Over a relatively short space of time, Scott Adkins has become one of the most popular action stars in the business.
Today we exclusively chat with Scott about his career, including Ninja, Undisputed, The Raid remake, his upcoming actioner Close Range and the current state of the action industry.
First off congratulations on winning action star, best movie and best fight scene of the year at The Action Elite Awards.
Oh thank you, all I can say is that your readership are my kind of people!
Even with a back injury you still managed to create THE fight scene of the year: the bar fight in Ninja: Shadow of a Tear. Are you fully recovered now? And how is the knee injury?
The back injury wouldn’t have been that major had it not happened in the middle of filming Ninja. It was a pulled/torn muscle in my back and it didn’t allow me to kick very well with my right leg, but yeah the knee was a really difficult problem to go through. Anyone that’s had ACL problems knows what I’m talking about. It’s funny; the day I went in for surgery was the same day that GSP (Georges St-Pierre) had surgery on his ACL and it was kind of like keeping tabs on GSP’s progress as he went through the rehabilitation. I was sort of using him as a benchmark of seeing where I should be at, as he progressed with much better trainers then what I had, I’m sure. But, I remember his first fight back; I was willing him to win so hard because I knew what he’d been through and what I was going through. I just wanted to see if he could come back as good as ever from such a difficult injury to get over. But he certainly did and I’m happy to report that I have as well.
How important is it to work with someone like Tim Man to ensure good choreography as well as safety?
It’s essential; the safety aspect, that’s not so much of a big deal. When you’re doing fight scenes you can kind of keep a hold of what’s dangerous and what’s not. You’re only gonna get small injuries really but if you’re doing a big chase sequence with cars and everything then that’s when safety needs to be paramount. As a fight co-ordinator Tim was amazing; he puts that stuff together brilliantly. His style sort of suited me as well, obviously he’s a kick guy and I’m also known for my kicks. Really, you need someone like Isaac to film it right as well. You can have the best choreographer in the world but if it’s not shot right, then it’s all for nothing really.
How long did it take to put the bar fight scene together?
We had two days for that; it was the bar fight that I hurt my back on so it was about half-way through the first day when my back went. I did have to have Brahim step in and do a couple of kicks for me, if I’m honest with you. Not kicks that I couldn’t do but just kicks that I couldn’t do at that point as my back had gone. At that point I thought I don’t want the fight scene to suffer too much because I’m letting my ego get in the way. We needed this little kick move so Brahim stepped in for me on that occasion. But if you make as many action films as me then you’re gonna get injured; badly on one of them. The same thing happened on the first Ninja actually, I’ve been lucky on the Undisputed ones but sometimes you do get hurt. I tore my hamstring once on a Jackie Chan film and that was pretty bad as well.
You’re working with Isaac again on upcoming action thriller Close Range, which sounds like it’s going to be really intense. I hear it’s sort of a modern Western. What can you tell us about it at this stage?
Yeah, I would describe it as a modern Western; it’s a good character, hard as nails… which I’m good at playing. It’s a full-on action movie where most of the story takes place in one area, so we’ll be able to shoot it quite quickly, I believe. It’s kind of like a siege movie with my character fighting off a load of Mexican Drug Cartel guys, trying to keep my family safe and they’re all trying to kill us… which means I’ve got to kill them. So it should be a good action film.
I hear it’s kind of like ‘Die Hard on a Farmhouse’.
Yeah, a little bit like that and kind of ‘Raid’-ish as well; where the action is confined to one location.
Lots of guys trying to kill one guy. We haven’t officially got the green light on that to be honest but we’re hoping to get some good news in the next couple of days.
Of all the movies you’ve done so far with Isaac, what has been your personal favourite?
I think it’s Undisputed 3 because the story works really well, the character of course comes off really strong and I think the fights are the best that I’ve ever done, I have to say. What would you guys think?
I love Undisputed 2 & 3 but also Ninja 2; with Undisputed 3 it’s not just the fights. I love the story and I was saying to Isaac a few months back that I love how Boyka is the villain in part 2 and how part 3 is a story of redemption. That was the thing about the Undisputed movies and why I think Boyka has become such an icon is it’s such a great character arc, which is something you don’t see that often. It’s the writing as well as the action which makes it so good.
Yeah, he’s a really strong character; I feel like I lucked upon something there. Nobody really knew what that character was gonna become. I love playing that guy and I can’t wait to play him again. Sometimes I have to apologize for being Scott Adkins and not Yuri Boyka. People get annoyed at me: “Why aren’t you Boyka in real life!!”
Metal Hurlant Chronicles is finally coming to North America in April; you’re reunited with your Undisputed 2 co-star Michael Jai White. Was that by coincidence or was it a deliberate move to work together again?
