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Action Superstar Scott Adkins Discusses ‘Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear’ And More!

Action Superstar Scott Adkins Discusses ‘Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear’ And More!


When it comes to high octane action cinema, Scott Adkins is the most dynamic and exciting performer working in industry today. His latest film is another example of how this dynamic performer can light up the screen. In ‘Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear,’ Adkins reprises his role as Casey Bowman, a martial artist whose life of domestic bliss has been shattered by a savage act of violence and must fight to avenge as well as survive. His target: a sinister drug lord flooding the streets with deadly meth cooked at his remote jungle factory. Kane Kosugi (Fight the Fight, Ninja Masters), Vithaya Pansringarm (Only God Forgives, The Burma Conspiracy), Mika Hijii (Ninja, Alien vs. Ninja, I’m Coming to Get You) and Tim Man (Bangkok Adrenaline, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li) also star. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Scott Adkins to discuss his longevity in the industry, the challenges of bringing an action film to the screen, what the future may hold for him on-screen and much more!

Scott Adkins

Scott Adkins

Last time we spoke, you were doing press for ‘Universal Soldier 4’ at which point you had sustained some injuries which kept you out of the action game for a bit. What can you tell us about the physical challenges injuries you took and the road back?

Six weeks before ‘Universal Soldier,’ I tore the ACL in my left knee. It is a terrible injury to have, especially if you are a footballer or martial artist. All through ‘Universal Soldier,’ ‘El Gringo’ and ‘Expendables 2’ I was injured. I also picked up another injury in my back. It was a slipped disk that was pushing on the nerve which led to my losing feeling in my left arm. Basically, when I had the operation on my knee, I was able to rehab my neck as well but I couldn’t do any action films for a good six months. I gave myself eight months because I knew how important it was if I was going to come back the same guy I was before the ACL injury. I needed to rehab it properly and have the best surgeon.

It is good to have you back in action. How are you feeling now?

It is feeling really good now! You pick up some sort of injury on most of the films I do. That is just the way it is because we are trying to give people what they want in terms of action!

'Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear'

‘Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear’

Your latest film is ‘Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear’. What expectations or goals did you have when taking on this project and returning to the character?

We just wanted to make the lead character, Casey, more interesting for the audience. I think with the first film, he was a little bit bland and not very proactive. The character in the script was a kid out of his depth just trying to survive. We were a little disappointed with how the character was perceived in the first film, so we wanted to shake things up at the very beginning. A typical staple of the ninja movie is revenge, so we figured right from the get-go; we would have something happen to Casey’s wife. She turns up dead and for the rest of the movie Casey is on a revenge mission, hell bent on making the people who killed his wife pay. That was enough to drive the character forward and make him more interesting.

This film is another example of what a great team director Isaac Florentine and yourself make. Having worked with him extensively, what do you feel he brings to the table as a director and how do you feel he has evolved along the way?

Isaac is fantastic with the way he moves the camera. He is a very glossy filmmaker given the budgets you have to work with; which aren’t very big. We don’t have a huge shooting schedule either. With him and Ross Clarkson, who is the director of photography who we always work with, he can make a film look glossy and impressive. Isaac is a dear friend of mine. He is pretty much the guy who discovered me back in the day when I did ‘Special Forces’ in 2003. I am an actor who does a lot of martial arts films, so if I am going to do a martial arts film, I want to do it with Isaac Florentine. He is the best in the business. There is nobody better in the western world at making a martial arts film. We are the perfect team really! We have worked together so many times now we have a short-hand together. We know each other’s strengths and there is no bullshit. We can just say what we think and get on with it! We are both there to make the best film we can.


As you mentioned, Isaac Florentine was the man who discovered you. What are your recollections of meeting him for the first time?

It was a phone call, the first meeting we had. He rang me up and told me he had seen the show reel I had sent to him. He said he was very impressed and he wanted to find something to work with me on. The first time I met him is when I did ‘Special Forces’ and we filmed it in Lithuania. We became very close friends after that and whenever we go overseas to Hollywood often times I would stay at his house. He helped me find my feet in Hollywood. He is like my Hollywood uncle!

Scott Adkins

Scott Adkins

I wanted to talk a little about one of your costars in the film Kane Kosugi. What was it like working with him on this project?

