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HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME - Adrian Paul Part II
In part two of Fandom's interview, the immortal star discusses the film's martial arts choreography, the difficult shoot and the possibility of playing James Bond.
By Matthew F. Saunders
September 07, 2000
When Adrian Paul signed on as Duncan MacLeod for the Highlander
TV series, he brought his own distinct flavor and talents to the role. Unlike Christopher Lambert, who portrayed Connor MacLeod in the Highlander
film series, Paul was a skilled martial artist and swordsman with years of training and experience under his belt. As a result, Paul raised the bar on the franchise's benchmark swordplay, becoming intimately involved in its choreography and introducing numerous styles and techniques during the show's five-and-a-half seasons.
When a film starring Duncan became a sure thing following the series' end, Paul began an extensive training period designed to raise that bar even further for the big screen. Involved in the majority of the film's fight scenes, Paul again brought his experience and talents to bear, helping plan, choreograph and implement the different sequences. In particular, he was concerned about shaping and defining each fight to match not only the different characters respective abilities, but their emotional states and relationships as well. In part two of Fandom's interview with Paul, he discusses his role in developing those scenes, the difficulties presented by the film's complicated shooting schedule and his possible future as England's foremost superspy.
YOU WERE ALWAYS VERY INVOLVED IN THE TV SERIES IN TERMS OF DEVELOPING THE STORIES AND DUNCAN'S CHARACTER. WHAT WAS YOUR INPUT LIKE IN ENDGAME
It was basically my idea to have several immortals attack at once, and that kind of created that whole part of the story. I was also very adamant about showing the relationship between Duncan and Connor evolve as it went along. The story was written, but I said you also have to add, 'What is their relationship and how did they evolve?' and 'What is their relationship at this particular time?' That kind of flushed out a lot of the meat of the story when the bones were laid down by the actual structure of the script.
And then, on top of that, I had a lot to do with the way the fights were choreographed. Fights are basically a conversation between two people, and by that token, they had to be choreographed in a [particular] way. There were certain elements that had to be done. Some were more a conversation about friendship, one was more about teaching, another was more about staying alive. The were different elements, so we were very careful to try and create different things within the fight scenes and that's something I had a lot to do with.
DID YOU TAKE THE LEAD IN THE CHOREOGRAPHY, THEN?
I played a part in the process. F. Braun McAsh was the sword master, and then I had Vernon Rieta, who was my teacher for the past 10 years. He came in, basically looking at style--trying to really create my style and make sure that we were looking the best we could, and creating the martial arts aspect of it so it would display those effects that I was actually trying to portray. For instance, the rooftop scene--what I call the rooftop scene between Connor and I--I basically worked on that with Vernon and said, 'Okay, these are the things we want to do because this is a relationship fight.' We wanted to make sure that my style was very much the yin of the relationship and Connor's was the yang, which is more the Japanese traditional style.
So, I would go in and say, 'Okay, this is how I feel we should do this.' 'Okay, you're doing that choreography. I want to see this and feel this. How does that work?' Then, when Christopher got involved in it, he would feel some things were a little off for him. And sometimes I became Christopher's second eye, if you like, while we were shooting. He would always come to me and I'd tell him, 'You've got to make sure that stance is better.' 'Make sure you get stronger in that.' Or, 'Do this or do that.' I could see it from my point of view, and I've had a little more experience that Christopher has had doing this type of stuff over the past 10 years.
LOTS OF FANS HAVE TRACKED THE SPECIFIC STYLES AND TECHNIQUES YOU USED DURING THE SERIES. IS THERE ANY SPECIFIC TECHNIQUE YOU'VE BROUGHT TO THE MOVIE THAT THEY HAVEN'T SEEN BEFORE?
My technique is very mixed. And that's why I created it, because basically Duncan's been around for 400 years. He's picked up a lot of different things, and that's what you do as a martial artist. It's like being a painter. You pick up different colors and you create the painting. As a martial artist, you pick up many different things, and you create that style. So that's what I did. Some of my stuff is very Chinese, some of it's European in its essence, some of it's Japanese in it's essence. And then there's good-old fashioned Scottish head-butting. So, you have a whole mixture of different stuff.
DID YOU DO A LOT OF TRAINING BEFORE FILMING STARTED?Ohhhh yeah
. I actually started a year before doing gymnastics. Then, about six to eight months before that, I was also studying with my teacher Vernon, because I actually wanted to put a kata in this movie that I wanted to create. It never actually made it in the film, unfortunately, because there were logistical problems. Some of it they'll put it, which is fine because I can then use it again later.
I was doing that. And then I was working out a lot, trying to get my mind and body in shape through nutrition and actually working out in the gym and running a lot, trying to keep stamina up. This was a very grueling schedule that we had, shooting in Romania for two-and-a-half months, which was supposed to be the total amount of time we spent. But unfortunately, because of logistical problems and health problems with one of the actors, we had to then go shoot in London, which meant we had to change all the choreography.