Well, in the first season we worked together and we’re both in the second season but we’re in separate episodes at a time. We just thought it would be a good opportunity to get back together as we wanted to work with one another again. We also knew that there would be people out there expecting something great action-wise. Of course, with a TV show you don’t often get the opportunity to do that. We were very pushed for time and to be honest we tried to do something that we didn’t have enough time to accomplish properly. We had fun trying and I love working with Michael; he’s a great guy, he’s an incredible martial artists and a really good actor as well. He’s actually a very funny guy as well and I love spending time with him.
You also co-star with Darren Shalavi as well and we’re big fans of him.
So have you seen any of the show?
No, it hasn’t been on here at all.
Right OK; I fight Michael and I also fight Darren as well. Me and Darren have a really cool fight scene actually; really good with weapons. It turned out pretty well. I’d known Darren for a long time actually; we’d crossed paths previously but hadn’t been able to work together. He’s a great guy as well honestly; we get on like a house on fire and hopefully we get work together in the future.
When it comes to fight choreography, do you think it’s more fluid to work with someone you’ve worked with before or is it always different?
You don’t need to have worked with them before but they need to have an understanding of film-fighting and the rhythm, the timing and the distance; all that stuff. If I can find someone that understands all that then it’s an easy job. I just recently did a movie with Wu Jing in China called Wolf War, so obviously when you work with people like that it’s very easy.
Wolf War is the first film ever actually to be made about the Chinese military in a modern sense. Tell us about your character and how you got involved?
Yeah, it’s Wu Jing’s baby; he’s writing, producing, directing and starring. It’s something he’s been developing for about 5 years. It took a long time for him to get the cooperation of the Chinese military which is a difficult thing, as you can imagine. I was just happy to come out there as I’m a big fan of Wu Jing and the stuff that he’d done in the past. This job offer came up for me to come and play the villain; as I say, I have a lot of respect for him so I was happy to come out there and do that. It’s different in China; you don’t get a proper script beforehand and a lot of it is done on the fly.
Those guys really know how to do the action really well so it was a pleasure to do it.
It’s improvisation and you’re given the lines to read on the day but you can’t put it into your own words yourself because they’re Chinese so you need to translate it into English. You can have some happy accidents and sometimes it’s very different to the Western style where they make you prepare a bit more but that’s just the way they do it. It takes them a lot longer to make their films. So it was my first time back in China for 10 years doing an action film. Those guys really know how to do the action really well so it was a pleasure to do it. I haven’t seen the film yet but hopefully it turns out well for Wu Jing as he’s a really nice guy.
I picked up the Legendary Tomb of the Dragon DVD from Amazon France, any idea when it will be out in North America? It was a fun adventure flick and definitely has franchise potential.
No idea actually, I think I saw a cover that I had to approve so it shouldn’t be too far away but I don’t really know to be honest.
Also any word on when Re-Kill will ever get released?
I’d forgotten about that, thanks for reminding me. I’ve no idea about that either and from what I’m told it’s quite good so God knows what the holdup is.
So it looks like we’re getting a remake of The Raid by Patrick Hughes and you recently expressed an interest in being in the third movie; would you like to be involved in a possible remake?
I’d love it, I’d love it, but I don’t think Hollywood would put me as the lead in the remake. They’re gonna get… whoever they’re gonna get; this makes me think, well a film like The Raid or a film like Enter the Dragon kind of exists around the front and centre performer being an amazing martial artist.
I don’t see how they’re gonna do it justice with actors that they’re going to train to do martial arts and the same old shaky-cam stuff. I’m hearing of the team that’s coming together to make the film and it sounds very promising. It’ll be a big Hollywood film and I’d be happy to take a part in there if it came my way. So, we’ll see…
I think they’re going to have to change it drastically in order to do it justice. But do you really want someone like me in there who is a trained martial artist looking better than whoever they get in to be the lead. Unless I’m the bad guy or something.
Early word is that it’s going to be Chris and Liam Hemsworth; good actors but hardly martial arts guys.
They seem like they’re physical people but then people talk about The Matrix and the training of Keanu Reeves. They did that for six months. They trained for six months! It is not an easy thing to do.
Yeah, Reeves did a great job with Man of Tai Chi last year.
I love it when The Reeves does martial arts films. Brilliant; good on him. Keep ‘em coming, I say.
As far as The Raid 3, I think Gareth Evans is a huge talent; I mean I absolutely ADORED the first ‘Raid’ and I can’t wait to see the new one. That is my top film of 2014 that I’m looking forward to seeing.
So yeah, obviously I put that out there on Twitter, so I’d love to be in The Raid 3, but at the end of the day he’s got his vision, he knows what he wants to do and if I could be a part of that, I’d love to. I’d love to work with Gareth at some point so we’ll see what happens in the future.
If Gareth Evans doesn’t give me a part in The Raid 3 I’m gonna kill him
By the way we’re speaking with director Gareth Evans next week hopefully, do you want us to put in a good word?
