ComingSoon spoke to actor and mixed martial arts legend Randy Couture about his latest film Blowback, which is currently out in theaters, on digital, and on demand.
“When a master thief is sabotaged during a bank heist and left for dead, he seeks revenge on his former crew one target at a time,” says the synopsis. “Now, with the cops and the mob closing in, he’s in the race of his life to reclaim an untold fortune in cryptocurrency from those who double-crossed him. UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture stars in this nail-bitingly tense and action-packed thriller.”
Tyler Treese: Randy, your new film is the heist thriller Blowback. Heist films are always a good time. What about the script really excited you for this role?
Randy Couture: I mean, getting to rob a bank for crying out loud. Yeah, I think it was the characters, how all these characters fit together, the intrigue, deceit, and betrayal of a love triangle, and kind of the way that all unfolds and affects the story was what grabbed me for sure.
You were kind of the ultimate babyface in your mixed martial arts career. You were going up against younger and heavier men, but you’re playing the villain here and you’re really great in it. You’re really sinister. How much fun is it getting to tap into that darker side that we haven’t really seen?
Yeah, it’s a blast. I think it’s fun to get to play bad guys. To say and do things in the films that you would never say and do in real life. At the end of the day, that’s what acting’s all about. So I enjoy that. I had that character on Hawaii Five-O a couple of years back, Jason Duclair, the serial arsonist, and a lot of people texted me after that saying “Man, you’re going to give me nightmares with this guy.” So that’s a fun character to get to play like that.
So Jack is also a fun role because he’s kind of the big, final boss encounter and Cam Gigandet’s Nick is kind of working his way up towards you. So this confrontation is just building and building. What was your approach to these more dramatic scenes? There a lot of tension.
Yeah, there absolutely is a lot of tension. I think that again comes from the emotions of that love triangle. She used to date this guy and now she’s dating me, he’s hiring my crew to pull this job off. It kind of creates some interesting tension just in that. Michelle [Plaia] was great to work with. Cam was awesome to work with, [director] Tibor [Takács] was very collaborative, he wanted our opinions on how to make these scenes fit together, and it made it a fun experience for sure.
A lot of athletes tried to transition into acting, but only a few have had a lot of success. You certainly have. Talk me through that transition. Do you think your work ethic and drive, which I assume came from your time in the Army, just really helped you succeed because those are qualities that really transcend fighting?
I agree with that a hundred percent. I think that through wrestling, and then six years in the Army developed a particular mindset and work ethic that has translated well to being an actor. I don’t think they’re used to guys showing up on set, dressed and ready to go knowing all their lines, being coachable and all those things that came directly from athletics, and trying to be easy to work with and fun to work with. I think that makes you get more jobs.
So for me, it was Cradle 2 the Grave. That was my first time getting the call from the UFC. They want the authentic cage fighters for the underground fight scenes in that movie, myself, Chuck [Liddell], and Tito [Ortiz] all got a chance to portray a character in that film. It was like going to Oz, spent seven days on set in these underground fight scenes in this garage, telling this little piece of the story, it was literally a five-minute scene in the movie. It took us seven days to film that. It was just an intriguing process. It’s like getting to pull the curtain back and see the guys pulling the levers and knobs, making all the smoke and fire. It was a really interesting process, a big action scene in that, in those fights, the little person Martin [Klebba], we’re swinging him around. I mean, it was a lot of wire work. It was all kinds of crazy stuff in that one scene. I’d been a movie-goer my whole life, but to actually be on a set was a really interesting process.
Talk me through just how exciting it is to be like learning a new craft, because you think of your fighting career you learned the ins and outs of wrestling, grappling, striking, and you got to a very high level in all of those. So to be picking up something new in all the intricacies of acting, how exciting is that for you?
It is definitely a challenge and it’s definitely exciting. The process is very, very interesting to me, and as an athlete, I’ve spent most of my life boxing up my emotions and putting them to the side and staying laser-focused on what I trained to do and go out and solve that problem. Now they want you to learn all that stuff out. So it’s a little bit different, it’s certainly a challenge and not an easy thing to do. Everybody just assumes that people are just naturally good at this, and it really takes some work and concentration and some diligence to figure out the process and how to do it.
You spoke to that fighting mindset and a lot of these films are action ones and you’re in some pretty great fight scenes. So what is it like when you’re having to pull your punches? Is that a hard adjustment?
It is a different and difficult adjustment. It’s one of the first things I had to learn coming from real fighting to doing stunt work in movies, is to lie of the camera, and how to sell the punch and make all those things happen. You don’t punch the same way that you do in a real fight. You kind of have to wind up and throw haymakers, if you will, to cross the line and allow the guy to see it coming so he can sell it. I had an interesting experience in that Cradle 2 the Grave movie.
I was supposed to have a fight scene with Jet Li and his whole schtick in the movies is he keeps his hand in his pocket, he doesn’t want to fight anybody, and he just kind of dodges everything that comes at him, and I’m supposed to throw a big right hand at him and he just dodges it. Well, I throw the big right hand, he didn’t get out of way fast enough, and I ran him over. Thankfully, I didn’t punch him, but I ran him over. Of course, the director went nuts, because I just ran over the star of the movie. But it was certainly a learning experience for me. He’s like, “Man, I didn’t expect it to come.” Like I threw it right from my cheek, just like you would, instead of winding up and letting him see it so he could react to it and sell the shot. Definitely took me a while to figure that part out.
We also see you quite regularly on television with the Professional Fighters League. I really like that it’s not trying to be a watered-down UFC. It has the whole season stuff and you’re a commentator and I like that the production’s trying different things. There are some unique camera angles. We had the Randy cam last week. Just from a commentary perspective, how much do you like that they’re willing to try new things and take some risks?
