John Wick: Chapter 4 is the latest entry in the hit action movie franchise and sees Keanu Reeves return as everyone’s favourite assassin. Throughout the new movie, we see Reeves battle his way through the members of The High Table. And during an explosive showdown in Berlin, one of Wick’s most memorable foes is Killa Harkan – played by Scott Adkins.
In the new John Wick movie, Adkins wears a fat suit and brilliantly portrays a gambling-obsessed baddie. Throughout the film, Killa has one of the most striking confrontations with John Wick and is one of the most charismatic new villains in the IP. So, needless to say, fans are curious about the star behind the fictional killer.
Adkins, who has starred in franchises such as The Expendables and the MCU, sat with The Digital Fix to discuss his recent outing in John Wick 4. In our interview with Adkins, we discuss the toughest moments he experienced while filming John Wick 4, what it was like having Reeves punch him in the face, and reflect on his rise as an action movie star.
The Digital Fix: So, first off, I really enjoyed John Wick, and you look really different.
Scott Adkins: Yeah, I lost a bit of weight
I can see that. [Laughs] So, let’s talk about Killa. He was such a character with his offbeat sense of humour. Did you have any big movie villain inspirations for the part?
Yeah, well, straight away, Chad [Stahelski], the director, referenced the fat man from Casablanca. Signor Ferrari, was it? So that was kind of where the gambling and that whole thing around the table came from.
He was influenced by Sammo Hung, a big martial arts Hong Kong legendary fighter. I actually wear a suit very similar to what he wears in a film called Xiao Pow Leong. So those were the two major influences from the director.
I knew I wanted to be a Turkish German guy. I wanted to work on card flourishes and a German accent. So Chad gave me a bit of homework. And I was doing another film at the time, so I worked very hard on it.
Then, you know, we got to the set and came up with all sorts of stuff – with the coughing and the inhaler – and just created a fun character. I understood the tone of the movie and decided to just have a bit of fun with it.
Yeah, speaking about that suit, how was it doing your stunts while wearing that because you had quite a lot of hectic moments? I mean, your fight scene in Berlin with Keanu was quite long.
Oh, no, I’m not doing that much fighting. I’ve done some films where I’m doing a lot of fights. And this was not it. Keanu is doing a lot of fighting. Me, I had it easy.
A lot of my men are fighting him. So it seems like I’m doing a bit more. But yeah, actually, it wasn’t that bad to fight in the suit. It got heavier as the day went on. And then, as the wetter it got, the more difficult it got.
So, your character getting shot in the butt in John Wick 4 didn’t really faze you? [laughs]
Oh, no, no. I just had to remember that I was shot in the butt for those sidekicks.
Speaking about Keanu. Obviously, as we said, that fight scene in Berlin was one of the big moments in John Wick 4, and it looked beautiful. What was it like working with him?
He’s amazing. He’s such a nice guy. Everybody says that is true. But what struck me the most was how he just works really hard. He gives it his all, all the time. Because he doesn’t need to. He is Keanu Reeves. He has been in the business for a long time.
He’s a very rich man. But he does it because he loves action cinema. And it takes a toll on your body to do films like this. I mean, John Wick 4. You know, this is the fourth one. A John Wick action movie is pretty intense. And now he’s on his fourth one; while pushing 60, you got to tip your hat to the guy, right?
You’ve also had an outstanding career, having starred in action movies throughout the years. Besides John Wick 4, we’ve seen you star in multiple franchises, and you yourself are trained in martial arts. So I wanted to know: what made you want to become an action movie star in the first place
Don’t know. I just gravitated towards watching those guys when I was a kid. Like, Stallone and Schwarzenegger and then Van Damme. And then the Hong Kong guys came along.
I was awe-inspired by that, and I decided from a very young age that I wanted to do that. And that was it. It was single-minded sickness. That was the goal, and nothing was gonna stop me.
Well, it worked.
It did work. Yeah. And, you know, I used to just think, “What am I going to do if it doesn’t work out for me? “[laughs] So I’m really happy that it did because I put all my eggs in that one basket there. So I’m happy.
That’s great! Speaking about your career. Can you tell me what the most dangerous stunt you’ve ever done was?
I don’t think I’ve done anything too crazy. Yeah, it’s physical things for me. It’s not like I’m gonna get hit by a car or jump off a house or bridge. Ah, it’s more like I’m doing extreme martial arts stuff like somersaulting off people.
I remember once, in a film called Accident Man, I wanted to jump up over this guy on a motorbike. I wanted to jump over the handlebars and kick him off it. And I just wrote it in the script. That’s what I’m gonna do. And then the bike turns up, and it’s five o’clock in the morning, and everyone’s tired.
We’ve got to get the shot before the sun comes up. The handlebars came out about here [gestures to his chest] with me standing [laughs]. I was like, “Oh, no, I got to jump over that now. Well, I said, I’m gonna do it. So here we go!” That was quite difficult, but we did it on the first take. So it’s just things like that.
