I AM VENGEANCE: RETALIATION Exclusive Interview With Star And Former WWE Superstar Stu Bennett

I AM VENGEANCE: RETALIATION Exclusive Interview With Star And Former WWE Superstar Stu Bennett

I Am Vengeance is available On Digital and On Demand tomorrow, and we caught up with lead star Stu Bennett to discuss his role as John Gold, an interest in superhero movies, his WWE career, and much more!

By JoshWilding - Jun 18, 2020 07:06 AM EST
Filed Under: Action

Stu Bennett was once best know to wrestling fans as WWE Superstar Wade Barrett, but since leaving the company, he's entered the action movie realm in a big way.

After starring in 2018's I Am Vengeance, the pro wrestler turned actor is now back for sequel I Am Vengeance: Retaliation which he stars in opposite Vinnie Jones (X-Men: The Last Stand) and Jessica-Jane Stafford (The Real Hustle).

In the movie, former special-forces soldier John Gold (Bennett) is given the opportunity to bring Sean Teague (Jones), the man who betrayed his team on their final mission in Eastern Europe several years ago to justice. It's an explosive, exciting adventure which is a real throwback to those classic action flicks from the 1980s, and available On Digital and On Demand in the US on June 19th.

It also arrives in the UK on July 13th, and to mark the movie's upcoming release, we recently sat down with Bennett to discuss taking the lead in his own action franchise, I Am Vengeance: Retaliation's badass female cast, whether he would be interested in returning to the pro wrestling world as part of All Elite Wrestling, his interest in superhero movie roles, and a whole lot more. 

If you love action movies, then this is a must-see, and we want to extend a huge thank you to Stu for taking the time to talk to us about playing the tough as nails former special-forces soldier! 


A lot of pro wrestlers struggle to break into the acting world, so it must feel pretty good that you already have your own action franchise? 

Yeah, 100%. It's like anything else. It's a hard game to break into, and I've been out in the US trying to get contacts and make some movies out here, but it's not been easy at all. I was very fortunate that I landed a position with the I Am Vengeance franchise right after I left WWE, and they've been very good to me. This is obviously the second film in the franchise, and hopefully we'll do a few more. It's been a fantastic opportunity for me to get some reps in the acting world and working with high-quality producers and a great director in Ross Boyask, and really get a lot of camera time. The more camera time you get, the more you're going to improve. It was the same in pro wrestling, and it's the same in the world of film too. I'm very lucky, I'm enjoying it, and I'm excited for everyone to get to check out I Am Vengeance: Retaliation. 

When you were making I Am Vengeance, did you ever anticipate that you'd get the chance to work on a sequel?

The funny thing was, the production company, when they first spoke to me, I was still wrestling in WWE. They pitched me this concept for John Gold, the character that I play, and how they had multiple movies planned out in their head and how if the first one was a success, we would definitely be doing more. But in the world of entertainment, you tend to hear a lot of big promises that are never really followed up on, so I took that with a pinch of salt. But, in fairness to them, everything they ever told me did actually happen which is quite surprising given my track record of being told that things are going to happen, and then have them now (which is common in the entertainment industry). They promised it to me, and there's always an element of surprise when it actually comes true, but I'm very fortunate and I hope we do more after this one too. 

I Am Vengeance: Retaliation feels like a real love letter to those great 1980s action movies we don't really see any more – was a project like this something you always hoped to work on?

I grew up in the 1980s, and my first taste of adult films was stuff like the Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies of that period. I love them to this day. I love Predator and Commando, and all these great movies I found back then. The opportunity to be involved in something that is really an ode to that style of movie, which has kind of gone away now with all the CGI Hollywood blockbusters and the way things are produced, was a great opportunity for me. I was excited to do it, and to this day, I love that style of filmmaking and I know for director Ross Boyask, this has always been a dream of his to produce something in that vision and realm. So yeah, I very much enjoyed it. 

There are a lot of strong female characters in the movie, so, as an executive producer, was it important to you that we see that sort of representation here?

Of course. It was something of a cultural zeitgeist that we're in right now that opportunities for demographics in the past who didn't get opportunities are fortunately coming more to the fore at this point in time. I think it was important for the writers and director Ross Boyask to bring some women into the film in very powerful roles as opposed to the typical damsel in distress role where the tough guy comes and saves the day. He wanted to portray women in more of a Ronda Rousey type perspective where you know these girls can go toe to toe with the guys and you find that out in one of the fight scenes I'm in with one of the ladies in the film. I was nervous about that because of the size difference between the two of us and I didn't want to hurt her or anything like that, but Katrina Durden really held her own and actually kicked my ass to be honest with you. We have a great fight scene together, and I was very happy at the end of filming when I saw it back and saw what we had done together. She was great to work with. 

Vinnie Jones is definitely a legend, so what was it like being able to work with him on this project?

Vinnie was awesome. I grew up a massive football fans in the 1980s and 1990s, so I was a fan of Vinnie's already and his crazy persona. I'm also a fan of stuff like Lock Stock and Snatch and the kind of movies he's been involved in, so to get to work with him was brilliant. I spent most of the time off set just badgering him about his football experiences: 'What was it like to win the FA Cup?' 'What was it like to play for Wales?' and one day he started belting out the Welsh National Anthem in front of me which was pretty funny, and I'm sure you'll like to hear that as a Welshman yourself. He still knows it word for word, so it was great to be around that guy. 

