"Karate Kid meets Fight Club meets UFC."
That's how self-proclaimed Ultimate Fighting fan Sean Faris pitches his new mixed martial arts-themed movie, Never Back Down. "There's even a great training montage," says the 25-year-old actor. "Remember the beach scene in Rocky III?" he asks. "My trainer Djimon Honsou and I run. Yeah ... I come from behind. I beat him."
Faris says the training montage was also one of the most physically demanding scenes to shoot. "It took two solid weeks," he remembers. "I got rope burns on my ankles [from the jump rope]." Other "battle scars" from the arduous filming schedule: a dislocated thumb throwing a punch and a broken bone in his back after being body slammed 15 times filming a fight scene. "I actually continued fighting with it for two weeks not knowing it was broken," he adds. "Then I got to a point where I couldn't walk."
The accident caused production to shift all the remaining fight sequences to the last three weeks of filming. Then it really kicked in. "It was 12 hours of fighting every day; that's when I lost 17 pounds," Faris says. Prior to the shoot in Florida, he actually gained 15 pounds—of lean muscle. Producers wanted his character, Jake Tyler, to look different from his nemesis, played by Cam Gigandet. "Cam's character is very lean; they wanted mine to be more broad, so I spent three and a half months eating 4,000 calories a day and training six hours a day, six days a week."
In the mornings, Faris would work "with the guys who did 300 and Matrix Revolutions," concentrating on bag work, kick pads, and Jujitsu. After lunch, he'd meet up with trainer Tito Raymond at the world-renowned Gold's Gym in Venice Beach. "He beat the crap out of us," Faris says. "It was hell ... but in the good way." Raymond says he trained Faris like a bodybuilder: chest and bi's one day, back and tri's another day, shoulders the next day, and legs on the last day. He incorporated deadlifts, squats, military presses, and dumbbell raises into Faris's workout. "When he first deadlifted, he had trouble doing 180 pounds," Raymond says. "But in the course of seven weeks, he was doing close to 300 pounds; for a 6'0, 160 pound kid, that's outstanding."
Next up, Faris plays a rugby player in the movie Forever Strong. "I actually suffered a shoulder injury in that one," he says. "It's called a stinger; I got hit in the neck, and my whole arm went numb." First a broken back, now this. What exactly draws him to such hard-hitting roles? "I was a football player and diver in high school, so I have such a great bond with sports ... or maybe it's because I'm naturally tough," he says with a laugh.