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UFC’s Randy Couture on Blowback and working with Sly Stallone

Many people will go through life hoping to be successful in one career. Randy Couture is the rare talent to find success in not one, but two professions. The legendary fighter is a former six-time UFC Champion and the fourth member of the UFC Hall of Fame. These days, Couture still fights, but it’s strictly on the big screen as the fighter-turned-action star has successfully carved out a path as an actor. After his first role in Cradle 2 the Grave, Couture has gone on to play roles in The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, Hawaii Five-O, and most notably, The Expendables franchise.

The former MMA star is now starring alongside Cam Gigandet and Michele Plaia in the action-thriller Blowback. The film chronicles a bank heist gone wrong and the race to exact revenge on those responsible. Couture spoke with Digital Trends about his introduction to acting, why he signed on for Blowback, and how Sylvester Stallone wrote his character specifically for him in The Expendables.

Randy Couture holds a gun in a scene from Blowback.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Digital Trends: When you first circled this project, what made you want to play this role?

Randy Couture: Well, it’s all about the script and telling the story. I was just finishing up another film, and I had yet to shoot a film in Las Vegas. I’ve been acting for 20 years now, and I hadn’t shot a film in Vegas. It was a crazy year already. I was already two films deep in 2021, and they said, “Hey, we have this role.” They sent me the script, and I really liked the script. There was a lot of intrigue and deceit and some interesting stuff in there. So it fits into my schedule, which is always the challenge. My schedule is always crazy, but I was happy to get to do it. Tibor was a great director and very collaborative. I enjoyed working with him. He had a lot of great ideas to tell the story. My co-stars Michele and Cam were both awesome as well so it just kind of fit. It fell into place, honestly.

Do you like staying busy? Is going from one movie to the next similar to your previous fighting schedule? 

Actually, in a lot of ways, fighting was a little more relaxing. For camp, there was a routine. You got up, you trained, you ate, you trained, all with a plan to get to fight night. So there was something relaxing about that. Now, no two days are the same. I feel like I’m running with my hair on fire if I had hair. [Laughing] I don’t mind it though. I like it. I like being busy. I never want to be bored anyway so it’s fun to be working as much as I’m working.

Cam Gigandet is one of the co-leads in Blowback. Although you only did a few scenes together, what was it like working alongside Cam?

He was great. He was on point. We had a couple of big conflicts in the movie that I think we had fun doing. Certainly, the third act culminates in a pretty big fight. We had a great time working together. He and Michele were both fantastic and really fun to work with. [Cam was] prepared and ready to go [in] every scene. I mean that’s the kind of people you want to work with.

What do you enjoy more as an actor, playing the good guy or the villain? 

Yeah, it is fun playing a bad guy. Everybody talks about Jason Duclair, the Hawaii Five-O character I got to play. [Jason] Was a serial arsonist. I got a lot of texts, “Oh, my God, you’re going to give me nightmares with this guy.” It is fun playing the bad guy, getting to say and do things you would never do in real life. I mean that’s kind of what acting’s all about, right?

I think every actor I speak to always says it’s more fun to play a villain.

Yeah, it is. It is a blast.

Why do you gravitate towards the action-thriller as your genre of choice?

I think it’s the genre I grew up watching. It kind of started with Conan and Rambo and then on down the line, the Die Hards and those types of films. I like that there’s always a little comedic relief in there sometimes. The kind of pressure relief valve in the midst of the chaos that are the action scenes and the action. So it’s just a genre that I grew up watching and therefore, gravitated toward being a professional athlete and a professional fighter. You think you bring authenticity to those types of situations and scenes. So that’s where I certainly ended up and started. Always trying to step outside the box and challenge myself more, but the action stuff is a no-brainer.

Randy Couture walking behind someone tied up in a scene from Blowback.

With those iconic action films, almost every iconic action movie star of the last 40 years came together for The Expendables. With the fourth one on the way, how has it been to be a part of that franchise? 

I remember the first night on set in Rio de Janeiro for the first Expendables, and when all the team members came together to synchronize their watches before going into the tunnels to blow up the palace, it was a “pinch me” moment for sure. I’m like, “What the heck am I doing here? This is crazy.” But I had the sense that everybody kind of felt that way. I remember going into The Expendables 2 in a big scene in Bulgaria. We’re getting ready to get into a big gunfight with Jean-Claude Van Damme. And I’m standing next to Chuck Norris and [Arnold] Schwarzenegger and on down the list. We’re getting tacked up, ready to go out and shoot this scene, and we’re all just kind of looking at each other like, “Can you even believe this? I mean this is unbelievable.” Only [Sylvester] Stallone could pull off something like that.

