When I saw Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning at Fantastic Fest, Bibbs had just interviewed Scott Adkins for The Expendables 2. But this is Scott Adkin’s movie. He’s the new hero, and after the whole mystery was revealed, I had a lot more specific questions. Fantastic Fest was before Ninja II was announced, so I only looked ahead as far as Zero Dark Thirty, Tomb of the Dragon, and Undisputed IV, but we had a good chat about how a rising action star handles an injury and keeps going.
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning opens in theaters on November 30, 2012.
CraveOnline: The fight scenes before John remembers anything are not like your usual style of fighting. Are they more like brawls?
Scott Adkins: Yeah, he’s not a trained fighter. He doesn’t realize that he has those skills so he’s just fighting to survive really. The first fight with Andrei [Arlovski] is more like some sort of horror scene than anything else. I love the way John [Hyams] filmed that fight sequence. It’s the destruction of the flat that makes it so appealing. He just comes in and we destroy the place.
What was it like choreographing the scenes without your style?
You know the story points. You don’t want to give away anything you shouldn’t do, so he’s just a normal guy, he’s got no skills, just fighting to survive. I mean, he hardly even throws a punch in that first sequence. He’s just dodging and trying to get out of the way. That was more about destruction, that fight sequence. It was more about what can we smash and what can we destroy?
How did it feel to bring your style back into John’s character later?
It’s a gradual thing and then suddenly somewhere in that second fight scene with Andrei, again he’s fighting for survival. He’s just trying to stay alive and then he realizes I can actually hang with you now. I can probably take you out. It’s kind of like that Matrix moment when he looks at the stairs and he thinks, “Shall I run? No, I’m going to try and take on Agent Smith.” That same sort of thing. But listen, I was really severely injured. I tore my ACL ligament six weeks before we started shooting that movie. Four weeks before, I still couldn’t walk properly so it kind of helped me out that a few of those fight scenes didn’t have any kicks because it was really difficult to do what I normally do. But it’s not that type of film anyway. It’s a bit more gritty and real, the fights.
Was it a real 45 lb. weight in the sporting goods store?
No, although Andrei wouldn’t mind if it was. That guy’s crazy.
Did you agree with the full bloody approach to the unrated version of the film?
I love it. I’m a big fan of it. Now look, the ‘80s action films, that’s what it was like. That’s the way I remember it with things like Robocop and Total Recall, Commando.They were really violent films. I do find violence entertaining, but that doesn’t make me a bad person. I grew up watching all these action films when I was a kid. My dad would bring back Rambo and whatever and we’d watch it together. It’s not affected me in any way other than I just appreciate the entertainment value of violence on film.
You’ve since made a family film, right?
Yeah, yeah, with Dolph Lundgren. I try to cater for all tastes but personally I am a fan of that type of film. I get what John’s trying to do. You look at The Raid, that is so entertaining, that movie and you’ve got those shock value moments when he cuts somebody’s throat and stuff like that. The audience can all join in and go, “Whoa!” and enjoy it in that way. It’s good entertainment.
Would you ever see eventually using your martial arts in a less brutal film, like the way Jackie Chan does? Not that it would be comedic, but it would be your style and crossover to that audience.
If I had to do a 12 certificate film or a comic book movie then you would address that as you need to, but personally my taste is to go more that way.
Maybe the martial arts will be brutal, and the acting only roles would be more family friendly?
No, if it needed to be more of a family film than it was an action movie, then I would go that way of course.
You do work so hard on these films, and I personally thank you for training every day to be able to do this for us. I feel a little guilty sitting back and watching when you work so hard. Is it okay if I just watch?
Yeah. [Laughs] I’m doing it for your benefit. I’m doing it to entertain all you guys. And I get paid quite well so don’t feel sorry for me.
Thank you. Did you have an injury at a really bad time in your career because the momentum of the fight movies was going so strong?
Yeah, it was bad because I did three films in a row with no ACL. I did Universal Soldier, El Gringo and The Expendables. By the time I was shooting The Expendables, my knee was in a terrible state and it was in Bulgaria in the winter. It was really difficult then so I had to get the surgery in December and really you need to not stress it. [They said,] “You can’t go 100% with your knee for the next nine months,” which I’ve finally arrived at so now I’m going to start doing some more action films but I needed to take some time off from doing martial arts in movies for the last nine months in movies.
Will this change the way you fight moving forward?
No. It won’t.
That’s good. Is that a professional hazard you were aware of and prepared for somewhat?
I’ve been really lucky with injuries to be honest, but it was only a matter of time. As you get older, things start to bend a bit less and they start to break. So I just needed to be vigilant. I would train so hard and you drill these kicks and these moves and these gymnastic movements day in, day out and it just takes its toll after a while. So I need to approach my training a bit smarter, but when it comes to game time and you’ve got to put it down on film, you’ve really just got to get out there and do it.
What do you do during the period when you can’t work out because you’re recovering?
Try and stay in shape in other ways. I can train my upper body and things like that, but I had a break and I just relaxed. I ate some nice food and I allowed myself to get just a little bit fat. When the time came, I got back into shape again.
What are the plans right now for Undisputed IV?
Well, I’ve got a script and I’d hope to do it next year, but ultimately it’s not up to me.
Would it end up back in a prison somehow?
No, Boyka’s out of prison. For me, I would want to call it Boyka: Undisputed IV because now it’s out of the jail setting. It’s onto Boyka’s next step of his life.
That’s cool, like First Blood became Rambo because the character became bigger than the title.
Yeah, I think people know the character Boyka so well now anyway that you could just go Boyka: Undisputed IV.
Have you already mapped up what some of the fights could be and who his opponent would be?
Not yet. I need the green light and the go ahead. I’ve got some ideas of who I’d like to see in the film as the main villain but I don’t want to say yet.
What scenario could have Boyka fighting again?
I don’t want to say just in case things change.
So the next films are Zero Dark Thirty and Tomb of the Dragon?
Yeah. And Re-Kill at some point.
What can you or would you like to say about these upcoming films?
It was a great experience working with Kathryn Bigelow on Zero Dark Thirty.
As far as having an acting role, can it get any better than that?
No, I don't think it can. You’re working with a director who’s at the top of her game coming off an Oscar winning movie, Best Director. Pleasure to work with her. She has a way of making you as an actor feel very relaxed and a way of convincing you to try something in a different way but to make you feel like it’s kind of your idea. Some of the best directors are able to do that. She’s very soft spoken and very young in her way. It was a great experience and an important film so I’m excited to be part of that. Tomb of the Dragon, as you say it’s a family adventure movie. Lots of CGI in there, something a bit different.
But still exciting adventure?
Well, I hope so. Yeah, I hope so. It’s got Jaws elements to it and a bit of an Indiana Jones vibe to it maybe, but we’ll see. It was fun to film in China though. They’ve got some great craftsmen out there. The Beijing Film Studio is just incredible. It’s so big, so huge and the things that they can do now, I think there’s going to be so many more western productions going to film in China because it’s cheaper but they’ve got such a great facility as well. In fact, I heard they might even take Avatar there.
And Re-Kill is post-apocalyptic?
Yeah, it’s shot in the style of “Cops,” like an episode of “Cops.”
Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline. You can follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel