The Movie Waffler Interview - AVENGEMENT Stars Scott Adkins & Thomas Turgoose, & Writer Stu Small | The Movie Waffler

Interview - AVENGEMENT Stars Scott Adkins & Thomas Turgoose, & Writer Stu Small

scott adkins thomas turgoose interview
We chat with actors Scott Adkins and Thomas Turgoose, and writer Stu Small about their new action film Avengement.

Interview by Musanna Ahmed

avengement poster

You've had such a fantastic response in America already with all the brilliant reviews. What would you say it is about Avengement that's really drawn people in?

Scott Adkins: It’s a good story. It keeps people interested because you're not quite sure what's going on, who this guy is and what he's there for, how he got to his position and then with the flashbacks as it unravels it keeps people very entertained and on the edge of their seat. Obviously there's a lot of action too plus there are good characters.

Thomas Turgoose: Yeah, it's just proper action packed, you don't really get a chance to breathe when you watch it.

SA: And it's very English.

TT: Yeah, proper English.

SA: The films that I normally make don't get to be this British.

Stu Small: Cain's the main guy and he goes through a lot in the film. The way that Jesse and I crafted it, we wanted people to get behind him. He is a pretty awful guy by the time he turns up at the pub. It's hard to sympathise for a guy like that, the way he treats the people in the pub, but we wanted to get the audience behind him. In the pub, all the characters there, played by Tom, Leo (Gregory) and Beau (Fowler) and everyone else, they are the ones who are fueling him. That's why those characters needed to be strong characters and all have their own personalities so they could fire him up, so the big climax really feels like it's simmering since the moment Cain walks in.

SA: (to TT) I don't know about you but for me, I've not done professional theatre since I was first training in acting but sometimes this felt like theatre because we had these long pages, five to 10 pages of dialogue, that we'd have to do in one take.

TT: Yeah. That was a lot to take on, wasn't it? It was also a relief getting to do that little scene outside on the corner that we did. It was a relief cos we were mostly in the pub and it was so hot in there.

SA: It was a hot summer.

TT: Yeah, a hot summer with 50 people in a small pub. It was nice to get out on the streets.

SS: And also a bit weird to only be in one - I mean you were lucky enough to get out on the street corner - but for some of the other actors, they didn't leave that pub. They were in one location for the whole thing.

TT: I was really worried when I was reading it and thinking "Right, are we gonna do this in one? Is this going to be in one take, this whole film?"

SA: It was two. (laughs)

TT: Luckily Jesse shot it in such a way that we had freedom with it. It was good fun.

Yeah. Since a lot of the film does take place in the bar and it's so tense, what was the atmosphere and cast dynamic like when the cameras weren't rolling?

SA: (points to TT) Just trying to stop him from playing up, really.

TT: (laughs) Or waking me up. I was asleep all the time, wasn't I.

SA: There were a few stretches where you didn't say as much. I know it was hard to sit there and listen to me waffle on.

TT: (laughs) Yeah, just any given opportunity, I would sleep on floors.

SA: (laughs)

TT: I don't know what it was, I'm not normally like that. Again, I think it was just the heat of that place.

SA: And the smoke...

TT: And the action. It was tiring watching Scott run around a lot.

I'm not entirely sure how how good your martial arts skills are, Thomas, but when you're working with someone who's as experienced as Scott, do you pick up a thing or two?

TT: Well I only had a tiny little moment of action but it was fun, it was good fun shooting that gun. I enjoyed that. That was nice.

SA: I'm in there going absolutely crazy with some professional stunt performers. And then little Tom comes in, it's his turn, I'm not trying to scare him or anything but also I wanted to not let him let us down, still gotta do a good fight. (turns to TT) So I was a bit worried about you.

TT: Right.

SA: But you reacted to all the stuff pretty well. And then we asked if it'd work to put your head in a pickle jar and you went for it, didn't you? No problems.

SS: You're a terrible shot with the gun though.

TT (laughs) I think that's what you've got to do though. Obviously you've got take your health and safety very seriously so nobody gets hurt but sometimes it's better to get stuck in. I was in rehearsals today and there’s a scene where someone's gotta do a slide tackle on me and then we get up and have a fight. I just felt like saying, "Just do it, give me a good slide tackle, then we'll have a bit of a roll around and see what happens.”

SA: Just make sure it's in focus.

TT: Yeah make sure it's in focus. (laughs)

That pickle jar moment is a great one and I think another one of the memorable action moments is when you get your teeth stomped, Scott. I think for a lot of people that's going to recall American History X.

TT: Yeah I thought about that.

SA: We followed through on it a bit more.

SS: Should have just been the poster, your teeth on that step.

SA: (laughs)

Stu, were there any other cinematic references you had when you were writing this film?

SS: As with American History X?

If that was one of them...

SS: That was more Blues-Villa, circa '98.

SA: (laughs).