You obviously see a lot of action in the film, including a badass dropkick at one point, but did you end up sustaining any injuries during these fight scenes?

I don't have a stunt guy doing anything for me in these films, and I think that's part of the appeal of employing a professional wrestler as you don't also need to pay a stunt guy, you just get them to do them all themselves. I wouldn't say I picked up any injuries. I was definitely hurt on occasion. I had some bumps and bruises and things like that, but after a career in which I had in excess of a thousand professional wrestling matches, a few bumps and bruises don't really concern me at this point. I've broken my nose I think fifteen times, had teeth knocked out, countless black eyes, and broken bones and stuff like that, so a few bumps and bruises are par for the course really. 

There are some cracking one-liners in the film, and I was wondering whether you got the chance to do any improv at all while on set?

There's definitely opportunities for improv and as much as we try to stick to the script as much as we can, sometimes in the heat of the moment, you'll realise that something doesn't work because the way the scene we previously filmed actually played out was slightly different, so we need to tweak it. We'll often bounce things back and fore with the director beforehand, but it was great watching Vinnie work. Vinnie has had so much experience working in the world of film that he knows when to take a bit of a liberty with the script, and when to deviate slightly. What he often did on the first couple of takes was give the director what he wanted from the script, and by the time we're on take three or four, he might take a liberty himself. There's one moment in the script which was very much a Vinnie ad lib, and it ended up in the trailer. It's such a great line and one of those moments where he probably heard it in a pub or something and it's stuck with him, but he dropped it at the right moment in the film, and watching Vinnie know when to ad lib and try something a little different was an education for me in the film world too. I learned a lot from being around him. 

What was the shooting schedule like on the movie?

Really intense. This is an independent film, and that's the major difference between what we do and what someone like The Rock or Jason Statham are doing in Hollywood. Quite simply, we don't have the budget to stretch us out over multiple months, so the whole thing was filmed from start to finish on location in four weeks. It was very intense, and we were doing six days a week with Sunday off, but pretty much every day, I was doing fight scenes or fight rehearsals, or shooting my dialogue scenes or car chases, and explosions, and all this stuff. So, it was very intense, but that's what I love. I'm not somebody who likes to work at a slow pace when I am working. I think when I'm sat at home reading a book, that's fine, but when I am working, I like to get it banged out as quickly as we can and keep moving. I love that style of working, I love the intensity of it, the quick turnaround where you get dropped off at home at 10pm at night, then 6am there's a car outside waiting for you to take you back to the set to start shooting again. I think that helps you get into the zone, and I think that helps you get into a rhythm and you tend to really bond with the other people on set, the cast and the crew when you're all working tightly in there together. I actually enjoyed that aspect of it. 

You recently marked the tenth anniversary of the Nexus on Twitter, but with so few of the faction's members still part of WWE, do you look back at you and them as a lost generation of wrestlers who should have been top stars?

[Laughs] Of course it plays in the head at times that mistakes were made. I personally can't complain about how things went for me. There's always things I wished would have played out differently and with some varied minor storyline decisions or presentations, I think I would now be in a very different position to where I ended up in my career. I was very lucky to get to achieve the vast majority of things I wanted to achieve in WWE. I got paid well for it too, and those opportunities and successes that I had during that period have allowed me to transition into a different lifestyle that I have currently where I don't have to take the first gig offered to me to pay my rent or anything like that. I'm able to pick and choose, and it's given me a platform where I can get to work with film franchises like I Am Vengeance and get opportunities in that world. I've done very well out of my time there and of course there's always a part of me that has it in my head that if this or that decision had not gone that way, things could have turned out very differently here or there and, in a perfect world, that would have happened. But, I'd be lying if I said I was still sitting at home being bitter about decisions made ten years ago. 

Cody Rhodes recently said on Twitter that he believes you'll be a future world champion, so what are your thoughts on that, and is All Elite Wrestling a company you'd like to be part of?

Part of my issue is that I'm close to 40 now. I'm 40 in two months, so the prospect of going back and working a full-time professional wrestling schedule isn't particularly high on my agenda at the moment. That might change. It was very kind of Cody to say that, I'm still very good friends with Cody. We've been tight for ten plus years, and he's done an amazing job with AEW. I am really excited about the explosion in opportunities in the professional wrestling world. I work for NWA currently as a commentator, and there's Ring of Honor which a friend of mine Marty Scurll is running the moment, obviously IMPACT has done some great stuff recently and grown from the ashes of where they were years ago, and then there's all the Japanese stuff, and there's some good stuff going on in the UK too. The fact is, there's a tonne of opportunities out there now for professional wrestlers which, when I was coming through, weren't really there. The only game in town realistically was WWE, and it was very, very difficult to see yourself working anywhere outside of that. I think the digital revolution and the opportunity for smaller brands to get big platforms now is fantastic for professional wrestlers and professional wrestling in general. 

