The WWE superstar is one of 10 death row inmates fighting for his life in the sick and crazy action flick
Stone Cold Steve Austin made a name for himself in the wrestling ring; after nearly 15 years on camera for a live audience of 30,000 and millions on television around the world. Now, he's stepping out of the ring and onto the big screen in his new action thriller, The Condemned from WWE Films and Lionsgate.
He plays one of ten death row inmates who are chosen to compete in an internet broadcast for a brutal reality show. As the tagline for the film says, '10 people will fight. 9 people will die. You get to watch.' That's right - one winner, and only one left still living. Steve plays one of those 10 people.
There's a reality show crew following all the action, and broadcasting the brutality on the internet. There is some sick fighting, explosions, violence and torture in The Condemned, but it was all hard work for Steve; Vinnie Jones poses his biggest challenge in 'the game.'
Check out what Stone Cold had to say about The Condemned:
How did you come to the project?
Steve Austin: The project came to me actually; I had moved to Los Angeles about three years ago to kind of get into the acting thing, and two years ago the script found me, an agent brought it to me, and wanted me to play the part of McStarley, Vinnie Jones' character, and they said, 'We'll basically put a named actor into the Jack Conrad role.' And I said, 'Let me read it,' and I read it and it sounds good, I took it to Vince, he'd already started the WWE Films division, I was originally slated to - The Marine was written for me, but when they got ready to shoot I didn't think I really liked it that much, so I was going to wait. So anyway, when I took this to Vince, Vince said, 'Ok, we'll do it; but if I'm getting behind this, and I'm going to put my money out you're going to play Jack Conrad.' That's how that happened.
What's Vince McMahon like to work for as a movie producer?
Steve Austin: You know what, hands on in the initial phases of reading the script many times. When this script came to me we gave the original writer three different swings at it, and he couldn't really take it any further, bringing into the picture Scott Wiper, the writer/director, who rewrote it nine times and did a phenomenal job on it, is a wonderful director. So Vince is hands on then, but when it comes time to direct the movie, Scott Wiper was the director, so he trusted him to make all the decisions as far as casting and everything else, and of course, he worked with Joel Simon and Mike Lake out there, but that's when he stopped being hands on and let Scott Wiper, the director, do his job.
What were the challenges for you filming on location, we heard from the director you guys were on an island where there was hardly any amenities.
Steve Austin: The lack of amenities was okay for me, because just from growing up in south Texas and hunting and fishing and camping. I pretty much stayed in my bus most of the time anyway, because I didn't feel like driving back into town, so to me it was almost like being paid to camp out and make a movie. Tough locations, some treacherous conditions as far as fighting on the side of cliffs, in the river gorges and slippery rocks and stuff like that. But it was all real safe, challenging I think for everybody, but because I enjoy the outdoors so much I loved it.
What about working with Vinnie - that last fight scene was intense.
Steve Austin: The fight scene was a great fight scene; I remember we had two days blocked off for that and it took eight days to do, because we were standing there in the riverbed, we had these special boots with moleskin on the bottom of them so we wouldn't slip around so much, which didn't really help that much, but we'd fight for ten minutes and the rain would come down, and we'd stand in the river for three hours with umbrellas, and we'd get a break, and so then we'd start fighting again, and with no stretching the rain would just stop, so you'd go up completely cold and start fighting again. I really enjoyed that fight scene and it was fun working with Vinnie because the guy's a riot. He's a walking wise guy, so we had a lot of fun pulling jokes behind the scenes, but he's a great guy to work with and I had fun fighting with him. I think he got a couple bumps and bruises and a few knots, that was my fault, but that's kind of the way The Condemned happened.
How does the fight choreography in the film differ from stuff that you do on television?
Steve Austin: It's a completely different ballgame, and when people say, 'Because of your background with professional wrestling, you must have been really able to pull off these fight scenes.' And I say, 'No, no, you're completely wrong.' Because at the top level of professional wrestling, you don't choreograph anything, you don't set anything up, you work in adlib, it's improve; you're doing something to illicit a response from that crowd, based on that response you go accordingly and you make decisions continuously, you're working on the feedback from that crowd. You're dictating to them, but when you get that response that you think is going to happen, you keep going. So then you take a loose brawling style which I incorporated in the ring and the technical fighting aspect a guy like Jack Conrad should have for the military background, and then all of a sudden I have to take a new fighting style and remember a choreographed fight move for move. It was very frustrating until I just kept doing it over and over again and then getting the hang of it, but I have to give credit to Richard Norton and Sam Greco, the two guys that were basically training me, and it made for some frustrating days until I started getting the hang of it. But completely different, athletic ability required in both, execution way different.
