Katy O’Brian Got Swole For ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ Ten Years In Advance

O’Brian only competed in bodybuilding twice, but she liked the way the process made her feel. “It made me feel confident, but I also was getting really strong,” she says. “I know a lot of people are like ‘Oh, bodybuilders aren’t training for strength,’ and I technically wasn’t—but I could still deadlift almost 400 pounds.” She considers bodybuilding an “art,” but eventually decided not to pursue it further. It’s expensive, she explains—those tiny bathing suits cost like $500, and she wasn’t willing to go on a drug cycle, which most people do, she said, “unless you’re like a genetic freak.”

For Love Lies Bleeding, O’Brian worked with celebrity trainer Steve Zim. Because the film is set in the ’80s, she didn’t have to get as small as she would for a modern bodybuilding competition, but she built out her back and made her lats bigger while her torso got smaller. She started training about two weeks before filming in New Mexico and then continued throughout production, which lasted about two months; Glass shot mostly chronologically, so Jackie’s biceps could get more defined as O’Brian’s did.

For what it’s worth: According to O’Brian, Love Lies Bleeding is not entirely accurate when it comes to the world of bodybuilding. Most women wouldn’t be shooting the steroids that Jackie takes; there are slightly more “women-friendly” varieties available. Plus, she adds, “I was talking to one of my buddies the other day, who does use [them], and he’s like, ‘You wouldn’t put it in your toes. It’s not heroin.'” But suspension of disbelief is okay when a film goes to the places Love Lies Bleeding does.

From the minute she appears on screen, O’Brian radiates a palpable sexual charisma. Jackie knows she’s hot, and uses that to her advantage. But at the same time, you’re struck by how unusual it is to see a woman this muscular onscreen. It’s been a long time since Linda Hamilton appeared in Terminator 2 guns-ablazing; these days, even female superheroes are more svelte than ripped.

“Any time I got a casting call prior to this for a queer role,” O’Brian says, “it was always given to someone who is very feminine. I’d watch it and be, ‘Okay, they weren’t looking for me.’ You still have a difficulty seeing a more androgynous or masculine-looking representation in queer film or media, where it’s not almost like a stereotype or caricature of a queer person.”

Beth Garrabrant

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