Big Knives and Stuff: Scott Adkins on The Expendables 2

Committing to Undisputed 4, earning his action stripes, working with Kathryn Bigelow and hoping to play Iron Fist. 

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

 

If you don't know who Scott Adkins is yet… you will. The star of Undisputed III and Ninja joins the cast of The Expendables 2 this weekend as Jean-Claude Van Damme's right-hand man, earning his place alongside such action luminaries as Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Arnold Schwarzenegger. On screen, he's a towering presence with a threatening snarl and fierce Russian accent. In person, this U.K. native is a soft-spoken charmer with a clear respect for his peers and an infectious enthusiasm for his trademark character, Boyka, and for rising in the ranks of the action world. We sat down with Scott Adkins to discuss the production of The Expendables 2, press him to make Undisputed 4, grill him about Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty and devise a plan to get him cast as Iron Fist.

 

CraveOnline: I am actually a very big fan of yours.

Scott Adkins: Oh great. What can I say to that? Good.

 

You can say you’re doing another Undisputed.

Well, I want to. I want to. Definitely.

 

Has there been any actual talk about that?

Yeah, there’s a script actually.

 

And it will be Boyka-centric?

Boyka, yeah. But he’s not in prison anymore. He’s still got a bad knee though. But then again so have I.

 

Oh really? I didn’t realize.

But I want to do it, but Undisputed III didn’t exactly make a ton of money, because I don’t know why. They didn’t release it properly.

 

I discovered the film. I talked it up to anyone who will listen. Hopefully it will find that audience, because I think it’s utterly badass. But Expendables 2, also badass. I had heard you were approached for Expendables 1. I didn’t know if there was any truth to that.

Yeah, I was. But you know what? I wanted to do Undisputed III. So that’s what I did.

 

The lead role as opposed to the supporting?

Yeah, I mean you’re a big fan of the movie. I know that we could do something special with that film, and I think it worked out for the best because here I am with Expendables 2, which is arguably a bigger film. I have a similar sized role in that, so I think it was the right decision.

 

You play a villain in this one. You play a sidekick to a character named “Vilain.” Do you enjoy the villain type roles? You usually play heroic roles, and you’re mixing it up. Do you have a preference?

I prefer to play the villain or the antihero. Because there’s a difference between… Ninja was a straight-laced hero. I don’t think I did it very well. It didn’t come off very well. But to play the antihero, like Boyka, comes off really well. I don’t know what it is about my personality that I can tap into that a bit better than the… Because I can feel I’m a nice guy in real life, but I seem to be more interesting on screen when I’ve got a bit of an edge, playing a bad guy or someone like Boyka. But it’s a lot more fun to play anyway, because you get to have fun with it. It’s enjoyable to put a knife up against somebody’s throat. I can’t remember what my line was. “I’ll cut your gizzard out,” or whatever.

 

You did get a really cool weapon. I like it when bad guys get a distinctive weapon. Did you get to keep that knife?

I didn’t. I didn’t, no.

 

Bastards.

Yeah, but that’s what’s cool about Sly. He likes things like that. Big knives and stuff. It’s kind of for me, the Rambo films and stuff. But it was really cool.

 

Do you think that there’s a masculine, phallus thing going on there? Because this is a very, very masculine movie.

Yeah, it’s a masculine thing, isn’t it? We like big knives and sh** that can kill people. I don’t know what it is, but it’s entertainment, because violence can be entertaining.

 

Certainly cathartic.

Yeah.

 

You have one big fight scene in the film, with Jason Statham. Tell me about that. Did you have a lot of time to rehearse?

Didn’t have a lot of time to rehearse, to be honest. The schedule was a bit shifty, so it bottlenecked up to the end, and we had to go on a bit, get it done. I wish it was a bit longer, to be fair, but I had a great experience working with Jason. He’s a real pro, and he’s great with that stuff. I had no worries about… Normally, when you’re working someone that isn’t that good at fight sequences, you worry that they’re not going to duck, or you’re going to hit them or something like that. But that was never a problem with Jason. He’s a complete pro with that. Fantastic at doing it. His rhythm was good, his timing was good, his distance was good. [Mimes punching]

 

I feel very threatened every time you do that.

Yeah. It was great. He’s really good at what he does. He’s one of the premiere… Well, he’s the premiere action guy of the moment.

 

You’ve worked with Jean-Claude Van Damme a lot. I think this is your fourth film with him?

Yeah. Coincidental though.

 

Do you have a good relationship with him?

Yeah, yeah.

 

What’s the vibe on the set of one of these movies, where everyone is, in their own right, a star? You imagine it could get a little competitive.

Everyone says that, but to be honest, everyone was really aware that the whole thing about this movie is that it’s all the action guys together. So people are respectful to everyone out there, [that they get] their chance in the limelight. Not to get all freaked out by silly things. I mean, people probably don’t want to get killed by anyone, or stuff like that, but for it was just a real honor to have someone like Stallone say, come on, kid. You’ve earned your action stripes. Come along. Enjoy the ride in the big summer action movie.

 

What do you take away from a giant film like The Expendables, when you have to do a bunch of smaller budgeted action movies?

