The UFC fighter talks about making his feature film debut in this action film.
Ultimate Fighting Championship fans know all about Rich Franklin's tenacity inside the octagon and now they can see it in a whole new way. Franklin makes his feature acting debut in the action film Cyborg Soldier, which comes to DVD on October 7. I had the chance to talk to this fighter-turned-actor over the phone and here's what he had to say about his new film.
So you make your acting debut in Cyborg Soldier. How did this project come about for you?
Rich Franklin: I was talking to my agent one morning and we were talking about what I'd be interested in doing once I was done fighting. We kicked around some things for commentary and acting and things like that and I said I would be interested in acting. This part kind of came our direction and, in talking to my agent about it, he said, 'I think this would be a good thing for you. It's a good opportunity.' I always pictured myself, in my first ones, as having a small part with just a couple of lines in it and that'd be about it, but I was kind of thrown into the mix here quickly.
You were a math teacher before you were a fighter, so you're a math teacher-turned-fighter-turned actor. Had you always had a desire to act even before when you were teaching math?
Rich Franklin: Yes and no. There's always that part of you, when you're sitting around going, 'That would be cool to try, to see what it would be like.' But I had never had that drive in me to say, 'Oh, I want to be a movie star one day.'
The character you play, Issac, is basically devoid of any emotion at all. What sorts of things did you do to get into that character and was it difficult to portray a character like that?
Rich Franklin: It was, really. Daily for me, I use a lot of sarcasm, or if something happens in a movie that would make a person angry, you would think you could show anger, but you can't, not even those emotions. Of course, having a lack of emotions saves you from doing a big crying scene in the movie or something. I would try to remove myself from any situation before a scene or something like that, and just sit and think about absolutely nothing.
So did you work with a coach on this at all or what other sorts of preperations did you do?
Rich Franklin: A little bit of coaching prior to, but I thought they would have an acting coach for me on set and they didn't. All I had to go with was the director's notes.
I think you did a great job. It is a tough character to portray, with no emotions, and it was solid and believable, for someone that's a cyborg.
Rich Franklin: Well, the thing is, before the movie, you would think it would be easy since you don't have to show any emotions and you think that would be a kind of easier role to portray. Then once you get into it, it's not easy.
You have some pretty talented co-stars around you with Bruce Greenwood and Tiffani Thiessen. How were they like to work with and what sorts of tips or advice did they give you along the way?
Rich Franklin: They were great to work with. I spent a lot more time with Tiffani than I did Bruce. A lot of mine and Bruce's parts were filmed toward the end and Tiffani and I, since we were in the movie throughout together, intermingled a lot more. They're just easy-going people and, you talk about being intimidated when you're coming into your first film and you're working with experienced actors like that, it is really an intimidating feeling. I really don't know what's going on, so you try to... I don't know, I guess pretend like you know what's going on. They were great. Tiffani would give me some pointers if I would ask and Bruce and I sat down and played a game of chess one day, which he won. I guess in the process of him beating me in chess, he gave me a few acting pointers as well, so it was a good experience working with them for my first film.
What kind of a shoot was this? How long were you guys shooting this for and where did you actually film it?
Rich Franklin: We filmed it outside of Toronto in a town called Hamilton in Ontario. My portion of the shot was four weeks, just a shade over four weeks.
This really has sort of a Rambo meets Terminator feel to it. Were those influences that you drew off from this movie, or what other influences did you have for this?
Rich Franklin: Well, honestly, when I saw this the first thing I thought of was, I hate to say this, but Universal Soldier with Jean-Claude. I'm not really a cyborg, but I've been genetically altered so I'm not really human either. I'm pretty much on the run, so that was one part that I could definitely identify with.
There are some great fight scenes in the film. Coming from your background, is it kind of hard to do these scenes since you can't actually, you know, hit people for real?
Rich Franklin: A little bit. It took some adjustment. When I go to throw a punch, actually, my intention is to hit somebody. That's just second nature to me. So you have to just rewire yourself. It's not something where you have to sit and subconsciously think about it, but you kind of have to just put yourself in that mode and go with it. Learning the fight scenes, I've never had to learn choreography before, so learning the fight scenes was like learning a dance or something like that. I had a little bit of influence in the fight scenes and I tried to put as much influence there as I could, but I had fun doing it.
Randy Couture just starred in Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, Chuck Liddell has been in a few films and with you now, it seems there's a mixed martial arts resurgence like there was with the WWF a few years ago. Are there any other fighters that are trying to break into acting that you know of?
Rich Franklin: I don't know. I'm trying to think of some of the big name fighters that are in a situation like I'm in, like Matt Hughes, for example. I don't know if he's doing any work with film or acting or anything like that. A lot of the younger fighters, I would imagine that most of these guys are focusing on their fight careers. I know Forrest (Griffin) just did an episode of Law & Order and I know they did a thing with Randy and Dan Henderson, I think Randy was in it. There were four fighters, I can't remember who else, but they did The King of Queens. Actually, Gavin is a friend of mine and he wanted me to be a part of that, but I couldn't because I was just about to start my training.
I see you're fighting light-heavyweight these days and you have Dan Henderson in January. Are you kind of in prep mode for that right now?
Rich Franklin: Not yet. That doesn't start until about mid-November. I'm always training, so I'm not out of training right now.
So will you ever go back to middleweight? Maybe clash with (Anderson) Silva again?
Rich Franklin: Well, that's part of the reason why I moved up to 205. UFC told me they weren't interested in me doing another fight with Silva, so I was in a situation where I was basically a gatekeeper at that weight class, so I decided to move up to 205. Moving back to 185, I mean, I never say never to anything. If they wanted a fight with him and he wanted to do it, then I'd be more than happy too, if it'd be good for the fans. I'm not closed-minded about moving back to 185, though, so we'll see. Who knows what the future holds, but, for now, I'm at 205.
Do you have any other acting plans in the works for you? Are there other scripts you're looking at right now?
Rich Franklin: There is one other script. It's a movie for television and it's like a Western movie. I'm not a main character or anything like that but I read it and I'm interested in doing it and it's a matter of, at this point in time, scheduling that so it corresponds with my fight schedule.
Finally, Cyborg Soldier comes out on DVD on October 7. How do you think your UFC fans will react to your performance and the movie as a whole?
Rich Franklin: I think there will be some people who think I did a great job, some people who will think, 'Hey, for a guy who did this for his first time, he didn't do too bad,' and some people will be like, 'Rich Franklin sucks.' It doesn't matter what you do, you will always have people on every side of that spectrum, so I would imagine for me it wouldn't be any different.
Well, that's about all I have for you, Rich. Thanks a lot for your time and I look forward to whatever you have next.
Rich Franklin: Thank you. I appreciate it.
You can see UFC light-heavyweight fighter Rich Franklin in action when Cyborg Soldier comes to DVD on October 7.