In order to be a celebrity you need that certain something, that indefinable “star” quality. You need to be photographed well and have a face with symmetrical features that people, paparazzi, your fans, and critics alike will respond well to. If you don’t, you’re probably destined for an acting career cast as the buddy, villain, or zany neighbour role (not that there’s anything wrong with being that type of working actor!). But if you want to make it big as a leading man or lady, beyond having to prove you can act and having the theatrical capacity to make a role all your own, you also need to be pretty.
While a person with exotic looks and typical levels of attractiveness is sometimes able to make it to lead character status, most of the time, these roles are given to the fit, young and beautiful. Many of these celebs are known for their delicate features, beaming smiles and dreamy eyes, as well as their other “physical assets.”
While many of these handsome actors train extensively to get in tip-top shape for big roles, you never know who uses stunt doubles for their more physical or fight-oriented work, and who is really able to pack a powerful punch, kick, or jab beyond the world of stage fighting. These 10 celebrities may be pretty, but don’t get on their bad side because they’re actually lean, mean fighting machines.
15. Milla Jovovich
Milla Jovovich got her start as a model at the young age of 12. She soon shot into stardom as a full-on supermodel gracing the covers of magazines everywhere including Elle, Vogue, and Cosmopolitan. She was a fresh face, having been hired as the face (and body) to advertise big brands from Chanel to Versace, and has represented both Calvin Klein’s scent Obsession and Dior’s Poison for more than 10 years. Despite her supermodel credentials she’s also the lead (Alice) behind the Resident Evil video-game-turned-multi-movie franchise and with that role comes a lot of high action, and in turn, martial arts training and acumen. Milla keeps fit and enjoys Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling around with her fellow co-stars and actors, so don’t mess with her.
14. Sarah Michelle Gellar
She’s blonde, petite and often plays a cheerleader, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t kick some vampire, demon or human butt, both on and off screen. When Sarah Michelle Gellar took her role playing Buffy Summers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she didn’t have a lot of fighting experience. As a result, the crew on Buffy the Vampire Slayer had to use some pretty clever camera angles to make it look like she was really fighting. Gellar took her role seriously though, and over the course of the show, kept in shape and took on more and more of her own fighting scenes by incorporating kickboxing, taekwondo, street fighting and gymnastics into her training routine. By the end of the series, she really was a lean, mean, vampire fighting machine. Gellar has a black belt in karate and taekwondo.
13. Freddie Prinze Jr.
The late-nineties hottie Freddie Prinze Jr. is a big fan of martial arts. In fact, he credits it with helping to keep straight over the years and in dealing with the truth surrounding his father’s death. Prinze Jr. trained with his godfather, Bruce Lee’s former martial arts instructor, Robert Wall as he was growing up. When he was just 15 years old, Chuck Norris broke Prinze Jr.’s rib by accident when the two were sparring; this is something he still talks about today. The actor has many martial arts accomplishments including black belts in Kempo, Tang Soo Do Karate, and a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Bringing his and wife Sarah Michelle Gellar’s love of martial arts to their children, Prinze Jr. has posted on social media about attending martial arts lessons with their pint-sized fearless fighter daughter Charlotte Grace.
12. Jessica Biel
Jessica Biel is gorgeous. She was made famous by her role of eldest daughter Mary Camden on the WB show 7th Heaven and has since become infamous as the very hot wife of Justin Timberlake. In 2004, she needed to get fit and learn martial arts for kicking butt in her role in the film, Blade Trinity, where she showed that she was much more than the pretty minister’s daughter she’d become famous for. While Biel describes her training as generalized martial arts with a focus on kickboxing, and has not pursued the traditional belt achievements many disciplines provide, she continues to utilize her love of martial arts and kickboxing to keep fit and in top fighting form.
11. Keanu Reeves
Love him or hate him, there is no doubt that Keanu Reeves’s unique but beautiful looks have earned him many acting jobs. While he first became known for his presence in blockbuster films like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Point Break and Speed, he began to take on more and more action based roles that focused on coordinated action and martial arts. In order to perform his iconic role of Neo in The Matrix, the actor (and other cast members) attended three months of intensive martial arts training for eight hours each day. While Reeves had more of a background in hockey growing up (he wanted to be a goalie), he was hardworking and dedicated to learning martial arts and choreography for a number of film roles.
10. Evan Rachel Wood
Evan Rachel Wood isn’t exactly known for her work in action flicks, but that doesn’t mean that she’s against taking on a more physical acting role. She is most well known for her appearance in numerous television shows, and as the stunning indie darling who earned a Golden Globe nomination for her role in the 2003 teen drama Thirteen. Evan Rachel Wood began her martial arts training as a child and earned her black belt in Taekwondo at the very young age of 12. Achieving a black belt at such a young age shows tremendous commitment and skill, as it often takes people three to five years, with at least four hours a week of practice.
9. Ashton Kutcher
We were first introduced to Ashton Kutcher when he played pretty boy Michael Kelso on That 70s Show. Audiences knew he was fit, funny, and a little bit goofy, but didn’t associate him as someone who would be “ready to rumble.” In the years that followed, he evolved his career to prankster, joker, and eventually someone capable of pulling off a leading man and probable romantic lead with aplomb. While he is good looking and charming, you wouldn’t think that he could hold his own if challenged to a fight. Kutcher grew up in Iowa where he was a wrestling enthusiast. Later he took up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a sport that proclaims that you can defend yourself against anyone no matter how big and tough, as long as you know the right moves. Kutcher has even gone so far as to travel to Brazil to practice and earned his purple belt a couple of years ago.
