A chat with Steve Austin, Steve Austin interview, The Stranger, The Expendables, Stone Cold
Steve Austin

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It still seems a bit weird to write Steve Austin’s name without prefacing it with the words “Stone Cold,” but let’s just pretend that it’s a silent “Stone Cold” these days. After all, the man has done his time and endured plenty of damage to his body while in the ring. Doesn’t he deserve to be able to leave wrestling behind and pursue a new career? And if he doesn’t…well, look, if you want to be the one who tells him that, then you go right ahead. Here at Bullz-Eye, we’re a little intimidated by the guy, frankly, which is why we’ve gone ahead and thrown our support behind his acting endeavors by letting him promote his new film, “The Stranger,” which is now available on DVD. In addition, we got a look into how he decided to channel his inner thespian in the first place, how he’s progressing on that front, who’s been giving him acting advice, and where we can see him next. (Hint: it stars Sylvester Stallone and it comes out this summer.)

Steve Austin: Hey, Will, it’s Steve!

Bullz-Eye: Hey, how’s it going?

SA: Sorry, man, I was running a couple of minutes late.

BE: Not a problem. Good to talk to you.

SA: You, too. What’s happening?

BE: Well, I finished watching “The Stranger” this morning. Good fun. Not necessarily the most upbeat film, but good fun.

SA: Exactly. (Laughs)

BE: So what brought you to “The Stranger” in the first place? Did they come to you specifically, or were you actively trolling for film work?

SA: The script came to me, I read it, and…it was a very interesting script to read, but it was also very challenging. It was a script where I’d rely more on trying to become a better actor. More on cerebral qualities than physicality, not so much on fight choreography and fight sequences…although I love doing that stuff! (Laughs) So it was a way to push the envelope as far as trying to better myself as an actor, to take myself out of my comfort zone, and it was a learning experience.

BE: Your character suffers through a fugue state throughout much of the film. Was that something that you did some research on before you played the part?

"('The Stranger') was a very interesting script to read, but it was also very challenging. It was a script where I’d rely more on trying to become a better actor. More on cerebral qualities than physicality, not so much on fight choreography and fight sequences…although I love doing that stuff!"

SA: You know what? I just went back to the number of times I’d been hit on the head with a steel chair, and… (Laughs) I’m kidding you. You know, that was actually…yes, I did look into the fugue states, but one of the things that also came out of this movie was learning more and more about how to research and prepare for a role. In researching the fugue states and the sodium pentobarbital…if I’m saying that correctly…I’ve always listened to and heard other actors and actresses talk about the research that they’d done, and now having done what I did for this movie and listening to other actors talk, it’s finally really settling in for me. It’s a lot more apparent to me now how to prepare for a role, because if you don’t have your facts straight, you don’t have your facts straight.

BE: How was it working with Erica Serra? Did you guys have a pretty decent chemistry from the get-go?

SA: A real good chemistry. I loved working with her, and she’s a very talented actress. We hit off like…well, just like Frick and Frack! (Laughs) She was very easy to get along with and a lot of fun, and she’s a great actress. Along with her and Adam Beach, I asked them questions all the time and had fun cutting up with them on the set, too. But when I get to work with people as talented as they are, I ask them questions about some of the things and the processes that they use to get as good as they are.

BE: Yeah, actually, I was going to ask you about that. When it comes to acting, of the people that you’ve worked with, who have you gotten the most / best information from?

SA: You know, I just did a movie with Sylvester Stallone, “The Expendables,” and in that movie, my boss was Eric Roberts…and I love Eric Roberts. I didn’t know what kind of relationship we were going to have, but I introduced myself to him one morning at breakfast, and we just hit it off. The guy really took me under his wing, and we would sit there and talk all day about acting and everything else under the sun. So, really, just hanging out with Eric Roberts, watching him do what he does, being in almost all of the scenes with him, and watching him up close, I would say that he’s been a big influence. Am I as good an actor as Eric Roberts? No. (Laughs) But as far as someone who has taken me under their wing and shared so much information with me, it would be him.

BE: Since you brought up “The Expendables,” I was going to ask you about it, anyway, so…what was it like working with Stallone and that huge ensemble cast? It must’ve been a bit of a thrill.

SA: Oh, it was!

BE: How did you come into the mix?

