CS Interview: Scott Adkins Talks Legacy of Lies
Scott Adkins has starred in action greats such as Ninja: Shadow of a Tear, Boyka: Undisputed, Savage Dog, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Triple Threat, and each film sees the actor push his physical limits to deliver a bloody, violent, and thrilling bit of pop culture entertainment. With his recent film, Legacy of Lies, Adkins delves into the world of espionage; and to commemorate this recent endeavor, ComingSoon.net reached out to the actor to discuss everything from filmmaking to the current state of action movies.
“An ex-MI6 agent is thrown back into the world of espionage and high stakes to uncover the shocking truth about operations conducted by unknown secret services.”
The film stars Adkins, Honor Kneafsey, Andrea Vasiliou, Yuliia Sobol, Ann Butkevich, and Martin McDougall. Adrian Bol wrote and directed the pic which currently holds a 100% approval rating on RottenTomatoes.
ComingSoon.net: What led you to Legacy of Lies?
Scott Adkins: Well, it came to me through my agent, the script came through and he said, I think you should look at this. And so, I read it and I liked it and I had a Skype conversation with the writer/director Adrian Bol and the producers. And they convinced me that you know, I just liked it, I liked Adrian, I liked the script. He had a short film that he’d done that was kind of similar to the script and I responded well to that. And it’s always a little bit of a leap of faith sometimes, when you’re working with people that you’ve not worked with before. But I’m very happy I did it. It turned out really good.
CS: So what was Adrian Bol’s approach to the project?
Adkins: He took it all in his stride. He was always very prepared. I mean, I like working with directors that have written the scripts as well because they have a clear vision for the movie because it’s all come from their head. And they understand every character’s motivation and all the rest of it. So that’s always a good sign. If the script is good and the director’s written it, you’re halfway there anyway. And yes, he had great producers behind him, like Alla and Kryz and Mark from the UK. And the DP, Simon Rowling just did a fantastic job in shooting it and he’s an English kid, pretty new to the game himself, but did a brilliant job, an excellent job. And yeah, it was a good experience.
CS: How does Martin Baxter differ from other characters you’ve played before in the past?
Adkins: Well, he’s not in a good place, that’s for sure. But not many of my characters are, to be honest. He’s hurting on the inside and he’s self-sabotaging in many ways. He’s punishing himself for the things that happened in the past. And even though he loves his daughter very much and he really wants to do right by her, there’s something eating away at him inside that’s causing him to be quite, quite mean-spirited towards her at times. He’s a bit too tough on her. He’s running away from his past and he definitely feels the brunt of it. And he thinks he’s given her everything she needs, like be self-sufficient and I’ll teach you how to use a gun and look after yourself. And he can exist off the grid, that I’m teaching you everything you ever need. But what she really wants is a normal life, just to be a normal girl with a loving father, but she’s not getting that. And by the time the movie is — you know, there’s a lot of things that take place in our movie that allow those two characters to reconcile a lot of the lies that have been told in the relationship. So you know, there’s a very personal story going on there. But then, there’s this overreaching plot as well, the espionage and the Russians and all the rest of the spy thriller stuff going on. But at its heart, it’s this very personal story.
CS: Let’s talk about Honor Kneafsky — you guys have a terrific father-daughter relationship, specifically in that scene where you are teaching her how to shoot a gun and she talks about wanting to go to school. What was it like working with her? Because I felt like you guys had a good rapport.
Adkins: Yeah, that’s good. A lot of people say that. And people have thought that, you know, what I should’ve done was spent a lot of time with her beforehand, but the truth is, we just didn’t have enough time for that. She turned up on the set and we just started filming. But I guess we fell into it and she’s going to go a long way. She’s fantastic to work with. She was the most professional person on the set, probably the most grown-up person on the set as well. I’m much more immature. And it worked for the characters as well, to be honest, because you know, she’s almost like the adult in the relationship in some ways. And it was a little bit like that on set as well. But she’s just a fantastic actress, so I think that chemistry came easily because she’s very giving as an actress. I could draw a lot from her.
CS: Martin’s Achilles heel was the emotional soft spot that he has for his daughter, which drives the plot. How important was that aspect of the film to you?
