Throughout the 80s and 90s martial arts movies took the film industry by storm featuring stars including Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, Chuck Norris and so many more. After the year 2000 they were still being released but not in the force as they had been. One of those martial arts actors fighting his way through the industry to bring the genre back to the glory it deserves is Scott Adkins. He has already had an impressive career appearing in such films as Zero Dark Thirty, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and the Expendables 3 to name a few, but it was his turn as the Russian beast Boyka in the Undisputed series that gave him the platform to show the world what he could do and led into the 2009 film Ninja once again allowing him to dominate the big screen. Now he is stepping back into the role once again in Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear to deliver an old school martial arts flick like fans haven’t seen in years. I had the chance to sit down with Scott Adkins to not only discuss his latest film, but also his career in both film and martial arts.
Bobby: Before discussing your latest film Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear, can you tell us how you got started in the martial arts?
Scott: When I was ten years old, my dad and brother did JUDO so I went along because I felt like I was missing out. They eventually gave up and I continued, then moved into Tae Kwon Do, kickboxing and various other martial arts. I did lots of different things, but mostly things like Wushu, Jeet Kune Do, Krav Maga and stuff like that.
Bobby: Your films have become known for having such dynamic fight sequences and with Ninja II has some amazing fighting as well. How much input do you have with the actual fighting in your films?
Scott: I don’t like to choreograph the stuff myself because it’s the heavy workload and you have to think about the acting as well as the fighting. So I work with the choreographers that are better than me, but then I have my own ideas that we can put into the choreography. I have worked with some fantastic people like JJ. Perry, Larnell Stovall, Tim Man on Ninja II and the best, the great Yuen Woo-Ping so it’s really nice to get to work with people that really know what they are doing.
Bobby: Most films aren’t planned as a franchise, but with Ninja was there any discussion after the first one to try and continue with the character?
Scott: Not at all. I’ll be honest, I never saw myself making a ninja movie, never entertained the idea. I think ninja films can be quite cheesy unless you do them in feudal Japan. I think the mistake we made with the first Ninja was that it was very cheesy for various reasons so we tried to correct that with Ninja II.
Bobby: With the new one it does focus more on the Japan and other countries, was that something you and Isaac talked about saying you had to go this direction with the film?
Scott: I was just interested in making a really good martial arts film. People will probably expect more ninja action, because there is not a lot of it in Ninja II in terms of sneaking around and stuff. We wanted to make a straight up old school martial arts revenge flick. There are some ninjas in there, but the frame of mind of Casey in this one is more like a bull in a China shop. He’s not acting traditionally how a ninja would staying in the shadows, but more of just a martial artist on a revenge mission.
Bobby: You mentioned the old school martial arts films, which we just don’t get as many of those anymore. With your career you have done a lot of stuff, but was that one of the things you have tried to do is bring these back?
Scott: Yeah definently, that was the kind of stuff I grew up really enjoying as a kid and I love it when it’s like that. I have always been impressed with people like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan who could do these physical things and it just resonated with me as a kid and why I started doing this kind of thing. I personally think a fight scene is the most cinematic thing you can witness because all the elements of filmmaking come together you know with the camera speed changes, editing, make up effects and general smoke and mirrors of trying to make it look like you are hitting someone when you’re not. It’s filmmaking in it’s purest form I think. It looks great on film and I have always been into that. As an actor I want to try many different things, but I am very passionate about martial arts films, I always have been so while I am in my prime I am happy to do as many as I can. Sometimes it is fun to do something that is a bit more action orientated with the martial arts in the background and sometimes its nice to do something like Ninja II that is just full on old school martial arts film. If you don’t like martial arts films, do not watch Ninja II.
Bobby: As someone who has been doing martial arts for 30 years myself, I grew up on Jackie Chan, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Sho Kosugi, and Chuck Norris, so seeing someone bring that element back to the martial arts films is awesome.
Scott: I make films for the 16 year old in myself sometimes. (laughs) I know when I was that age I was loving films like this and this is what is was all about for me.
Bobby: Growing up on these kinds of films, in the Sho Kosugi films I always looked up more to Kane because of our age so it was awesome to see him apart of this movie. Was he someone you went after for this film?