Give him my best and tell him if he doesn’t give me a part I’m gonna kill him (laughs).
It’s funny, The Raid is the remake that is totally unnecessary as the original is a flawless classic. How can they possibly improve on it?
People won’t go and watch it because it’s subtitled; I mean all the people that like our sorts of films, they’ve seen it but the general public stayed away because of the subtitles. It does make sense but you’ve really got to get the right people in to carry off the action stuff. It’s got to be approached carefully and sensibly.
What’s your training schedule like these days and if anyone wants to get their ass kicked by Scott Adkins, do you plan on doing any seminars?
I should do some seminars soon, really; I’m training a lot at the moment. I’ve actually just come back from the gym which is why I sound like I’m about to fall asleep. So yeah, training a lot at the moment, six days a week, pushing it. The knee finally feels like it’s 100% so it spurs me on to do some crazy kicks and not worry about it.
You’ll be appearing at the MCM Expo Birmingham Comic Con on March 22 and 23 where fans in the UK can come to meet you. Is this your first Fan Expo?
Actually I think it’s my second; I went out to the New York Comic Con to do a Hercules thing so that was the first. So yeah, if anyone’s out there that’s in England then come and see me.
Regarding Legend of Hercules; have you always been a fan of the sword and sandals genre and did you always want to do a period piece like that?
Yes! I’ve always been a fan of the sword and sandals genre and it was definitely a genre that I wanted to attempt at some point so I jumped at the chance. I will say that having done a fight scene in a skirt and sandals, I never want to do that again. It was a right pain in the arse! Getting blisters on your toes and they’re constantly coming out of your sandals, your skirt is flying up above your waist which isn’t pretty sometimes but it was a really good part.
I enjoyed playing this character that was completely over the top and I relished chewing up those words and spitting them out. I know the film’s had mixed reviews but I had a great time filming it. Renny Harlin is a great guy and I really enjoyed working with Kellan, Liam McIntyre and Liam Garrigan behind the scenes. I just really enjoyed playing that character.
Doing a fight scene in a skirt and sandals is a pain in the arse!
What else do you have coming up in the next few months?
Just waiting for Close Range really and hoping that’s going to happen. I’m chomping at the bit for Undisputed IV; I don’t know why the producers are taking so long. I’d love to revisit Boyka. Things just crop up at the last minute and they say “right, we want you to do this film and it’s happening in two weeks” off the back of an audition. I don’t know; it keeps it exciting but also frustrating as you don’t really know where your next job is coming from. I just hope to keep making the action films that I love to do but I want to try some different things and stretching myself as an actor. So watch this space…
You’re kind of seen as the saviour of the action genre with very few other action stars appearing on the radar, so there’s no pressure for you there.
Listen, I wish that I could make action film after action film but sometimes you have to do projects where you’ve only got three weeks to make the movie and you know you can’t do the action justice. For Ninja 2 we had six weeks which was really difficult but it’s doable, you know? Five weeks it’s doable but sometimes you’ve just got to take these parts where you don’t have enough time because the DVD market is in such a state. That’s kind of the way it is now but sometimes we get to do those good ones. That’s what I like about working with Nu Image because they’ll give you the time to make a good movie.
You ever considered doing a Kickstarter campaign for Undisputed IV?
I would do it in a heartbeat and I think people would definitely pay for it but at the end of the day I don’t own the rights to the film. Maybe I should talk to the producers about that. Certainly for Undisputed I think you could finance it that way but for a brand new film I’m not so sure.
How do you think the whole pirating of movies has impacted smaller films?
It’s completely destroyed it. I realize it’s difficult to support a film if you know there’s a torrent on the internet with let’s say Undisputed 3, but if it doesn’t come out in your country until about three months later then you’re gonna download it and I know that you can’t help that, because how else are you going to get it? The distributors need to sort their end out but also there are just people who download stuff and don’t pay for it and they don’t understand that if they keep doing this, then you’re not going to get these types of films anymore.
You’re only going to get your big comic book movies and big action movies that everyone wants to see but smaller films like Ninja 2 and Undisputed, pretty soon they’re drying up. There are producers that make those types of films that are quaking in their boots because you can’t do it anymore. We’re making no money and it’s a scary thing, to be honest. When I was a kid, that’s when the martial arts straight to video films were at their height in the early 90’s.
You’d get one a week and that’s really when I formulated the plan to do what I do now. I saw myself as one of those guys, but those guys don’t exist anymore and I look at myself and think it’s amazing that I managed to get into this position, when really this position doesn’t even exist anymore. It’s because of the piracy.
It’s a really sad state of affairs because there’s all of these movies and stories that we’ll never get to see, so we’ll continue to get remakes, reboots, comic books, like you say so the smaller movies we just won’t get to see.
Yeah, it’s scary to be honest.
Well, that wraps it up; thanks very much for chatting with us.
Nothing like finishing on a downer.
True, let’s go drink!