SS: I think you draw from a lot from different palettes, really. All the films we've seen, all the books I've read. (turns to SA and TT) Yeah I've read books. And real life, though thankfully there's not too much from real life. So yeah, nothing specific, but obviously there is a similarity to American History X. But like Scott says, what was great was that we followed through with the idea more and it gave him his amalgam teeth.

SA: It helps the audience feel for the character as he goes to some horrible places, the stuff that happens in prison.

SS: What we wanted was everything in the prison to be reactive, whereas in the pub it's all proactive. In the prison, Cain just absorbs it all, he gets battered and battered, he doesn't start a single thing, he tries to avoid it. And then in the pub, he's the exact opposite. He puts on his awful code and then goes in and unleashes. That was the theory behind it.

I think a big part of the intrigue comes from the non-chronological structure that keeps you guessing. Was that something straight from the start?

SS: It was, yeah, that was Jesse's concept. Jesse came up with that story of how there was a battered warrior-type guy who arrives at a pub. Bolts open the doors, holds everyone hostage and then throughout the film we would discover what led him there. That was the core concept of the film that Jesse constructed. We broke it down from there.

SA: It was a little less chronological in the original script but when they edited it together, they shifted it around to make it make sense quicker.

SS: Yeah. We had two timelines which we thought was a nice mechanic to introduce the character then explore what brought him there.

Scott, a lot of people are singling out your performance as Cain Burgess as probably the best in your career.

SA: Well, most of my other performances were a bit shit weren't they? (laughs)

How much of the character was influenced by yourself versus director Jesse V. Johnson, considering he knows you very well now as you've collaborated quite a few times?

SA: I was very involved with this script process from the very beginning. As an actor that's great, helping write what the character was going to say so you learn the lines along the way, you know exactly what the character is thinking, you understand the subtext.

TT: It helps to create... not necessarily create but to quickly become that character.

SA: Yeah, in the whole creative process of the script I'm already zoning in on it as an actor.

TT: It's a massive treat to have that.

SA: That was a three or four month lead up to filming so I knew the character inside and out and that was a gift.

With the previous film, Triple Threat, you starred alongside a murderer's row of martial artists from around the world. But with this film it was with actors who come from film and television backgrounds. Did you feel a different sort of responsibility regarding the action and choreography and how it would play out?

SA: We wanted the action to be really real and believable and in line with the story we were trying to tell. I didn't want it to be like a kung-fu film. My character has a kickboxing background but we didn't want everyone to fight like that. We wanted brawls and vicious, visceral action, and it worked. It would have taken away from the film if we'd done it in any other way.

I see. Thomas, I imagine you probably grew up watching action stars like Van Damme and Stallone...

TT: Surprisingly not! I never really watched... I grew up watching Kevin and Perry and Ali G and stuff like that.

SA: How old are you now?

TT: 27.

SS: Kevin and Perry Go Large is an absolute classic.

SA: So what year were you born?

TT: '92.

SA: '92... he's mysterious.

TT: I mean I'm a big fan of action... well I say I'm a big fan but I'm more into comedy. Sorry go on, finish your question.

I was just going to ask who were your favourite stars growing up.

TT: Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler and them sort of people for me... I can't think of any major action stars or any major action films I used to watch when I was younger. This was the first ever full-on action script that I've read too. I've obviously done films where there's been the odd fight and that but reading this was like wow, mind-blowing, and then to see Scott and all the guys like Beau and Leo and all of them doing it was a great experience. My character sort of runs from the action early on so I was on set a lot but had the pleasure of just watching it all.

I imagine it's made you want to do more.

SS: Probably not. (laughs)

TT: Well I smoke 20 a day so I haven't got the lung capacity for anything. And I'm not very armed, I don't think I could fight quite like Scott but maybe I'd give it a go.

Right. And talking about more, as you are regular collaborators, Scott and Stu, could you tell us of any upcoming projects?

SS: We've got a few things in the pipeline. Nothing cast in stone as yet so we don't want to jinx it.

TT: Just remember me during the casting process.

SS: Absolutely. Me, Scott and Jesse are working on a couple of other projects at the moment. Scott's got a ton of films ready on the burner.

TT: Very busy man.

SA: Yeah. Too busy, but I remember when I wasn't.

TT: That's the thing, sometimes I’ll sit around the house moaning and say to my wife that I've not got any work and start going a bit mental but then, like waiting for a bus, four or five projects come along. So I try not to complain about being busy because like Scott said I always remember the times when I'm not busy.

SA: The great thing is that typically, as an actor, you're at the mercy of whatever comes to your agent, but now I've put myself in a position where I can create my own projects. I've got loads of stuff in development and I do feel very busy from it but it's great to be in a position where I can create and develop ideas with Stu and Jesse and be the master of my own destiny.

TT: It's come from a lot of hard work, man. You've been doing it for a very long time so it's not happened by accident. You're getting what you deserve.

