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EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Scott Adkins – ManlyMovie

EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Scott Adkins

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So today, I had the absolute privilege to Skype with the only and one Scott Adkins. I’ve personally been an admirer of his since Ninja in 2009, and it was an absolute honour to speak to the man. He’s a total class act, and though I was visibly nervous to chat to him, he put me at ease quickly by being so casual rather than intimidating. And although I didn’t want to monopolise his time especially since he’s busy prepping the newest Boyka adventure for us all, he happily chatted to me for a solid half-hour.

And on top of the questions I prepared (with help from Big Dave), Scott had no issue talking casually as well. We discussed the recent Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Adkins revealed that he knows the fight choreographer and was in talks to play the Lancelot role (played by Jack Davenport). I suggested that he try to get involved in the sequel, after which Scott did a hilarious posh British accent that I will never forget. Added to this, we discussed Jurassic Park (I had seen Jurassic World earlier and he was keen to hear my thoughts), and the array of posters behind me on my wall. Scott Adkins is indeed one of us, he idolises our favourite action stars, and he’s just a cool dude living the dream. Also, he has read this site and does approve of our work.

Anyway, onto the interview!

Undisputed IV is in the pipeline. Is there anything you can share about it?
I don’t want to say too much. Boyka’s out of prison and just onto a new chapter of his life, really. Obviously we need to please the fans of the original stuff, so we don’t want to deviate from all the martial arts fight sequences, but it’s just going to be outside the prison setting. But I’m happy with the script, and it’s been a long time coming, everybody’s waiting for it. Boyka’s probably my most famous character.

Obviously the fights in the Undisputed movies are incredible and must require weeks of meticulous rehearsals. Talk a little bit about the rehearsal process. Does the meagre funding affect it?
The budget does affect the rehearsal process a little bit. Really, you need a good two weeks of rehearsing with all the actors who are going to play the parts, all the fighters. Sometimes you have to rehearse with all the stunts guys who aren’t the actual fighters you’re going to be working with, which can be a bit more difficult because the timing changes and stuff. I’m going to be working everyday of the shoot [for Undisputed IV], so I’m actually thinking to myself at the moment “When are we going to find time to rehearse?” You can’t have all the fighters around for rehearsals then have them sit around until the end of the shoot. We don’t have the budget for that. So I guess it’s me taking my days off to rehearse the fights, as usual. And kicking the shit out of myself for five weeks.

That is dedication. I mean, I really respect that.
That’s what you’ve got to do, man. If you want to make a good martial arts film on a small budget, you’ve got to be prepared to put yourself through hell. And I love it, man. That’s the only thing I’ve wanted to do. But I do wish we could have a longer shooting schedule.

Does anyone get hurt during the fights?
Guaranteed, every time. I mean you don’t want it to happen. When we were rehearsing for Undisputed III, Marko [Zaror] did a full-force spinning back kick. And it was my fault, because I forgot the choreography, I forgot to duck. He kicked me straight in the face. Almost knocked me unconscious. A bit of my tooth came out and I started to bleed from the nose even though he hit me on the jaw. So God knows what damage that did.

Do you feel that it’s harder to finance direct-to-video movies like Undisputed and Ninja these days?
It is, yeah, [piracy has] definitely had a big impact. I was actually told by somebody the other day that Australia is one of the biggest places for downloading movies for free. And I guess I understand, I mean in Australia you do get films a bit late.

Yeah absolutely. But I like to buy and rent straight-to-video movies, to support you, ya know (holds up my bundle of Adkins movies)
What I’d like to say to your readers is that, you know, it’s up to the distributors to get these films out quicker, because I understand that the film comes out in Russia and then it’s online for six months before you guys are going to get it. It can be frustrating. But I would say for these types of movies… Even if you can’t hold back and you’ve downloaded it just because you want to see it, when the films do become available, it’s really nice to get the support so that we can continue to make these types of films. Because, I can see that you’re a fan of this genre, but we’re getting less and less movies like this because they’re just not making money. And with action films, you need more time to shoot the action to make it good. But I’m being asked again and again and again lately to do films in, you know fifteen days…eighteen days. And most of the time, unless it’s in one location or something, you’ve got to turn it down.

Yeah, of course!
Because I don’t want to be…doing shit.

There’s a certain stigma attached to straight-to-video releases, which are often perceived as cheap and nasty. But then you look at some video movies like Undisputed III or Ninja, and you can tell that a lot of effort goes into them to make them seem more cinematic, but then the critics just dismiss them. Do you think that straight-to-video movies are taken for granted?
Yeah, I don’t think we get enough respect because every film is judged equally. And they always make the comparison to The Raid. Which I think…I mean Gareth Evans is an amazing director, and he’s much more than an action director, you know – he is a great director! And he creates his own products and I really respect that. But they always compare my films to The Raid. I just want people to know that…for The Raid 1 they had a seventy-day shoot, and for Undisputed III we had a thirty-day shoot! So, you know, that’s the difference, but of course all films are compared equally. So it’s much harder, and with the budgets and the schedules shrinking even more, it’s almost impossible to do it justice.

