Scott Adkins On 'Accident Man' And Bringing His Fighting Style To 'Doctor Strange' [Interview]

If you liked Scott Adkins as Kaecilius' henchman in Doctor Strange or as Mitch Rapp's training rival in American Assassin, you'll be pleased to know there's a whole host of movies in which Adkins really shows us his moves. Action fans may know him as Boyka in the Undisputed sequels or from his lead roles in the Ninja films or from movies like Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning and Hard Target 2. If not, it's time to change that...because he's not slowing down.

Accident Man, Adkins' latest starring vehicle, is his dream project. Based on the comic of the same name, Adkins co-wrote the screenplay and stars as Mike Fallon, a hitman who specializes in making his kills look like accidents. When his ex-girlfriend Beth turns up dead, Fallon goes up against his fellow hitmen, with the help of Beth's girlfriend (Ashley Greene).

Adkins Skyped with /Film from his home in London to discuss Accident Man, as well as his experiences in Doctor Strange and American AssassinAccident Man is available on Blu-ray, DVD, digital and VOD on February 6, 2018.

Accident Man is your first screenwriting credit but I'm sure it's not the first time you've had creative input, right?

No, I always say my piece. Whether it's listened to or not is another story, but I always put my two cents' worth in.

What made you take it to the next level and write this story, adapt this comic?

What it was, Fred, was when I was about 14 I got the comic book and I was a big fan of it. I kept it in the cupboard wherever I went, always hoping that maybe one day I could make the film and be Accident Man and play Mike Fallon. But I always thought to myself, well, you've got to become a star first, become famous and then you can get the film made. So I was putting it off, putting it off. What I know now is there were a couple of big time producers that optioned it and wanted to make it. It didn't work out, lucky for me. I actually started writing the script before I optioned the property, just as a little experiment. Eventually out of necessity I optioned the property myself, paid for it with my own money. I was trying to convince other producers to do it at first, but it wasn't happening so I just said, "Well, just go ahead, do it." I did a three year option and I had three years to get the film made. Within a year, it was all said and done. We had Sony on board, the script was written and director in place. Here we are just as the film is being released. It's a lifelong ambition really. If you could've said to me, "Scott, you can make any film. What's it going to be?" I would've said Accident Man.

Have you collected colleagues and friends over the years who could be these other colorful hitmen, like Michael Jai White, Amy Johnston and Ray Park?

You know, the Mick character played by Michael Jai White, I don't think if he'll mind me saying this. Originally in my head, for many years I wanted that to be Darren Shahlavi, my good friend who's passed on now. It was always going to be Darren, but of course he's not with us anymore which is a terrible shame. Mike stepped into that role. Originally they were both English. Now we came up with the idea that we have one English and one American. They're constantly at odds with each other because of that, which makes for some good character traits. Mike did me a favor. I'd not worked with Ray Park before but he was an absolute pleasure, worked really hard, great guy, love him to bits. Amy I'd been watching for a while and she's a phenomenal screen fighter so I wanted her involved. We didn't have a female character in the original script. It was something that Sony wanted so we wrote that part, which worked out really well.

Is Fallon is your most talkative character?

That's because I wrote it for myself, so I can waffle on, can't I? People must think that I can't do talking, so they don't write me lots of dialogue. I think I pulled it off, don't you?

It's not like you never talk, but is that something you had to do for yourself because most people think of action heroes as the strong silent types?

Well, my writing partner, Stu Small, is brilliant with dialogue. He's able to write stuff in an English way that rolls off my tongue quite well. If I was doing an American accent or a Russian one, maybe it wouldn't work as well. Certainly to speak Stu's words with my cockney London accent is very pleasurable. He writes really well. He's great with dialogue. I wrote some of the dialogue as well but that's his forte. We've been pouring over the script for a while, but listen, there's very many strings to my bow.

Was it a big deal to get to speak in your own accent?

It's easier. It's one less thing to think about and it isn't my own accent. It's a bit of a London accent but [in cockney] I can do that, like, no problem, not even thinking about it, know what I mean, Fred? I can do that London thing. It's one less thing to worry about for sure.

Did wearing a suit in the opening scene make you feel like James Bond?

That is exactly why Jesse made me wear that suit. The writer of the comic book, Pat Mills and Tony Skinner, the way they saw the character was very James Bond-esque. But the way he was drawn and illustrated in the first edition, he was quite gritty, jeans and a biker jacket, which wasn't actually in keeping with the way they saw the character. But I loved that about the character so that's what I wanted for the movie. Jesse really wanted to put me in a suit for the opening. He said, "Scott, this is your James Bond audition." I was fighting it and when he said that I was like, "All right, I suppose you've got a point. Let's just make sure Barbara watches it."

Was taking a selfie a more modern touch? I imagine he didn't have a camera in the '90s comics.

You know what? That wasn't in the script. We were filming and I improvised it. I just took my phone out of my pocket and took a picture and everyone laughed. We said, "Yeah, let's do that on the next take and keep it in the film."

