Scott Adkins is a martial artist and actor who needs no introduction.
Having starred in some of the best action films of the past decade, he once again returns to the screen with Hard Target 2.
We caught up with Scott to talk sequels, Boyka, Savage Dog, movie piracy and working with elephants.
With a movie like this, because it’s a sequel, do you find there is more pressure to live up to the original as it was so popular?
Oh yeah, there is definitely the pressure of that and I wasn’t sure if I should do the film when it was offered to me. First of all, I had just been cast in Dr. Strange, so I had to get permission from Marvel to do it, and that worked out but also there was the whole thing with Van Damme. Obviously I have starred in Van Damme films before; Universal Solider I took the lead in his franchise and I have worked with him before and I was going to do the same here with Hard Target, so that was a big reason to not do it. But, when I read the script, it almost seemed tailor-made to me to be honest – the whole MMA angle. I thought to myself, if they don’t get me I do not know who they are going to get. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of choice out there, plus it is with Universal as well and I like working with those guys because it is a higher end DTV product, so I decided to go with it and now that the film is out and I have seen it I think it was the right decision. And if it is going to be anyone, may as well be someone like me who was and still is a huge fan of Van Damme. When Hard Target came out, John Woo was my favourite director and Van Damme my favourite actor so I was first in line to see that movie.
You mentioned the MMA angle. You do a bit of jujitsu in this one, how much input do you have on your own fight scenes? Obviously you work with a coordinator and you know yourself what you can and can’t do and what looks good on screen…
To be honest I like to use a coordinator I have used before, someone I am comfortable with, now because of the whole Dr. Strange situation and because at one point I didn’t know if I was going to do this, I couldn’t really get one of my choreographers involved. I worked with the Seng Stunt Team, who were great but their style would be a bit different from what I would normally want to do but I did get involved with some of the choreography, though I do prefer having someone better than me doing choreography but here I did quite a bit of it myself, especially in the MMA scenes. But, you know, we all worked together and did the best that we could do because it was a very quick shoot and without a lot of time it can be a bit of a scramble.
It looked like you did a lot of your own stunts; was that you driving the boat at the end?
I did all the speed boat stuff yeah. It just made more sense – it was fun and I was enjoying it.
Did you have to learn any new skills for this film?
No, not really though I do keep meaning to take to motorbike test. They keep wanting me to do motorbike stuff in these films and I can’t ride one very well, but I did some of it in this movie but the stuntman Brahim stepped in for a lot of that. He has to drive around Bangkok on a bike so he knows what he is doing. A jungle and explosions are nothing compared to Bangkok traffic (laughs). I would have liked to have done more of that but they are filming a first and second unit, stunts are being done on second unit so you have to have a stuntman, you can’t be in two places at the same time, but all the fights were me and a lot of the stunts were me.
Having done so many stunts and action scenes, how challenging is it for you as an actor to create something new that audiences haven’t seen before? Obviously you have to do something that suits the character, but how tough is it to put a different spin on each role that you do?
It is difficult and you are relying on other people a lot of the time. It starts with the script needing to be being inventive; the stunt coordinators coming up with something inventive. I guess fight wise the only thing I can do is bring some new moves and some athleticism to the fights, things that I have not done before. But it is a collaboration and I can’t say I went into Hard Target 2 very prepared, because it was sort of a last minute, out of the blue thing. We didn’t have a lot of prep time but we got in there and mixed it up and did what we did.
[pullquote_left]I was covered in shit the entire movie![/pullquote_left]
How was it working with those elephants?
I got covered in their shit. As a matter of fact, I was covered in shit the entire movie! Elephant shit, elephant piss, bat shit, pigeon shit…you name it. If it was shit, I was covered in it. Apart from the shit though it was a good shoot.
Every day was something completely different whether I was on the speed boat, fighting on the bridge, going down the water, motorbikes, caves. It was hard work but it was very cool.
The character of Boyka was launched from a sequel (Undisputed 2), so do you think this being a sequel to Hard Target could launch another series of films with Wes Baylor?
It is going to be pretty difficult to do Hard Target 3 with Wes Baylor, that’s a Die Hard scenario isn’t it? – how can the same shit happen to the same guy twice? How do you get him hunted again? If they could figure out a convincing way to do that, I am up for the challenge of doing that if this film is received well.
Maybe Wes can stumble across a worldwide hunting ring and is determined to bring those in charge to justice…
Would you ever be interested in directing your own feature?
Yes, but I couldn’t direct and star with the schedules that I have to deal with. You can’t direct and star in a movie that you are shooting in 3-4 weeks, especially if it is an action film. The physical side of it takes a massive toll. I would love to do it; maybe I could go the sort of Michael Jai White route, playing a more mentor role and have others acting while I direct it.
