Mark Strong is trying to be more like Scarlett Johansson. “I read an article where Scarlett Johansson said she’s only ever three weeks away from peak fitness,” he says. “So, I have this joke with my trainer, Giacomo [Farci], that I should only ever be three weeks away from peak fitness, too. If a call comes in saying, ‘You’re playing a superhero in three weeks’ time,’ we can get there.”
The baritone star, whose Sky drama Temple returned for its second series on 28 October, only started taking his fitness seriously in his forties, after a producer on 2013’s Welcome To The Punch urged him to take on a trainer. “At the costume fitting I took my shirt off and I saw them all looking. At the end of the fitting [the producer] sidled over and they just went, ‘Trainer?’ And I just thought, ‘OK, I get it. Yeah, why not.’”
Strong was put through a rigorous regimen for six weeks, working out every single day. “In six weeks, I saw results, you know, and I’ve never really seen that before.” Now he works out almost every day, with a mixture of aerobics – including a star-studded seven-a-side football game – and intense weights sessions with Farci, who has remained a constant in Strong’s life for the best part of a decade.
“It’s amazing how many times I see people in their early forties, particularly actors, who suddenly lost loads of weight and they’ll be like, ‘I stopped drinking’ or ‘I started training.’ They get really svelte and start doing ice baths. That kind of hits you in your early-to-mid forties. You have to make a choice: are you going to go down the Gérard Depardieu bon viveur route, where you just get so hammered you end up weeing on planes, or are you going to get fit and healthy?”
“Every Monday and Friday morning, I play football in the East End. Sometimes five-, six- or seven-a-side for about 90 minutes. The team is called The Friday Rovers. It’s a game that’s been going on for about 20 years, with a bunch of very well-known actors, writers, directors, producers, journalists, you know, people who don’t have desk jobs, so they can play football at ten o’clock on a Monday morning. It’s a bit like Fight Club: you’re not allowed to talk about Fight Club. The one rule is that we don’t talk shop. We turn up and we play and we generally don’t talk about the business.
“And then I train with Giac six days a week, too. We used to do an hour, but in the last few years we’ve been doing half an hour of very intense weight training. I mix it up. I’ve got a pulley machine, so we doing lots of push and pull exercises. I’ve got a bench and I’ve got some weights, so we do some bench presses, single rows, all of that classic weight stuff. I’ve got a bike, so sometimes we’ll intersperse whatever weight training we’re doing with a couple of minutes, you know, of fast work on the bike. I’ve got a boxing bag set up, so we do a lot of boxing, and that’s the thing I kind of enjoy most. I’ll do Saturday and Sunday as well. I’ll try to rest maybe one day a week.”
“I don’t eat red meat. I’ll eat chicken and fish and salads and generally I try to mix that all up as much as possible. Sometimes I’ll just snack. I’ll find a day where I just snack during the day without any big meals – rice cakes and humous, or a bit of avocado on a rice cake, little things like that. Bananas, nuts – I’ll always have something like that in my bag to snack on as things go by because one thing I learned was to try to have something every three hours. Don’t let the time drift: just get your body working on something, because as your digestion is working, your metabolism is working. If you can do that every three hours, not only is it good for your system, but it also kind of keeps your blood sugar levels up so it stops you from crashing.”
“I’m a chocoholic. I love chocolate and I have times where if I eat chocolate then I crave it every day. But if I manage to break that craving for three days, then I forget about it. Sometimes I’ll allow myself to [have something sweet]. The problem is, if somebody brings chocolate into the house, or biscuits or something like that, I know where they are and I always have to eat them all in one go to get rid of them because they can’t be there in the house while I know they’re there. So [my family members] are not allowed to tell me if they bring stuff into the house.
“During lockdown I got into making Martinis and Negronis and I just have one. I understand that keeping fit and healthy is a sort of discipline: it’s not something that comes naturally or easily. I can’t say I rush to the gym joyous. Some mornings you’re like, ‘Jesus, here we go…’ But I always feel amazing after. Sometimes you think, yes, things could be better, [that] I could improve [my mood] by having that delicious-looking piece of chocolate, but I’m just going to be causing problems for myself later on.”
Temple series two is out now on Now and Sky.
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