John Wick 4 is heavy on its stunt sequences, but none are as ‘heavy’ as Scott Adkins. The experienced martial artist plays Kila in the film, with the help of a fat suit giving the character impressive stature and the role sees him in the spotlight as both a stunt performer and actor. But one person who noticed Adkins in the background was Wick star Keanu Reeves. He was asked in a previous interview what it was like working with two martial arts legends, Donnie Yen and Hiroyuki Sanada. In a split second, Reeves replied, “Three legends, Scott Adkins.” The praise for Adkins himself has not faded.
“Of course I saw it.” Adkins smiled. “It meant a lot. Keanu’s a great guy, he’s such a nice gentleman. So it’s him that makes him that way. That’s him. No surprise. He’s a gracious friend. But it also meant it. And Working on a John Wick film is a dream come true, and it has haunted the director ever since I got the first role.”
Another important part of bringing Wick’s stunt work to life is director Chad Stahelski, who originally started his career as a stuntman before making his directorial debut as John Wick, then moved on to coordinating stunts. “It’s nice because on some of the films you work on, the director may not necessarily understand how to shoot the action,” he says. “When you work with Chad, he understands that and elevates you to the best of the best.
“I always used to watch Hong Kong martial arts movies and say, ‘As long as we can get close to what we’re good at, that’s the best’. Contend with the best Hong Kong martial arts films of the year. The Matrix did, but as far as I understand Yuen Wooping directed those action sequences. But now with other directors like Chad and David Leitch and JJ Perry, we can compete we have Donnie Yen in John Wick and in general Don will look better in his Hong Kong movies but Donnie looks just as good in this film as it does in his, Chad.”
John Wick originally sent shockwaves through the film industry, and Adkins compared it to the impact of John Woo’s filmmaking or Michael Mann’s ultra-realistic, incredibly loud action styling in Heat. Adkins created a new type of genre that helped shape the action industry. Bringing it into a modern revival. “It feels like the action is back,” he says. “You have superhero movies and they are very visual effects driven. Of course they should be. You can’t do it any other way. It’s coming and I’m very excited about it, because I grew up that way in the ’80s. I know seeing Stallone and Schwarzenegger type action movies, archetypes.”
Stahelski’s respect for the skill of the stunt work and action sequences, Adkins believes, allowed him to play Killa to the fullest. As with most things in John Wick, there are intense fight sequences in Adkins’ role, but also tense, intimate scenes where he sits opposite Reeves, Donnie Yen, and Shamier Anderson at the card table. His acting skills as much as his stunt work. It’s not an opportunity given to him often.
“Every time I’ve done a big movie before, I wasn’t necessarily given a chance to shine,” says Adkins. “Henchman says a few lines, fights a major character, kicks ass. I’ve done a lot of that. I won’t do any more, especially since someone like Chad gave me the opportunity to show what I’m capable of as an actor. I’m famous for martial arts movies, but I’m an actor, and that takes a guy like Chad, I think, because he’s from the stunts or martial arts world. As a director, you might say, ‘Oh, he’s just a stuntman,’ but you need someone like Chad to give you a chance to shine. So I hope I get a chance. Again.”
Adkins, of course, has to do all of that in a fat suit. He said it didn’t feel too restrictive thanks to the complex system of the harness and the internal cooling system he could connect between shots. . Fat suits are usually reserved for comedic, slapstick roles, but having just seen Brendan Fraser win an Oscar for his role as a fat suit, Adkins had a chance to see Killa on screen.
“I didn’t see [The Whale] And you need to watch it. I have children. Kids are always watching something.” he said laughing. [from The Batman] It came out and was filmed before John Wick, so we knew about it. But then Tom Hanks appeared on Elvis wearing a fat suit. Gary Oldman with Darkest Hour not too long ago. It’s amazing what they can do now. Did you think I shined in my performance? ‘Damn, so many people are wearing fat clothes, I wanted to be the only one’. To be fair, it was a bit. But no, look how far we’ve come with prosthetics. You can’t even tell. It’s amazing. Great. Another tool for actors to create characters. And it’s very free. Being behind all of that makes me feel like I can’t see myself. It makes you almost braver and bolder in some way. It was fun.”
John Wick 4 is now in theaters.
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