Working with Kane was absolutely fantastic! You couldn’t ask for a more humble guy, which is even more impressive when you see how good looking he is! He is in fantastic shape. He is one of the best martial artists I have worked with in my life and I have worked with a lot. He is a very good actor who has everything going for him and he is still so humble. He is a real gentlemen and a joy to work with. It is amazing to me that he is not a bigger star. I honestly don’t understand it. I think he is phenomenal and would really love to work with him again.

I think many times when people see you films; they might not give a lot of thought of what goes on behind the scenes in terms of preparation. What can you tell us about the process of preparing yourself both physically and mentally for a film?

Physically, you need to stay in shape all year round. You can’t just think “I have a martial arts film coming up, I better start going to the gym.” I am always in the gym. I am always trying to improve myself physically and I step up the training a bit when I know there is a film just around the corner so my body gets used to the abuse I am going to put it through. Mentally, you have to accept it will be a really tough shoot. We do things we shouldn’t be able to do in the time frame we have to do it. All the action that is packed into their movies, we only have six weeks to shot them. We are certainly competing with action films that have three months to do what they do. It is very arduous, so you just have to get into that mental space where you are ready to go through some pain and accept the fact you will be very tired.


The fight sequences on this film are very impressive. What can you tell us about the fight choreography and the guys you are working with to bring the action to life?

Tim Man, who is the fight choreographer for his film, is an exceptional martial artist. He is really flexible and a great kicker. He is also an experienced stuntman who has worked with Tony Jaa and people like that. He had a very small team that consisted of Brahim Achabbakhe, who was second in command, and two other Thai guys, who did a fantastic job considering it was a smaller film. They choreographed all the fights before I arrived in Thailand. They would send over videos of them in the gym where they had already been blocking out the moves and everything. They were truly fantastic and went above and beyond the call of duty. They were very prepared and that is main reason why the fights are so good in ‘Ninja 2.’

What do you consider some of the biggest challenges you faced on this film?

I can’t pin it down to one scene. Everything was difficult because of the huge workload. I think I performed thirteen fights in the whole movie, which was at least two fights a week. The fight scenes were done over two days, generally. There was one week where I had three fight scenes. For an action scene, you are filming it for the whole day and because you have so little time, you are pushing and pushing and trying to do as much as we can. It really is very difficult, so making this entire film was very challenging. When it comes to doing the drama, you are so tired from the physical stuff that it affects you as a dramatic actor in some stages. I don’t think people who do action movies get enough credit.


As someone who pours their blood, sweat and tears into action film such as this, do you find it frustrating these films don’t get bigger releases?

It is, yeah. I suppose martial arts films have always been a niche market and sometimes they are in vogue and sometimes they are not. Because of the CGI, the Superhero stuff and all of that, you can pretty make an action movie with anyone now, where in the 1980s you needed the real deal. It is a frustrating time, especially where films would normally make a good amount of money with the home video market, of course that is very problematic now with the piracy that goes on. Hopefully, the next time martial arts comes into vogue, maybe I will be lucky enough to jump aboard the bandwagon!

Scott Adkins

Scott Adkins

As one on of the biggest names in the genre, who are some of the other guys in the industry you look to for inspiration?

I love the guys like Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa. Michael Jai White is a guy who I have worked with a few times. It is people like that who I look up too. You know, there aren’t many people coming through right now because it is hard to produce these films and make your money back is they are going straight to DVD, so I think some people look elsewhere. It is also very difficult to do an action film on a low budget because you need that time to get the shots and flesh out all the action.

You are not a one-dimensional performer. Even though you are great with action, you also have dramatic chops. With your recent and upcoming projects, you seem to be spreading your wings a bit and delving further into the dramatic side of film. What can you tell us about that?

‘The Legend of Hercules’ is coming out January 10th and for me that is quite a different role. I play a character who is older than myself, he is a king. There is some action for me movie but mostly it is a dramatic role. That is me trying to stretch myself as an actor, take on better roles and get into more mainstream movies. Hopefully, it continues because I love acting as much as I love martial arts. I generally love film, so for me to do as much as I can inside that arena is all good by me.

Is there a particular role or genre you are eager to tackle in the future?

I love sci-fi and I have always wanted to do a western but I don’t see myself moving away from action films because that is what I am good at and it is what people expect from me. I understand that. However, when I get older and I can’t do all this stuff anymore, I will have to be a dramatic actor, won’t I?

'Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear'

‘Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear’

Hopefully that is a long way off but you seem to be well suited for that as well! Looking back on your career so far, how do you feel you have evolved as an actor and martial artist?