One final wrestling question : would you say a WWE return is off the cards for you, especially after they so badly dropped the ball with Bad News Barrett, a gimmick I would say should have ended with you becoming WWE Champion?

When I left there, I was of the opinion that I was done with working there. I was pretty angry with a couple of people from when I was working there and when I left, a couple of people in management. I think time is a great healer, shall we say, and I certainly don't have much anger left in me in regards to that now. Similarly, I don't feel like I have an automatic affiliation with the company itself or the people who work there. It's not like I have any ingrained loyalty where I have to jump the second they call me, for example. If there were to be an offer, I would approach it as a normal business decision if it was an offer from AEW or Ring or Honor or New Japan, or anything like that. It's simply a business decision: is it worth it, do I like the offer, do I like the pitch, do I believe what I'm being pitched is actually going to happen? That's another big one. I would approach anything that came my way, the same I would from any other company to be honest with you. 

Are superhero movies something that interest you, and are there any characters you'd like to play or franchises you would be interested in joining?

The superhero movie is all the rage these days. There's so many of them, and they're almost always massive successes, so anything in that realm, of course, would be of interest. I think there's a lot of crossovers with the type of characters I've played previously in film with the action and fighting stuff that would crossover well into a superhero. In terms of something I would like to do, I would very much like to be in a Western. The old Clint Eastwood style movies, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and all that stuff. A new version of that or Tombstone, there are a lot of great movies where I could play a cowboy on a horse in an old Western. I'd have to work on the accent, obviously, but I do love that scenery and I think they're really cool. There's something very masculine and gritty about them, so I'd like to be involved in that if the opportunity were to come up. [Laughs] I don't think they make too many of them these days and when they make them, it tends to be a big Hollywood blockbuster with the likes of Christian Bale starring, but something like that would be really cool.

If you could reboot any classic action franchise and star as its lead, what would it be and why?

Oh, wow. Well, they recently remade a Rambo, so I'll have to miss that one. Maybe something like...they remade Predator too, didn't they? I didn't actually watch that, but I know they remade it, so I'll have to miss out on that one. Probably Commando. That would be a fun one, for sure! Out in the jungle sweating and fighting! 

I've seen on Instagram that you've been working on some of I Am Vengeance: Retaliation's special features, so can you give us some ideas what fans can expect from those?

I've never actually done that before. That was what used to be called the 'DVD extras,' and we've done a commentary where the sound is turned down or muted, and we talk over the top about what's happening in each scene and what we were thinking about what went into the shot and what was the reason we made these choices and stuff like that. That was a new experience for me. I've never actually watched the DVD extras or anything like that before. They did a couple of interviews with us which will be on the extras talking about how we feel about working with each other and feel about various cast members, what excited us about the film, and how things changed, so really more in-depth interviews and stuff like that. That's what I was involved in, but there might be other stuff I don't know about, but that was my involvement. 

As a fellow Brit, what was it like getting gun training and getting used to handling weapons?

I Am Vengeance: Retaliation is the fifth film I've been in, and in all five films, I've used guns quite extensively. I suppose, in some respects, you could say I'm quite typecast as the kind of guy who's gonna have a gun or multiple guns in a film. Definitely the first one I did I found it pretty weird to be holding a gun and I couldn't believe they'd given me a real gun. These are real guns we are using, and I know people think they're just fake, but these are real guns that just fire blank rounds so there's no difference between the kind of gun you use on set and one you'd have if you're law enforcement or Army. It was weird and took a bit of getting used to, but now, I've used them so much, that it's pretty natural for me on set and I don't need too much guidance using them. There's different ways of holding them depending on whether you're in close quarters or from a distance if you're hiding behind a barrel and stuff like that, and a lot of that I've now been taught. The paramount part is gun safety. Every time we're handed a gun, we're given a little lecture on not pointing it at anyone and all the kind of obvious stuff you would think would be obvious, but clearly in the past some idiots have made mistakes and you need to have those processes in place now. It's something I'm pretty much used to at this point. 

Looking ahead to a possible third instalment, where would you like to see John's story go next?

I had an idea that I would like to see...I actually pitched this to Ross and don't think he liked it...that John Gold go off the rails and becomes the bad guy, at least for a portion of the film. Perhaps, he would ultimately find redemption or something like that. I, personally, as an actor would like to explore that kind of desolate path and get that opportunity to change into the bad guy. I don't think Ross is too excited about that prospect because he likes the fact John Gold is the good guy and the hero, but that's certainly something I'd like to do more of in the future. Pretty much my entire wrestling career I was the bad guy, and so I'm still getting used to playing the hero in the film world, but I definitely at some point would like to do more bad guy stuff as that's probably more natural for me. 

Awesome. Well, thanks again for taking the time to talk to me Stu. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next for you in the action realm, and will keep my fingers crossed for that Western.

[Laughs] Thanks, Josh. That's the aim. I don't know what I'll do if I achieve that, I'll probably have to retire as it won't get any better than that. 

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solskulldeath - 6/18/2020, 6:03 PM
looks like a 90's action bad action flick with a nice camera trick/camera works.meh
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