I do like that. I think distinguishing themselves from everybody else that’s trying to do traditional prizefighting. Taking MMA and putting it into a legitimate sports season, like so many other sports in our country and in our society. The way they’re treating and paying the athletes and taking care of the athletes is certainly, as an athlete that appeals to me as well. The fact that foot speed, hand speed, the cage cam that looks through the chain link, so you get a better view, the ref cam. I mean, they’re just doing a lot of things and trying to set the bar, and kind of set some new standards for mixed martial arts. It’s been fun to be a part of that with those guys. And I feel like I’m in the best seat of the house, sitting at cageside, talking with two of my college buddies, joking around a little bit, and having fun commentating the fights. I think we as fighters, see things, little nuances and subtle things that the average fan doesn’t pick up on, and we get to highlight some of that. So it’s been a blast. And I really like what the PFL’s doing.
Your legacy inside the Octagon is just so incredible, and I think it’s aging even better with time as well because you were one of the first fighters to really stick up for fighters’ rights and better pay, and that issue has gotten just even more spotlight since you kind of brought it up in 2007. What do you think really is the solution there? Is it like a union, the Ali Act from boxing being applied? Do you think there is an easy fix?
The union model doesn’t work because we’re all 1099 employees, we’re all independent contractors. I think that the Players Association, Fighters Association, even the Screen Actors Guild are closer models to what would fit. In fighting, we have the MMAFA, the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association. I’ve been a spokesperson for them, and going to Congress lobbying, trying to get the Ali Act to a vote, to amend the definition of what a combative sports athlete is, change it from simply boxing to all combative sports athletes and create that transparency and protections that they allowed boxing in ’96 with the Ali Act, to cover all of us in combative sports. That could be the grapplers that are doing pay-per-view grappling now, that would be certainly the mixed martial artists that are signing contracts with Bellator and UFC and PFL and everybody else, and could use that transparency in our industry and our sport.
Will the class action lawsuit force some changes in the way people do business? That’s possible, that’s a longer play. I think the Ali Act is probably the shortest route to get there, to kind of create some transparency, and give fighters a chance to negotiate for their fair market value in these events and get some minimum standard set for criteria, for pay, for some healthcare, some 401k, some of the things that a lot of other professional athletes in our society enjoy.
You’re also a decorated gym owner and coach and the current UFC heavyweight champ and Xtreme Couture fighter Francis Ngannou has also been vocal about these issues. We don’t really see a ton of fighters currently involved really backing him up. Can you just talk about the bravery it takes to kind of stand your ground? Because it doesn’t seem like people really flock to that.
You’re hearing more fighters chirp about the issues that I brought up back in 2007 and just like me, back in 2007, none of the other fighters kind of got behind that movement and tried to make some changes. The upside for me was, in 2007, I got my own ancillary rights and some of those things that I thought were wrong about those contracts. The downside to that was they closed a bunch of those loopholes after I brought them to their attention for future fighters that had to sign those same contracts. You’re hearing Jon Jones chirp a little bit about it now, obviously, Francis has spoken out about the way it’s going.
Show me another professional sport on the globe, let alone in this country that 13 to 15% of the revenue that comes in from each event goes to the athletes that are on that event. Every other sport across the board, it’s a much higher percentage that goes to those athletes that compete in those events. So I think that’s the direction we’re trying to go. You know, if it takes a guy like Jake Paul chirping and, calling out Dana White and poking the sport for the way it treats and pays its athletes, then, you know, I can get behind a guy like that. I’m not a big fan of the rhetoric and the talk, but he is shining a light on the disparaging difference between what’s going on in boxing and what’s happened in MMA.
So you’ve got The Expendables 4 on the way. How has it been just getting back together with like, a who’s who of action movies?
It’s awesome. It feels like old home when we get back on set, we’re all gearing up getting ready to go out and shoot a scene, and it’s just great to see those guys, we never skip a beat. It’s just a great group of guys, a fun group of guys to work with. It keeps morphing and changing all the time. Expendables 4 was certainly… there are only four of us originals left in Expendables 4. So it was a little bit of a new experience. But it was fun, it was refreshing, and it was great to see Jason [Statham] always great to see Sylvester Stallone, Dolph [Lundgren] is always fun. I’ve probably spent more time with Dolph than anybody else in the cast. He’s just a great guy. It’s fun to be around. So it’s always good to see those guys
Your gym gets some celebrities to come through. I know All Elite Wrestling star Jon Moxley trained at your gym for a bit. How was it like grappling with him? He seems to be a real student.
Yeah, absolutely. He’s in there putting himself in situations not a lot of those guys want to put themselves in a real shoot gym with real catch guys, and he assimilated to it great. He was very curious and asked a lot of questions. He was fun to work with because he had a real deep passion for what he was doing. I think he sees the roots of pro wrestling and where they came from, and catch-as-catch-can wrestling, which was a real sport in the early 1900s. So he was fun to work with. He was great to have him in the gym.
You had a really fun cameo on The King of Queens years ago, yourself, Dan Henderson, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and Frank Trigg. How was it appearing on that show and having such a fun fight with Kevin James, who is obviously such a big MMA fan?
Kevin’s a good friend, and a great fan of MMA. And that’s how that whole thing came about. Good friends with one of the writers from the show Mike Soccio, and that’s how I ended up meeting Kevin James. Bas [Rutten] was working directly with Kevin, helping him train and working on his diet and some of the other things that he had aspirations to do, which led to Here Comes the Boom, his movie about MMA and being a teacher that fell right into MMA. It was a cool experience. Me, “Rampage,” Frank Trigg, Danny Henderson, all kind of got to play big thugs in a funny scene in King of Queens. It was a great time.
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