Adkins: Well, I mean, it is what it is. I can certainly relate to having a young daughter. I’ve got a daughter. She’s nine years old. And my daughter, in this movie, she’s 12. So I could relate to it. And of course, that helped, especially with the more emotional parts.
CS: Similarly, what was it like working with Yuliia Sobol?
Adkins: Yeah, well, she’s a really good natural actress, very emotional, very in touch with her emotions and just a great, great person, very unselfish actress, you know? We had some very difficult scenes to do and some more fun scenes to do. And it was a pleasure working with her. She’s a great actress and it was a lot of fun.
CS: When you’re making these kind of films, which aspect of the film do you prefer more, the more emotional aspects of the film or more of the action-driven elements of the story?
Adkins: I enjoy the acting more because the action, even though it’s what I do and I’m very good at it, I also demand a lot of myself, and in turn, that means I’m putting myself through pain. To do it right is physically quite taxing, so you know, maybe when you’re getting a bit jaded. No, it kind of hurts, so I never enjoy it, but I love the finished product. I absolutely adore seeing it all come together and it working. But the doing of it can be a bit frustrating sometimes. The acting for the most part is always a lot of fun. But you know, the emotional scene in the movie is kind of hanging over your head for the whole thing. It’s like, oh, that’s the day that I’ve got to do this emotional scene and I hope it’s going to be — I tend not to think about it too much because it’s a stress. You want to do it right because that’s the hardest part. For me, the emotion is probably the hardest part. So it’s nice to get it out of the way sometimes, if you know you’re doing a good job of it. I can almost see it there in the timeline. Oh, tomorrow’s the day for this big emotional scene, so it’s a funny one.
CS: I can understand that. At this point, you’ve done a number of action films featuring a variety of fighting styles and such. Have you gotten to the point where you feel like you’ve mastered every technique in the book? Or are you still learning new and unique ways to kick ass?
Adkins: In terms of filmmaking, in terms of putting fight scenes down on film, no, there’s still a lot to learn. I certainly know that I know what I’m doing and I can definitely — you put me on a film with people that don’t know what they’re doing and I will rally them together and I will force them to make a good fight scene because I know how to do it. But I still have much to learn. I recently did a film with Donnie Yen, Ip Man 4 in Hong Kong — sorry, in China, with Yuen Woo-Ping, who was the fight director. And I learned a lot and there was a lot more that I needed to learn, that’s for sure. But I do know quite a bit.
CS: You’ve been working a lot more behind the scenes. Does that change the way you approach a film? Does it afford you more control?
Adkins: I have control in all the films that I’m starring in, more control than I used to, anyway, whether I’ve got the executive producer thing there or not. Sometimes it’s there for other reasons. Sometimes it’s a creative thing. But you know, at the end of the day, when you’re in my position, you saying that you’re going to do this movie is the difference between them being able to make it or not. Do you know what I mean? It’s a very important position to be in. So I never would want to hijack somebody’s vision. If somebody doesn’t see the movie the way I think it should go, then it’s probably best not to do it. But what I did do with this one was, you know, I’m very aware that people expect me to do action, so we upped the amount of action in the movie once I came on board. Because that’s what people expect to see, and I’m aware of that. But at the same time, what I try to do is I want to give people the action that they normally get, but I want to give them a good story and good character as well. And that’s what we were trying to do with this film.
CS: Going back to Legacy of Lies, how difficult was it to film the hospital sequence, which is one of the film’s standout sequences?
Adkins: Well, the location was really dusty. See, when you go up there and you’re the director, you’re going to go looking what it’s going to look like, cinematical sense, how the shadow’s going to come in through the architecture in the windows and all the rest of it. And yes, this is going to be a great shot. What they’re not really thinking about is the fact that the floor is rock hard concrete and it’s covered in dust. We were inhaling mud constantly for two nights. It was a night shoot as well, which always makes things suck even more. So it was a bit of a miserable experience, to be honest. You know, you say to the costume lady, you could film a scene directly after that before you’ve done it and you just know that as soon as you hit the floor, my costume’s going to go from black to gray with all the dust all over it. So you try to say, put a bit more dust on me. But they don’t get it and still, you’ve gone down on the floor for the first time and they’re like, oh, you’re covered. Yeah, it’s not easy. It’s not easy doing fights, to be honest.
CS: Have you guys talked about a sequel to Legacy of Lies?