I improve every movie because there is no substitute for experience. I think it is evident if you look at my back catalog. As a martial artist, you improve as a screen fighter when you work on the movies but you don’t necessarily improve as a martial artist. I do train a lot and I feel I am getting better as a real martial artist. When I was younger, I put more emphasis on flashy kicks than I did on real, applicable techniques and, certainly, I am more into that now.

There are so many different elements that go into what you do. To what do you attribute your longevity in the industry?

This is the only thing I ever wanted to do in my life, so I didn’t give myself any other option. There have been times when the offers weren’t coming as often as I wanted them to but this is genuinely my passion and what I love to do, so I have always stuck at it. It all comes down to hard work and dedication.

I can’t speak with you and not mentioned the terrific work you have done with the “Undisputed” films. When you first got involved with those films, did you have an idea your role would have the impact it has on audiences?

I had no idea Yuro Boyka would be such a great character that everyone seems to love. You couldn’t see that coming. He is the villain of ‘Undisputed 2.’ We tried to make him honorable, unlike your stereotypical villain, which certainly helped people warm to him. For the villain of the movie to be so well received was really unexpected. Obviously, that gave us the opportunity to do ‘Undisputed 3,’ where the villain turned into the hero and people seemed to like him even more. I didn’t expect it, no. However, I think I understand why Boyka is so successful. He is one of these guys who don’t take any shit and everybody wishes they could be that guy for one day. I think that is the appeal to him, along with him being a tough guy with a lot of honor. He is not a pretty boy, he is just a rough and ready dude that people can respect and get behind. I think he represents the blue collar, everyday guy who is put upon and gets through it with his toughness. I think people really respect that about him.

Scott Adkins

Scott Adkins

Any there any plans to explore the character in another film at the moment?

We are trying to get ‘Undisputed 4’ off the ground. We are going through some drafts of the script now and everything is falling into place. I really want to get on with it but I am not the only one making the movie, so we are trying to let everything fall into place. Hopefully, it will happen this year.

As you mentioned, this is a slow time for action cinema. As a guy who is at the forefront of the genre, what are your thoughts on the state of action cinema and where do you hope to see it progress in the future?

For my point of view, I love to see stuff that is done for real. CGI and all of that stuff is great. It looks fantastic and brilliant. You can create worlds in a way you haven’t been able to before and make films that were never thought possible. Ultimately, in the back of my mind, I always know it is not real. When I see something done for real with stunts, martial arts technique or some gravity defying leap, it resonates more with me. I hope we can get more films like ‘The Raid’ that are using people who can do it for real, that is what I like to see and grew up loving. That is what I try to represent as well. I do believe there is a place for both but it does seem very CGI, comic book heavy, at the moment. I like all of that stuff but I miss the real deal as well. Let’s hope it comes back!

Absolutely! A lot of people can look to you as an inspiration. What is the best advice you can pass along to those looking to pursue a career path similar to yours in the current climate?

In the current climate, don’t expect it to be easy. At the end of the day, you have to put your acting first. If you can do martial arts and are a physical guy that is great but acting is what is most important. Don’t expect it to come easy. No one is going to make it in this business without hard work and dedication. Sometimes, if you get a lucky break, you probably aren’t ready for it anyway. It is good to have to climb up the ladder, to be turned down, punched in the face a few times and told you are rubbish and not going to make it because it builds character. Just be ready to be go through all of that because it is a tough business.

Thank you again for your time today, Scott. It has been a pleasure! Best of luck to you with all of your projects in 2014!

Thank you, Jason.

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Scott Adkins Discusses ‘Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning’ And Much More!

Scott Adkins Discusses ‘Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning’ And Much More!

Scott Adkins is the most dynamic and exciting performer working in action cinema today. In fact, his work is so good that not only did it garner him a spot in the prestigious lineup of action stars in ‘The Expendables 2’ but has awarded him the opportunity to take the reigns of a beloved cult franchise. In ‘Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning’, Adkins has taken over the protagonist role in the series with the blessing of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren, who co-star in the film. ‘Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning’ ups the ante in the Universal Soldier series, giving you more hard-hitting, bloody, no-holds-barred fighting action.

The story focuses on John (Adkins) as he awakens from a coma after his wife and daughter were slaughtered in a brutal home invasion. Haunted by images of the attack, he vows to kill the man responsible, Luc Deveraux (Van Damme).  While John tries to piece his reality back together, things get more complicated when he is pursued by a relentless UniSol (Former UFC Heavyweight and ‘Universal Soldier: Regeneration star) Andrei Arlovski. As John gets closer to Deveraux and the rouge army of genetically enhanced warriors led by back-from-the-dead leader Andrew Scott (Lundgren), John discovers more about himself and begins to call into question everything he believed to be true. 

