Craig Budgen wears a serious expression in every photograph I’ve seen of him; enough to warrant my teasing him about his demeanor before a camera. “I had never really noticed that until you pointed it out,” he laughed. “Maybe it’s the fact that I take my job so seriously. I think the most satisfying part of my job is the fact I never really feel like I’m working. I’m fortunate that my job is my passion, and I can’t really ask for more than that.”
Physical fitness is a serious business, especially for actors getting ready for their big close-up—or the intense physical requirements of an action film. Budgen’s no-nonsense appearance matches his tough approach to helping those in the entertainment industry meet the sometimes surprising challenges of getting in shape to make a movie.
Becoming what Budgen calls “film ready” can reflect “a few different scenarios. “First, if someone comes to me and they are playing the part of a superhero, they need the ‘look’ of a superhero, i.e., very muscular with little body fat. Second, if someone has a role that is very physical, i.e., has a heavy costume or big fight scenes, their requirement may be slightly different and [may involve] more injury prevention or strength work coupled with muscular endurance to have to the ability to peak in big scenes, take after take.” This celebrity personal trainer well deserves the title “transformation specialist”.
Budgen analyzes a performer’s current fitness level and compares it with what will be required on set. He explains that “each actor’s requirements are different,” in part because of each person’s “medical and exercise history. Once I have a thorough understanding of what they have previously done and then what they require for their upcoming role, I then devise personal exercise, nutrition and supplementation [that is, taking nutritional supplements like vitamins] protocols.”
The job, for both trainer and actor, becomes appreciably more difficult when special effects will be involved in a film. Although we might think of personal training in terms of enhancing an actor’s physical attractiveness, safety is equally important in a workout program. “If an actor wears prosthetics or an unusual costume, I have to take into account [his] schedule and workload on a day-by-day basis. For example, I’ve worked with some actors that come to me straight after being in a forty-kilogram [approximately 88-pound] costume for twelve hours.” Budgen then has to account for what the actor’s body already has been through, as well as what it needs to stay in shape to merely wear a costume. “When this is the case, the volume of work I would do in our training session would be significantly reduced to avoid putting too much stress on the body and risking injury.”
Getting a body in shape to carry such a heavy costume, or the weight of a film lead, takes a great deal of time, and even actors, who as a group are perceived as notoriously fit, may need to sculpt their bodies or ensure that they are ready for the specific demands of a new role. Budgen prefers to work with clients “for twelve weeks before filming, but that’s in an ideal world, and sometimes, due to an actor’s scheduling and commitments, this just isn’t possible! The minimum amount of time I work with someone is four to six weeks, but obviously the longer I get with them, the better the results will be.”
Although Budgen most often assists individual clients, he’s sometimes hired to work with several cast members on the same film. The nature of his movie work varies and is “very much dependant on the film. Some require me to get [several actors] ready for a certain scene, or some want me to train [an actor] throughout filming.”
Once performers have survived not only Budgen’s boot camp but the rigors of film production, they often recommend him, and good word-of-mouth is an important part of the personal training business. In fact, recommendations from previous clients provided him entry into the entertainment industry.
“Having worked in health and fitness for a number of years, and gaining a reputation for excellent results, I was making more contacts and meeting people from all professions, one of these being the acting industry. Once I started to work with a few actors and gained a good understanding for what the requirements of the industry were, I got referred to other actors, and it’s gone from there. It was never really a conscious decision to work with actors in particular. I’ve always had referrals from clients I’ve worked with, and when I started to train more actors, their referrals were usually other actors. As I have continued to gain a reputation for getting fantastic results in a relatively short period of time and also an understanding of the requirements actors have when filming, these referrals have increased.”
Budgen’s website, CraigBudgen.com, includes testimonials from actors who praise their trainer’s role in getting them ready for their important roles. Many clients prefer to remain anonymous, as might be expected in the global film community. Budgen has a reputation for discretion and, no matter how many stories he could tell about being behind the scenes on film locations, he carefully keeps on-set secrets to himself.
He is, however, more willing to share his training methods, which have been dubbed “Hollywood’s best kept secret”. One key piece of advice is to “not focus on the small things that may make a on percent difference to results, for example, a really specific supplement.” Instead, this trainer emphasizes a “focus more on making good lifestyle choices each and every day.”
Although he is based in Manchester, England, one of the perks of working with an international clientele is the opportunity to travel. Budgen’s work has taken him around the world: Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Madrid, and Wellington. A high point of his career has been “meeting lots of different people and traveling to some fantastic places,” but “the low for me has to be the really early starts and, when I am on set with actors, the extremely long days!”
Because he already works with actors and has no reservations about the distinct lack of glamour during much of the daily work on set, it seems reasonable that Budgen also might be tempted to try acting. That, however, isn’t part of his career plan. Even if he didn’t love his current job, Budgen jokes that “I’m a shockingly bad actor, and I don’t think anybody deserves to see it! I’m more than happy working behind the cameras and leaving [acting] to the professionals.”
Hollywood’s loss of Budgen the actor is the industry’s gain of a first-rate personal trainer. These days Budgen has more than enough to keep him busy. In addition to opening his flagship Body Composition Clinic in Manchester, he is “working with a model to get her ready for a big photoshoot coming up, starting to write a book, and finally continuing [his] consultancy with Life ProAdvance on an online weight loss program I’ve developed for them.” Whether working on a film or planning new business ventures, Craig Budgen is certainly fit for a star-studded career.