Thursday, August 5, 2010

Steve Austin Interview

Sure, he beat up people for 15 years as a professional wrestler — and starting this weekend, he can be seen throwing down with Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables —but Steve Austin is a caring kind of guy who loves his dogs, a pair of labs named Hershey and Shona. And he felt bad he couldn’t take them along with him when he filmed The Expendables in the sightseeing-friendly locations of Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans.

"Hershey didn’t get a chance to come. I’m telling you, the next time I go to Louisiana to shoot a movie, I’m taking her," says the man formerly known as "Stone Cold." He may not be showing up weekly on TV as a World Wrestling Entertainment superstar, but Austin is staying busy with his acting — he’s currently filming the drama The Boxer and the Kid, as well as stopping by the set of NBC’s Chuck to shoot an episode next week — and entertaining thousands of his fans via his lively Twitter feed.

We caught up with Austin to talk about The Expendables as well as how he’s doing in his second career:

The Expendables took you to some interesting places. Do you still enjoy traveling in your post-wrestling career?

The traveling these days, it is what it is to get to a job. Back in the day, when I wrestled professionally for 15 years, my life was on the road and I lived out of a suitcase. Even when I came home, I would open my suitcase, lay it on the floor and would basically live out of that and wear the same stuff over and over again. I’d wash it and put it back there because there was never any sense in unpacking. You always were on the road. Now, I don’t go on vacation to any crazy destination. I want to go to South Texas to my ranch. I don’t really look forward to traveling anymore just for pleasure. As long as it’s for business, I’m cool with doing it because it goes with the territory. But I don’t travel for leisure at all, just because I spent my life doing that.

You've got an intense fight scene with Sly in The Expendables. Do you ever read the script of an action movie, see some sequence and go, "Whoa, not doing that…"?

No, not really. I’m not extremely dialogue-heavy in this movie by any stretch. Eric Roberts is my boss in the movie — I’m like his right-hand guy and intimidation factor. I knew exactly what this part was going into it, and Sly beefed it up a little bit. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. At the end of the day, I wanted to make a movie with Sly and the other guys as well, and we had a great time. It was a great opportunity for me to make a movie with a guy that I always looked up to.

That must be cool as an actor - and a dude - to be in such company alongside Jason Statham, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren, among others in the male-heavy cast.

It is. I come from the world of pro wrestling and that’s behind me now. That’s the biggest body of my work and what I’m known for right now. In that job and what I chose to do, I was at the highest of the food chain that you could get. But now, to try to start over and turn into the best actor as I can get; to hang out and watch Sly the way he conducted his business, from the fact that he wrote this movie, he directed it, he’s starring in it with all the other guys who are in there; and being able to sit there and talk shop with Mickey Rourke for 45 minutes, it was just a lot of fun. This is the kind of experience that a guy like me would kill to be a part of.

Since you started, what part of your acting has improved the most?

It’s just being able to be settled in and not nervous. I’m starting to really get a sense of what it takes to prepare for a role. I’m starting now to really relax a little bit more in dialogue scenes in some of the independent movies I’ve done. I’ve got a long ways to go, but I’ve always been a big believer that on-the-job training and experience and repetition are the key things to get better in anything you do. To me, it’s hanging out and working with people who are better than you and more experienced than you. Every one of my scenes was with Eric Roberts. We became great friends, we still trade phone calls to this day, and as far as just hanging out with a guy and asking a bunch of acting questions, Eric Roberts is pretty damn high up there on my list. The fact that he was so cool to me and took me under his wing was absolutely wonderful.

Was that ever intimidating for you, to start a whole new career after reaching the pinnacle of your previous profession?

No, I didn’t get nervous or put pressure on myself because if it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. I’d just move on to the next thing and go do something else. I wanted something that was going to be as challenging to me mentally and physically, and acting is. It’s a tremendous challenge, I’m learning every day, and that’s what I enjoy about it. It’s just like everything I’ve always done: I’m going to go out there and try my best and do the best I could. Whatever the best I can do is the best I can do. When I was doing high school athletics and everything, my parents never pushed me like crazy. They just supported me. I believe in anything you do, you just do the best you can, and if you’re not going to do the best you can, don’t do it.

It also seems like you're having a lot of fun.

I am. In the wrestling business, for years it was a fun life, but in the ring you didn’t know you could have fun. And then after you’re experienced enough, you can have fun. That’s one of the keys to loosening up and being a better actor is having fun with it. Being serious at the same time, but as I learn more, about how to be comfortable being another character. I was really successful at being Stone Cold. I’m not trying to be that in every part I have.

You Twitter a lot. How much have you embraced technology? Do you have the latest iPhone, a computer, etc.?

I don’t have the big computer setup, but I’ve got everything at my ranch and in my place in LA. I don’t have the latest, greatest iPhone – I’ve got the next one down. I’m doing a lot better than I was. [Laughs] I’m starting to pick up on things. Everybody’s doing it, so you might as well get in the game at some point.

Interacting with fans, does that hone your comedy a bit?

When I started doing the Twitter thing, man, I was so anti-technology, but I’ve learned to embrace the Twitter thing. I would get on there and just make these ludicrous workouts and they would turn into one story after the other about me fighting sharks and whatnot. And people would think that I was drunk or whatever, which I was not. Tweeting out the most ludicrous things and the funny stuff I like to say are just ways for me to entertain myself and a way for me to stay in touch with my core fan base. When you leave the machine of what is the WWE, you have no way to reach out and talk to those people and communicate with them. Believe me, with my largest body of work coming from the world of professional wrestling, I know why I’ve gotten the roles that I’ve gotten. It’s not because I’m Marlon Brando. I do think I am bringing something to the screen now and learning to bring more, but I love my pro wrestling fans and I always want to stay in touch with them. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been anybody or had a career.

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