It’s a lot easier when you’ve got more time. If you’ve got 70 days to make a movie, it’s a lot easier than if you’ve got 30, which is…

 

Not that much.

Things tend to move at a slower pace when you do a bigger film, as well. I sometimes feel, well, maybe you could just get one with it and shoot more and shoot quicker. But that’s why these big budget movies look so great, because it does take a lot of time to light things. The D.P. in this one [Shelly Johnson], it looks fantastic, the way it’s shot. But it’s a lot slower paced, and it’s easier to do a bigger movie.

 

Do you want to keep doing the bigger movies?

I do, yeah, of course. But sometimes it’s nice just to just do a quick one, and be on it every day and get it done, rather than sitting around in a hotel room or a trailer. But yeah, of course I want to keep climbing up the ladder and staying in the studio.

 

What’s your goal, ten years from now?

To be the top action guy in Hollywood.

 

I think you should be.

Thanks man. Put ‘er there. [High five] I agree.

 

What kind of roles do you see yourself doing? What do you feel you’d be best suited for to get you into the public eye?

I gotta say the stuff like Statham does. I’m good when I’ve got a bit of an edge, like the Clint Eastwood type of archetypal character. The tough guy that doesn’t say a lot. I want to stretch myself as well, but I would like while I’m still young to be able to just do some good action roles and show people what I’ve got.

 

I like how Jason Statham’s built his career, because while he’s a very serious character in a lot of his films, he’s surrounded by so much strangeness that he can pull off this archetypal action hero but not have it play so sincere that audiences write him off.

I really like what he did with Crank and stuff like that stuff. He had fun with it and took a bit of a risk there. I really enjoyed those films, because out there and it was a bit crazy. You know, let’s see what Jason’s going to do next, because he’s moving more into the acting realm.

 

I’m much concerned with what you’re going to do next. Jason’s already okay. You’re on the rise.

Yeah, gotta keep it going. Universal Soldier, man, that’s going to be great. That’s going to kick people in the ass.

 

Have you been approached for any larger films recently?

I had some close calls. I’m not going to name names…

 

The fact that we haven’t seen you in a superhero costume yet baffles me.

Well, that’s because they can get a stuntman in the superhero costumes. Why do you need me?

 

Because you could act. You could be the character.

Yeah, but once the mask’s on it could just be a stuntman.

 

But it’s so much more fun when you know it’s not. Okay, Batman, that could be anyone, but you could be…

Iron Fist.

 

Why are you not Iron Fist?

I don’t know. Somebody tell Marvel. Tell them to start making the film, stop messing about. What other comic book martial arts guys do you have?

 

Not many, actually. We’ve got Shang-Chi, but he’s Chinese…

The problem with Iron Fist is a bit of a dodgy costume. That doesn’t translate to film that well.

 

I feel like at the very least you’d have to adjust the color scheme and reduce the v-neck. The v-neck is…

It’s a bit Saturday Night Fever. Very yellow.

 

He does get a good partner though. They haven’t really done the buddy cop superhero movie.

What it is, what we need is me and Michael Jai White. Iron Fist and Luke Cage. Let’s just do it.

 

I’ll get them on the phone.

[Laughs] Quick! We’ve got a great idea. “Who are you?”

 

What else have you got coming up besides Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning?

Universal Soldier comes out October. Re-Kill is still yet to come out, which is a really interesting zombie film shot in the style of “Cops.” The Kathryn Bigelow movie…

 

Oh, you’re doing Zero Dark Thirty, the Osama bin Laden film? What is it like on her set?

So many of the actors are so good in that movie. The smallest actors. Everyone wants to work with someone like that, who’s just come off winning an Oscar. So it would get to that place where what you were doing is real, hairs standing up on the back of your neck, because everybody was elevated. Everyone. So that was really great. Everyone was so prepared.

 

I imagine you’re playing on the SEALs.

I’m not, actually.

 

You seem like the type. Who are you playing?

I can’t really talk about it. But it’s good. I’m glad to be a part of it. Great director and important subject. So there’s that, and I did a film in China with Dolph [Lundgren] recently, called Tomb of the Dragon, which is not really an action-type thing. There’s no fighting, stuff like that.

 

No fighting?

Just straight-up acting. It’s a bit different.

 

Everyone in America knows you for your action movies, but in England you’ve done so many other…

Yeah, I was a regular on “Holby City,” and I did daytime, that’s how I started off. Off in Hong Kong doing stuntman stuff, then coming back to England doing daytime soap operas.

 

Do you just have an awesome Russian accent, and that’s why you keep getting offered Russian roles?

In The Tournament they didn’t have the guts to let me do something else. They wanted me to do it in Irish. They don’t like to take a chance sometimes. What it was in The Expendables was, I knew how popular Boyka was. Is. And I figured, right, it’s The Expendables. It’s the world stage. I don’t really want to even mess about with messing this up, so I just basically did Boyka with hair. [Laughs] I figured, come on…

 

You know what, if Undisputed 4 never gets made, this could be the last Boyka story.

Yeah. But we’ll get Undisputed 4 made.

 

You’d better.

Thanks man.