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MMA training readied Theo James for ‘Insurgent’ fights


LOS ANGELES — He’s not just a lover. Theo James is a fighter in the hit sequel “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.”

How did he get in the shape to reprise his role as Four?  “I worked out in Chicago learning about MMA fighting with a real MMA fighter,” he said. “I’m a boxing fan. I’d do that kind of training twice a week, doing a bit of sparring that was independent of anything I had to do in the movie.

“Of course, the MMA expert would always win. And I had headgear on so I was never hit in the face because that wouldn’t be good for the camera,” says James, whose workout schedule was six to seven days a week in the gym.

“Most of all, I’d ask, ‘Can I use this in the film when I need to beat someone else?’ ” he said with a laugh. “More than anything, I wanted to make the fighting, although futuristic, look realistic. I wanted to have the body type that went with the job.”

The big-screen sex symbol looks leaner in real life than he does in the new movie. He said that he bulked up the healthy way for the film by eating lean proteins and practically living in the gym.

James, a philosophy major, says it was major work to look as sinewy and bulked up as he does in the movie.

“In real life, I’m just OK fitness-wise. I don’t walk around with rippling biceps,” he admits. “For this film, I wanted to put on a little weight. I thought Four should have some density to him. He needed muscle, so he would look as dangerous as possible.

“I didn’t want him to look like some steroid guy. He had to look like someone you wouldn’t want to run into on a bad day.”

In “Insurgent,” Four and Tris (Shailene Woodley) try to navigate the factions leading towards war in the second film based on Veronica Roth’s best-sellers. “I love that Four is dangerous. You don’t know what side of the line he sits on in some cases, but it’s clear that he’s a noble guy.”

He’s also lovestruck with Tris. “I like the fact that they have a mutual respect for each other. Her femininity doesn’t detract from his masculinity. She’s a very strong character, but very feminine at the same time.

“The men and women in this movie are very equal, which is refreshing.”