Scott Adkins interview: Hercules

(Image credit: Unknown)

The 1980s and 90s were big for martial arts films, which brought a fresh approach to choreography and an unmatched realism to on-screen fight sequences. But the new millennium saw a decline in the genre, despite there still being plenty of talent. Scott Adkins is one of the few actors proving martial arts deserve their place on the big screen. 

While doing his best to resurrect martial arts films, Adkins has added other strings to his bow. His latest appearance as King Amphitryon in The Legend of Hercules proves he’s made the transition to other film genres seamlessly. 

What first made you want to practice both martial arts and performing arts? 

My dad and my brother did martial arts when I was around 10 years old and I always felt as though I was missing out. They practiced judo, but by the time I started, they’d stopped. I enjoyed it so much I carried on. I went from judo to taekwondo to kickboxing and tried a few others on the way. Performing arts I got into after school, when I was around 18. While martial arts came naturally to me, I found acting far scarier so I didn’t take to it quite as fast. By combining it with martial arts, I felt a bit more relaxed doing it. 

Did any specific films make you want to be an actor?

I remember staying up late and watching Enter the Dragon (Bruce Lee) when I was probably too young! It was quite intense and scary, but I was fascinated by it. Bloodsport (Jean-Claude Van Damme) stands out as well. I remember watching it and thinking, “That’s what I want to do!”

Had you seen the previous Hercules films before taking the role of King Amphitryon? Did you take inspiration from other incarnations of the king, or did you try to make the character your own? 

I knew the legend of Hercules, but I hadn’t actually seen any of the films. That made it easier to make the character my own and develop the role as filming progressed. 

Did you enjoy playing the bloodthirsty anti-hero? 

I did! He’s a straight up villain. But I also enjoyed trying to find the reasons why he was that way and how he became such an evil guy. Though that wasn’t too difficult – his wife was having it away with a god, so I suppose most guys in his position wouldn’t be too friendly. 

There are some pretty full-on fight sequences with Kellan Lutz. What was that like? 

Kellan’s in great physical condition so it was pretty intense, but good fun. Some of the costumes were heavy so it wasn’t always easy to move around, but we had a great choreographer so it was always enjoyable. 

What sort of training did you do to prepare for the role? 

You see my character at two different stages in his life: younger and older. I wanted to look lean and ripped when we were filming the younger scenes and more muscular and bulky for when he was older. For the more ripped scenes I was eating well and training more, whereas for the bulkier scenes I continued to train, but tended to eat what I wanted. 


(Image credit: Unknown)

Did you and Kellan train together? Who’d win in an arm-wrestle? 

We all trained by ourselves. Everyone had a different physical shape they wanted to get their characters into, so it was easier that way. In terms of the arm-wrestle, I’m not too sure. Kellan’s a big strong boy, but anyone who knows anything about fighting will tell you that big muscles don’t mean anything! 

Do you prefer filming martial arts fight sequences or the all-action style in Hercules, with weapons and all?

It was interesting to try something new with the short swords. I actually found it easier with weapons, to be honest. Hand-to-hand combat sequences are up-close and personal – you’re blocking with your arms and legs, which is a lot more painful than blocking with a sword. But I enjoy all of it, and once you’re used to the weapons and armour, the fight scenes are quite similar. 

Which style requires the most intense training? 

The training for both styles is similar. Once you’re used to fighting with your fists and your feet, a sword becomes an extension of these, so the training doesn’t change too much. 

Was it nice to be speaking in a British accent in a film for once? 

It was! I’m often doing other accents, so it was nice to not have to change my natural one too much for this role. I found myself basing it on Stephen Fry’s accent in Blackadder.

Going back to your martial arts roots, we’ve noticed you’re in Ninja: Shadow of a Tear, which is out on DVD in May. What’s it about and do you see yourself moving away from martial arts films after Hercules? 

It’s a full-on martial arts revenge thriller – the sort of stuff I’d done before Hercules. Although martial arts flicks aren’t mainstream, I love doing them. But I suppose if I want to further my career, it’s best I move away from them slightly, as I’ve done with Hercules

The Legend of Hercules is in cinemas across the UK now. 

Sam Razvi wrote for Men’s Fitness UK (which predated and then shared a website with Coach) between 2011 and 2016.