Steve AustinSA: You know, I was actually down at my ranch in South Texas, and my guys called me and said, “Hey, we’re trying to get you a meeting with Sylvester Stallone. He’s casting a movie called ‘The Expendables.’” Several months went by, and he’d already cast “The Expendables,” but he still wanted to meet me for potentially playing the part of Dan Paine. So I went in to meet Sly, it was the first time I’d ever met him, and I’m a huge fan. I remember watching “Rocky” back in ’76 or whenever it was, then getting up the next morning, drinking eggs, and running down the street…and now here I am meeting with this guy! (Laughs) And, again, it was just two guys from two different backgrounds, but Sly has a big athletic background, with all of his college activities, his boxing, and all of his action movies, and he’s a big MMA pro wrestling fan as well. So we were still coming from two different worlds, but we met in his office one day, we hit it off like we’d known each other for ten years, and he offered me the part on the spot. I accepted on the spot, I was in “The Expendables,” and it was an absolute thrill of a lifetime to be in that movie with all those people.

BE: Can you tell me a little bit about your character, Dan Paine?

SA: Basically, Dan Paine is not a dialogue-heavy guy in “The Expendables.” He is there to provide intimidation and muscle for Eric Roberts, and I’m an evil person who does evil things.

BE: Which could be fun to play, I’d think.

SA: (Bursts out laughing) It actually was! I would like to do some comedy and humor along the way, though! In some of the movies I’ve done, I’ve been the good guy, but I’ve actually always enjoyed being the bad guy. To ramp it up and actually get a bit more dialogue in an evil role, that’d be fun for me.

BE: To speak of comedy, though, you did appear in “The Longest Yard.”

SA: Yeah, that was fun back in the day, and I’d love to work with Adam Sandler again. He’s a class act, and that was fun, but…that was five or six years ago now, right? Your first movie or two…or three or four!...you don’t know what the hell’s going on. You really don’t. It’s all about going through the process and learning. I didn’t know what the hell was going on in “The Longest Yard.” (Laughs) I would say that I was a wrestler doing that part. Now I’m trying to transition out of being considered a wrestler and turn into being an actor. So, yeah, I’d like to have the opportunity to do a movie like that again, with more dialogue and a bigger part. But it’s part of the education process. You certainly don’t want to bite off more than you can chew, because, man, when it all comes down to it, acting’s a pretty complicated process ‘til you’ve done it a few times.

BE: If you were feeling out of it during “The Longest Yard,” I can’t imagine how you must’ve felt way back when you were doing “Nash Bridges.”

"I’ve turned down 20 or 25 reality shows, because it’s not my cup of tea. I’m not running anybody down for doing what they do, but I just haven’t seen myself in that light. I’m a very private person, and I always have been. If I did something, it would be of my own accord. But at this stage of the game, I haven’t heard one yet that I’ve been interested in…and I’ve heard a lot!"

SA: You know what? In “Nash Bridges,” I just…well, of course, I was white-hot in the business at the time. They flew me to San Francisco, and I’d go out there and they’d shoot me out in three and a half days. It’s real interesting when you go in and remember your lines, but remembering your lines is the easy part. It’s the acting that you’ve got to put in there. It’s what you need to bring to a scene. It’s what you’re there for. There are a lot of things that I’m only just now starting to put together at part of my education process, but back then, I didn’t think twice about it.

BE: I’m curious how you enjoyed the experience of working on “Chuck.” It seemed like a lot of fun.

SA: I did have a lot of fun on that show, and I’d love to do more stuff like that. I’d never seen the show, because I don’t watch TV, but everybody on that cast is very, very talented, especially Zach Levi, and I had a lot of fun. It was very light-hearted, and it’s a really cool show.

BE: What’s your process when it comes to learning lines?

SA: Repetition. But also, now I’m kind of looking at the scene and seeing what’s really happening. Now I’m making a visual picture of the scene and reading the script a few times before I even attempt to learn it, so that I understand the story. I try to visualize every scene so that I’ve got a picture in my mind, so that it’s not just words that I need to put together. I try to live those moments, and as I try to put the words to those moments, they resonate more with me and become more a part of the story. Rather than just flat out doing the memorization process, the two kind of blend together, and I learn how everything comes together.

