As an unknown actor in the early '50s, Paul Newman fought to play Hal Carter, the lead role in William Inge's Pulitzer Prize–winning play Picnic. But the director wasn't convinced Newman's physique was fit enough for Hal, who appears naked from the waist up in most of his scenes. Eventually, Newman worked his way up to the from a supporting role, garnering critical acclaim and jump-starting his legendary acting career.
Fast forward sixty years later to another relatively unknown actor, Sebastian Stan, a Romanian import best known for stint as Sigourney Weaver's son in Political Animals and his supporting role in Captain America: The First Avenger. Like Newman, Stan was gunning for the lead in Captain America, but he was offered the role of the hero's comparatively less-buff sidekick instead. Judging from the current state of his six-pack abs, however, he clearly didn't have any trouble convincing director Sam Gold that he was ripped enough for Picnic's Hal.
Details met up with the six-foot, 165-pound Stan at Aerospace in New York last fall to discuss his rigorous boxing workout. He gave us the details on cardio, sculpting maneuvers, and shadowboxing, but surprised us by relating his gym time to his on-stage performance quality.
"Working out and working as an actor have gone hand in hand—I always feel more prepared if I know I have done a workout," he said in the interview. "It gives me confidence—and peace of mind."
With roles in the drama/thriller Over the Wall and the second installment of the Captain America franchise ahead of him, Stan won't be taking his boxing gloves off any time soon. And who knows—if Stan continues to channel Newman's career trajectory we may be seeing a lot more of his carefully sculpted physique.
Check out the Picnic montage below:
Picnic, with Maggie Grace and Ellen Burstyn, runs through February 24 on Broadway at Roundabout Theatre.
—Jennifer Shore is a freelance web producer at Details. Follow her on Twitter, @_jennifershore.