Matt Damon toned up his body for his upcoming film Elysium, in which he plays a tough guy with a storied past in a new brainy sci-fi film by District 9 director Neill Blomkamp.

Damon’s character, Max, is the “archetypal character who just grew up on the wrong side of the tracks but isn’t a bad guy,” Blomkamp told Entertainment Weekly. As shown in this picture, tattoos play an important part in the character’s overall look, but they’re also meant to relay previous points in his life. “The idea is that they grew up in this gang environment so each tattoo does have a personal meaning to the character,” Damon explained.

Like the tattoos, the abs are a part of the character that Blomkamp and Damon created. “We wanted him to look a certain way so I had to keep up a workout regimen.” The bulging muscles aren’t all for show though. Damon required the extra strength in order to wear a “hulk suit” that allows Max to achieve superior physical capabilities in the film. “It’s really insidious trying to carry extra weight even if you’re in shape,” the actor admitted to EW. “You just really need a pretty strong core or you can get injured pretty easily, particularly at my age.”

Damon is no stranger to playing the action hero, having starred in the Bourne movies as the ex-secret agent title character Jason Bourne. However, he admits that running on screen is never an easy task – with an end result that often makes an actor look spastic. Although he’s arguably honed the craft, he believes that fellow action star Tom Cruise has him bested. “Tom is the best. Dude, Tom, he genuinely looks fast to me. I’ve never seen him run in person, but when he runs in movies, he is really going fast.”

Elysium, which also stars Jodie Foster, will premiere in theaters on Aug. 9. Watch the trailer below:

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