Today, The Expendables 2 comes crashing into movie theaters across the country like a tank. With its Herculean roster of action legends, one name you might not yet recognize on the poster is that of Scott Adkins. We must stress, the “yet.” Adkins is currently fighting his way, literally, up the action cinema food chain. He appeared in such films as Ninja and The Bourne Ultimatum. He wowed many of us with his turn as vicious prisoner brawler Yuri Boyka in the Undisputed franchise. In Undisputed III: Redemption, he held his own with Mirageman himself, Marko Zaror.
In addition to The Expendables 2, Adkins will again star alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren in Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, the “fourth” film in the franchise that was just announced as part of the second wave of this year’s Fantastic Fest. Not one to slow down, Adkins also stars in the action movie El Gringo, which is currently available on VOD services such as Amazon Instant Video.
We kick around all these subjects with Mr. Adkins and he reveals, among other things, the status of Undisputed 4.
Tell me a little bit about how you came aboard El Gringo.
I just did the new Universal Soldier; Moshe Diamant was producing that. He came across this great script by Jonathan Stokes called El Gringo and wanted me to star. So I read it and thought it was great. Sort of in the vein of Desperado; kind of like No Country for Old Men meets Desperado. With my abilities, I’m a bit of an action guy, I figured I could do a lot with that. And it seemed like the perfect next step after Universal Solider.
It was much bigger than it ended up being action-wise. There was a hell of a lot of action in the script and we had to bring that down a little bit because it just would have been too big of a budget.
You served as a producer on El Gringo as well.
I got very involved with some of the action sequences and bringing on some crew members. So I ended up with an executive producer credit just for that though I didn’t really produce it.
There’s quite a bit of gunplay in El Gringo, just like there is in Expendables 2. As a martial artist and an actor, would you always prefer to be strictly hand-to-hand or do enjoy brandishing the occasional firearm?
I think every red-blooded male enjoys brandishing a firearm. Honestly, I’ve put my stamp all over the gunfights in El Gringo. They are almost like gunplay Kung fu; everything is up-close. It’s almost like a fight sequence, that’s the way I like to do things. I’m not just shooting people. I’m up-close busting them, putting them in an arm lock, swinging them to the floor into some sort of jujitsu move with the gun against their head and then blowing their head away.
That was something that I was interested in trying, because for me it’s just more interesting. In a lot of films, you get gunfights where you see the guy shoot the gun and then it goes to the next shot of the guy getting hit with the bullet. I try and tie the two things together so you see it all in one shot. Although the director Eduardo Rodriguez, who did great job, his style of editing is different from the way I would have envisioned it. It’s quick cuts. I would have preferred some of it to play out a bit longer to be honest. But it still definitely works.
You mentioned the new Universal Soldier film you’ll be appearing in with Jean-Claude Van Damme. I actually got to see a short clip from the film at ActionFest wherein you were unfortunately getting your head bashed in with a crowbar.
How brutal was that?
It was intense for sure.
How did the audience react?
There was a lot of empathetic groaning. It looks like you and Van Damme will be adversaries in this one, what was that experience like given that he’s such an idol of yours?
My bedroom was plastered with pictures of Van Damme. My mother was worried about me. Most teenage boys have half-naked women on their walls, and I had Jean-Claude. For me, there was Bruce Lee and there was Van Damme. He had the physique of the western action guys like Arnold and Stallone, yet he had the moves like Bruce Lee. He came about when something like that was sorely needed. He hit the mark at the right time and blew up; very charismatic action guy to watch on screen.
I can pretty much say that because of Bruce Lee and Jean-Claude Van Damme, that’s why I do what I do today. So there was certainly a sense of coming full circle when it came time to work with him. Expendables 2 will be the fourth film I’ve done with him. He’s a great guy, and it’s always a pleasure to work with him. An icon.
The new Universal Soldier will be your first film in 3D, right?
3D, yeah, it was actually quite difficult. The cameras tended to break down a lot, especially when they got too hot. We were working in tight sets in Louisiana in the summer so it tended to get very hot. But John [Hyams] is a great director. He’s very well prepared and knew exactly what he needed to do every day. So when those cameras did fail, and it took thirty minutes to get them back up again, he was prepared so that we didn’t lose too many shots. But there’s no gimmick with the 3D in this film, it’s just gonna help pull you into the movie. The clip you saw at ActionFest wasn’t in 3D, was it?
Nope, 2D. Though I am curious if you think there is anything inherently beneficial in using 3D for a martial arts movie.
Yeah, we’re not seeing martial arts films in 3D yet. The argument is that it’s another perspective and it draws you into the film more. Certainly with Avatar, which was the last film I saw in 3D, you can say that definitely happened. In terms of doing the fight sequences here, I don’t even know if this is true, but they said that because you have more of a perception of depth we have to get even closer with our kicks and our punches. So now I’ve got couple of fight scenes with Andrei Arlovski, the former UFC heavyweight champ, where his fists are pretty much touching my face. So that was a bit of an experience in 3D.
Little harrowing, was it?