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The Day-to-Day as a Psychopath with Jack Reachers' Patrick Heusinger

The villain chats about regaining 10-15 pounds of muscle, crashing parades, and stunt work with Tom Cruise.
Kei Moreno

Jack Reacher is back. And with just as much running, jumping, punching, kicking, crushing, and breaking of stuff. Did you actually expect anything less? But what adds to the pre-existing badassness, is that Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, and Patrick Heusinger as The Hunter, do their own stunts. We were curious to what a day-in-the-life would look like. So, we asked actor and super-villain himself, Patrick Heusinger, about his experiences learning to throw punches for the first time, falling off buildings, and more.

Men’s Fitness: What do you now know about the criminal mind from The Hunter?

Patrick Heusinger: The director had called him a psychopath and I immediately wanted to get an education on what exactly that was. I found some books written by psychologists about their modus operandi, how it works in their mind, what their day-to-day life is like. The first thing you learn right out of the gate is how many psychopaths there are just among us, because most psychopaths aren't killing people. They are the same people that make our coffee and you see in the grocery store. It was really fascinating to learn how they operate, how they lack empathy, how they have these fascinatingly one-track minds, and can become obsessive with it, and how they don't display emotion for anything. You always hear 'cold and calculated,' but there's a reason. If a psychopath loses a loved one, they'll go to the funeral and they're going to be fine with it because they have a different way of compartmentalizing that trauma than a normal, stable human being would. It was very exciting to dig into.

MF: In the trailer there are loads of weapons and action. What was the tactical training like?

PH: Every moment my character is on screen is me. I did all my own stunts, every single frame. They taught me from the ground up. I got weapons training from an FBI gun instructor and four gentlemen who were in Special Ops training. We also had a colonel on set guiding us, standing by, and watching every single scene making sure that it was fitting his approval. We had a military consultant as well. We also had a stunt team run by Wade Eastwood, who was our stunt coordinator, as well as our second unit director. He's the same guy who did the stunts for Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation with Tom hanging out of the airplane, and Edge of Tomorrow.

MF: How about the hand-to-hand stuff?

PH: Wade has a guy who is a martial arts champion on his stunt team, who has been in all those movies, as well as being a stunt performer.  He taught me for a month before I threw a single punch. Then we started throwing punches for the stunt sequences, we mapped them out, developed them, and found my strengths. And we developed a fighting style that was unique and specific to my character, The Hunter, that was very different than Jack Reacher's. They very much wanted to accent that. A fun little tidbit, I’m actually ambidextrous, too.

MF: What did that mean for shooting?

PH: We started right, and then I was like, "Wouldn't it be fun because Tom [Cruise] is a southpaw, what if it would just be more convenient for us if I was also a southpaw, it would smooth out some of the choreography." We tried southpaw, and they were like, "Wow, you're equally good at both." It's very subtle and not many people are going to pick up on this, but I fight both right-handed and left-handed in the film. I also shoot right-handed and left-handed. You'll see me in different sequences, enter, holding the gun in my right hand breaching a room, and in other scenes, you'll see me entering with my left hand. Even in the same sequence, I'll enter, I'll start a fight shooting with a gun, I'll lose the gun, and at the end of the fight when I regain control, I come up with it in a different hand than when I started. That was done on purpose. I love the idea, once we figured out I could do this, I said, "What if this guy is so good that he just fights with, not whichever hand is dominant, but whichever hand is more convenient."

MF: Did you have a favorite stunt from the film?

PH: We had one stunt where we finished, and Tom looked at me, and we celebrated, and he was like, "That was a real stunt." He was like, "I'm really impressed with that, buddy."

MF: It’s on your Instagram, right?

PH: Yes, he [Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher] tackles me off the rooftop. That’s me crashing with my back onto that air conditioning unit, violently flipping over into a 360 and slamming onto the ground.

MF: Wasn’t there a cool sprint scene, too?

PH:  We did a lot of running, naturally. We have a chase sequence in the Louie Armstrong Airport in New Orleans. We also have a sprint sequence through a major parade, the Krewe of Boo. We have a Hollywood version of the Krewe of Boo, which included all the actual floats from this parade, called the Krewe of Boo. I believe it was October 19th, where they do the actual parade. We came down and were actually running through a parade with all these people watching, having no idea what the heck we were doing.

