Scott Adkins is a name that likely needs no introduction to fans of action cinema. After getting his start in Hong Kong featuring alongside the likes of Jackie Chan and Stephen Tung Wai, Adkins really found his footing once he collaborated with director Isaac Florentine on Special Forces in 2003. It was a partnership which led to him taking on the iconic character of Uri Boyka, in the 2006 unrelated sequel Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing, a character which for many of his fans has become inseparable from the man himself. While those same fans are constantly clamoring for more Boyka action (and got some, in both 2010 and 2016), the British star has always harbored a desire to bring one of his favorite comic books, Accident Man, to the screen, and in 2018 he fulfils his wish, headlining Jesse V. Johnson’s movie of the same name.
In January we had the chance to briefly catch up with Adkins over the phone to discuss his latest project. While these press junkets are always frustratingly short, Adkins was as amiable as ever, and provided plenty of insight into both his own career and tales from the set of Accident Man. Next time we’ll hopefully be able to offer up a full-length interview, but for now, enjoy our chat below –
Paul Bramhall: Hi Scott, first of all thanks for taking the time out to chat with COF, are you still in China at the moment?
Scott Adkins: Hi Paul, well let me thank you for your review of Accident Man as well, it’s great to see that you enjoyed it. Yes, I’m still in China and currently working on a new movie called Twilight Zodiac with Ernie Barbarash and Andy On, which should be a good one. I’m actually carrying a few injuries at the moment, but am working through them and looking forward to seeing what we can put together.
PB: An aspect of your career trajectory which has always interested me is that, if we look at many other ‘gweilo’ stars that started off in Hong Kong, such as Cynthia Rothrock and Loren Avendon, once they returned to western shores their output never really matched what they did in Asia. For yourself though, it’s been the opposite, with your work in the likes of the Undisputed and Ninja series far surpassing the roles you took in movies like The Accidental Spy, Extreme Challenge, and Black Mask 2. What are your own thoughts around this?
SA: It’s an interesting point you make, and to a degree I think timing plays a part in it, but for myself personally I’d say it comes down to me being a student of the craft. My time working in Hong Kong offered many opportunities to learn from the best, working alongside Stephen Tung Wai, Jackie Chan, and Yuen Wo Ping, so I’d always be studying how they would create the choreography and film it, what made it work. I brought that back when I left Hong Kong, and have always looked to incorporate those learnings into whatever movie I’m working on, alongside the action choreographer.
The difference from the 80’s is that the level of choreography on show in the US was nowhere near that of what was going on in Hong Kong, which was the home of top level action cinema, and to a large degree still is, so even if you had the moves, there wouldn’t be choreographers on the same level to utilize them. I feel that now America has really caught up, sure, the Bourne movies put fight action several steps back with the dreaded shaky cam, but if we look at action cinema now, there are choreographers working who are on the same level as what’s going on in Hong Kong.
PB: One of the earliest roles you took after leaving Hong Kong was as Nathan in the 2005 movie Pit Fighter, which was directed by Jesse V. Johnson. Now over 10 years later you’ve reunited and are working on a number of movies together – Savage Dog, Accident Man, Triple Threat, and The Debt Collector – what led to you working together again after all these years?
SA: Well myself and Jesse have been trying to work together again for a long time, but he kind of went his direction and did his own thing and I did mine in the intervening years. It was Savage Dog that brought us back together, which came out last year, and while a few things didn’t go according to plan during that production, they weren’t Jesse’s fault and it felt good to work together again. When the opportunity came to make Accident Man, I really wanted it to be a British director so they’d understand the look and feel I wanted to go for, and Jesse, even though he’s living in America now, was the perfect fit.
So now we’re working on a few movies together, next up will be The Debt Collector and Triple Threat. The script for The Debt Collector has been knocking around since 2001, which Jesse wrote himself, so now felt like the right time to make it, and we’ve developed a good working relationship.
PB: Let’s talk about your new movie Accident Man. One of my favorite scenes has you delivering a flying kick to the rider of a motorbike. I remember a similar scene Donnie Yen performs in In the Line of Duty 4, and in the making of it was revealed that the rider was assisted to be pulled off the bike by a wire. In your scene it looks like it’s all you, was it a difficult stunt to perform?
SA: Oh yeah! And that’s interesting about the Donnie Yen movie, I know the scene you’re referring to and I wasn’t aware that the rider was pulled off with a wire, but it makes sense since Yen’s kick approached the bike side on. In Accident Man, I was thinking of the scene with Jackie Chan from Wheels on Meals when he faces off against Blackie Ko and his motorbike gang in the square, and does a similar move.
This was the last scene we filmed, when we’d wrapped up the fight with Tim Man. Being a producer I had more freedom on this movie, so I said “I really want to kick someone off a motorbike”, I just really wanted to do it, and a lot of the crew were wondering how we could make it happen. Thankfully we found a stuntman who could do it, and I hope he forgives me as it was a very busy shoot, but right now his name escapes me, he was a top-class stuntman. These guys don’t get anywhere near enough recognition as they should, and I mean, come on Oscars, when are the stuntmen finally going to get a category which recognizes their talents?
So anyway, we brought the bike in, and everyone was surprised, myself included, at how high the handlebars were. I mean, they were really high! So I had the crew trying to put the fear in me and asking if I could really do it, but it was the very last day of the shoot, so if there was any day to get injured, I guess this would be the best one. I measured it up, and came to the conclusion that yeah, I was confident I could jump the handlebars and wouldn’t find myself mauled in the spokes or something, so we went ahead with it and were able to get it in one take.
PB: Good to hear it went off without a hitch, and in terms of the fight scenes, particularly the finale with Amy Johnston, how long did they take on average to film?
SA: Ohhh, I need to remember now, but that took between 2 to 3 days to complete in total. The original fight sequence that we had planned out lasted longer than what we were able to film, but we just couldn’t cover everything we’d choreographed in the time that we had. This is why I always take these opportunities to ask the fans to please not pirate my movies, you know I’d also like to make a sequel to Accident Man just as much as hopefully everyone else will once they check it out, however to do so the movie needs to turn a profit, it’s as simple as that.
Working on the types of movie that I do, you know, I’d love for them to be shown on the cinema, but that’s not where I’m at and that’s the way it is. So the movies go straight to Blu-ray, and if people choose to pirate them instead of buying or renting, then ask when are they going to see more of me in action, it’s not going to happen. If you want to support the independent action movie industry, please do the right thing and pay to see the movies, otherwise they’ll no longer be made, or they’ll be made in a ridiculously tight timeframe.
PB: Definitely, and speaking on the business side of things, this was the first time for you to play the role of producer. Did you find it made a difference to the filming experience?
SA: Absolutely, being one of the producers on Accident Man I was lucky in that I could have my say in the sequence we shot the movie. So shoot a fight scene over a couple of days, then a few days dialogue or scenes with other characters, and then shoot another fight scene a few days later. You know on some of these movies, you have 4 weeks to film, and they schedule all the action to be shot over a solid 2 week block. So you have 2 weeks of fighting and 2 weeks of talking, and then they wonder why we get injured or exhausted, I mean come on. That’s why I like to work with directors who understand how to make an action movie.
PB: Great to hear, and with that I can see we’re out of time, so let me wish you well for the rest of your shoot on Twilight Zodiac, and hope there’ll be another chance to catch up in the future.
SA: Thanks Paul, it was a pleasure, and look forward to the next time we have a chance to speak.