Yeah!
But yeah, also you’re physically taxing yourself day in, day out, and when it does come time to do a dramatic scene, you’re physically shattered! You’ve almost got nothing left in the tank! You know, you’re a walking zombie on your feet. With the films that I make, I am, anyway. So it affects you dramatically, as well, because you just, you know, you’re really tired. And if it’s an action film, not only will you be doing the action scenes in the day – for Undisputed in particular I’m supposed to look built up and muscular – so that means you’ve gotta hit the gym at the end of the day or first thing in the morning, and I’ve still gotta learn all my dialogue for the next day. And we’re probably going to shoot five scenes where a bigger movie would just shoot one. So, you know, what we do in a short timeframe, I think, is admirable, but most people don’t know that. So that’s why I’m telling you, and thanks for asking me, that was a good question!

Talk a little bit about your training regimen whilst filming a motion picture. Surely you still train on an almost daily basis to maintain your incredible physique?
Yeah, you get less sleep. Well you’ve gotta try and get it all done and get into bed quick, but of course you’re still quite amped up from the gym and you need time to just relax. But yeah, you don’t get much sleep, but that’s normal with filmmaking…early hours…weird hours, you know you start filming nights. So even if it’s just drama, it can mess with your sleep. But as I said, for Undisputed IV, I don’t have a day off on the schedule. So, it’s tough, man. But I’m not going to complain. I really do enjoy what I do. I have complained, but, ya know (laughs)

Are there any talks of a Ninja 3?
Not really, but I definitely would like to do it. We weren’t too happy with the first one and we were much happier with the second one, and I think now that we’ve done two, it would be nice to do a trilogy.
Somebody asked me on Facebook the other day “Hey Scott, have you ever thought about remaking American Ninja?” and I was like “I thought we did…”

Ha! Yeah that was one of my questions actually, because I think that you and Isaac Florentine and Michael Jai White…
Oh was that you who asked the question? (laughs)

Well, it was in the questions that I sent ya
Okay that’s where I read it, then! So I guess that’s what we need to do, for Ninja 3, we’ll get Michael Jai White to be Steve James.

Let’s do that! That’s gotta happen!
There we go, that’s the plot.

How do you balance weight training and martial arts to maintain your athleticism as you become Boyka?
It’s really difficult. Martial arts and weight training, I don’t think really go hand-in-hand because when you start to get bigger, it gets harder to move around quickly. You know, that pumping up of the muscles and everything takes away a bit of the speed. Um, you know, some of the best fighters…a lot of them don’t even do strength and conditioning. You know, because you don’t want to get too bulky – if you’ve got too much muscle mass, you’re gonna gas out quicker and stuff like that. But obviously for the movies, it’s good to look a certain way, and me growing up being a fan of Stallone and Schwarzenegger and Van Damme…obviously I like to look that way, but it’s harder to perform sometimes, especially as Boyka, because I’m expected to do the tricks of somebody who’s 82 kilograms when I’m 89 kilograms, ya know.

You’ve played both villain roles and hero roles. Do you have a preference?
I like playing the antihero, really.

True!
Yeah. Boyka’s not a goodie two shoes or anything, he’s kind of… Well, in the film I’ve got coming out, Close Range, I play a guy who’s basically a villain. In any other movie he would be the bad guy, but it just so happens that because of the circumstances in this film, he’s the good guy, but he’s definitely, you know, he’s a criminal and all the rest of it. And those characters, I find really interesting. And you know, that’s Boyka as well.

I was just gonna say, with El Gringo as well, you were pretty much an antihero there, so you definitely do like that sort of role.
Yeah, he was a good cop gone bad. Yeah, definitely I like to play a bit more of an edge. There are some actors who can play that clichéd clean-cut American hero really well. And it’s actually really hard to do, I think. And I tip my hat to Chris Evans for what he’s done with Captain America, which I think actually is a difficult character to play because he could come across really bland, but he does it really well.

You and Jean-Claude Van Damme have done a handful of movies together. Anything on the cards for the future?
No, there isn’t. We’ve done four films together now, so I think, uh… You know, I had a dream to work with him, and I’ve definitely ticked that box now (laughs). A lot of the time it just comes up because they try to pair action stars together these days, and it just so happens that we coincidentally ended up working together four times. But yeah I’ve followed him around too much now, I need to give him a break (laughs).

I actually interviewed John Hyams a few years back and he said there was another Universal Soldier coming up maybe. Any talks of that?
I don’t have any information about another Universal Soldier sequel. I’m sure John has something in mind, but he’s not spoke to me about it, so I don’t know what it would be. Actually, the original concept for Universal Soldier 4 was set quite a bit into the future, which he had to adapt for the producers and other reasons, so maybe it’s something to do with that.