MF: You crashed a parade, dude.

PH: It was awesome. The thing is, you know who Cobie Smulders is, you know who Tom Cruise is, but you know who you don't know? Danika Yarosh and Patrick Heusinger. What they really see is Danika Yarosh, the teenage girl with blonde hair who looks totally innocent, running through the parade. Then about five seconds later, you see a really mean-looking six foot dude with a shaved head and a very well-sculpted beard chasing after her like a crazy maniac, slightly deranged natural born killer.

MF: All during a real-life parade…

PH: You know they have security, and when the parade started, they said, "Hey, they are shooting a movie, just so you know," but some people didn't get the message. I definitely was running through and on two different occasions, a guy, a huge, giant bouncer grabbed me by the shoulders, yanks me over, and he's like, "What are you doing man, get out of here." The first time, I looked at him and I was like, "I'm shooting a movie, this is all fake, just let me go." He literally didn't know what to do and so quickly he just let me go and I ran. And right after we finished shooting that, the guy who organizes the parade itself came up to me and said, "I got to be honest, you guys were very lucky nothing happened." I was like, "Why?” and he said, "Well, this parade is very serious, but if you did that, say, in Mardi Gras, people will just come out and deck you, it is no joke." New Orleans takes their parades seriously. It’s sort of an unspoken rule there, and people will just take it upon themselves to take you out.

MF: Who would win an arm-wrestling match? You or Tom Cruise?

PH: I'll be honest with you. He would win, and I'll tell you why: I'm long and lanky, I'm built, I definitely weigh more than he does, but he is surprisingly stocky. The first thing I thought when I met him was, "Dude, the shoulders. This dude's shoulders are so wide, man." He's a bigger human than you think. 

MF: What kind of physical condition was your body in for this film?

PH: I had just come off of a a play here in Los Angeles where I was in a concentration camp, so I had gone from 205 pounds playing this action hero for an Xbox video game, called Quantum Break, down to 167. I lost 38 pounds for the play. I was really skinny, kind of scary-skinny actually. But I bounced up right as soon as I finished to about 185, and then they were like, "Okay, we're just going to give you back some of your muscle, and we want to lean you out too, and keep you around 180."

MF: How did you eat and train to get it back?

PH: I got a personal trainer and I got on a meal plan. That's sort of two of the basics.  [I was] eating basically a Paleo diet: Nothing white, no bread, no rice, no simple sugars, having coffee, but no cream. I was also very specific with my water intake and with my vitamin intake and supplements. I was trying to provide everything from food and not feel like I had to take anything else. Usually I would take some Omega-3's, and I would also take some B vitamin supplements, depending on the day. Pretty much everything else, it comes from food. I was basically working out six to seven days a week. I would work out with the trainer three to four days a week, and those were mostly what I would compare to a CrossFit-type workout. High rep, not max weight, I didn't lift the entire time. Then I would supplement that with the days off, I would usually run about three to five miles just to kind of peel off the extra layer.

MF: That was a lot of weight to lose and gain back.

PH: Immediately as soon as I got the job, I got together with a meal plan company and the nutritionist, and so we made sure that I was doing it healthily. I don't want to screw around with that. I didn't want to mess my body up. But it was fun, because honestly, I didn't know if I could do it. It was sort of like, "Let's see what the challenge is, and let’s see what I can toy with."

MF: So, why do you think everyone absolutely needs to see this movie?

PH: I love this movie a lot because I think that it's got a cool storyline, it's got these great, awesome, dynamic characters, but I also think the movie has a lot of smarts that I think is really going to appeal to everyone, and also what I think people are really going to enjoy about this movie is it's a crime thriller, it's action-packed, it's got suspense, it's got mystery, and if you've seen the first one, it's very similar to that, it's got a really good sense of humor. Having seen it now twice, Tom Cruise and Cobie Smulders turn out two really fun and awesome performances. I even think Tom definitely increased the depth of the role that he got into from the first go-round. I really liked him in the first one, but I loved him in this second one. He really dipped further into the Reacher character and you really get to see another side, without giving too much away, of him in this one. Cobie Smulders steps up into full badass level with one of her first major studio pic opportunities to really shine, and she kills it. You're going to love her.

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