With two decades of film experience under his belt and a lifetime of martial arts training in his arsenal, Scott Adkins established himself as the driving force in high-octane action cinema. One of the most dynamic and exciting performers working in the industry today, his latest film is another example of how this dynamic performer can light up the screen and elevate the material to another level. His latest film, “Seized,” once again teams him with longtime collaborator director Isaac Florentine (“Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing,” “Undisputed 3: Redemption,” “Ninja,” “Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear”) for another tightly-knit action extravaganza. Written by Rico Lowry, “Seized” is an edge-of-your-seat action-thriller starring Adkins alongside the legendary Mario Van Peebles. The film centers around Nero (Adkins), a retired Special Forces agent, who is hiding out with his son, Taylor, on the Mexican coast in hopes of putting his violent past behind him. But after Nero’s home is attacked and Taylor is abducted, the mysterious Mzamo (Mario Van Peebles, “Heartbreak Ridge”) orders Nero to slaughter the members of three rival crime syndicates. If he fails, Taylor will die. With bullets flying and bodies dropping, Nero must complete his mission and infiltrate Mzamo’s hideout, to exact his revenge. A well-rounded piece of of action cinema, “Seized” debuts on DVD, Digital, and On Demand October 13th from Lionsgate Films.
Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Scott Adkins to discuss his passion for filmmaking, the challenges of bringing a project from script to the screen and the origins of his intense creative drive.
You spent the better part of two decades establishing yourself as a force in action cinema. You balance the craft of acting and martial arts. What drew you to acting?
I am a student of movies. I grew up loving film in general but especially action films. That’s what I wanted to pursue so I started drama classes when I was a teenager. It’s something I always wanted to do. It’s not like I’m a martial artist that suddenly decided to act. I have always been an actor! I was the kid who always got his friends together to make the home movie. These were epic hour-and-a-half outings where my grandmother was making sandwiches for everyone. [laughs] I was that kid. Not only am I an actor, I can also think in a filmmaking sense. It’s kind of surprising that I haven’t directed anything yet because I directed a lot of stuff when I was a teenager; we just didn’t have a budget! It came clear to me at a very early age what I was going to do with my life.
I’m shocked you haven’t been behind the camera yet. You are very hands-on with the majority of projects you are involved in. Hopefully, that is something we will see you do in the near future.
Yeah, the problem is they want me to be in it as well as direct, so that’s where the problem comes up.
It seems like you never slow down. Where does your incredible drive come from?
It’s in my DNA. My father and mother are both grafters that worked every day of their lives and seemed to enjoy it! They just get on with it and I think I got my work ethic from them.
There are plenty of moviegoers who are just discovering your epic body of work. How did martial arts come into your life?
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.
Your latest project is “Seized,” where you star alongside Mario Van Peebles. What drew you to the project?
This one is directed by Isaac Florentine. The guy basically made me! He plucked me from obscurity and gave me a job. Then I did “Undisputed 2” with him and that really kicked things off for me. So, I am always happy to work with Isaac and it’s something that came to both of us. We looked at it and thought, “OK, it could be a fun film!” It was that simple. 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. I really viewed this project as a fun movie. I used my own accent and brought some of my own humor to it. It wasn’t so much an acting challenge as it was a fun ride, so I didn’t overthink it and I brought the character to me. 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. When it comes to our relationship, Isaac is still the sensei and I’m still the student. He listens to me more now, as I’ve gained more experience, but he is still the sensei.
You and I are the same age so I’m sure you had seen a lot of Mario Van Peebles work growing up. What was it like working with him?
Oh yeah, it’s always good to do a film with “SOLO” isn’t it? [laughs] Listen, he’s a fantastic actor. I was reading my lines to him off-screen when he was doing all the stuff on the phone. To sit back and watch him work was a pleasure. He’s an absolutely fabulous actor. He’s a great guy with a good soul. He’s a cool cat, so I really enjoyed meeting and working with him.
Every film brings its fair share of challenges. What stood out to you on this film?
For this film, there were a hell of a lot of challenges; stuff behind the scenes that the viewer will never know about. Sometimes, with independent movies, you can have a tough run of it. We didn’t have a lot of things going our way on this one, but you have to do the best with the hand that you’re dealt. It was a challenging film to shoot in many ways. What people don’t realize is that by the time they’ve got the green screen erected, which goes outside the car and all your dialog is inside the car, it has to be shot on that day. Because they’ve been fucking about, not getting the green screen up, then you are only given an hour to do all of your scenes. That’s the sort of shit that people will never know about but that’s what it’s like on the ground making an independent movie.
How have you evolved as an artist over the course of your career?
I think I’ve gotten better in all ways. Obviously, as a martial artist, I’m getting older and I’m not as bendy and stretchy as I was when I was 28. With that said, I’ve knowledge that I didn’t have back then. This is why I’ve always done a lot of movies because I always felt like each movie improved me and I got better because of it. I’ve always enjoyed the work because I’ve always looked at it as self-improvement. I am never resting on my laurels and always trying to improve. I always give it 110%. The more you do, the better you get!
You don’t build a career like yours without a dedicated fanbase.
That’s true. My connection to my fanbase has evolved the most through this pandemic. Now that I have started doing stuff on YouTube, I think they are seeing more of the real me. If you only see me playing characters, you might have thought I was a miserable bastard! [laughs] I’m not so bad! I think people are seeing my real personality through these YouTube shows I’ve been doing. I think that has been the biggest evolution over the past six months.
You inspire many people through your work. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?
Wow, you’ve gone deep on me there. I’m just making action films, man! [laughs]
I have gone deep, but I know you pour a lot of yourself into the films, so I want to make sure that it’s acknowledged!
I appreciate that. I don’t know what other people think. This is something that I always wanted to do, and I do put my heart and soul into it. I always try my best and I get very frustrated sometimes when people don’t try as hard as I do because filmmaking is a collaboration. I hope that my audience and people can see that I always try my best. I don’t take it for granted. I love what I do, and I want to keep doing it, so I hope people can see that!
It definitely shows through, Scott. Thanks for your time today. Keep pushing forward and I wish you continued success.
OK, buddy! Thanks a lot!
Follow the continuing adventures of Scott Adkins on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Don’t miss his amazing new in-depth series, The Art of Action, available now on his official YouTube channel!