Did you do your own stunts?
Steve Austin: No, I did not do the major stunts in this movie; we had great stuntmen and women and they did an outstanding job, I did all of my fight scenes one hundred percent, that was all me, but we left the big stuff to the guys who are excellent at what they're doing, we had good ones.
Did you work with them to help them, or did they help you?
Steve Austin: No, I don't claim to know everything about the movie business; I'm very proud of this movie, I'm proud of my performance, but I've got a lot to learn and I learned a lot on this movie set, so those stunts guys would come around to me and we'd talk and carry on, and as they saw me walking across the parking lot, they were starting to mold themselves after me so they could pick up my physical characteristics, the way I did things, and that's kind of the way they worked. We'd shoot the breeze and have fun, but when it came time for them to study or do what they do, that's what they did.
What have you got coming up now that you've moved to L.A. and are full on into acting?
Steve Austin: With WWE Films, this is the first picture of a three picture deal. We've been trying to find for the last few months something to start shooting ASAP. I think right now because of my comfort zone I would imagine it's going to be something a little more action oriented, hopefully with a good story. I think The Condemned has a great story, it's a lot more than a mindless action flick. Something that's going to be more solo-driven, I want to carry more weight in the movie, it's going to be something that I'm going to have fun making, and I think I still need to do something that my core fan base completely expects me to be in. A movie like The Condemned, completely different, but the same adrenaline type packed thing with a good story, lots of action.
You said it's the first of a three picture deal; would those other pictures involve the same Conrad character or something completely different?
Steve Austin: We've talked about doing something with the Conrad character, because the way this thing turns out, and I did the movie but I'd tell you if I thought the movie was average, I would, I love the movie and I'm proud of it, and I'll stand by it all day long. We talked about doing something like that, the next one probably won't be, but if we could get something out of it we would, or will.
You're in fantastic shape, is there any chance that you would go back and actually wrestle again?
Steve Austin: If The Condemned doesn't do well I might be forced to - no, I'm kidding, I'm kidding. I'm extremely frugal, I saved all my money and paid my taxes. I'll tell you why, and I tell everybody this, if I wanted to I could go back and get into the ring and I could make two years of flat out, full schedule, on the road and doing everything it takes, and I would perform from the top level because I'm a top guy in that business, but I look down the road now and I think, okay, so I did those two years, what am I going to feel like in 10 or 15 years after that? And I think for a long time I was bulletproof, and back in those days I was bulletproof, but as you get on you start thinking a little bit about the future and I love living and I love life, and I love hunting and fishing, and I want to be able to do it was long as I can and do it pain free.
How's the neck and the knees?
Steve Austin: The neck is great; the leg braces were for wrestling, part of my gear, part of my uniform, part of my equipment. In The Condemned, if you saw the movie, that's all me; I'll go toe to toe with anyone in an action movie.
How do you like LA compared to Texas?
Steve Austin: I've been here three years, and I still make adjustments every day; I love Texas, but I know LA's the place to be. And Los Angeles, in it of itself, is a cool city, great weather; the traffic is brutal, the real estate prices are sky high. It took me a long time till I could even think about buying a house because very, very small houses cost a lot; for that lot, you could buy a mansion in Texas. But I think it's a very interesting town, and when you look at the entertainment aspect of Los Angeles, when you realize what the business is all about, and when you realize where people are coming from, and what the town is about, the agenda everybody has, what the system is - it levels the playing field. When you first come out here, you think everything's on the up and up, but it's not; this is a tough town. I've been in the entertainment industry - wresting, but the entertainment industry since 1989; if you have thin skin, you're going to have a tough time in this town, but I've got thick skin. We're going to take it on the chin from a couple people for this movie, but with my experience, everyone's going to enjoy this thing. I'm pretty sure I'll have a good reason to stay here, because I'm going to be busy.
Is there any good fishing in LA?
Steve Austin: I went to San Diego; we go shark fishing off the coast of San Diego. We caught a few, but no, I wouldn't eat a fish in LA, other than the one's in a restaurant. I live in Malibu and Venice, and I've heard bad things about the water.
Do you throw them back?
Steve Austin: Well, the sharks? They didn't get thrown back; we did eat them.
How are you going to promote the film through the WWE?
