In an act that now stands as the epitome of romance for Spartacus: Vengeance, Crixus (Manu Bennett) promised to teach Naevia (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) how to separate a man's head from his neck in a single blow. As far as thoughtful gifts go, it doesn't get much better than head-cleaving lessons from a former gladiator when a Roman Legion is trying to wipe you off the face of the earth.
In order to make all those heads and various other body parts fly with reasonable plausibility – or at least with the actors and stunt people looking good while doing it – a certain amount of training is required. And while we've all heard of actors signing up for boot camp to enhance the realism of films like Platoon and Saving Private Ryan, it took Zack Snyder's 300 – certainly the visual inspiration for Starz' Spartacus series – to merge physical conditioning with military/fight training to create unforgettable action sequences.
So now, as production is set to get underway on season 3 of Spartacus, Liam McIntyre (Spartacus), Manu Bennett (Crixus), the cast members who managed to survive the season 2 finale and a throng of stunt actors have all begun an intensive, four-week training program under the guidance of Allan Poppleton to help them look the part, and to work out the complex choreography required for the series' upcoming fight scenes.
For the actors and stunt professionals, Poppleton is a familiar face; he's acted as drill sergeant for all of the previous Spartacus boot camps. Poppleton says that the advantage to the boot camps is to create an atmosphere of camaraderie and trust amongst him and the actors. “Lean and mean is the result required, but it also helps form an amazing bond between myself, the actors and stunt performers,” Poppleton says.
The boot camp also helps to familiarize everyone with the weapons they'll be wielding, so that when the time comes to begin filming, the fun and games aren't spoiled by someone losing an eye.
“Meticulous choreographing is necessary to ensure the safety of the actors performing the stunts. For four weeks, we work the cast to the point of exhaustion, combining cross training elements- everything from cardio, basic gymnastics, foot and movement work, unarmed combat, body awareness, reactions, weaponry, and functional cross fit circuits.”
Since season 3 is set to introduce two new villains - Julius Caesar (Todd Lasance) and Marcus Crassus (Simon Merrells) - the boot camp served as the perfect way to craft these newcomers into adversaries worthy of Spartacus. This is especially true for Merrells, whose Crassus is hell-bent on acquiring power and status, and sees defeating Spartacus as the ultimate means to that end.
This year marks Liam McIntyre's second trip to boot camp, so he was aware of the grueling activities awaiting him:
“Spartacus Boot Camps are famous now for pushing you to your absolute limits. This year they found a new level with military inspired training. I’ve never been so fit in my whole life. This boot camp will kick your ass. This year it kicked it twice.”
Manu Bennett has the distinction of being one of the few cast members to have participated in all four of the boot camps, and as suggested by the photo at the top of the article, at Spartacus Boot Camp, Manu Bennett trains everyone - even the trainers.
One can only wonder how long Starz will let something like this go before realizing the potentially lucrative notion of a Spartacus workout, hosted by Poppleton. It would sure help to break up the monotony of all those P90X commercials out there.
The fit-as-a-fiddle cast of Spartacus can be seen again when season 3 kicks off on Starz sometime in early 2013.