When audiences see the choreographed routines in The Greatest Showman, it'll look effortless. But as Zendaya said on The Tonight Show Monday, actually making the movie was anything but.
Zendaya plays acrobat Anne Wheeler in the movie, co-starring Rebecca Ferguson, Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams. Zac Efron plays Anne's love interest, stage actor Phillip Carlyle.
Before production began, director Michael Gracey gave Zendaya advice. "He called and said, 'Listen, we're going to workshop this like a real Broadway production.' I was like, 'Cool! That's great,'" she said. "Then he's like, 'Also, you might want to start working out, because you have trapeze rehearsal when you get here, and I want to use the stunt doubles as little as possible.'"
Zendaya began building her upper body strength, which she admittedly has "not maintained" since filming ended. "It was a lot of training. It was a lot of literally getting up there and just going for it," she recalled. "I had been rehearsing on this specific rig that I was used to. I had become normal with that height difference, and there was a net. I felt good and comfortable, and I had been doing it for a while. I was like, 'OK, cool. I'm a trapeze artist! This is great!'"
But when Zendaya showed up to set, it became apparent that her training didn't adequately prepare her. "The rig was 15 to 20 feet taller and there was no net, because back in the day, they didn't have those yet. I was hooked up, so I'm safe, but visually—that's a lot to get over," she said. "Right as I was going to go up in the cherry picker, Hugh Jackman walked by and he goes, 'Zendaya, you're a badass.' I was like, '...Take me up! Hugh Jackman called me a badass!'"
Efron "was such a great partner," she added. They had to "trust each other," because "he had to hold my weight and I had to hold him. It was a great icebreaker, you know what I'm saying?"
The actors filmed one of their acrobatic musical numbers using two ropes—and no harnesses for support. They began together, swung apart and came back together. "We're supposed to grab onto each other with the other arm and get in this swing, which is in all the posters and it's beautiful—and that's great," she explained. "But...if you don't catch each other, [you'll collide]."
Fallon just so happened to have a clip of one of their mishaps. After watching it, the actress joked, "And that's just one of the many that we could choose from for that specific body slam!"
The Greatest Showman is in theaters Dec. 20.
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