Scott Adkins Talks Hard Target 2, Doctor Strange, and More

We talk to Hard Target 2 star Scott Adkins about his love of Hong Kong cinema, fight choreography, and his role in the MCU.

1993’s Hard Target was John Woo’s first American film, and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s biggest hit up until that point. An interesting remake of The Most Dangerous Game, Hard Target was a one-off, until now, with a long belated sequel arriving on September 6th. And really it’s good they waited until 2016 to make Hard Target 2 because now we get cult action hero Scott Adkins as the target of rich big game hunters.

Die hard action fans know Adkins from Undisputed II and III, Ninja I and II, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning and many other films that deliver the goods right to your home TV. He’s gotten parts in Expendables II and Zero Dark Thirty, but only his starring vehicles show what Adkins is really capable of. He will have a small role in Marvel’s Doctor Strange, and the follow-up Boyka: Undisputed and several other new movies. 

Den of Geek: When you got to walk through the doves, was that a monumental moment?

Scott Adkins: Ha! Yeah, I’m a huge John Woo fan. I always have been. I met the guy when I was 16 in the U.K. He came over to do a double bill screening of The Killer and Bullet in the Head. I was all about Hong Kong cinema at that point so this was before he’d even made Hard Target 1 or America knew who this guy was. He’s one of the best action directors to ever walk the planet. So Roel’s a big fan as well so Universal were keen to not make a straight sequel, but we certainly wanted to honor John Woo’s work, if not honor Hard Target 1, at least honor John Woo’s work. So it was a little nod. It’s all right until one of the pigeons sh*ts on you.

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I think you could do a Hard Target with a new talent every time, although I imagine you’d want to come back for the next one?

Honestly, it was a really difficult decision for me to take the film on. I turned it down at first because I am associated with Van Damme. I’ve done a few films with him and I don’t want to be seen to be riding on his coattails. I don’t want people to think that, but I’m aware that they will think that if I take that film. But then I read the script and I thought to myself, “I don’t know who they’r going to get if they don’t get me,” putting myself in their position. I’m so well suited to play this part because of what the character was. He was a fighter and all this. I just thought to myself, “Just do it. Screw it.” There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s an offer. I want to work with Roel. Let’s do it. But it was a tough decision at the time.

I’ve talked to Roel before too. I agree, he’s good.

He does wonders on a low scale budget, very experienced with the cameras. He’s his own DP. He controls the drones and puts his cameras on these zip lines and stuff. Very, very, very technically proficient and so organized. So organized in terms of what needs to be shot that day. It was impressive actually. It was very impressive.

You have a montage of several different Thai fights. Did you do those all in a row?

We did them all on the day, yeah. All on the day, just cranking it out, getting smashed up by Thai fighters. There’s that nice one take shot with that one fighter, isn’t there, where I give him a nice hard kick and he flies off down the hole.

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It looks exhausting to do all at once.

Well, it is. That’s why not many people can do it. That’s why I’m one of the only ones stupid enough to do this. I tell you, making action films is hard. People don’t even understand how difficult it is, and I’m talking about ones you have to shoot in quite a quick schedule. It’s brutal, man. It takes it out of you. It’s difficult. I’m not complaining but it is difficult.

Was this the best of both worlds? You have some ring fighting and fighting out in the jungle?

Yeah, it’s the best of both worlds. It’s not easy fighting in the jungle. You get stabbed by things. It’s easier in the ring.

And you have ATVs, you’re fighting in the water so what was the hardest part about Hard Target 2?

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The schedule was insane. Every day was something different, whether I’m swimming through the River Kwai, jumping off bridges, with the elephants, with the pigeons, with the bats in the caves, speedboats, jumping out of the way of explosions, having fight sequences on the bridge in the baking sun. It was all hard but because every day was something completely different it seems, it was enjoyable as well because it was something different every day. I had a lot of fun, very experienced Thai crew. Roel, the director, is really up on it when it comes to knowing how to shoot things and to make the film look cinematic.

In your fight with Rhona, were you very sympatico because you’ve both done those sort of fight scenes?