How did you first get into acting? I know you were fighting at the time when you started popping up in some projects. 

We got a call from the UFC. There was a movie being made called Cradle 2 the Grave with DMX and Jet Li, and they had an underground cage fighting scene in the movie. They wanted some authentic cage fighters to play some characters in that scene. Rather than have actors play fighters, they wanted fighters to play actors. Now, I did a NationsBank commercial back in ’94 going into the ’96 Olympics. They were big sponsors for the Olympic Games in Atlanta. That was a SAG gig. I did the “You are so Beautiful” montage of athletes with their scars with the Joe Cocker song that played during the World Series that year. That was also a SAG gig.

One of our judges in MMA, Doug Crosby, who was working as the stunt coordinator for the HBO series Oz at the time, after one of my fights, left me a note at the desk. When I checked out, I get this note from him saying, “Man. I really love your cerebral approach to the sport. You’ll be great in stunts. If you’re interested in doing some work, give me a call.” I ended up calling him and getting on the stunt crew for Oz, which meant I had to pay my dues and actually get my SAG card. So Doug helped me kind of get off-center base and in and get my SAG card. It was a really interesting process, doing the fight scenes and stuff in that series. Throwing guys in the hole and being the C.O. and all of that.

I went out and started taking some acting classes and eventually got an agent with Gersh and Brett Norensberg. He’s been my agent since I started this whole thing. It’s just been an amazing journey. Slowly ratcheting up, getting better and better jobs, and more and more jobs. Everything juggled around fighting for a long, long time. I started in the early 2000s when Cradle 2 the Grave happened. Fights came first, always, but I managed to squeeze in some pretty interesting and fun roles. The Scorpion King 2 was a big step up for me, a big Universal project, and then that led me to get the call from Sly, “Hey, we’re putting together this crazy ensemble movie.”

[Sly] Explained my character, how he saw my character, and ultimately, he could have gotten rid of me because he was originally bringing me in to revamp the Hale Caesar role that was originally written for Wesley Snipes. Ended up with Terry Crews for that role. So rather than just casting me aside, no pun intended, he wrote Toll Road into the script and I stayed in the movie. So I was very honored that he was that big a fan of fighting and to keep me in the film. And obviously, that was the number one movie that summer at the box office, which doesn’t get any better than that. I think everybody was scratching their head like, “Man, this movie is insane.”

BLOWBACK | Official Trailer | Paramount Movies

Many actors can pinpoint one moment in particular where they realize acting is what they want to do for a living. Did you have a specific moment like that in your career?

Yeah, it was definitely on that set of Cradle 2 the Grave. You know, we spent seven days, 12 to 14-hour days filming that one little five-minute scene in that movie. It was like going to Oz and pulling back the curtain and seeing the guys making the smoke and fire. I’ve always been a moviegoer since I was a little kid. My mom used to drop us off at the Lynn Twin for a double-feature movie. That gave her five hours to have the kids out of her hair. We got to see all those classic kids’ movies like The Yearling.

So I was always into movies, but I never saw myself acting. I think I played Tiny Tim in a sixth-grade A Christmas Carol play.  It [acting] wasn’t something I was involved in school plays or anything like that other than the sixth grade. Then this Cradle 2 the Grave thing came along. So I wasn’t really acting, but it was still interesting to be on a set in a feature film, kind of see how it all works. The magic of it, basically.

How has the transition from fighting to acting been? Have you found that many of your skills from fighting have translated to acting?

Absolutely. I think at the end of the day, it’s a mindset. The diligence and attention to detail both came from the military and from being a professional fighter. That work ethic translates. I’m going to be the first one on set. I’m going to know my lines and be ready to go and be geared up. That kind of fighters and wrestlers mentality certainly seemed to translate well to being involved in the productions and being easy to work with. I don’t understand why anybody would want to work with some of these people that are difficult. You know, it doesn’t make any sense to me, but I don’t want to be that guy who’s perceived as difficult.

Blowback is available in theaters, on digital, and on demand.

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