Scott: Yes, I have wanted to work with him for a long time. I didn’t know him personally but had seen his stuff and obviously knew who his dad was. I was always impressed by him. The character in the script was originally meant to be much older than Kane, but we changed it so we could get Kane to play that part. I wish we could have used him more in the movie to be honest, he is absolutely fantastic. He is one of the best martial arts actors there is and we need to see him in more stuff because he is phenomenal.
Bobby: I know he does a lot of martial arts films, but do you know if there was any hesitation of him wanting to be a part of a ninja film now that he has developed his own career?
Scott: That’s a good question, I think there must have been some sort of hesitation because he would be stepping into his dad’s shoes, but I think for Kane the lure of being able to work with Isaac and myself was a good reason to wave that feeling. He was aware that if you work with Isaac Florentine you’re going to get a really good martial arts film which is what we all want.
Bobby: Now that you have done a sequel has there been any talk of continuing this character if Ninja II is successful?
Scott: It would be nice to do a third if the film makes enough money to warrant that. The decision isn’t in my hands at all. I didn’t think there would be a Ninja II, but then they came to me with it. Now that we’ve done two, I can definently see myself doing a third, but it’s not my decision to make.
Bobby: I have to ask because you know the fans are wanting it, is there any movement or information about bringing Boyka for another Undisputed film?
Scott: All I can say is that behind the scenes people are working to get it made, but the problem is these films go straight to DVD and they don’t make the sort of money they used to make. When talking about Undisputed you have to take into account that number 3 didn’t do very well financially, even though everyone bloody loves it. There were quite a few people that watched that without paying for it I might expect. We’re trying and hope it will happen this year, but can’t promise anything because with this business it’s up and down and crazy. To be honest if Ninja II doesn’t perform that well then it probably won’t happen. These people that download and watch them for free, if they want to continue to be able to watch these movies then they need to start paying for them. If Ninja II doesn’t make a lot of money then we won’t do Undisputed, so there you go there is a bit of black mail.
Bobby: You play a lot of different nationality of characters, how hard is it to step out of your accent and deliver these performances, because most of yours come off flawless.
Scott: Oh thanks, it’s really hard. I have done it a few times now so the more you do it the better you get, but the first time I did it was pretty abysmal. I am ok with the accents because you can get away with stuff like a Russian accent and not be perfect, because most of the Western world isn’t going to pick up on it, but with the American accent you have to be spot on. As an Englishman I was well trained because we watch a lot of the movies, but it is another thing to think about and is hard work.
Bobby: Do you try to stay in the accent on set through the duration of a shoot?
Scott: I don’t actually. I find that quite tiring to be honest, because you have to mentally think about how you are going to form something in that accent and it’s more accents in my brain and when you’re making a martial arts film you need to conserve as much energy as you can. I work with a voice coach beforehand but I can’t stay in it.
Bobby: Being a huge fan of his as well, you have done four films with Jean Claude Van Damme already. Are there any plans to do more or were they just kind of flukes that just happened?
Scott: It was kind of a fluke. I was a huge fan of Van Damme and it’s been an absolute pleasure to be able to do four films with him and fantastic to do the Expendables 2 where we are both on the same team, but I think I have done enough films with Jean Claude now. I kind of feel sorry for him and need to leave him alone. Sometimes you don’t plan it, like Assassination Games he was playing that part and they needed another action guy for the other role and it just made sense to put me in it, but I think we have done it to death now.
Bobby: Do you have anything else you are working on or would like to promote?
Scott: We have the Legend of Hercules coming out in the cinema on the 10th of January and I play the bad guy. I haven’t seen the film yet but it’s going to be fun and everyone is going to enjoy it.
Bobby: With Hercules do you get to showcase any martial arts in it or is it more down played.
Scott: It’s certainly not martial arts because of it being set in ancient Greece, but there is a lot of action stuff with sword fighting. So there is fighting from my character but it’s more of an acting role.
Bobby: I’m a huge fan and it’s been an honor to get to speak with you. As a martial artist you are a big inspiration and strive me to make myself better.
Scott: Thanks so much for that and it’s been my pleasure.
Get out and grab your copy of Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear available now on Blu-ray and DVD, it is easily one of, if not the best martial arts film to come along in some time and if you want more of this series or Undisputed then get out and support the genre.