Scott Adkins contacted me personally to let me know he would be at Fantastic Fest to present Ninja: Shadow of a Tear and hoped I would come see it. At this point, after Expendables 2 and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, he knows I follow his work enthusiastically. This is what Fantastic Fest is all about, getting to know filmmakers personally and champion their work.
The sequel to Ninja finds Casey (Adkins) happily engaged to a pregnant fiance, but not for long. He ends up pursuing killers to Thailand and uncovering the drug trade of General Sung (Vithaya Pansringarm). During the Q&A after the premiere screening, director Isaac Florentine explained he was unhappy with the first Ninja and wanted to use the sequel to do it the way he felt it should be done. After the screening, Adkins hung back to give me the interview we’d discussed. It was a year exactly since we spoke about Universal Soldier, which he filmed with an ACL injury, and he’d revealed in the Q&A he got injured again on Shadow of a Tear.
Crave Online: How is your ACL now?
Scott Adkins: It’s fixed, yes. I had the surgery in December 2011, had to take off at least seven months which I was able to do. I couldn’t do an action film for seven months because I wanted to make sure it was properly rehabbed. So I did that film [Tomb of the Dragon] with Dolph Lundgren which is a family adventure film. There’s no action. Then I had a small part in Zero Dark Thirty, and then my first action film back was November/December 2012 which was Green Street 3.
So that was before Ninja: Shadow of a Tear?
That was before Ninja. I flew out on New Year’s Day 2013 to do Ninja in Thailand.
Did you re-injure yourself on this?
I hurt my back.
A different injury?
Yeah, you always get injured. Some films you get injured worse than others. The back one was pretty bad actually. It put me out of action. I was in a lot of pain for the whole rest of the shoot. I did one week free of injury and then the rest of it I was just in a lot of pain.
Thank you for going the distance for us.
Yeah, it’s all right.
Were you also disappointed by the first Ninja?
Yes, we both were very disappointed. The action was not as dynamic as the Undisputed films and the lead character of Casey was very bland. We wanted to make the second much more gritty and take Casey to a darker place so that he is much more proactive rather than reactive. We wanted to give Casey a bit more of an edge.
When you kick another fighter’s kick, is that really hard to land?
Nooo, because you can get padded up if it’s your shins and stuff. You know you’re going to probably have to do it 10 or 15 times. No, it’s not so bad if you’ve got control. Luckily Tim Man has a lot of control.
Which of the fights in Ninja: Shadow of a Tear took the longest?
The longest one was the end fight. That was three days. I think we lost a little bit of time though because we went over a little bit with drama at the end of it. Most of the fights were two days. Some of them were one.
So the one take fight in the dojo took less than three days?
That was just one day because you’ve only got to do it once. We just did a little bitty scene before it, then rehearsed it and we shot it about nine takes. I think we used the fifth or sixth or seventh take.
Doing nine in a day sounds like a lot.
That was tough actually. I need to work on my cardio.
Are the sticks and the swords in the finale your weapons of choice?
My weapon of choice is the nunchuck. I do like the bo as well which I use, the staff. I’m not so good with the sword but I picked a lot of stuff up on Ninja 1 with the sword.
Was the fire walk a little bit of movie magic?
Definitely. Paper maché or something. I didn’t do that for real. I try to do most of my own stunts but I had a little bit of help from the special effects guys on that one.
I think you got to fight Vithaya Pansringarm more than Ryan Gosling did in Only God Forgives.
Yeah, I don’t know what the fuss was about. He was easy. I killed God. He was easy. No, he’s a great guy. I’m really happy to have him in the movie.
There are so many fights, what was the percentage of fighting versus acting?
There was a hell of a lot of fighting. I remember one week I had to do three fights. Two of them were two days so that’s four days and there was a one-day one. That’s five days in a six-day week. It was a tough week.
When you fight with no shirt on, that means you have no pads on either, right?
Yeah. That’s how I hurt my back actually. That double kick I do onto the guy through the doorway, we maybe did three or four takes of it. I just had to land flat on my back on concrete. That’s when my back first started to hurt and then it was the next week that something happened and it snapped.
I don’t think you see the ground in that shot. They couldn’t lay a pad down?
You do see the ground, yeah. You do see the ground. They did put a little thin pad down but to be honest, it didn’t really make much of a difference.
Do breakaway tables still hurt?
No. Not after you’ve fought with Marko Zaror.