Rhona was great. She did everything herself. She worked very hard and she hit me black and blue with those sticks. I don’t mind. It was all good fun. She didn’t complain once and she got on with it, yeah. She likes that stuff. I would’ve preferred a bit more with her stunt double so that I could’ve gone a bit harder. Rhona’s a very pretty later. You don’t want to risk doing anything. You wouldn’t want to hit her by accident, that’s for sure.

You kick her in the stomach, not the face.

Yeah, well, that was the stunt double. That was the only time that she used the stunt double.

Fans are going to be very excited to see you fight Jeeja Yanin at the end. What was it like choreographing and working with her?

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I said to her, “Listen, I really appreciate you coming into this movie and I wish that we had more to do with you because I really respect you as a performer.” She was gracious enough to come along. I thought she should have been in the film more but she was great to work with. I don’t often like doing fights with girls because you don’t want to hurt them. Then because you don’t want to hurt them, you don’t put as much effort into the sequence because you’re afraid. I actually didn’t feel that about her because I could feel that her rhythm and timing and everything was perfect.

Was it nice to play the drama of this character, a little crying and being really haunted by what happened in the beginning?

Yeah, you would be, wouldn’t you? It’s funny actually because the new Boyka movie, I kill someone in the ring. I’d shot that before Hard Target. Then they offered me Hard Target 2 and I’m killing someone in the ring. It’s weird the way it works out that I do that in two films that are coming out so closely together. Sometimes it just happens that way.

It must be the worst thing a professional fighter could imagine.

Oh God, yeah. Listen, it happens in real life. It’s a terrible, terrible thing but in any extreme sport, these things are going to happen. I guess these guys know the dangers. Even being an action film performer, it could happen I suppose. Crazy things have happened on film sets. These guys risk their lives for our entertainment, whether it’s fighters, stuntmen or extreme athletes but they love it at the same time so they put up with the risk.

Can you cry on cue when it’s needed?

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It’s not the easiest thing for me, I’ll be honest. I’m a pretty happy guy in life. I haven’t got that much to cry about. I’m better at punching people in the face. I always try my best but it’s not the easiest thing to do. Some people are very emotionally available. Some people will just cry over pizza. That isn’t the case with me. I’m a real man, you see, a real man. No, I’m only joking of course.

How did you like working with the elephants?

I’ll tell you his. Right before they said action and I’m supposed to jump back and hit the elephant, it stood up, took about three massive dumps right onto the water where I was going to fall and then had a real long piss. Sat back down and then they went, “Three, two, one, action!” I had to just jump into this elephant’s sh*t and piss. Now that is dedication. Don’t talk to me about Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant. Jumping into elephant sh*t and piss, that’s what it’s really about. That’s earning your money right there.

Did you have to train for the bikes?

Actually, I’m not very good at riding a motorbike. I haven’t got a license. My dad is really into motorbikes. Actually, for my birthday this year, my dad has paid for me to go have lessons because I need it to ride bike in films. But I can ride it and I did do some of it myself, as much as I could but I did have my stunt doubles step in for a lot of that. It’s something I need to do more of. I don’t trust myself with a motorbike at home. I’ll end up killing myself. I know what I’m like, reckless.

How about the speedboats?

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I did all that myself actually. I think it was just easier to keep me in it. It was me alone with my walkie talkie, coordinating with the first assistant AD and the director. You’ve got to coordinate everything with the helicopter and the speedboats. I was going full speed towards the bridge and cutting it as fine as I could, turning around and getting as close to the bridge as I could.

That one fight in the jungle in the water, does the water make every move you do more difficult?

Well, yes, because you can’t see what we’re standing on. There was all these branches in there. It was slippery, slimy so to keep your footing was really, really difficult. I also threw myself down the river there with all the stones and everything. Normally, the stunt guy’s going to do that, but me being stupid, I’m just like, “Yeah, come on. Let’s do it.” In fact, it was my idea to do it. It wasn’t even in the script. I just went, “I’ll throw myself down there.” The director’s like, “Okay, great.” That’s the good thing about working in Thailand as well because in England or America, the stunt coordinator’s like, “No, no, no, no, no. We can’t do that. We’ve got to keep you safe.” But in Thailand it was like, “Oh great, let’s do it. Come on, one more time.” They love it.

Any injuries on this one?

