Scott Adkins is no stranger to action fans.
With roles in The Expendables 2, Ninja, Ninja: Shadow of a Tear and as Yuri Boyka in the Undisputed series, he is one of the busiest and most popular actors working in the genre today.
In this exclusive interview, we caught up with Scott in Thailand on the set of Hard Target 2 and discussed his new film Close Range, Boyka: Undisputed IV, past action heroes, influences and more…
In Close Range, the first scene in the hallway is one long tracking shot. Can you talk to us about how long that took to put together and film?
I think we had about half a day to do that. We rehearsed it beforehand with all the stunt guys who had seen the space, I hadn’t seen it yet but they all knew it. So we did some run-throughs and I think we did about six or seven takes and the sixth take was the one that we went with.
You had quite a few knife fights in the film. Was that a skill set you had already or did that involve training for the film?
No, it’s not that I know how to knife fight (laughs), it’s just that Jeremy Marinas was our amazing fight choreographer – he is really talented; from 87 Eleven stunt team – the best fight team in Hollywood and we were very lucky to have him. We used a lot of his guys and he came up with the choreography and I didn’t have any problems with it at all. We wanted Colt MacReady to be gritty – less high flying kicks and more rough and tumble, to suit his character and we liked the idea of him having this concealed belt knife he can use to take care of business when he needs to. But Marinas planned it all and he is great at what he does. I like to have a choreographer who makes me look good (laughs)
And in return as a ‘thank you’ he is one of the first henchman to get killed…
Yeah. I killed that little bitch. (laughing as he quotes the line from the film)
Colt MacCready is a great character and somewhat an anti-hero in the fact he is a good guy but he is also a criminal on the run. Would you be interested in doing a sequel?
Yeah, you could definitely see that character doing other stories because he is on that line of ‘is he a good guy, is he a bad guy?’ The way I approached the character is he is a bad guy. He is a criminal and definitely on the wrong side of the law but it just so happens that on this day, because of what’s happening he is doing what is just and protecting his family. The guys he is up against are very bad guys but on any other day, he probably would be the bad guy. So yes, I think you could take that character and make him some wandering Ronin or something. His morals are in the right place but he is not necessarily a good guy.
Were there any scenes that you filmed that for whatever reason didn’t make the final cut?
The thing about Close Range – I am very proud of the film and what we did, but it was very low budget, that’s the world we live in with straight to VOD action films. The problem we had was we had to reach a certain run-time and we actually came up a little bit short so everything that we filmed is in there, there is nothing that was cut out because we were really struggling to make the run-time to be honest. We wanted to spend time making the action good and not rush through it and make it look shit, and to make the action good it takes time, so we needed everything that we shot. That’s why we have the opening sequence in the cars where we introduce all the bad guys by name. That was done sort of in a Tarantino way I guess, but it was primarily to extend the run time of the film.
By having such a short time to film, do you find as an actor that pushes you more to step up your game knowing that you do not have as many takes to get a scene right as you would on a longer shoot?
It pushes you more but I don’t think it elevates your game. You get really tired and with that comes lack of focus and you can’t concentrate like you should be. The action stuff is not easy, it’s always hard because we are pushing to do great stuff but it’s something I know like the back of my hand, but then you have to go from spending ¾ of the day doing a really intense fighting sequence in the heat and then have to go and deliver as an actor at a time when you are feeling just shattered and just want to go to bed. That’s why being an action actor I think is one of the hardest things you can do because not only do you have to deliver dramatically, you have to deliver all this action stuff as well whereas a lot of actors will rely on a stunt double – I don’t ever want to do that but I guess I am just making excuses for a dodgy performance here and there (laughing) but that’s the reality of the situation. I want to deliver the action as much as I deliver the drama and if it’s a low budget you haven’t got the time to always do that – I wish we had more time to deliver on both fronts but that’s also the charm of some of these films. We are almost nostalgic in the way we make these movies. They are like a throwback to the eighties and early nineties.
Absolutely, and you have had a great deal of success making great films like those with your friend Isaac Florentine. In addition to Close Range, you also recently completed work on the fourth installment of the ever popular Undisputed series. What can you tell us about that?