SA: Yeah. I used to wish I could come up with ideas of films and it never happened but these days I'm getting ideas for stuff all the time. It’s just like working out, you've got to train that creativity muscle. The more you do it, the better you get and the more ideas keep coming. I've got stuff coming out of me all the time at the minute. Need to switch it off. (laughs)

As an extension of that point, one thing I relish about the collaboration between you, Stu and Jesse is that you're always making original films. How important is that, and also are there stories that you would want to revisit for a sequel, possibly an Avengement 2? Although I think the story here is quite self-contained…

SS: Yes it is but I think there could be a few two's in the pipeline so to speak, without sounding gross.

SA: (laughs) A lot of two's coming up.

TT: I think Avengement 2 would be me getting you back, I go to the gym and get bulked up.

SA: (laughs)

SS: But yeah we have tried to make them original and separate from one another and I think the response that we've got from the audience for our last few is that they are all distinct from one another. It's quite hard to not just be pigeonholed into doing an action film of a certain budget because "higher brow" people just brush them off but we work hard on making them as original and as forward thinking as we can. It just comes from the characters, really, we're trying to come up with different characters and the three of us work hard on that, whether we succeed or not.

TT: I think you're doing something right.

SS: We try to come up with new characters and put them in situations which aren't always as straightforward as a regular action film might portray it.

SA: These stories come from a place of character rather than "let's just do an action film."

How often do you engage with the other action movies? What would you recommend to audiences if they liked Avengement for instance?

SA: If you like this one, you're gonna like Bronson and Chopper and…

SS: And Aladdin.

TT: Rocketman. (laughs)

SS: Rocketman and Jurassic Park.

I do feel that when I watch your films, I feel like I want to see more like them. I suppose there are filmmakers out there who are in the same vein, like Gareth Evans with his Raid movies.

SA: It's great watching Gareth's career because he started over there in Indonesia with the Raid films but Apostle is set in Wales and he has Gangs of London coming up. It's good to see him on other shores doing different things after starting off with martial arts films. He's got a really interesting career.

Scott, I have a question about you guys going all the way in terms of depicting violence and being creative with it. Does that come from working independently as opposed to in the big studio system, considering you've done both?

SA: You know, this film almost didn't make it past the censors in Germany. They cut about two minutes out.

TT: Cos of the violence.

SA: Yeah, we had to keep going back for about four or five times. I think that's pretty cool. (laughs) It's important for the audience to get behind the character as to graphically see what he goes through.

TT: Yeah, otherwise it wouldn't make much sense for him to go as far as he does in the pub, you know what I mean? You have to go through some terrible things to be cutting someone's hand off.

SA: The audience still has to be with you when you're throwing a severed hand on the table.

SS: It's entertaining. (laughs)

SA: It is entertaining. A lot of it comes from Jesse as well, he's a sick bastard. He loves that sort of stuff and I do as well. The stuff with the leg that gets shot... that's the work of a sick man. But I think it's great. (laughs)

TT: But he's such a lovely guy!

Does Jesse ever come away from his films and think "Yeah, we can do so much better."?

SS: Absolutely.

SA: He does, yeah! I was just speaking to him about the violence. "We're gonna take it up a notch in the next one, Scott! It wasn't enough!"

TT: The censors in Germany are gonna be like, "Noooo!" (laughs)

One final question, and it’s for you, Scott. As I said, it's super exciting that the collaborations with Jesse and Stu are all original films but everybody is going to be asking about one particular sequel. And that's if we will see the return of Yuri Boyka. What would you say to a possible Undisputed 5?

SA: Well there's been talk about a TV series... we'll see...

Something you're interested in though?

SA: We're still talking about it but we'll see. People just need to stop downloading films for free. That’s not gonna happen - broken record - but if we don't see another Boyka, that's the ONLY reason. So to anyone out there that’s downloaded a Boyka film for free, you've only got yourself to blame if you don't get a new one.

So then do you think it's advantageous that Avengement gets straight to people via VOD and DVD?

SA: The problem is that if a film doesn't go to the cinema, sometimes it doesn't make money. There's more choice than ever before - I've got Netflix myself and all that - but the market is oversaturated. It's tough to make money if you're not a Netflix original or Amazon original or going in a cinema.

SS: Yeah and when you stagger a release like this one, which came out in the States and then had to wait another six weeks for the UK…

SA: That's frustrating for the fans.

TT: I've found that bigger audiences are on Netflix. I made a film called Swimming With Men that got a cinema release during the World Cup when it was like 30 degrees and I remember saying to them, "nobody wants to be in the cinema during that time", when the football's on. Then the reaction that we got from Netflix was people coming from all over saying "oh there's this new film on Netflix."

SA: Was it originally made for Netflix?

TT: No, I think Netflix bought it.

SA: Yeah. See, if it's a Netflix original, if they're already on board while you're making it then you get a bit more money for it. But if you're making a movie hoping that Netflix might buy it, you can't guarantee that from the beginning so you need a cinema release.

TT: Yeah, though you can get one Netflix account and have five users on it.

SA: Shh. What have you been doing, eh?

Avengement is out now on digital and Blu-ray/DVD July 1st.

Read our review here.