Would you try to do it again? [laughs] The second take, I mean, if you didn’t get that first take?
Well, yeah, I’ve got to do it. Got no choice. So luckily, I did it on the first time. But it was a low-budget movie. We didn’t exactly have a lot of time to plan it out.
Going back to Killa and John Wick 4, sadly, if there was a John Wick 5, he probably wouldn’t be in it. But there are loads of other Wick projects coming out. There is The Continental TV series and then the spin-off Ballerina which takes place just before John Wick 4. Do you think we’re gonna get to see more of Killa in the future?
Honestly, I don’t know. But if they do some films that take place previous to his demise. I know. You know, if the audience likes him, then it’s up to Lionsgate to give me a ring [Laughs] and I will get on the fat suit again.
John Wick 4 has had an amazing reception. Like, I haven’t met a single person who didn’t enjoy that movie. Why do you think so many people have just fallen in love with this franchise?
Well, it’s exceptional action. The filmmaking is on another level. It is the pinnacle of what’s possible. And I think also people have got a bit of superhero fatigue. Superhero movies come with a lot of visual effects and CGI and all that. And I think people have maybe had enough, or they’re looking for something a bit different.
So, with John Wick, you’ve got real action. You’ve got Keanu Reeves and a team of stuntmen. And you know, people like myself actually doing this stuff. For real. There are visual effects in places, but it’s people actually doing it. And I feel like there’s a bit of a hunger for that again.
So that’s the reason why the franchise is popular. And I also think the fact that it’s Keanu Reeves in that role, he is such a likeable personality. And he works really hard, and he brings that authentic action as an action star.
Saying that, I have to ask this now that John Wick 4 is done. Do you have any plans or hopes to go into another big franchise again? I know you talked about superhero fatigue, but you did work in a Marvel movie and a DC movie before. Anything on the horizon that you can tell us about?
Well, I mean, you know, I’m always doing my thing. I come from the independent film world. I’ve got a loyal fan base in that. And so I’ve got some projects like that, which are to come out.
But yeah, I mean, to be in something on the scale of John Wick was fantastic. For me, the character was received very well. And I think people have taken note of the fact that I’m a talented actor, as well as a martial artist.
So hopefully, I get to do some more bigger budget stuff. But, you know, it’s up to the Hollywood executives, isn’t it? It’s up to those guys. It’s not up to me. So, let’s hope that they see John Wick and think, “Oh, well, yeah, let’s get that guy.” But maybe without the fat suit this time?
What was it like being directed by Chad, who was previously a stuntman, too, on John Wick 4?
Yeah, well, I know him from going back a while. I worked with him on Expendables 2 – where he was the second unit director on that, and also on The Brothers Grimm. I knew him before then and he’s a really smart, switched-on guy. He knows how to get the best out of people.
He knows how to talk to different people depending on who they are. He’s obviously very interested in architecture, and you know, the look of the film [John Wick 4] is like nothing else. He really prioritises the cinematography and is very much into that. The colours, the set design, the set builds, I mean, my sequence in John Wick was just incredible with all the water that go down three floors.
And he was inspired by that because his dad was a plumber. I believe that he always thought, “Oh, that’d be good.” But then getting all those gallons of water up to the third floor is no easy task. You know, there was some serious engineering that went on there.
So he’s pushing the limits. He’s doing things that you don’t see in other films, like the way the stuntmen are getting hit by cars, and there’s a fine sequence within the cars, the stairs. You know, the stuff with the nun chucks and the dogs in John Wick 4 and 3. He thinks outside the box. Very smart guy.
For me, it’s a pleasure to work with a director that understands what it is to do stunts and to be a martial artist. You know you’re in safe hands. You know he’s going to choose the right angles for the shots, which is always a problem normally for people that don’t understand stunts. You can film great stuff, but if the editor doesn’t edit it correctly, it’s all for nothing, really. So you know that he’s going to figure all that out. So it’s great.
Before we go, you said that it was all Keanu fighting in your John Wick 4 scenes. But wearing a fat suit throughout the film must have been challenging. I wanted to know what was the hardest bit of choreography you had to do in the film.
The hardest bit of choreography that I had to do in John Wick: Chapter 4 was react to getting punched while pretending to be dead. [laughs] That is not easy. That takes a particular set of skills that only I possess. That was honestly the most difficult.
I’m meant to not react, but I’m also getting punched. Like there’s a bit where I’m lying in the water. And the water is splashing down, and Keanu Reeves is behind a wall of water. He’s punching me through the water. And so I can’t see anything anyway because I’ve got all this water going in my face.
And then I see his fist coming through the water just before he hits me, and I’ve got to react to it – split second. That was not easy, though. So the fighting stuff like you know, par for the course, I’ve done loads of that. But those bits were the most difficult.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is out in cinemas now. For more on the film, here is our John Wick 4 review, and our guide on how to watch John Wick 4 now. Or, for more top picks, here is our list of the best movies of all time.