Scott Adkins was born in the UK and took a shine to judo and martial arts at an early age. He quickly combined that with his other great love – movies – and began to build a solid career in action pictures. From parts in television series such as Mile High and The East Enders, he moved into film projects such as The Bourne Ultimatum, The Pink Panther, The Legend of Hercules, Zero Dark Thirty, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning and Assassination Games. He had a chance to work with Dolph Lundgren in The Expendables 2 and does so again in Legendary, in which he plays an explorer searching for a mythical Chinese beast. In an exclusive interview with Mania, he talked about the part, working with Lundgren, and the perils of action film stardom.
Question: You haven’t done a lot of straight-up monster movies. Was that something you felt was missing from the resume?
Scott Adkins: Yes and no. I’ve never been a huge fan of monster movies, though I love the great ones. This was pitched to me as something more along the lines of Indiana Jones. More of an adventure story. Only in this case, instead of a buried treasure or ancient artifact, we’re trying to protect an endangered species. I liked that take on the adventure story.
Q: You also got to play the hero, which doesn’t happen very often.
SA: I actually was approached to play the bad guy in this one, to play Dolph’s role. Dolph showed interest in it, though and I was happy to shift gears to the hero’s role. It could have been a different movie with Dolph as the hero and me as the villain.
Q: How was working with him again?
SA: Dolph is always wonderful, always a pro. He’s friendly and easy to work with, and he does what you expect veterans to do: set the tone for the rest of the cast and crew to follow. People think of him as Ivan Drago, but he’s actually very down-to-earth. He loves making people laugh, and he’s very good for morale.
Q: Did he make it easier to shoot on location?
DL: He did. The Chinese make movies differently than we do, and that can be a challenge sometimes. We were shooting out doors in the sun here, and you have a lot of downtime in the movies. There’s not a lot of amenities so you don’t have anywhere to really get away from the heat and the conditions. I was working hard to nail my accent – I had an American accent in the film – and that was a challenge in the middle of nowhere with everyone speaking Chinese. But Dolph’s always there, always smiling, ready to work, and he’s a guy you can just hang out with between takes.
Q: Was the CGI difficult?
SA: I wouldn’t say difficult, but it did require some adjustments. You have to use your imagination when it’s just a couple of Chinese guys in green bodysuits running around with a dragon’s head.
Q: Your physical skills are often on display in your movies, but here it’s a little more muted.
SA: I had an ACL injury for an earlier film, and I went ahead and did a couple of other action-heavy films right on top of that. When I was done with them I was in an active amount of pain, so I went into surgery to fix the ACL, and that meant a long rehab. I couldn’t do any serious action sequences. Legendary was appealing in part because I didn’t have to stress much physically and could let my leg heal properly. That was the same period I made Zero Dark Thirty, which also didn’t involve a lot of physical stress. That gave me the time to get back into proper condition before starting with the fights and heavy stuff again.
Q: Do you take roles like that with an eye on expanding your range?
SA: To a certain extent. But action and action movies are what I do, and I’m so lucky to have the job I do. I love it so much. I want to be able to grow, to do bigger projects and to accept bigger challenges. There’s always a certain amount of growth in that, testing yourself not just physically but mentally and emotionally, as an actor. But I know who I am and I know what my skills are. There’s an immediacy with a good action piece that you can’t duplicate with CG. That’s why Jackie Chan movies are so exciting: he’s not cheating you. I want to keep that tradition alive with my work.