Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Condemned: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin Q&A

Last Friday I covered press for the forthcoming action flick The Condemned which stars the WWE pro wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (the Longest Yard) and Vinnie Jones(Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch) and both were cool as hell...the film's set for release on the April 27th and isn't half as bad...it wasn't Fassbinder but it did what it was meant to do: entertain. Here's some of what went down during Steve's interview...

Q: The Spider-Man junket just finished downstairs, you have any smack to talk about the web-slinger at all?

Steve Austin: Do I have any smack to talk, you know, trying to talk smack on Spider-Man? No, I want to keep my mouth shut.

Q: You were born in Texas and now you live here, what're you doing out-doorsy now, surfing?

SA: Still doing the fishing and hunting stuff-- I ended up buying a house out in Malibu, I thought it was a good thing to do. To, get away from everything, you know, to have a little bit of privacy and quiet. And you'd think that would set me up to hang out on the beach and do the surfing-- not the case. I've been to the beach one time since I moved out there, so, I'm selling out (the house) and I'm coming back to Venice -- I lived in Venice Beach for two years, I'm coming back-- I've always taken a positive approach to everything I do but I figured if I were ever to surf, I would be the cat out there that would get hit by a shark, for some reason. But, because I'm an optimist, I'd survive-- so no surfing for me.

Q: How do you think Vince McMahon is looking with your hair do?

SA: I was there (when he got it shaved off on the WWE), up close and personal, and I'd been around Vince a long time, I love working with the guy, because he's such a unique (person) and I've loved so much from him but he's got the ugliest (bald) head-- he's got creases and divits and all that. Because he actually had a thick head of hair, so he didn't get any sun down there, like I have a pretty tanned head but his head was (pale white)...I'm begging him to grow his hair back.

Q: How does the WWE family dynamic translate to film, just from the production aspect?

SA: From the production to the film I don't know...

Q: Well, from behind the scenes, like there's that tight-knit family going on in the WWE and what you saw going on in the film business. It must be two different worlds.

SA: Well, it's two different worlds but the thing, in doing this movie, you know I had a small part in The Longest Yard and that really doesn't count but in this film, rolling to Australia-- although I was in front of the cast (and crew) who were people I hadn't met, it was a bit wild. I believed that I was at home because it was a WWE project and financed by WW Films, so it felt at home on that end of it. But one thing that was just a big difference was, in doing anything for live TV as far as back stage on Monday Night Raw, you're going live-live, so you're trying to be time efficient with everything you do. You know, rolling to Australia, on a movie set -- you probably know more about this than I do, I just did one (film)-- things take a long time. And coming from a very time-efficient machine, to 'hurry up and wait' was interesting. I read it up waiting in my trailer, I learned two different languages while we were shooting-- Spanish and German....once a gets completed and we're on the countdown, the 27th in (The Condemned's) case, I'm very excited, not nervous at all-- I know the movie, I'm proud of the movie, so, I'm just anxious for it to come out now.

Q: Making this movie must've been a breeze compared to wrestling.

SA: You know what, when you've lived 15 years on the road-- I always tell people, you kind of turn into a zombie, in a way, because you just become impervious to a lot of the things that you just go through, you see some things and some things you don't because you're so busy doing what you do-- it's a tough way to make a living but it's the most fun you'll ever have. And being on a movie set, long hours and I have a whole new respect for actors and actresses just as far as the long days on the set or if you go on in the night and shoot into the early mornings, you know, and just the preparation that you take into a role, whatever the part is. Just the long hours and in this case, dealing with some really, really tough locations (to shoot on) and the weather. And, you know what, we had some real long, tough days on the set but I always look at it as: if you're luck enough to be on a movie set, that's a dream. I mean, I've worked on a freight dock, loading and unloading trucks for a living-- that's what I did before I got into wresting. I know what hard work is, I'm a manual labor specialist-- there are people out there that are working construction, saving lives and stuff like that [and] when all you're doing is working on a project to entertain people, it's a good day at the office.

Q: How was it fighting for the camera in segments as opposed to being in front of a live audience for a 20 minute brawl?