8. Naomi Watts
Naomi Watts is an ageless beauty. Now in her late 40s, she is still a stunner and the envy of celebs 20 years her junior. Watts didn’t necessarily begin the practice of martial arts for a particular role, but began her training in her early 20s. She has trained in Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and even entered amateur Judo competitions for a number of years between 1989 and 1992. Watts is only 5’3, but don’t be fooled by her small size – she can actually kick butt. She credits martial arts with helping her keep in shape and with maintaining her focus while she acts. You have to wonder if she ever challenges her husband Liev Schreiber to the mat to practice her fighting skills.
7. Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt is so dreamy that he managed to snag two of the world’s most sought after leading ladies, Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie. He made women everywhere swoon when he played the dreamy Tristan in Legends of the Fall and was the envy of every guy who ever wanted a six pack when he transformed his body to play Tyler Durden in Fight Club. Many people spend a lot of time at the gym working their muscles, and maintain high levels of fitness but may never actually train for combat, meaning they may look good, but someone in a lot worse shape may be able to kick their butt in a fight. Beyond getting “fit” for roles, Pitt worked with professional boxing coach Ricky English to prepare for his role in Snatch and took up the Israeli martial arts Krav Maga in 2014 alongside his wife Angelina Jolie.
6. Mark Wahlberg
Before he was acting, Marky Mark was showing everyone those rock hard abs courtesy of his music video for ”Good Vibrations,” telling the whole world just how important working out was to him, even pumping some iron in the video. Then he showed us all how funky his bunch looked as the underwear model for Calvin Klein’s boxer briefs, becoming the spokesperson that had people everywhere wanting to show off their Calvin’s. The actor continues to train very frequently with his strength and fit body, and he’s an avid boxer. He began extensive training for five years for his role in The Fighter, where he portrayed Micky Ward. To this day, Wahlberg uses boxing to keep in shape.
5. Uma Thurman
Uma Thurman is well known for being tall, statuesque and willowy. When she began training to portray the revenge driven badass Beatrix Kiddo (Black Mamba) in the 2003 Tarantino film, Kill Bill, she had just given birth to her son Levon. The actor faced additional challenges with her body being very tall, and not very well suited for the martial arts she needed to learn for the role, but she kept focused to perform like a champ. After three months of dedicated martial arts training, she was in phenomenal shape, and fit to kick butt both on and off screen. The film series itself features Thurman showcasing three styles of Kung Fu, two styles of sword fighting, along with knife throwing, knife fighting, and hand-to-hand combat.
4. Gisele Bundchen
Gisele Bundchen was among the first wave of Brazilian models to find international success. She was credited with “the return of the sexy model” and bringing the trend of “heroin chic” within the world of modelling to an end. She pioneered a model walk known as the “horse walk,” where the model completes a stomping movement, picking her knees up high and kicking her feet out front. The wife of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is highly dedicated to many environmental issues and keeping in tip top shape. Gisele trains in both Kung Fu and Tai Chi at the Boston Kung Fu Tai Chi Institute under Yao Li. Since 2004, she has been the highest paid model in the entire world, and has been coined the only remaining “true” supermodel according to fellow colleagues Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer.
3. Lucy Liu
With a soft low voice and a beautiful sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of her nose, you’d never think of Lucy Liu as someone who could fight, but that’s simply not true. In preparing for her role in the 2000 film Charlie’s Angels, the brunette upped her standard exercise routine (which at the time included a lot of jogging) to include a number of martial arts disciplines. She enlisted Chinese martial arts expert, Yuen Chung Yan with intense six to eight hour daily training workouts. She also added kickboxing to her exercise regime to improve both her fighting skills and stamina. It’s no wonder she was selected to play the character O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill. For that role, she learned knife fighting and an open-handed fighting art which embodies the philosophy that the open hand can defeat the closed fist in both defence and offence.
2. Robert Downey Jr.
Just because he is Iron Man, doesn’t mean that loveable scoundrel Robert Downey Jr. can flex his super hero muscles in a fight, or does it? The lean 150-pound actor is a big Wing Chun enthusiast, beginning his practice in 2003 and has been able to use it for both personal and acting-related projects in addition to keeping fit. The Chinese martial art uses striking and grappling with a focus on close-range combat. This relatively “new” martial art is believed to have been developed in southern China around 300 years ago. This practice helped him hone his choreographed fighting skills for his hard-hitting action scenes in Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man. Despite putting on over 25 pounds of muscle to portray Iron Man‘s Tony Stark, he quickly returned to his regular “fighting” weight, clocking in at 153 pounds for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.
1. Christian Bale
Fresh off his role from The Machinist, where he had dropped 60 pounds, the actor was given a short deadline of six months to gain back that weight, and an additional 40 pounds of pure Batman muscle. In addition to this weighty feat, Batman had to know how to fight. This dark and brooding Batman managed to put on the required weight and can pack a punch, as he trained in the KFM fighting method when training for The Dark Knight trilogy. KFM stands for Keysi Fighting Method, and has a structured graduation belt level process. This fighting method was a street born method from Spain in the 1950s. Already being another “super” fan of Wing Chun, Bale already had a martial arts background that could be used as a foundation for his work on The Dark Knight trilogy. Training teams worked with both Bale and his stunt double to ensure they both had a solid understanding of the practice.