Scott Adkins stars in Legacy of Lies as Martin Baxter, an ex-MI6 agent who is haunted by a past operation. Moving from city to city in hopes to protect himself and his daughter Lisa (Honor Kneafsey), Martin is once again pulled back into the world of espionage. During my conversation with Adkins and writer/director Adrian Bol, the pair talked about their collaboration and briefly discussed some of their own favorite pictures.
Roped in by UK agents to deliver secret case files, Martin Baxter (Scott Adkins) is actually trying to steer clear of both sides, as the Russians want these top secret documents as well. Along with protecting his daughter (Honor Kneafsey), Martin must decide whether to trust Sacha (Yulila Sobol), a journalist who serves as the most important piece of the operation.
My appreciation for Adkins’ body of work is recent, as I was impressed by the dramatic layers that were interwoven into Avengement. With Legacy of Lies, he also mines new emotional depths, and his chemistry in the film with Kneafsey (she’s also memorable in The Bookshop) is palpable. Director and screenwriter Adrian Bol has crafted an engaging, action packed, and surprisingly resonant film with Legacy of Lies, and I’ll definitely be picking this title up on DVD (or maybe add to my currently slim digital collection).
Adrian, can you talk about crafting a deep story with Legacy of Lies as opposed to going the route of a routine action driven feature?
Bol: What I try to do when I’m writing is – I try to have a very clear theme and then have this theme on different levels in the story. For me, it’s truth versus power, it’s truth versus secret agencies and the power of governments. It’s about truth and lies and this theme is also incorporated in the relationship between Scott’s character and his daughter.
And it’s also incorporated in the relationship with him and his ex-wife that died in the past. It’s incorporated in the relationship between him and Sacha. What I tried to do was have one clear starting point and then try to layer it on different levels so it feels very rich and broad but at the same time it’s about the same thing.
With movies like Avengement and Legacy of Lies, has it been gratifying to explore characters that have a complex past and psyche?
Adkins: Yes well to be honest I choose scripts not really (as an actor). I think some actors choose scripts based on the part and the type of characters they want to have a chance to play but I always choose films based on what I think the film will be like.
I think more like a filmmaker than an actor in some ways. I read the script and I was very impressed with what I read. And then when I knew that Adrian was going to be directing it as well, I was more excited because I love it when you have a writer/director because they really own the material. Of course the character in this was great as well, and I really did respond to the relationship between my character and his daughter and that whole push pull aspect they’ve got going on.
He’s living off the grid and he’s pulling her around different places with him and he never wants to stay in one place for too long. She, on the other hand, she’s frustrated – she just wants to be a normal girl. She wants to go to school. Have friends. Have a normal life. So there’s that aspect there and there’s this tragedy that happened in the past. There is a load of lies (centering on) this tragedy.
When the plot takes off, this friction between my character and the daughter – their relationship is strained. I found that really interesting. There was a lot to really get into and I remember telling Adrian when we were getting ready to do a scene – there is quite a few plot twists here and there and we had to get our head around a minute (saying) ‘Did that thing happen yet or does that happen in the next scene?’ We were always on top of it of course but I remember some of those conversations that we had to have.
What was it like working with Leon Sua (he plays a UK agent in the flick) in that standout action sequence? What was the key for making that scene effective?
Bol: We worked with (fight choreographer) Tim Man and he’s just great. He and Scott they are amazing in making a fight scene really, really interesting and powerful. What we did before was we discussed the scene; how we wanted to start, how we wanted to end, how to create an arc inside the scene so that it serves the story. And then Tim comes with his suggestions on the choreography and we discuss that and then off they go. They are just great.
Adkins: Leon came in last minute. I didn’t know much Leon. He was recommended and he did a fantastic job. He worked extremely hard. It’s not easy making these fight scenes. We were shooting in a place, weren’t we Adrian, where there was a lot of dust. It was a hard concrete floor. Not a lot of give when you’re hitting the floor – well, no give. You try to pad it as much as you can but it still hurts. He just got on with it and never complained.
I did most of the complaining I think, but he never complained. It was two days I think we shot that fight for? It’s always tough. It’s never easy. A night shoot as well! God it keeps getting worse. It’s great to have Tim to choreograph and arrange where the camera should go. I feel comfortable with Tim because he’s so good and Leon did a great job.
Is there a direct correlation on your focus with martial arts and how it influences your filmmaking? Or are they two separate things for you? One would assume martial arts helped give you a great work ethic in approaching your craft.
My parents gave me a strong work ethic. I grew up as a kid watching my parents graft day in and day out. My dad was a butcher. My mom was constantly working from home. I was constantly vying for her attention. I get my work ethic from those two. Martial arts gives you discipline, it gives you many things. Of course the integrity. Many, many things.
I’m a two trick pony. I love two things in life. I love martial arts and I love movies and that is what I’ve done with my life. So I’m pretty happy.
Adrian, were you always interested in filmmaking at an early age?
I grew into it. I started out making music then I started out painting and then all of that creative process evolved into filmmaking and storytelling. That’s how it went.
Can both of you name one of your favorite movies and what is it about this film that still speaks to you today?
Adkins: Jaws is the best film ever made in my opinion. It just doesn’t get any better than Jaws. The story is perfect. The acting is perfect. The directing is music. The music is perfect. The editing is perfect (laughs). Everything about the movie is perfect.
Bol: One of my favorite films is Apocalypse Now. It has very much to do with the mood. You get your head inside the main character. You get inside his doubts. Why does he have to kill Marlon Brando? And at the same time there is a lot of stuff happening.
This is what I really love in filmmaking. To have this psychological, dramatic element yet at the same time you have this action and thrilling aspect.
Scott can you talk about working with Honor Kneafsey? She pretty much stole the film!
She stole it. She stole it completely. She’s fantastic. Brilliant. She was the most brilliant person on the set. She was a joy to work with. Just a fantastic actress that brought a lot out of me to be honest. I could relate to having a daughter, because I’ve got one. We had some very powerful scenes towards the end of the film. She’s a great actress.
Thank you guys for your time.
Adkins and Bol: Thank you.
Legacy of Lies hits DVD, Digital, and On Demand July 28.