It was the smile that really sold it.

The cheeky grin. Fallon is a man who loves his work. He takes pride in it.

Are Adkins bandages a real brand in the U.K.?

No, that was a last minute thing. The production designer said, "Hey, look what I've done. Here are the bandages." It was pretty cool.

In the comic, did Beth leave Mike for another woman too?

Yes, that was always the way it was. Listen, the comic was written in the '80s, a little bit outdated. Fallon is a chauvinist so what we tried to do with him was not make him very smart in a way. He's a little bit like Jack Burton. He's a bit of a douche bag. He thinks he knows all the answers but actually he doesn't. As he's going through the film, he's never homophobic. Of course, not. The only one homophobic character in there is Mac who, because of that, gets his jaw wired. That conversation does come up between Fallon and Charlie and it's shot down straight away. We wanted to give Charlie, empower her, make her a very powerful female character. She runs rings around Fallon verbally. She gets the best punch on him in the movie. Fallon is just a bit of an idiot that learns the error of his ways by the end of the movie. It's a different lead character to follow. We didn't want to do the same old heroic knight in shining armor thing. He's an antihero that's very flawed but one thing he is great at is killing people. When it comes time to do that, he does it with great skill, but in every other area of life, he's a little bit of a dimwit.

How long did you have to shoot the fight with Michael and Ray?

Well, because I was a producer on this, I scheduled the movie. I actually wrote the flashback which was in the comic, but I definitely wanted to keep it because I knew that was an opportunity where I could be on second unit while Jesse is filming the flashback stuff with the young Fallon. I could be working on the fight sequences with Tim Man on second unit. So we scheduled it in a way I think we had four days for that fight. We had more time than we needed to be honest, which was a luxury that we don't normally have. We could've done a little bit longer on the Amy Johnston fight, but we used some of that for the second unit as well. We got an extra day for that fight on second unit. We were okay.

Four days is a luxury. How many days did you have for Amy?

I think that was three. On the fourth day of the Michael Jai White/Ray Park fight, we were kind of twiddling our thumbs taking it easy. I said to Tim, "Should we choreograph some more here and make this fight longer" We didn't want to commit to that and then have to pull it out and it be disjointed. So we just twiddled our thumbs for a bit that day.

Three or four days are a luxury to have for any one sequence in movies like this, right?

Well, at this budget, yeah. But for a big budget film, a Marvel movie, that's even less time than they would have I'm sure. A Hong Kong movie, you're looking at a week to two weeks to film a fight sequence. It's more than what I'm used to. I'm used to having a day, half a day, things like that.

How long did you have for the motorcycle fight with Tim Man, which is a little shorter?

That was one day. One day and we had to do the stunt where I jump up and kick the guy off the bike, which wasn't Tim. That was a stuntman. We wanted to do that at the end. We scheduled that fight at the end of the schedule so that I could do that stunt and if something went wrong, the film was already complete and I could just go to the hospital. That was the idea. So we did that stunt at the end of the day just as the sun was coming up and I was tired. It was after the whole four week shoot but we got it on the first take.

So no injury this time?

Well, I was pretty sure I was going to be okay but everyone was trying to put the fear of God into me saying, "You haven't thought this through. What if your fingers go into the back of the wheel? What if you land on top of the bike and all this?" I was starting to think Jesus, am I making a mistake? They said, "No, no, we're doing it." We didn't have a stuntman for me anyway so we just went ahead and did it. It was fine.

Scott Adkins Interview

Did doing that fight in the dark add a layer of challenge to the choreography?

Adds a layer of challenge to the cinematography I think because we were both wearing black in this black alleyway. No, not at all. That's the way it needed to be. I worked with Tim beforehand to get it the way we wanted it, and it's pretty much as we intended.

On the DVD, we see you didn't only work on the pre-vis with Tim, but you perform in the pre-vis [previsualization] of the fight scenes. Are you usually that involved in the pre-vis of fights for your movies?

Well, Tim sometimes pre-vises his stuff in Sweden where he lives. He was in Bulgaria working on this Antonio Banderas/Isaac Florentine film, Acts of Vengeance. I flew out there to work with Tim on his off days so we could pre-vis the stuff. I'm always happy to be there. Obviously I'm very much a part of the fight sequences in my film. I'm not leaving it up to other people. So my stamp is all over it. I was there.

When you do fight scenes in Doctor Strange and American Assassin, do they let you be involved in the choreography and pre-vis also?

There was no pre-vis for American Assassin. Doctor Strange, a guy called Jojo [Eusebio] does the fights for that. He's an 87eleven guy, extremely talented. I was actually filming Hard Target 2 when they were pre-vising Doctor Strange. They let me go aways and do that. At first they were saying, "We need you to do the training." I managed to convince them I'd be okay and didn't need to do the training. Is it okay if I go off and shoot Hard Target 2? They eventually said yeah, okay.

The Doctor Strange fights still seemed very much like Scott Adkins style mixed with visual effects. Is that because they knew your moves or did you guide them?