As one of the action cinema’s brightest stars, Scott Adkins breathes new life into the Universal Soldier franchise, while taking it in a grittier and darker direction. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Scott Adkins to discuss his journey in one of Hollywood’s most currently underappreciated genres, the making of ‘Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning’, working with his childhood idols, the challenges of working in 3D and much more! 

Scott Adkins

We like to get a little insight into a person’s past. How did you initially get involved with martial arts?

I was 10 years old and my father and brother both went to the local judo club. I felt as if I was missing out, so I went along with those guys one day. Over time, they dropped out but I continued to train. I fell in love with it at an early age. I think I was naturally very good at it. Of course, when you are good at something, you tend to enjoy it that much more. I was always a big fan of Bruce Lee. I would always stay up late and watch “Enter The Dragon” and he had a huge impact on my life. I really enjoyed the physical guys like Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa. Those guys really inspired me and martial arts was a way for me to do the same thing they did.

When did you start considering making the jump from martial artist to actor using martial arts as a tool?

I always had my eye on it, to be honest. It was something that was in the back of my head from the time I was 12. I had two passions in life — martial arts and films! It just made sense to mix the two together, so I always trained with the idea of one day getting into the movies.

Your latest project is “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning.” What attracted you to this project?

It was the director, John Hyams. I had seen the previous film, “Universal Soldier: Regeneration,” which he had directed. I was blown away by it. I remember putting it in the DVD player and not expecting much. When I saw the opening sequence with the car chase, I thought, “Wow! This guy really knows what he is doing! This is a great film.” I loved the way that the story unfolded and he documented these Universal Soldiers going through their days doing obscene, crazy stuff but it didn’t have a cheesiness to it. It was very real and came across as very serious. The fight sequences were also really brutal and gripping. I was really excited to potentially work with John after seeing that, so I contacted him and said, “Congratulations on that film! Whatever you are going to do in the future, just keep me in mind because I would really love to work with you!” The rest is history!

This is your first 3D film. What was that experience like for you as a performer? What are the pros and cons?

An Exciting New Chapter For The ‘Universal Soldier’ Franchise

As an actor, it doesn’t really change anything but as a martial arts performer it changes things because of the depth perception. You have to get even closer with your technique — your kicks and punches have to be right next to the guy’s face and vice versa. I had to let Andrei Arlovski, ex-UFC champion, throw punches at my face that are very close to hitting me! [laughs] Luckily for me, he had great control because they were coming very close! There are scenes in the film where we are doing crazy stuff, like working with real baseball bats and axes at times. It was really hardcore, to be honest! That was a bit of a shock to the system!

Your movies are very physical and very intense. How do you prep for a typical role before you hit the set, be it physically or mentally?

I am always in pretty good shape. For this particular film though, I had just torn my ACL in my left knee six weeks before we started shooting. I wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders! However, when you watch the film, you can’t really tell that! In preparation, I was just nursing the worst injury I have ever had in my life and praying I could get through it. I ended up hurting my knee even more during the making of the movie but that is what it’s all about, you just have to push through. The show must go on! For any normal film, I keep myself in good shape, as I said, but you kind of have to get used to the endurance of being thrown around everyday. You have to continue to train and get your body used to the aches and pains because that is what it is. Every morning you get out of bed and you feel a wave of excruciating pain come over your body!

Well, as you said, you can’t tell in the finished product!

Yeah! And I am really glad about that!

What do you consider the biggest challenge for you on this film? [Possible spoilers ahead … ]

It is a very emotional performance. The character, from the very opening of the film, is in a lot of pain emotionally. It was important to try and convey an element. Also, we are dealing with a guy, and I don’t want to give too much away, but he gets his fingers chopped off and he thinks he is a normal bloke but it didn’t really hurt as much as it should have hurt. He is talking to this girl who he hooks up with and she is expecting the fact that this guy has no fingers. You have this whole element of how much do we play up the fact that my fingers have been shot off because he doesn’t know he is a Universal Solider. He discovers this as the story goes on, so it was playing those little bits and trying to keep it realistic that were the most challenging, even though given the nature of the movie, it is a bit of escapism. Those bits were definitely tricky.

You mentioned seeking out director John Hyams. Any chance we will see you two collaborating again in the future, either on another “Universal Soldier” film or something completely different?