If you liked 2 and 3, you are going to love this one! It is what you expect and is exactly what you want to see and it really delivers on all fronts. I have seen the rough cut and I am really happy with it – I think we have succeeded in what we wanted to do.
ou posted a photo of one of the bad guys from Boyka: Undisputed, Martin Ford, who is not a small man. Did he have any martial arts experience previous?
No, Martin is a friend of mine from the town in England where I live. He is the local ‘freak’ (laughs) This massive 6’8 body builder who walks through ASDA with the tattooed head. He is a really nice guy and we know each other from the gym and I have trained with at his gym before. We actually always wanted Nathan Jones, but we couldn’t get him. I think he was doing a film with Michael Jai White at the time and we were running out of money so I suggested we give Martin a shot. He is not a martial artist, he is a bodybuilder but he is an athlete and he did a phenomenal job and I think he is going to get a lot more work after this film. There are others I fight in the film – we have Brahim Achabbakhe and others – the fights are great.
Do you think we could see an Undisputed V?
Absolutely, but let people understand, if the film doesn’t make money, we won’t get another one. The film has to make money and I promise you it’s as good as 2 and 3, therefore you should go and spend your money on this because I want to be able to bring another one to you all. But, if it doesn’t make a profit – there will not be another one.
You are currently in Thailand filming Hard Target 2. You have stated previously how much of a Van Damme fan you were growing up and how he was a major inspiration for you to start in martial arts. Having now worked with him on several films, how much of a big deal is it to you to be working on the follow up to one of his biggest movies?
Yeah, from Bloodsport on-wards I was the biggest Van Damme fan – verging on obsessive. He is a huge reason I do what I do today. He was the catalyst for me saying ‘ok, that’s what I am going to do with my life’ so when Hard Target came out in ‘93, not only was I a huge Van Damme fan, I was a massive John Woo fan. I met him in Nottingham when they did a double bill of Bullet In The Head and The Killer when I was about sixteen years old and I knew about all the Hong Kong movies and an avid reader of Impact Magazine and was into all that stuff. So by the time Hard Target came out, it was John Woo and Van Damme – my favourite director directing my favourite actor – I lapped it up. So this job came up and they offered it to me I was very dubious about it. I am very aware of the films I have done with Jean-Claude. I have done Universal Soldier, Assassination Games, The Shepherd, I was his henchman in The Expendables 2 and I realized it might look like I am following him around like a rash or something. (laughs) I know there could be a bit of a backlash ‘oh this guy needs to stop doing the Van Damme films all the time’ etc., but at the same time being so inspired by Van Damme, it almost feels like the right thing to do as well. Listen, I am nowhere near as good as Jean-Claude, he was a trail blazer and trend setter but if anyone is going to be tapped as his successor, I am honoured if it’s me. But it’s not something that I’m consciously trying to live off his coat tails, it’s just that these are the type of roles I get offered and if it wasn’t me doing it then who would they get? I do my best and give 100% in the acting and the action and the fights and I am very happy with where my career is at.
And now that dream enters the Marvel Universe with the news of your casting in Dr. Strange…
Yes! I finish here in Thailand in a week then I start filming that right away. I am sworn to secrecy but I am really looking forward to it.
It will be great to see you bringing some kick ass martial arts to the superhero genre. As far as on screen martial artists go, there are always those people who say ‘Bruce Lee was great but he could not do the things we see on TV and films today’, how would you respond to that?
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter that Bruce Lee couldn’t do a jump spin back kick. I am sure he could have done it if he trained for it. Back in the ‘70s people didn’t know how to do that shit. Like when I was training and reached my ‘peak’, I didn’t know how to do the shit the kids today are doing because everyone is standing on the shoulder of the previous giants. Bruce Lee still stands up today because of his screen presence and the fact you couldn’t take your eyes off him.
What would you say to the person reading this to entice them to see Close Range?
We live in a world of comic book movies and cgi and it’s all brilliant, and I love it and I am not disrespecting any of it, but sometimes it’s nice to see a gritty action movie – made on a lower budget – but made with a lot of heart, determination and love and dishing out some real hard-core action the way we used to get it in the old days. The way The Raid did it, and if you want to see some of that real action you HAVE to see Close Range.