By Chrissy Iley
It was an early morning screening, I was late, the tiny and select crowd on the Fox lot in LA cheered when I arrived. Taron Egerton himself was there and then a voice I haven’t heard in years my pilates teacher Neil Dimmock. He is Taron’s personal trainer and trained him for all the ski jumping dare-devilry. The movie is so charming it makes you laugh and cry all at once. Taron is so perfect as a leading man and Neil is so perfect as the man who has his back.
Neil works with another of my former Pilates mentors David Higgins, and together they seem to train the world for movies. Neil working in the US and David usually in London. “If David has a client in London who’s doing a movie in LA he can hand him over to me and it’s therefore seamless. We know exactly how we work and he would say what I would need to concentrate on. I’m making that sound over simplistic – we take care of Taron. His diet, his special requirements, his workout. I would make sure that all the things Taron needs to be eating are available in the hotel he is staying in. That’s easier said than done as hotels tend to smother things in sugar and salt to make them taste better.”
It’s a long list of needs, down to how many bottles of water must be in the room at all times and what must not be in the mini bar.
The Eagle training consisted of a high protein diet; “We made sure he had chicken and fish and reduced his salt and sugar intake. Try telling any 25 to 26 year old guy to avoid pizza and alcohol, it’s not easy. You’re also supposed to limit coffee intake to get best work out but when you are working on a movie you have to be awake at the crack of dawn and they won’t be in bed until the early hours of the next morning. You have to work out whats realistic”
In short, Taron went alcohol-free but was allowed the occasional cup of coffee for his 5am work out. Neil explains personal training a celebrity is very different is very different to training for a movie, “It’s like an athlete training for an event. You want to be in peak condition and to look your best. You have to make sacrifices for a relatively short space of time.”
In the movie we see Taron picking up his paces in the gym, we see him improve from just a guy with a dream to someone who is able to not look shoddy playing opposite the worlds most trained man, Hugh Jackman. “We had to get him to be working on film but more than that we had to get him fit enough to make sure he wouldn’t hurt himself. Like a prehab. Hugh Jackman is in training for Wolverine. His life is about training and I think that only helped Taron. Their schedules are so gruelling and changing all the time. You want them to train hard in the time you have with them but if Taron didn’t get to bed till 2am and he’s training at 5am, you have to be realistic. If he’s exhausted we do core pilates training where we keep him in one place but still do something. We try to do the most simple and the most efficient in the time given. We keep him in one area and work him as hard as we can. He is an extremely hard worker, extremely industrious. He would always say what are we working on today and why?”
Training someone in pre production often means having to use hotel gyms which are not designed for athletes and are often tiny and ill equipped so Neil has his portable essentials packed with him at all times. “What’s fantastic is that with all these problems he wanted to work so hard. He never complained.”
Again training someone for a role is very different – they are not allowed to complain. They are not doing this to drop a dress size. It’s part of their job. In Taron’s case, total dedication. However training someone to play a ski jumper who remains in 1980’s sports wear is very different to when Taron returns in Kingsman, a spy thriller where he needs to be topless. All the training for The Eagle had to be done in 4-5 weeks, Kingsman 2, he will have a similar amount of time to get abs perfect ready. In the first Kingsman movie, head agent, Colin Firth recruited the song boy Taron as a junior secret service agent. “It’s a different kind of training because in this movie he has to fight and be shirt free. So he has to get into a very defined shape. So it means he will have to train even harder and his diet will be even more rigorous. Aaron has the ability to lose significant weight in only 3 weeks, the production company make us take pictures they have to see the work we are doing. They want to see that he’s developing the way they want him to be before filming starts. If they were not happy they would postpone production so it’s all very strict.”
The wonderful thing about Neil is that while he is incredibly rigorous and precise, he makes you feel good about what you are doing. He gives you the kind of confidence that you need be it to walk on a film set just about your daily business. Thats what separates him from your average personal trainer. He can make it fun and he makes sure you are bathed in kindness as well as sweat.
“For the Eagle he had to be strong, for the Kingsman, defined. So what he has to do is much more rigorous. He would have to do a lot more cardio. If you do a strength based exercise and don’t have rest in between that’s very effective to up your metabolic rate. With Taron we use resistance exercises but not much break in between. We try and set up as many different exercises so we don’t get bored. For instance 3 minutes of boxing, 3 minutes of core, 3 on the bike. For Eddie the Eagle his body had to move in a certain way. There’s certain tightness and weaknesses his body has. All those postural issues must be addressed before we add weight. It’s not a case of saying work as hard as you can because he already worked so hard for the Eagle he’s in a good place to get Kingsman ready. We are making sure he doesn’t skip on his training.”
For the rest of the time Neil trains other clients and takes classes but working with actors for movies is something that he’s thoroughly dedicated to. We’re not sure who’s next but if you need a particular body, Neil Dimmick is the man to give it to you.
Have you seen Eddie the Eagle yet?