Steve Austin: I'll tell you what, they've made some unbelievable vignettes and packages and stuff that they've been broadcasting on all their shows through the WWE on their end; that's how they're going about it. Lionsgate's doing their end. I'd answer that question more, but that's all I know, this is my first gig; I'm not trying to play the dumb guy, but that's how we're going about it.
Have you modeled your career on, ie: Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Steve Austin: No, because so early on - I'm at the stage where I can say if I could have or if I can have. When I got into professional wrestling, I started and I starved for two years, and I finally got some breaks. And then I got the biggest break, and I made the most of it and took wresting to its highest level ever. I think I did things my own way and I never tried to model my wrestling career after anybody; I forged my own path, and certainly made mistakes, and learned from them. So I take that approach into the movie business; I know it's a tough industry, and a tough town. I know you need some breaks, and I have somewhat of a name; all I need is a bigger name with the mainstream. But I have a core fan base, who I know is going to help me out; but I have to be smart, and make my decisions. And I'm going to screw up now and then, but if I learn from that, and if I surround myself with some very good people that I'm happy to be with at Paradigm. And so I think with a good team, and thinking positively and working hard, I'm looking forward to making good things happen.
As a viewer, what kind of films do you enjoy watching?
Steve Austin: I love action films, but I love Cool Hand Luke, I love Paul Newman; I can eat 50 eggs, no one can eat 50 eggs. Cowboy Luke says you can eat 50 eggs, then you eat 50 eggs. I love Shawshank Redemption, I loved Million Dollar Baby, there's a lot; I just saw Blood Diamond, I enjoyed that. There's a lot of good things out there I enjoy, but certainly I enjoy action movies. Because of my career in professional wrestling, I do like the adrenaline part of the action movie; but as far as just the 'Steve Austin' part of me, I enjoy a regular type. Here's one - I enjoyed The Notebook; my girlfriend wanted to watch The Notebook, and I'm checking my email. I always like to look at the MLS (ML Stern) to see what the real estate market is doing out here. She said, 'I'm going to watch The Notebook, are you going to watch it?' I said, 'No, you go ahead.' So it's there, and I start looking up, going back on the internet, I start looking up; I started looking at my computer less and looking at the TV more. By the time it was over with, it's actually a good movie, so I enjoyed that movie, believe it or not.
Who do you look at in pro wresting now who's having a good career?
Steve Austin: I'll say the person doing the best job right now is a guy named John Cena. Now, when I say, 'I was the highest you can get,' so I look at it with a different approach than anyone else would. Probably like you guys watch a movie differently than normal people do, because you people talk about movies. If we all watched a wrestling match together, I would see something completely different from you cause I know what's going on there and I know the business. But I'd say John Cena's doing the best, and I think kids love him; he's a guy corporate sponsors love cause of his squeaky clean image. He's a good guy, he really is that guy, so I think he's doing the best. But if I was there - very edgy, but number one.
Are you a sports fan?
Steve Austin: Yeah, I'm a sports fan; I was at a San Francisco Giants game the other day, two days ago. I'm not saying I'm a Giants fan, but I enjoyed watching Barry Bonds get up to the plate and swing, cause when he stepped in there, to get a big part of baseball history, the crowd knew it, the dugout knew it. Everyone who watches Barry Bonds - the mystique about him, because he's hit so many home runs, and probably the greatest player to play the game, but just standing in there, he commands respect that's very interesting to watch. But I follow all sports, I don't tend to have favorite teams, I follow players; I like LaDainian Tomlinson from the San Diego Chargers cause he's a class guy, doing great things with the football. And just as far as the football goes, he's the best that there is right now; but on top of that, he's a class guy.
With you ever want to write or direct something in the future?
Steve Austin: Sometimes, I'd sit there and think, 'You know, it'd be neat to get behind the camera and act,' but then when I saw what Scott Wiper did in this movie - his attention to detail, everything so well thought out, and he's such a good people person, he's such a good listener, such a good leader. I think there's so many little things I would have missed as a director in this movie, sometimes I think, 'I could have a pretty interesting take on a lot of things.' But the complete take - I'm the kind of guy that's good at putting salt and pepper on a steak, not presenting the whole steak. I think that's what Scott is good at. And so I think, 'No, I can't direct;' and then thinking about the writing part of it, there's so many hills and layers to writing great screenplays - or whatever you call it - I don't see it happening. So I better try and brush up on my acting chops and keep going there - or I will be back in the ring.
The Condemned kicks ass in theaters April 27th; it's rated R.