Adkins: No, we haven’t talked about it. We’ll see how this film does and if there’s an appetite for it, I’m sure we would have a conversation about it. I’d certainly like to work with Adrian again. So you know, we’ll see. But we want to see how this film does first.
CS: These types of films — the gritty, violent thrillers that we used to get in the 80s and 90s — are making a comeback. What has led to this sudden outpouring of films from this genre?
Adkins: Well, I don’t know if we would call this film — like certainly, I’ve done some movies which are very 80s, 90s inspired. I don’t know if I would call this film one of those, to be honest. But for me, in general, in my career, as a guy that is an action guy, likes to do his own fight sequences and all the rest of it, I feel like I’ve been keeping that genre alive from the beginning, from just after the millennium, to be honest. I’ve been trying, anyway. It’s not been easy because the super heroes have kind of took over with all their stunt doubles, but I’ve been doing my bit. So I will just continue to do that.
CS: Would you have any interest ever in being in like a super hero type of film?
Adkins: Oh yeah, I’m not knocking it. I’m just saying that that’s the reason why we don’t get films the way they were in the 80s and 90s, because first of all, actors can be trained up to look like they can fight pretty well these days. But also, the camera tricks and face replacement and you know, what’s easy about the super hero movies is once the mask is on, the costume is on, then anyone can be in that suit, even if it’s a CGI thing. So that’s where the action films had gone into the comic books. And I do enjoy them. I absolutely love them. But I also miss the way things used to be, and I still have an appetite for seeing that. And it does seem like it’s coming back, of course, with things like John Wick. And there’s a lot of these great stuntmen that have become second unit directors and are now coming through as directors that are bringing back that old style. So I think the future’s looking pretty bright for it, to be honest.
CS: You’ve spoken in other interviews about your desire to be in a John Wick film. Has anything happened on that front? Is that still a sentiment that you have?
Adkins: I love the John Wick films, and I love 87eleven, which are the stunt team behind it. And I’ve worked with them many times. And I’m good friends with many of them and I know Chad Stahelski, the director of John Wick. He was the second unit director on Expendables 2, so he shot the fight that I did. And also, The Brothers Grimsby. I worked with him on that. So he knows me. He knows what I can do. And I’m sure that if the right part came up that he thought I was suitable for it, I’d like to think that he would give me a chance. But of course, I’ve been on the other side when producing and it has to be the right part and it has to fulfill whatever his vision is. So I hope that at some point, I’ll get to work with him.
CS: You have a number of projects coming out including Seized, The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud and Castle Falls. Is there anything that you can tell us about those projects or things that you’re excited about with those projects in particular?
Adkins: Well, The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud is a comedy, my first attempt at a broad comedy, so it’ll be interesting to see how that turns out. I had a lot of fun making it. But as I say, it’s the first time I’ve done a comedy, so it was great fun, but I don’t know. I’m a little bit apprehensive to see what it’s like, to be honest. I haven’t seen the film yet. I want to see it. But they tell me it’s funny. But that will be interesting. Again, something different. I don’t like to just keep repeating myself doing the same old thing. And Castle Falls unfortunately, we had to stop filming because of the pandemic, so that will be the first thing that I have to complete when the world kind of gets back to normal, hopefully.
CS: What is the most difficult sequence you’ve ever filmed, in your opinion? And how do you gauge just how far to push yourself with each film?
Adkins: The hardest movies I’ve ever made were the ninja movies in terms of injuries and just getting beaten up and coming out of it like, you know, a shell of my former self. They were very difficult. You would think that the Boyka movies would be harder, but they weren’t because you’re in a nice ring and you’re nice and warm with the hot lights above you. When you’re fighting on the streets, on metal floors and everything, that’s when you get properly banged up. But you know, a lot of these action films are hard because we don’t have the luxury of time. And you’ve really got to push. You’ve got to push so hard, so, so hard to get — you know, because you just don’t have the time, so I’m constantly pushing myself and the rest of the crew, to be honest. I think they must hate me, but probably for them, it’s just another job, but for me it’s like, my career rests on the success of this film, so I think I could be a bit of a tyrant sometimes. But that’s what it takes. The budgets for these movies have been shrinking because of the piracy issue. So it’s not been easy and it looks like it’s going to get harder. But I’ll just keep continuing to do good work, do the best that I can.