British action star and martial artist Scott Adkins has handled hundreds of weapons throughout his 20-plus year career. He always is careful—particularly with firearms—knowing the danger they potentially can pose if not expertly handled and supervised.
Like everyone, Adkins was horrified and saddened when he heard the news of the recent accidental fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding of director Joel Souza on the set of Rust. Like many of his colleagues in the industry, he is certain that, moving forward, even more safety protocols will be implemented to prevent another on set tragedy from occurring.
Adkins stars in One Shot, an action-packed shoot-‘em-up in which he plays Lt. Blake Harris, a Navy SEAL leading an elite team to a CIA black site island prison to retrieve a prisoner believed to have knowledge of an imminent terrorist attack on Washington. Heavily guarded and run by a territorial deputy site manager (Ryan Philippe), the secret prison houses dozens of inmates considered to be the most dangerous threat to America, so extreme interrogation methods are employed to extract information. But, after several days of interrogation, targeted prisoner Amin Mansur (Waleed Elgadi) hasn’t cracked, claiming to be a wrongly accused British businessman unaware of the looming terrorist threat.
The SEAL team, assigned to accompany CIA analyst Zoe Anderson (Twilight’s Ashley Greene Khoury) not only meets resistance from the prison site manager, they soon run into an even bigger problem—an unexpected attack by a truckload of well-armed mercenaries. who break into the base with their own orders to capture the target on behalf of their client. All hell breaks loose and Harris and his team have to try to complete their mission on time without getting killed.
The One Shot title refers not only to the heroic team’s mission to airlift the prisoner to Washington before the suspected attack but also the way in which the film is shot, which appears to be one continuous real-time take.
Reminiscent of the conceit of the award-winning war movie 1917, One Shot amps up the action with the heroes vs. the mercenaries using nearly every conceivable weapon, including a variety of firearms and knives as well as hand-to-hand combat, in a relatively confined environment of a prison base. Explosions and intense action abounds in this relentless fight to the death. The film is directed by James Nunn (Jetski, Tower Block) from a screenplay by Jamie Russell.
Adkins previously had worked with Nunn on the 2016 action drama Eliminators, and they were eager to work on another project together when One Shot was conceived. The actor says the film presented technical challenges beyond those typically associated with action movies, but it was all worth it in the end.
With a modest budget, One Shot was filmed in only 20 days at Bentwaters Park in the UK, in a series of long takes—approximately 10 minutes each—where it is virtually impossible to tell where the edits are.
One Shot opens in theaters and is available On Demand Friday, Nov. 5, from Screen Media.
Currently in Malta, where he is filming the sequel to 2018’s Accident Man, Adkins spoke via Zoom about One Shot, set safety and the future of action movies.
Angela Dawson: You make a lot of action films which require you to use various weapons. Do you take the time to make sure everything you’re handling is safe to operate? Is that something you put on yourself?
Scott Adkins: You have to treat the weapon, whether it’s a blank-firing weapon or what they call a prop gun—it’s not a prop gun if you actually can fire it—you’ve got to treat it like it’s a real weapon. It’s good for actors to work with real weapons and do some real shooting so that they have more respect for what it is. If you train with a real weapon and you hold one that has blanks in it, you’ll treat it the same.
I don’t know all the ins and outs of what happened (on the Rust set), but at the end of the day, whenever you’re using weapons, you have to have an experienced armorer, and you do as the armorer says. Even if the armorer says, “it’s a hot gun” or “a cold gun,”—and I can’t say I’ve done this every time but I like to think that from now on I will—you need to check it yourself. Ultimately, that’s the armorer’s job and that’s why you have to have an experienced armorer on the set.
Dawson: Going forward, do you think filmmakers will shy away from action movies and do you think using real guns on set will continue, but with greater emphasis on safety?
Adkins: You can make films with fake muzzle flash and all that sort of stuff and it has its place. You can’t make a film like John Wick without that because you’re shooting people close up in the face, which you couldn’t do before. Of course not, because you’re going to kill someone. So, there’s a time and place for it, but I don’t want to see real guns phased out because you can’t replace the reality of gunpowder and the way you react as you fire them. Yes, it’s got to be safety first when you’re making action films.
There are still stuntmen that get injured or killed; it happens now and again. It’s terrible. It probably will happen again in the future, but those people know the risks, and they do everything they can to be safe. There’s a reason why they call them stunts. Of course, nothing should happen anything like what just happened. It’s terrible, and we need to do everything we can to keep everyone on the set safe. I like to see action films done properly so I wouldn’t want to see those guns phased out completely.