SA: Man, I'll tell you what, people have said that 'it must be easy for you to learn how to fight for film because of your background'-- well, not really. Because, in a wrestling ring, contrary to what anybody believes, you're working ad-lib, improv and you're doing things to illicit a response to (that particular) crowd, so in response, you go accordingly. You keep that going for, say, that 20-minute match that you were talking about, that's how you work that match. And that's why it's ring psychology, it's not just two guys randomly taking turns beating each other up-- it's much, much more than that. So when you take that loose, brawling style that I use in the wrestling ring and then all of a sudden, I'm Jack Conrad with a military background (in the movie), so I'll need a precise fighting style (for the role)...And then you take that and you're forced to learn (new) choreographed fighting moves, you're not familiar with the moves because they're much different from your old ones, much different from whatever you've been doing and you've got to remember every duck, every punch, every kick and then you have so many fight (scenes) on top of that-- it was very frustrating...Vinne (Jones) would tell you that there's the one scene down by the riverbed, when he got a bunch of lumps and bumps from me pounding on him...there's another scene in the movie with that character Paco where he's supposed to hit me low and he hits me high (during the shoot) and he gives me a black eye-- if you look closely in the movie, you'll see that I have the black eye, but they just covered it up with makeup because we needed to keep going. I always tell people, in professional wrestling, you really do hit each other but you really don't try to hurt each other, take care of each other but there's contact made. And so, when someone hits you too hard, you send back a receipt...I never got my chance to send Vinnie (and Paco) my receipt-- I'm going to put him in the next movie and I'm taking him out! (laughs)

Q: You've wrestled for 15 years and you have something like 17 belts, never mind acting, what made you get into wrestling in the first place? When did you get into it, like in the Wahoo McDaniels, Nature Boy Rick Flare days or when?

SA: You know, I grew up in South Texas, I grew up a hundred miles south of Houston and I can't remember how long ago it was but I was changing the channels on the TV and I saw two guys fighting for a Championship Belt and I was hooked. I mean, certainly, I was a Wahoo McDaniels fan and Jake "the Snake" Roberts was coming through, Dusty Rhodes, guys like that were coming around through the Houston area at that time-- I've been a fan from since way back. And I always figured that down the road, I'd always wanted to be a professional wrestler but I didn't know how I was going to do or when it was going to happen but it was always my dream and after I stopped playing college football, I got in the ring-- like the guys before me-- and I starved for two years and then I got a few breaks.

Q: Yeah, back then televised pro wrestling was looked like it was shot on closed-circuit TV and now it's become what its become.

SA: You know, it's changed and I am a big fan of the earlier days because the story lines were a little bit simpler, you know, a little bit more realistic. (laughs)...to me, it's about competition. I've always thought that you could have humor in professional wrestling, not comedy-- there's a big difference.

Q: Have you had to keep up the same workout regime, no matter what you're doing?

SA: You know, I do because my favorite food is Mexican. so I've got to watch my weight and on film it's brutal. But I also like to live life, I like to have a beer or two and stuff like that but I like to work out-- it's also a good way to get rid of some stress.

Q:How'd you get any Mexican food in Australia during the shoot?

SA: I didn't eat any. I couldn't find any and they didn't have any in catering but before I did the movie, I really tightened up. I was on a really strict eating program to maintain my appearance and now, being on this promo tour for the movie, you know, I haven't touched a weight in a month-- you're sitting on airplanes and you're eating all kinds of crazy food and you sit and drink beer on an airplane because you're not driving. (laughs) So, when the movie comes out on the 27th, I got to get my tail back to work.

Q: Is it just a matter of maintenance now or do you still work on building mass?

SA: Oh, no man. My weight workout might take about 30 minutes and if it's 45 minutes, that's a long workout for me. I started working out when I was in the 5th grade, I'm 42 now, so I've been doing it for a long time, and you have to for professional wrestling, but in that (wrestling) job, I'm not a big guy but I'm not a small guy-- just in the middle. But out here (in Los Angeles), I'm a pretty big guy so, I'm just trying to stay in shape and do what works for me. I'm a guy (who's like) what you see is what you get, pretty much and in talking with me, if you look at me, (you'd know that) I'm never going to be a slim guy. I never am and this is pretty much what I'm bringing to the table. If you don't like what I look like, if you're somebody trying to offer me work, then I'm not your guy because I don't think I can get too much smaller than this, so this is what I'm bringing to the table-- for better or for worse.

Q: You don't think the 5th grade is too early to start lifting?

SA: You know what, I never really noticed any side effects and-- (starts whooping like he's going crazy and laughs). No, it really didn't effect me too much.

Q: So what did you do in preparation for your role in this one as you're the central figure and it's more acting involved.

SA: When I signed on to do this movie, the producer from WWE Films, Joe Simon, said to me 'Steve, we're going to hook you up with an acting coach' and I said 'that sounds good to me!' And we tried this one guy and he was a little bit more comedy-based and this movie wasn't about the comedy so I was talking to Scott Wiper, our director, who I think did just a killer job-- who I've come to be good friends with and highly respect-- and he put me in touch with a good friend of his named Allen Mcrae and that guy worked with me for many hours and helped me with breaking down a script and realizing that there's a lot more than words on that page, going over dialogue and delivery. We rolled camera in the studio to see what we had and when we first started, it was brutal-- you know when you see yourself with no lighting, no makeup on and you're just in that studio doing dialogue, it was hard to watch, you know. But I'm very proud of my performance and the movie-- I have a lot to learn-- and I'll be the first one to tell you that but I'm proud of what I see...

The Condemned opens nationally on Friday, April 27th

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