IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Scott Adkins Talks 'Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning' and 'Zero Dark Thirty'

Saturday, 01 December 2012 17:37 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Scott Adkins Talks 'Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning' and 'Zero Dark Thirty'

Action star Scott Adkins first gained attention as Agent Kelly in The Bourne Ultimatum, but it was his uncredited role as Weapon XI (otherwise known as Deadpool) in X-men Origins: Wolverine that got the attention of fan-boys everywhere. Then last summer he appeared as Jean-Claude Van Damme’s henchman in The Expendables 2, and will soon be seen in an unidentified role in director Kathryn Bigelow’s highly anticipated “Kill Bin Laden” film Zero Dark Thirty, which opens in theaters on December 19th. But first, Adkins can be seen along side Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren once again in Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, which is currently playing on VOD and opens in theaters on November 30th. 

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning was directed by John Hyams (Universal Soldier: Regeneration), and is the forth-official film in the popular action franchise that Van Damme and Lundgren created together almost twenty years ago. In the film Adkins plays John, a seemingly ordinary husband who has his world turned upside down when a home invasion claims the life of his wife and daughter. Now John is on a quest for revenge against the man that killed his family, Luc Deveraux (Van Damme). On his journey he must face off with Andrew Scott (Lundgren) and an army of genetically enhanced warriors; while, he is relentlessly pursued by another UniSol (Andrei Arlovski). 

I recently had the chance to speak exclusively with Scott Adkins about his work on Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, as well as his role in Zero Dark Thirty. The popular actor discussed his new film, joining the franchise, his character’s arc, collaborating with Van Damme and Lundgren, choreographing the fight scenes, using a stunt-double, working injured, director John Hyams, watching the original Universal Soldier, if he will appear in another film in the series, Zero Dark Thirty, why he wanted to work with Kathryn Bigelow, not being able to read the script prior to filming, and having a straight acting role in the movie and not being in any of the action scenes. 

Here is what he had to say:

IAR: To begin with, you worked with both Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren previously on The Expendables 2, but how does it feel to be joining a franchise that they created almost twenty years ago? 

Scott Adkins: Yeah, I felt fine about it. They welcomed me with open arms, Jean-Claude and Dolph. Obviously I've worked with Jean-Claude a few times before. This was actually first time working with Dolph but we knew some of the same people and he’s heard some good things about me. They were certainly accommodating and happy for me to be there. I felt like it was my time to move up a bit so I was very happy to be there and to take on the franchise early. 

Van Damme and Lundgren are, of course, the leads of the franchise and fans that go to see this movie will probably be going to see them together again. However, your role is really the lead character in the film so how did it feel to be number one on the call sheet?

Adkins: Well I probably wasn’t number one on the call sheet, but they were telling a new tale and that was clear to everyone so they needed an actor to play that character. At the end of the day (director) John (Hyams) is a guy that likes to have the action right and you can't do it with an actor who doesn't have the physical skills. Really I think there was no other guy for the job than me. I was the guy best suited for the job and I think everybody understood that. 

When you are in a film like this and doing a fight scene with someone like Van Damme or Lundgren, is there a fight choreographer on set that you are working with or are you and the other guys choreographing your own fight sequences?

Adkins: No, you’ve got to have a fight coordinator and we had a great guy, Larnell Stovall. He coordinated the fights in Universal Soldier: Regeneration as well. He’s one of the best guys in the business. He's going to go up and up, and pretty soon he probably won't be working on my films with me because all the bigger studios will want him. He’s the guy and all credit must go to Larnell and also to John the director. What I love about him is his style and the way he loves to destroy sets like in the sporting goods store. We clearly destroy it and also in the flat in that first act’s fight scene, it's completely demolished. That’s John’s style and I really appreciate that.

So you hadn’t worked with John Hyams before this film, is that correct?

Adkins: I have not worked with him before, no, but when I saw Regeneration I was blown away. I got in contact with him and just expressed an interest to work with him in the future and obviously this film came up. 

There's a scene at the end of the movie where you fight Van Damme, and maybe I missed something, but is there a reason his head is shaved and his face was painted half black and half white? Do you know why he or the filmmakers made that specific choice with the character? 

Adkins: Well story wise the Universal Soldiers that have gone out there into the woods, they're all a little bit crazy. There's this thing about being a Universal Soldier, my character says it at the end of the movie. John says, "How did you know I'd find him?" The other guy replies, “You'll always find each other, you're like dogs that way.” We kind of can just sniff each other out. So they know that I'm approaching. They know that there's stuff that's going to go down so they get painted ready for war. But one of the other major reasons is because you can hide the stunt double. Unfortunately that's a necessary evil. I know it doesn't make a lot of sense, the story point, but it is to hide the double.

Do you use a stunt double on all of your films?