Dawson: You and (One Shot director) James Nunn had talked about making a film like this for a long time, even before 1917 was released, which also had the illusion of being filmed in one continuous shot. What were your thoughts on how to make this and bring it to the screen?
Adkins: We were finishing Eliminators in 2015, and we started to talk about what to do next, and he wanted to do a one-take action movie, which had not been done at that point. It took some time to get the financing. We wanted to do it before 1917 came out. To be honest, when that (movie) came out, I almost threw the towel because I thought people would say we were just ripping that off.
But there’s something about the unbroken take that really pulls you into the drama, we felt. It wasn’t just a gimmick. It really invests you in what’s happening, and we really have a tight, taut story that we’re telling in “real-time” and the conceit of what we’re doing really works for this particular project. It is, legitimately, an hour-and-a-half of somebody’s life in one of the most intense situations that they’ve ever been in. The way James decided to shoot it, which is like a documentary with the camera on the shoulder (of the cameraman) shooting these characters, very immediate, down and dirty, really works.
Dawson: There’s a lot of prep work that goes into all of your films, whether you’re using firearms, knives or your fists. Did this one present different challenges because of the way it was shot?
Adkins: Of course, yeah. Obviously, we couldn’t make the film in one continuous take. We’d love to but for an action film that’s impossible and too dangerous. But what we wanted to do was make those shots linked together seamlessly and make them as long as we could. So, all these action pieces are in one take. Of course, that’s a lot of effort because you don’t see the takes that didn’t work or the takes that did work. James was always saying, “Let’s do another one,” to which I’d respond, “But I’m knackered.” We’d just go on and on and on. You don’t see the ones that didn’t make it but there were a lot. There were mental pressures for the actors and everyone else—the boom operator, the camera guy, the special effects people, the extras.
Dawson: You have a pretty incredible cast. What was it like working with Ashley Greene Khoury, Ryan Philippe and Waleed Elgadi? It was a 20-day shot, which is pretty quick, but did you get a chance to relax and hang out when you weren’t filming?
Adkins: I was pretty much in every scene, but one. We had a great camaraderie among the actors. We all knew it was worthwhile and so we were passionate about it. We were loving the process; it was something a bit different. There was a bit of banter, but when it was time to be serious and do some good work, everyone was there to do that. I really enjoyed it but it was very tiring. It was really hard work, but really rewarding as well. And you could see the film coming together because we filmed it chronologically. You could always go have a quick look and see if it was working. So, yeah, I had a great time with all of the actors.
Dawson: The location where you shot this is known for UFO sightings. Did you know about this place prior to shooting there?
Adkins: Apparently, there were a lot of UFO sightings there in the 1950s and 1980s. Maybe there were some nuclear weapons or something but there were definitely a lot of UFO sightings which, these days, I’m inclined to believe. I would have said it was rubbish a year ago. We couldn’t have done the movie without finding the correct location. When we found Bentwaters and realized we could do it, then we rewrote the script to fit what we had. It’s a really cool place.
Dawson: The labyrinth-like hallways and tunnels that you and your character’s SEAL tam go through to fight the mercenaries are reminiscent of first-person POV-type video games. Were those buildings already there or were they constructed from scratch?
Adkins: We had the buildings and then they added some walls and rooms. We knew there was going to be an explosion at one point that would wreck the whole thing. The art department did a brilliant job with a limited budget. We had no business making a film like this with the budget we had but everyone brought their “A” game.
Dawson: You’re in John Wick 4, which is coming out next May. Are you finished shooting?
Adkins: I am, but they’re still shooting in Paris.
Dawson: What was that experience like for you?
Adkins: Brilliant experience. Keanu Reeves lives up to all the praise that he gets from everyone because he’s a super lovely guy. Chet Stahelski (the director) I’ve known for a long time. He’s an amazing director and I wanted so badly to be in a John Wick film so I couldn’t have been happier when he called and said, “It’s your turn.”
I also did a film called Day Shift, directed by J.J. Perry, who’s a longtime friend of mine from the stunt world. This is his directorial debut. It will be on Netflix
Dawson: You also have a film called Castle Falls coming out in December with Dolph Lundgren, right?
Adkins: Yes. We started filming it and then the pandemic happened. We had to shut down and then seven months later we continued. It was a difficult time for everyone, of course, but the film industry seems to be rebounding. It’s very busy now, so that’s good news.