The director, Scott Derrickson, he wanted me to use the Guyver Kick. That was one of the first things he said. Actually, I remember now. I did a little, not pre-vis, but with Jojo we put some ideas down on tape, various different moves for the director to look at. Of course, the Guyver Kick was one of them. He said, "Yeah, yeah, I want this, I want that."

We did do that. Scott Derrickson knew my work so he specifically wanted me to be doing some of these kicks. When you watch Doctor Strange, when it's me fighting, that's one of the only times where there isn't a lot of cuts to be honest. You can just let the whole thing play out in one and just shoot it, which is the best way. If the performers can do that, that is the best way to shoot it.

Dylan O'Brien was great in American Assassin so this is just for fun, but was it your greatest performance to convincingly play someone who would lose a fight to him?

[Laughs] I've always been able to make it look like I get punched hard. That was my first job, running on from the left and getting twatted in the head by Jackie Chan. Let me tell you, Dylan, great kid. Very physically capable, picks up the fight scenes. A few actors I've worked with are actually really good at fight sequences. Dylan is one of them. Hugh Jackman is one of them. Very physically gifted.

Do you ever have to slow down for the camera?

No. No, no, no. I can't slow down when I'm in the air, otherwise I wouldn't get the height and the torque.

There's always that story, Bruce Lee had to slow down so the film cameras can see him. I guess digital cameras can go at your speed now.

Yeah, I don't know about that. Maybe I'm wrong, some of the Bruce Lee stuff, I do ask myself, not taking anything away from the master, but I do question whether it was shot 24 frames or whether some of it was shot at 22. Some of it looks a bit sped up to me. I don't want to offend anyone. I know you're not meant to say things like this controversially, but when you look at Way of the Dragon and he's fighting Bob Wall, it looks undercranked to me. I know Enter the Dragon wouldn't have been.

I'll have to watch that again and look for that. What keeps action moving forward? Is it just finding different fighters to perform with and combining your styles?

What keeps my action moving forward, it's very difficult to invent new stuff when you don't have a lot of time and a big stunt community around you to do things. Look at 87eleven leading the charge with the John Wick films. That's amazing what they've done and they've created a new style there. They've got an army of stuntmen there all throwing in ideas. It's the same with Jackie Chan. He'd have his stunt team and constantly having people coming up with new things and trying to raise the bar. It's difficult when you haven't got a lot of time to invent. It's almost like I know what I can do and I'm gonna make sure I put that down on film, but I feel like I don't really have the time allotted to me to innovate. You don't have a lot of time to try new things, so it's difficult. I do what I do and I keep doing it. The audience knows they're going to get a certain quality of action with one of my films and I just try to make sure they get that every time.

Since Fallon had more adventures in the comic books, are you hoping there will be more Accident Man movies?

Well, I'd love there to be more Accident Man movies, yeah, of course. I love the character. I just hope it's a financial success. Of course, I hope people don't bloody just download it for free because it needs to make a profit in order to make a sequel. Support the movie, go and buy the Blu-ray, download it on iTunes. We've got a commentary on there and special features. You've got to support it. We need your hard earned cash. Otherwise we won't be able to make a sequel. If you downloaded it and you watched it and you enjoyed it, please go out and buy the Blu-ray, show your support and we'll give you a sequel.

You said piracy hurt Ninja: Shadow of a Tear. Does it make a difference that Ninja was for Millennium and Accident Man is for Sony? Do different studios have different criteria?

I'm not one of the producers at Millennium or Sony. I don't know the answer to that question. All I know is that it needs to be a financial success to warrant a sequel.

Was Boyka: Undisputed a financial success?

No, it was leaked six months before its official release.

People need to buy Boyka too.

They just need to support independent filmmakers. That's what people need to do. Talking about how it's a victimless crime, it's not. I don't know what to say, Fred. It's a difficult state of affairs, the film business.

Are you doing two more movies with Jesse Johnson?

The Debt Collector is done. I'm very proud of that film. That's coming out in the summer. Triple Threat is coming out in the summer so these are films with Jesse that are completed. I'm hopefully going to do another film with Jesse this year. I love working with him. He's a great guy, good friend, great director. He makes things happen, writes his own scripts. He's a go-getter.

What can we look forward to in those movies?

The Debt Collector is a really good film. It's more of a character-based action film with a very good story. It's about a classical martial artist who is down on his luck. He has a gym he's about to lose, it's about to be taken over. He needs money fast. One of the guys he trains is a debt collector and he keeps begging him, "Give me some of this work. I need something to stop the gym from going under." The guy's like, "Listen, you're a good fighter but you're a nice guy. It's not for you." He's like, "No, please, give me a chance." Really it's about his first weekend as a debt collector and his descent into the underworld and how the whole thing just goes to sh*t. It's with Louis Mandylor who I had a great time working with. Of course, Triple Threat with all the best martial artists in one movie together, people are going to enjoy that.