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British-born martial artist and actor Scott Adkins has more than 50 movie credits to his name. He’s built a cult following as lead protagonist Yuri Boyka in the last three films in the Undisputed franchise and shared the screen with action movie legends Sylvester Stallone and Jean-Claude Van Damme in The Expendables 2. Adkins is next set to appear alongside Benedict Cumberbatch in Marvel Studios’ latest blockbuster, Doctor Strange, which hit theaters on Nov. 4. Despite all of these roles, Adkins is still stuck on Hollywood’s C-list, which is something the 40-year-old action star is determined to roundhouse kick to the curb.
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“They compare my films with The Expendables or Marvel movies, but you can’t compare them. Those films are made in six months.”
Adkins filmed his Undisputed movies in just five weeks.
“I challenge you to find anyone making films in that amount of time that are better than the ones I’m making, but of course, people don’t see it that way.”
What they just see, and can’t get past, is Adkins’ ripped physique. Bringing Yuri Boyka’s world to life translates to 14 hours of physicality six days a week, plus additional workouts to maintain the shredded 190 pounds for the role of a Russian prison fighter who routinely goes all Bruce Lee—he performs all the moves—on his opponents in spectacular fashion. To look the part, Adkins typically follows a traditional bodybuilding split four days per week with two days dedicated to martial arts, refueling with balanced portions of whole foods, so he’s ready to do it all again the next day.
“It doesn’t even make sense to think that I can’t up my game. The thing is when you’re making a martial arts film it affects your performance as a dramatic actor as well because you are absolutely shattered,” Adkins says. “Directors can attest that I’m one of the hardest working actors because I love [acting], and I feel privileged to be able to do it.”
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Adkins grew up a reserved kid from Sutton Coldfield, a small village 10 miles north of Birmingham. Early on he had aspirations of joining his action-movie idols—Lee and Van Damme—as an action-movie icon. At 18 he started acting and eventually enrolled in drama school. With eight years of martial arts already under his black belt, he landed small gigs in TV shows and low-budget action flicks. Although every actor has to start somewhere, Adkins admits these decisions could have played a role in the lack of attention he receives from big-time studios. It wasn’t until 2006 when Undisputed 2 was released that Adkins’ following began to gather. And after appearing in The Expendables 2 as one of Van Damme’s henchmen, his fans set up an Internet campaign pushing to get him more lead roles. Adkins’ response: “Well, I quite agree.”
The man who turned his father’s garage into a dojo is gaining momentum.
Photo credit: Millenium Films
With a cash cow like Marvel Studios’ movies—The Avengers, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Iron Man 3 all earned more than $1 billion each at the box office—will this be the role that finally catapults Adkins’ career? He’s not banking on it.
“I’m not the star of the movie. Hopefully what I do in it gives me more notoriety so I can be a part of bigger films,” says Adkins. “But it just takes somebody high up to say, ‘OK, we’re going to take a chance on you, kid.’ I don’t feel like I’ve had that opportunity. At least give me the shot, and if I fail, OK. I’ve only got myself to blame.”
Adkins is starting to film Accident Man—a hit man who makes his kills look like accidents—and just completed work on two more films, Savage Dog and Altar Rock. As usual, the days on set were long. And as Adkins continues to wait for his big break, he knows when the day arrives, it won’t feel strange.
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