BE: So whose idea was it for you to transition into acting? Was it your management, or was it something that you’d always had a hankering to do?

Steve AustinSA: No, I just…I got out of wrestling just because my body had had enough of it, I retired for three or four years, and I didn’t do anything. I thought I was going to be retired, period. But after three or four years of not doing anything and living in San Antonio, Texas, I said, “You know what? I like to be productive, and I like to make money.” After having my career in pro wrestling, I didn’t want to go back to doing manual labor on a freight dock, which was what I was doing prior to wrestling: driving a fork lift. So I said, “You know, I enjoyed doing ‘Nash Bridges.’ I’ll move out to Los Angeles and try some acting.” So that’s what spurred me to take all my stuff out of Texas and move out here, and…that’s why I’m here. My goal in my life was to be a professional wrestler, and then when my body told me that I couldn’t do that anymore but I still wanted to work, I turned to acting. I’m just trying to be as good of an actor as I can be. I’ve got a ways to go, but that’s my mission: to be as good as I can be. I can’t look at Marlon Brando or all of these other cats. I’ve just got to be the best Steve Austin that I can be…and I’m still trying to put all that together.

BE: Do you think we’ll ever see you turn up on any reality shows like some of your fellow wrestlers?

SA: It’d have to be a real specific type of thing where I was on board or involved with creatively, because I’ve turned down 20 or 25 reality shows, because it’s not my cup of tea. I’m not running anybody down for doing what they do, but I just haven’t seen myself in that light. I’m a very private person, and I always have been. If I did something, it would be of my own accord, and it’d be something where I have strong creative input, probably something that’s my idea. But at this stage of the game, I haven’t heard one yet that I’ve been interested in…and I’ve heard a lot!

BE: To ask you a wrestling-themed question, a friend of mine wanted me to ask you this: do you think a union would be beneficial for pro wrestlers?

SA: Uh… (Starts to laugh) …I don’t think you’re ever going to see one! But do I think it would be beneficial for them? (Long pause) Man, on one hand, yes, on one hand, no.

BE: Do you, uh, want to elaborate on that?

SA: I don’t think you’ll ever see one. Do you? Do you follow wrestling?

BE: Not very much. My friend Joe, who does a podcast (Roundtable Wrestling Radio), said it’s a question that he asks of all grapplers.

SA: Yeah, it’s just that…I don’t think you’re ever going to have anybody ever making a stand together all as one. The top guys are taken care of so well already, and…I really think that, in today’s day and age, everybody’s taken care of pretty well. The money that those men and women are generating…? It’s the people who don’t save their money, who blow it all or whatever they did with their money, which usually are very bitter towards the end or at the end. Now, don’t get me wrong: there are some people with some health issues where maybe a union would be beneficial. But I really don’t think you’ll ever see one.

BE: Beyond the obvious “Stone Cold” nickname, do you have another favorite nickname that you were called over the years?

SA: (Long pause) Not that you could print. (Laughs) Nah, I’m kiddin’ ya. I’ve been called a lot of goofy things, though. My nickname down at my ranch is “Cap’n.” That’s the best one I can give you.

BE: Which – if any – of your signature moves did you have to phase out because your body was telling you that you couldn’t do them anymore?

SA: Oh, I didn’t have to phase out any of my signature moves. Basically, I didn’t have any. I just did the Stunner, and if it wasn’t for metal folding chairs and four letter words, I might not have even had a career! (Laughs) It was avoiding piledrivers and some of those types of things that I eliminated, because after that one, I didn’t need anything else like that to happen. I eliminated piledrivers and back drops…anything of a high-impact nature, any kind of crazy sidewalk slams and stuff like that.

BE: Lastly, I know you turned up as a guest host on “Raw” earlier this year, but can we hope to see an actual return to the ring for Stone Cold Steve Austin?

SA: No, I’m done with the ring. I mean, never say never, but I can probably say never. I have so many good memories of a business that I loved and still love, and Stone Cold Steve Austin is remembered now for who and what he was, and I don’t want to tarnish that. I don’t want to go back and make one more payoff. I saved my money, and thankfully so. I never lived outside my means. Could I go back and make a hell of a payoff? Yes. It’s not about that to me, though. I left that job, and I’m happy watching the young men and women do that job today; I wish them all the success in the world, and there’s no reason for me to go back and have another match.

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