who support them to embrace themselves the way they are behind the scenes.

Here are 15 actors who called out or fought back against the toxic body standards in superhero movies:

Some entries mention disordered eating.

1. Will Poulter put himself through a rigorous diet and gym regimen to prepare for his MCU debut as Adam Warlock — who's genetically engineered to be "perfect" — in Guardians of the Galaxy 3. He told the Independent, "I wouldn’t recommend anyone do what I did to get ready for that job."

"The most important thing is that your mental and physical health has to be number one, and the aesthetic goals have to be secondary," he said.

He continued, "Otherwise, you end up promoting something that is unhealthy and unrealistic if you don’t have the financial backing of a studio paying for your meals and training. I’m in a very privileged position in that respect."

2. While Natalie Portman was filming Thor: Love and Thunder in Australia, paparazzi pictures circulated and alleged that she was pregnant.

Calling out the tabloid on her Instagram story, she wrote, "Hey, so I’m totally not pregnant. But apparently it’s still okay in 2021 for anyone to speculate and comment on a woman’s body shape whenever they want?"

"Do better," she concluded.

3. When Eternals director Chloé Zhao offered Brian Tyree Henry the role of Phastos, he had one question: "How much weight do I have to lose?"

However, Zhao responded, "What are you talking about? We want you exactly as you are."

Henry told Variety, "It just triggered me to be an 11-year-old kid who is watching these superhero movies, and not ever seeing anyone like me reflected. And how I would take these posters and put them in my locker, and just hope that one day there will be somebody representing me, in the way you know that I am."

4. After Zhao cast Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, he decided that he wanted to work with nutritionists, trainers, and a cardiologist to prepare for the film. However, the online praise he received for his physical transformation quickly morphed into body-shaming.

He told Vulture, "The way I look has been way too important to me...to hear a bunch of people reaffirming my own darkest thoughts about myself was very difficult."

"It’s very easy to get obsessed with that number on the scale. ... I certainly have, and for me, it’s not great to weigh myself every day. ... I know exactly what I weigh every day, and if I could change something, I would love to not have to think about that," he said.

5. When Florence Pugh was cast as Yelena Belova in Black Widow, she ensured that no one else was controlling her fitness regimen. She told Elle, "I wanted to know whether it was them or me calling the shots. That was a big deal for me."

"I didn’t want to be part of something where I was constantly checked on. And people making sure I was in the 'right' shape. That’s not me at all," she said.

She also monitored her own nutrition, cooking all of her own meals at home and bringing them to set.

6. Scarlett Johansson "had a freak-out moment that lasted about half a day" when she first saw how form-fitting her Black Widow costume was for Iron Man 2.

"Then I said, 'Okay, time to suck it up' and just went full force into getting in shape to wear the costume and perform the physical action so it looked just right," she told Sci Fi Movie Page.

Additionally, she told Inside the Actors Studio, "Who wants to get into something like that? You just think, 'Oh God, really?' Couldn’t it have some sort of peplum skirt or something like that? This thing is so, 'There you are.'"

7. When Alicia Silverstone played Batgirl in Batman & Robin, the tabloids cruelly labeled her "Fatgirl."

She told the Guardian, "It was hurtful, but I knew they were wrong. I wasn’t confused."

"I knew that it was not right to make fun of someone’s body shape, that doesn’t seem like the right thing to be doing to a human," she said.

8. During an early meeting with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, Brie Larson pointed out that older comics showed Carol Danvers wearing more revealing outfits, so Feige gave her his word they wouldn't be dressing her like that in the Captain Marvel movie.

While Larson trained for the role, she wasn't expected to make herself fit into a certain size costume. Rather, the costume was continually altered to fit her changing body.

Costume designer Sanja Milkovic Hays told British Vogue, "Over the course of working out, she was finding out more and more what her action scenes were going to be, and so we were making sure what we were doing would allow her to do certain things. ... We were moving things by half an inch here and half an inch there [to get it right]."

9. When Caity Lotz, who plays Sara Lance/White Canary in the CW's Arrowverse, was younger, she was made fun of for being "too muscular." On Twitter, she said, "It made me feel insecure about my body. Now I get to be like...I’m a superhero."

However, the body-shaming followed her into the spotlight as online trolls continued to criticize her. Calling them out on Instagram, she said, "Do I struggle with accepting my body type? Umm yes. Would I like having curves like [Sofía Vergara]? Umm yes, but if we all looked the same that would be boring. Like painting the sunset all in one color."

She continued, "I see a lot of online body shaming, if someone’s body is not to your liking...keep it to yourself. It’s not your body, and making people feel insecure won’t help them, and it definitely won’t help you."

10. A year after Stephen Amell ended his run as Oliver Queen on Arrow, he shared a shirtless selfie on Instagram — and trolls left hateful comments about how his body had changed since the show.

On Facebook, he called out the body-shamers, writing, "I'm in tremendous shape and I'm strong. ... We did the photography for that poster a little over 9 years ago."

Jokingly, he added, "Next time I post a photo in my hot pink skivvies, I'll try and remember to flex! If that isn't good enough, send me your address. I will show up to steal your boyfriend or your girlfriend."

11. Paul Rudd called out the fact that he had to sacrifice his personal happiness to prepare to play Scott Lang/Ant-Man. He told Variety, "Eliminate anything fun for a year and then you can play a hero."

"I basically didn’t eat anything for about a year," he said.

He continued, "I took the Chris Pratt approach to training for an action movie."

12. After a leaked picture of Grant Gustin in his new costume for The Flash Season 5 circulated online, he faced an onslaught of body-shamers who said he was "too thin" to play Barry Allen.

Calling them out on Instagram, he wrote, "That’s a terrible photo that I was unaware was being taken, much less being posted. ... As far as the body shaming. That’s what pisses me off. Not even just for my sake. I’ve had 20+ years of kids and adults telling me or my parents I was too thin."

"I’m happy with my body and who I am and other kids who are built like me and thinner than me should be able to feel the same way," he said.

13. After paparazzi pictures of Jason Momoa shirtless while on vacation circulated online, people body-shamed him for not looking exactly the same as he did in Aquaman.

However, he told TMZ that he was "not at all" hurt by the harsh comments.

He joked, "Tell TMZ I'll show you my dad bod soon."

14. While Robert Pattinson was preparing to play the lead in The Batman, he lied to GQ and said he wasn't working out — but he later admitted that lie came from a place of insecurity.

He told MovieMaker, "I just always think it's really embarrassing to talk about how you're working out. ... Unless you are in the most unbelievable shape, where people are just genuinely curious, going, 'How have you achieved, like, physical perfection?' or whatever."

"I think I was doing the interview when I was in lockdown, as well, in England. ... I was in a lower gear of working out," he said.

15. And finally, when Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman, some online trolls criticized her for having a smaller bust than her comic book counterpart. So, she responded by suggesting a historically accurate alternative.

She told Rolling Stone, "I told them, 'Listen, if you want to be for real, then the Amazons, they had only one boob. Exactly one boob.'"

"So what are you talking about here? Me having small boobs and small ass? That will make all the difference," she said.

The National Eating Disorders Association helpline is 1-800-931-2237; for 24/7 crisis support, text “NEDA” to 741741.