The last time we spoke we talked a bit about piracy and how it is really affecting the industry. You are one of the more outspoken actors who have been quite vocal and trying to explain to people that illegal downloading really affects the business…
It’s getting worse isn’t it? I do read the reviews and it’s frustrating when people compare some of these films that I do with a James Bond movie or The Raid, which was shot in 70 days. When I first started out in the Direct to Video industry, it was like 6 weeks for a shoot. Now they are expecting it to be done in 3 weeks. You can’t compare a 21 day shoot to a 2 and a half month shoot, but all films are judged equally. Especially when people are downloading these films for free then slagging the movie off in the same breath. The reason we have got no time and money is because of these people downloading illegally.
It is a vicious circle…
It is. I just wish people would understand it because it is frustrating when they don’t. They need to recognize the consequences of doing this. It has less of an impact to the huge tent pole movies who get theatrical runs. But for the niche and genre stuff that I am involved with, we need to make money on video and if we don’t, we are screwed.
We touched briefly on Boyka before and we are always asked when we can expect to see Boyka: Undisputed released?
Nothing is set in stone and I realize it is really frustrating for people because we released the trailer a long time ago, but the reason for the delay is Millennium (the production company) wanted to get the best release for the film so they make money on it. It doesn’t help that the others were torrented, but I believe it will be out in the first quarter of next year.
Close Range was one of our favourites of last year. In speaking to screenwriter Chad Law, he said he would love to do a sequel and expand on the Cole MacReady universe. Is that of interest to you?
Yeah, I thought that was a cool character. You can put him in a lot of situations and have some fun with him. I had fun playing it and we tried our best with that film. Ultimately it all relies on the producers and how well the film performed.
You mentioned in a previous interview that you would like to do a movie with Tony Jaa. Any chance of that happening?
I know Tony, we have met up and he is a great guy. He appreciates my work and I appreciate his. He wants to do something with me and I want to do something with him. We just need to find the right project and somebody to pay for it. (laughs)
Savage Dog looks like an interesting film. What drew you to that project?
It was the script and I have been friends with director Jesse Johnson for a while now. He wrote this really great script that definitely gave me a chance to use my physicality and have some fights, which I like to do and that’s what people expect of me, but also this great new setting where it takes place in 1950s Indo-China after World War II in this sort of lawless land where all these ex-Nazis and people who have lost the war are hiding out. My character is a Northern Irish member of the IRA who is being hunted by the British and imprisoned and being forced to pit fight by these ex Nazi generals. It affords me the opportunity to do these fights in the arena but it’s a different take on a similar sort of story, so it’s really interesting.
Based on a true story?
Of course. That is all I do (laughs)
So what sort of action can we expect in that one? Is it for the time or incorporates a modern style?
It is for the times but my character has been trained by some Thai boxers having been there for quite some time, so he has learned the art of kicking but still fights in that sort of standard boxing way that was the norm. We don’t want to censor ourselves too much with the martial arts because people expect a certain thing but for the most part, no one is doing martial arts except for me and a few others.
How would you describe Jesse Johnson’s direction style?
Well he is great with the actors. He wrote the script so he really understood the character and I love being in a position when someone else knows more about the character than me. I look forward to the film coming out. It was another short shoot with a tight schedule and I got to work with Cung Lee, who was amazing and Marko Zaror again. I love Marko so much, he is such a great guy. Some great actors such as Keith David, Vladimir Kulich and Juju Chan is in there. A really great cast.
[pullquote_right]Shut up Marko! Why don’t you just get fat! [/pullquote_right]
Vladimir Kulich told us you should never get in a car with Marko as he will bore you to death talking about diet.
Yeah he will bore you to death with that stuff. Shut up Marko! Why don’t you just get fat! (laughs)
A few months ago we spoke to Scott Mann and he talked about the idea of making one of your earlier films The Tournament, into a TV series. As your character Yuri dies, it would need to be a prequel. Any interest in that?
I dunno if I want to revisit that character – to be honest I wish Scott had put me in the film more and I think he wish he had also. Make sure you do next time Mr. Mann!
Another film that you completed last year is Eliminators with former WWE star Wade ‘Bad News’ Barrett. When can we expect to see that?
I believe that is coming out in December and I am really happy with this film. I had a great time working with ‘Bad News’, we’ve got some great fights in the movie and it’s always great to shoot something in London, especially an action film and it’s with my friend James Nunn who is a great director. We did Green Street 3: Never Back Down together; that was a really tight schedule but he was really coming into his own and I think when people see this film they are going to dig it – I really dig it. I am very happy with it and looking forward to that coming out.
Earlier you mentioned Universal Soldier. If another film in the series came along would you be interested in joining the cast?
Yeah, I would love to! I would absolutely love to but I just don’t think it performed as well as we had hoped. I think it was too smart for a lot of people. I’m really proud of the film and I think John Hyams did a great job writing and directing it, and we did a film that very much stands on its own and could take the franchise off in a new direction. So yes, if another opportunity came up I would definitely be up for it.
Hard Target 2 is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital HD on September 6, 2016