We were constantly changing [the choreography], unlike the series, where we had one episode and we knew we were going to shoot that particular fight when we were going to shoot it. Here, it was different, where we would actually come in and say, 'Okay, next week we're shooting this fight.' And the next day, we go, 'No, we're not. We're going to shoot that one.' And then a few days later, we'd say, 'No, actually we're gonna shoot this one.' I had five or six fights to do in this movie, and I was constantly trying to figure out what I was going to shoot next. That was a lot of work. It takes a lot of time to rehearse and make sure you have the right timing so that the injuries are cut down.
WAS THAT THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF THE SHOOT THEN, GETTING CENTERED AND PREPARED?
Definitely, yeah. The acting is a little easier to do. With a martial arts choreographed fight, or any choreographed fight, it's all well and good to go and hit stuff--we didn't have millions of dollars to spend on special effects to create Matrix
-type effects--so a lot of our stuff had to be well-done and real and on the ground level, if you like, so people really appreciated it, even though it didn't have all those extra flourishing things in it. So, we created this. And that was hard to do, because it had to then be a conversation between the two guys, on whoever it is you're fighting. And that's a hard thing.
GIVEN ALL OF THAT, WHAT WAS THE SET LIKE? WERE THERE ANY FUNNY MOMENTS OR BLOOPERS?
Well, there're loads of little clips from here and there. It's funny, because it was a very tense set in some respects. Sometimes we were working at such a pace, trying to get everything together, it was kind of hard to do bloopers. But things would happen sometimes in rehearsals. One time I nearly took Christopher's eye out with a sword. He was lucky he was wearing glasses at the time. I happened to have a wooded sword in my hand, and he missed a parry, and it bounced off the glasses he was wearing and hit him along the eye. [Laughs
] You can laugh about it now. But it was kind of scary at the time, because I felt the flesh at the end of sword. It felt like I'd gone right into his eye.
Then there were other things. When you're dealing with horses, it's always funny. [During] the highwayman scene, which is a fun scene for us, we'd try to get the horses to go a certain way, and they'd end up in front of a camera. Or, as they'd be leading them off and wanted them to go off in a certain direction, they'd never do what you wanted them to do. [Laughs
] So, it's always kind of interesting when you're dealing with animals.
There was also a stunt that went a little bit wrong, when a motorbike landed on my stunt double's leg. It should have snapped his leg in half, but for some reason it didn't. It was one of those [jumps] through the air; it was supposed to go over him, but it didn't get enough air on it and just came down and crunched right on his leg. It messed up the ligaments in his knee, but didn't break his leg. He was actually very lucky.
So, those are just some of them. Then there was standing at 5:00 in the morning on the top of a power plant with freezing rain pouring down on top of us, and all of us wondering, 'Why am I doing this?' [Laughs
] There were certain moments like that [where] I was soaking wet, freezing and we were 18 feet up in the air.
HOW LONG A SHOOT WAS IT IN THE END?
That's kind of a good question [Laughs
], because it started off as two-and-a-half months in Romania. Then we went for a month in England, which was two weeks of shooting with 10-12 days of prep. And then we spent another week in Luxemburg. And that's actually shooting time. The rest is editing and prep.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU? WILL YOU BE TAKING A BREAK?
No, I'm not taking any break. I want to get back to work. I have several things that are in the pipeline right now. One is directing a couple small, half-hour gigs. And I'm working on possibly a couple of other film projects.
ANY GENRE STUFF?
Possibly. I wrote a script called The Ambassador
, which I'm kind of shopping around right now, which is sci-fi oriented. And I'm working on another thing called Casanova
. Somebody gave me the script for it, and I'm trying to work on having it produced and developed. I kind of like that idea, too.
IN PAST INTERVIEWS YOU'VE MENTIONED YOUR DESIRE TO PLAY JAMES BOND ONE DAY. EVEN THOUGH PIERCE BROSNAN IS STILL ATTACHED TO THE ROLE, HAS ANYONE FROM THE BOND FRANCHISE EVER APPROACHED YOU ABOUT IT?
No, nobody's talked to me about that. It's kind of interesting, because I've looked at that whole process now--and I'd love to do it--but I believe that the next time Bond gets done, there has to be a change in the whole format. I think it's time now. It's hard to be James Bond and that whole thing in today's society. It either has to be left in the past, and that's what it's about is those times, or it has be brought into the present. And I don't know which is the better evil. It's also interesting, because playing James Bond is almost liking going into somebody else's shoes once again. I'd love to create a character that was a franchise of his own. That's something I would prefer to do. But we'll see. Who knows what life brings you. It brings you things, and then you make choices from there.