Yeah that’d be interesting
But you know, all bets are off with the Universal Soldier movies, aren’t they? I mean all of these characters can be reanimated and brought back to life at any point.

Is there anything you can tell us about your upcoming movie Criminal? IMDb lists some impressive names like Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Kevin Costner and Ryan Reynolds.
That was really cool to do, because Gary Oldman has always been my favourite actor, so I got to work very closely with him. Every scene I’m in is with him. So that was a real great thrill. He’s a wonderful guy. I thought he was gonna be quite intense before meeting him because of all the characters that he’s played, but he’s just a really sweet, fun guy to be around that loves to work, and give that guy an Oscar, because he deserves it, man! Given the right roles, that guy is a powerhouse. But yeah it was a lot of fun. I don’t want to talk too much about the plotline and stuff because I don’t want to get into trouble, but Ariel Vromen is a really good director and, uh, I’m looking forward to seeing it.

There were talks that you were going to be involved in the American remake of The Raid. Is this still happening?
Well, there was talk about it, yeah, not for a specific role – but there was talk. Obviously it makes sense to put me in a movie like that. Um, but I don’t know what’s happened with that, it’s all gone a bit quiet, so no news there I’m afraid.

How do you feel about the superhero movie craze?
I was a big fan of Marvel comics when I was a kid growing up. My grandmother would buy them for me and I’d go down there every weekend and raid the cupboard – get all the books. My brother would go for the chocolate, I’d go for the comic books. You know, I grew up reading that, especially Spider-Man, so I love it, I do love it. But I do feel sometimes I’m watching a comic book and not a movie, like a cartoon and not a film. Which is fine because you can’t do comic books any other way, but these films, it seems now, have pushed the traditional action films – that I used to appreciate – almost to one side. And it’s a shame, really, because I really like to see films with action stars… Jason Statham was talking about this the other day, right? And that caused a bit of a stir on the internet. Saying “My fucking grandma can do it.” And I’ve gotta say he’s got a point…he has got a point.

Oh he does, yeah!
You know, when I watch Statham doing stuff for real, I get a kick out of that. I really appreciate it, having grown up being a fan of Stallone and Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, you know, to see a guy that can actually do it and be physically great to watch on screen. You get a kick out of that stuff. And we’re missing that with these comic book movies. But I get it, and I enjoy it myself, I just hope it doesn’t completely get rid of the other style of filmmaking, which I think a lot of people really appreciate it. And I mean look at The Raid. Everyone loved that, and I think it would’ve done a lot better if it was an English-language film.

Unfortunate but true.
Shame more people didn’t go and watch it. Probably the subtitles put them off. But you know what I’m saying, it’s good to see guys who can actually do it.

Would you be interested in joining either the Marvel or the DC Cinematic Universe?
Of course I would! Of course I would, it would give my career a massive boost, I would get paid much more than I get paid, you know, I’m not stupid. But I mean who knows, it’s very difficult to get into those movies. You can’t just knock on their door and be like “Hey I’ve got a great idea, how about me for Iron Fist?” They either come to you or they don’t. I did love the Daredevil TV series, I really enjoyed that.

We here at Manly Movie firmly believe you’d be a badass Punisher, but of course it was just announced that Jon Bernthal has taken the role.
And I’ve gotta say I think that was brilliant casting. He really fits the part, he looks the part, he’s got that East-Coast vibe to him. And, uh, yeah, I think he was a boxer or something. I think he’s gonna be really good. I really like that actor.

So if you could be one superhero, which would it be?
I mean if I say that now, it’ll probably be all over these comic book movie websites – “Scott Adkins Is Campaigning For This Part!” And everyone would just go stupid over it. So all I say is “Marvel, get your shit together, I’m waiting!” (laughs)

Even though you’re a celebrity now, do you still try and maintain a relatively normal life with your mates and your family?
For me, absolutely, yeah. I didn’t move to Hollywood, I didn’t even move to London. I still live in the same area where I grew up in. I think it’s important to keep your feet on the ground and not get carried away with all the bullshit. I prefer to keep people around me who have been around me for a long time, and I can trust. I don’t need a bunch of yes men and all that. Just yeah, keeping it real.

If you could meet or work with one actor, dead or alive, who would it be?
Bruce Lee.

Next thing you know, they’ll be talking about making a CGI Bruce Lee fighting you in a movie – that’d be awesome!
Yeah, I was wondering when that one was gonna happen – c’mon, let’s see that!

Thank you so much for talking to me. I was a bit nervous about talking to you, but you’re just a class act.
No problem, man. I’ve read the site, I think it’s good – Manly Movies! That’s what I’m all about!