Adkins and Lundgren On Set!

Absolutely! I believe that John is a really smart director. He has taken this franchise in a completely different direction. He has been very brave in what he is trying to do and I commend him for that. I think he is a true artist and I would drop anything to work with him again! If he wants to work with me, I will be ready go!

One of the coolest things about this film is you take on two of the biggest names in the action genre — Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren.

This was the first time I had worked with Dolph. I worked with him on this, then on “The Expendables 2” and then another film. However, this film was my third time working with Jean-Claude and we know each other quite well. It is very much like when I was on the set of “The Expendables 2,” these are the guys who inspired me. I get a massive kick out of being able to share the screen with these guys and hold my own with them. It’s living the dream, isn’t it? It is really great and they are both terrific to work with.

As you said, you have been afforded the opportunity to work with some of action cinema’s greatest stars. I was curious to know if anyone has given you advice in regard to your career or longevity?

Pretty much all of them have told me to take it easy when it comes to the fights and try not to do all of your own stunts because that stuff does catch up with you. I am 36 now and I am definitely starting to feel the aches and pains. I can definitely understand where they are all coming from as I was a young whippersnapper trying to do everything! You have to try and be a bit smarter. But yeah, they are all very supportive of me. Just them being OK with me being in a film with them is a big seal of approval. For Dolph and Jean-Claude to allow me to take over the protagonist role in “Universal Soldier” and also for Stallone, Arnold [Schwarzenegger] and the rest of them to invite me into the club for “The Expendables” — it’s a beautiful thing! It is great to be with all of those guys.

Scott Adkins: Action’s New Hero!

Do you think it is easier or harder today to make an action film than the period which established those iconic action heroes?

It is easier to do these computer generated films where you have a stuntman in a motion capture suit. For me, when I watch a film like “First Blood,” I always think about the stuntman who jumped off that cliff and went through the trees. Now, you know he is going to land in an airbag but at the same time, you are seeing something being done for real and there is an emotional experience that comes from that, more so than when you see amazing CGI that is technically advanced and brilliant but, at the end of the day, you know it is not real. When you see a stunt performer do something for real, even though you know he is landing on mats or whatever, it gives you more of a kick. When you see these action stars with the muscles and the attitude, doing it right and taking people on, to me it is more satisfying. That is something that will never go away but it is not en vogue at the moment but it seems to be coming back a little bit more. I am happy to fight the fight and do my part!

How have you evolved as an actor and a martial arts performer? Are you aware of your evolution?

Yeah, definitely. I get better with every film. I am always trying to better myself. I started out as a martial artist and a stuntman and with each project I get better. I am never resting on my laurels and always trying to improve. I always give it 110%.

Is there a role or genre you haven’t tackled yet you would like to take a stab at in the future?

I would love to be in some sort of medieval, Knights of The Roundtable, King Arthur sort of thing or a fantasy film like “Conan” or “Gladiator.” I love those kind of films and would really enjoy being a part of one.

Scott Adkins

What is the biggest misconception about yourself which film-going audiences may have?

A lot of people know me as this crazy Russian character Yuri Boyka from the “Undisputed” films and they think I am Russian because that character is so popular. I think the biggest thing people are surprised about is when they meet me they discover I am a soft spoken guy and not as villainous as I appear in most of my films! [laughs]

Your on screen fight work is top notch. If you had the opportunity to put something spectacular together, what would you consider your dream fight?

I don’t know. I have worked with some really incredible people. I would love to work with some of the Hong Kong guys. I guess the big guy at the moment is Donnie Yen. I would love to have a great fight with him done Hong Kong style because they really do pay attention to it over there. They spend weeks and weeks getting it exactly right. Although I have worked with Jackie Chan and Jet Li before, I have never really gotten that great one-on-one Hong Kong style fight scene. We will see! But if it doesn’t happen, I think I have done some pretty great fights already. It can’t really get much better than “Undisputed 3.”

Do you aspire to step behind the camera and explore directing at some point?

I definitely have an interest in these action scenes. I have many more ideas about angles and film beats than I do about choreography and such. I can certainly see myself step behind the camera to direct my own fight scenes and then moving onto action scenes. I wouldn’t rule out
directing in the future. I am a student of film. I just love film in general and I do have a lot of ideas I would like to share with people.

Thanks for your time today, Scott! We will spread the word on all of your projects!

Thank you, Jason! I really appreciate it! Thanks a lot!

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