Adkins: Yeah, there's always a double there. I used one on this film more than I normally do because I was going into it six weeks from tearing my ACL in my knee. So I needed a guy there that was going to do some of the crazier stuff because although I like to do all my own stunts, you've got to be sensible sometimes and I was pretty badly injured. 

I would imagine from the intense work that you do, that you get hurt a lot. Is it difficult dealing with an injury and continuing to work, yet staying healthy enough for the next movie?

Adkins: Yeah, it's difficult. I've had sprained ankles in the past and with a sprained ankle you can just fight and ignore the pain, but when it's something like a ligament snapping, you need surgical intervention. So it wasn't ideal. I've done pretty well with injuries generally, but last year it was bad. I had three big injuries and I guess it was just a build-up of the abuse that I put my body through. So hopefully I won’t continue to go through that but yeah, last year was quite that.

Your character goes through a very traumatic event at the beginning of the film, and I think a lot of people can probably relate to having the fear of that actually happen to them. Can you talk about what your character is going through at the beginning of the movie and his quest for vengeance?

Adkins: That's what's great about the film. I love the way John (Hyams) had to do it, it is very shocking and it certainly sets the tone of the movie. I could see some people being put off by that, it's pretty graphic and hardcore. John Hyams doesn't pull any punches and it perfectly sets with the film. It's all about this memory that John has and so the audience gets to be in John's head as he holds on to one of the only memories he's got. The only thing he can think about is tracking down Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) and destroying him. It's intimately clear why he is that way because of the shocking way the audience sees the husband at the beginning. He's a difficult character to portray in some ways because he plays his cards very close to his chest. He knows nothing about anything pretty much, but he doesn't want the people he comes into contact with to know that he knows nothing because he wants to get answers. In a lot of ways, he's finishing these jobs off and crazy things are happening, and he kind of just accepts it because he's very much like a newborn child in many ways but with a fully formed outlook. So it was this strange character's restraint, interesting as well, so I had a lot of fun delving into it.

Did you go back and look at the other two Universal Soldier films that star Van Damme and Lundgren and watch those to understand the tone of the franchise, or did you decide not to do that because this movie really stands on its own as a new chapter for the series?

Adkins: I watched Regeneration again. I knew Universal Soldier pretty well because I watched it a lot when I was a kid. But certainly I watched Regeneration a few times to get the tone and to see how John Hyams worked. It's a great film, and it's easy to watch. So yeah, this one is a very different movie. I commended John for taking that risk and for taking it in a different direction. I think there's been a bit of a backlash from people that watch this new one expecting it to be just some cheesy, silly action film. It's a really smart script and you've got to pay attention. I think a lot of people have put it on and have already had a few beers and they don't know what the hell is going on. It's an intelligent film and you've got to pay attention. I think it's the type of film where if you watch it again a second time, it'll be even more rewarding. 

Would you consider working with John Hyams again on another Universal Soldier film and carrying on the franchise?

Adkins: Definitely. I want to work with John again, and I think he's a brilliant director. I hope he moves on to making a big studio film. I think the studios should get this guy a shot now. He's a very talented director, he's a smart guy and he's an artist. So I hope he moves on to bigger things but I would definitely like to work with John again. As far as the Universal Soldier franchise goes, yeah, I'd be interested. But we'll see. 

Finally, I have to ask you, what was it like working on Zero Dark Thirty?

Adkins: They came to me with this offer to work with Kathryn Bigelow and I wasn’t allowed to see a script because of the top-secret nature of the project. I can't really talk about the film in any detail, but just to say the chance to work with Kathryn after winning Best Director and having made one of my favorite films, Point Break, for me it was a no brainer. I jumped on board and had a whale of a time and I think it’s an important story and I’m looking forward to seeing what they've done with it in December.

Is it difficult to sign on to a project, even one as high profile as Zero Dark Thirty, when you are not allowed to see a script before shooting?

Adkins: It wasn't that difficult because for me it was a no brainer. It's Kathryn Bigelow and it's a straight acting role amongst some fine actors and coming from my background, the more of that I can get, the better. But what was frustrating was getting the lines thirty minutes before you’ve to go on and perform. But with these big budget films, you're not exactly rushed and you have enough time to get this thing right. But yeah, it was a great experience. Kathryn and Mark Boal, the writer and produce, they are both very talented.

Are you involved in any of the action scenes or is your part just an acting role?

Adkins: Acting role.

Can you name the actors you share scenes with in the film?

Adkins: I can't really talk about it. You’re fishing for it there but that’s about all I can say. 

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is currently available on VOD and opens in theater son November 30th. 

To watch our exclusive interview with Dolph Lundgren about Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning and The Expendables 3, please click here.

Zero Dark Thirty opens in theaters on December 19th.

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