No, I was okay. Some bangs and bruises but nothing serious. It will happen at some point. In fact, the last film I did, I had my gum split. My tooth came through my gum when I was hit in the face, but it’s all good. It’s all part of it.

Was that on Savage Dog or Eliminators?

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I won’t say which one but it was on one of them.

I know you can’t talk about Doctor Strange but did Marvel or Scott Derickson know your work from your films like Undisputed and Ninja?

Scott Derickson did and Marvel knew who I was because I was considered for a previous movie which didn’t go my way. They changed the script so that the part I was talking to them about was not in the movie anymore. So they knew of me from that and I guess it was meant to be that Doctor Strange was the one that I was going to end up doing.

Which previous Marvel film could you have been in?

It was Civil War.

And they just eliminated the character?

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Yeah, that’s what happened.

What can we expect from Boyka?

Actually, I think it’s not going to come out until the first quarter of next year now. That’s what I’m hearing. I don’t have anything concrete. I know people can’t wait for it. I know they’re champing at the bit. I can only apologize to the fans. I know it’s frustrating but we just really want to give it a good release and we want it to make money, so we want to give it a good release so that we can make another one, because nobody likes making these films for free.

What did the new director, Todor Chapkanov, bring to Boyka coming in after Isaac Florentine?

Isaac was around and his stamp is all over it. People don’t need to worry about that. It’s a collaboration between the people that really understand and enjoy this great character that we have in Boyka. I’m very proud of the movie. The fights, the action and the story is on par with Undisputed III. We’re in great shape.

Did any of those fights push you in a new way?

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Yeah, there’s moves in there that I’ve never done before. There’s some moves in there that I’ve never seen done before. We definitely raised the bar in every aspect. I think people are going to be very, very happy when they see it.

Savage Dog has Marko Zaror and Cung Le. Do you get to fight with all of them?

I do, yeah. I do, absolutely. Amazing working with Cung Le. I get worried sometimes working with real fighters because they don’t understand film fighting, because they don’t need to. They’re fighters. They do it for real and it’s hard to get out of the habit of actually hitting someone, which looks great when it’s live but you can’t do that for a movie because you’ve got to do take two and do it for 14 hours a day. But actually Cung is great. He’s an amazing fighter but he’s an amazing screen fighter as well. Obviously he’s made films in Hong Kong so he knows what he’s doing. He was great. Obviously Marko’s brilliant and he’s such a nice guy. I love working with Marko. He plays a great bad guy but he’s so nice and gentle in real life. It’s unbelievable because he looks so powerful and mean on screen. I had a great time working with Jesse Johnson. Brilliant director, brilliant guy. Can’t wait to work with him again. I think he brings out great performances in his actors. He’s really good and really proficient on the action as well. We tried our best. Hopefully it’s as good as I think it will be.

Had you and Marko been looking to collaborate again?

We stayed in contact. It’s great to work with him again. He’s fantastic.

And what is Eliminators?

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That’s a WWE film. I’m really happy with the way that turned out. I’ve not seen the full film actually, but what I have seen, I think it’s turned out really well. I’ve got some great fight stuff in there as well. I’m happy with what I’ve seen. I think it could be a good one.

Are you the lead?

Yes, I’m the lead, me and Wade Barrett. We’re the leads. We’ve got James Cosmo in it as well. We shot it in London with James Nunn who directed Green Street 3. He’s a really good up and coming director and great cinematographer, Luke Bryant. The film looks much more expensive than it is and I’m looking forward to it.

Green Street 3 was cool because we got to see you a little more scaled back and realistic, because they were regular people fighting. Is Eliminators more like that or back to your traditional moves?

The thing about Green Street was we wanted to keep it more real because it’s a film about football hooligans. They wanted it more gritty and down to earth but no, I got Tim Man, the fight coordinator of Ninja II and Undisputed IV to come and help me with the fights on Eliminators. He’s brilliant. He’s a great choreographer that really understands camera moves as well. It was great to have someone sit behind the monitor that I could trust. So the fights are really good in this, really good. It’s more real than Undisputed or Ninja but you’ll see when you see it.

Hard Target 2 hits DVD, Blu-ray, VOD and Digital HD September 6.