"I'm a good match with Dolph"

"The way it was written there's a lot of depth to the character, he's almost Shakespearian"


Can you tell us about your background as an actor who became a cage fighter?
I started training as an actor over 20 years ago but I've always been involved in some kind of physical pursuit, and when the acting work dried up a little, I became a full time professional cage fighter for two years. I fought in Wembley ring in London that wins over the ex-UFC heavyweight champion Dan Severn, LA street fighting raging Kim Leopoldo and I even beat up the referee...

How do you go from just acting to cage fighting, did you do martial arts ?
I boxed when I was younger, and when I haven't been acting I worked in bars and I guess I had a few scuffles along that route, and a lot of the roles I play are physical, so I need to be in condition, so it's something that I was inclined towards anyway. So it's plumbing into the world, at the level of where I could have done the most money was at the top level. Once I got to a certain standard at the top of the national level I've got some good wins.

So did you get involved in “Command Performance”, it was a given you could be a good opponent for Dolph?
It was luck, I think they were struggling to actually secure the lead to play opposite Dolph, and put out a worldwide casting call, and I cast right in London, on Friday before the week it started, so I was booked to go on holdling so I cast in the morning, flew out to Cannes in the afternoon, drove down [...], then got a phone call that they wanted me back in Bulgaria, so I drove 28 hours straight to drop off the rental car, catch a flight back home and flew out over here. But you know I think I'm a good match with Dolph, in some respect he's been an inspiration to a lot of people for many years, his physical presence is also.

How do you approach the role?
This role is different because usually much roles I play are me playing myself are usually London-based films where my dialog is similar to that I normally use. This guy was different in a way because he's Russian, so I had to master a Russian accent, which I did with a reasonable amount of ease, because I trained, then thought about the character. And it's there in the writing, because if the writing was poor, I could do nothing with the character. The way it was written there's a lot of depth to the character and I see he's almost Shakespearian it's tragic and Oleg is righteous he's got a real descent reason for revenge, all the way through the movie he's driven mad by sorrow, and goes too far.

So that's what makes him different from other action films villains?
Yeah, he's got issues and problems that would bother anyone. Anyone would be mad if he saw his parents commit suicide to save the shame of a prosecution against them[...] He actually wants revenge but he takes revenge against the whole world, really it's a suicide he's after more than revenge.

How do you find Dolph directing actors?
I think because Dolph works both sides of the camera he knows, and this is the first role I think he felt when he saw my audition, that I understood character, I knew everything that could be down with him, so I was given a fairly free reign, obviously constrained to the whole film. We discuss things, I maneuver them a little bit, but he's very calm, considered he'll takes suggestions from me but then if he feels strongly that there should be a way they were originally written then we just go there, cause I understand the director is in charge.

You didn't have much time to train and prepare for the fights?
No because we're both trained fighters, we don't need to. If you're an actor it might take six months to learn how to fight, we both know how to fight immediately. It's just a case of doing it without anyone getting hurt. And to a degree when I was meant to attacking him he'll be “well what would you do?” and I''ll be “what I would do is this” and we follow it on[...]. So there's no moves in the fight that I find unreal, I don't like fight where you think “what didn't the guy move out of the way?” or “why wouldn't he just grab him?” to stop him, stop being hit. At least it's messy, dirty, as real as it can get. Because also the MMA has moved on slightly, from when Dolph was fighting, so it's a new technique which he's not that familiar with and I'd just stick a few of those in. And also in this film Dolph isn't playing a fighter, he's playing a guy from a rock band so he can't demonstrate too many of his actual skills so he's kinda got dumb down his ability.

He has to use more realistic techniques instead of karate moves...
Yeah dirty street fight techniques, that's what seems to work. But he's so big and powerful, it was a struggle when we where doing some of those I think, we don't wanna follow this route cause he wouldn't let me do what I wanna do and I have to power through it to get into position.

What kind of other action scenes do you have in this movie?
The big one is the fight scene, but there's a lot of explosions, a lot of gun play, but to me the thing that really interests me is the dramatic part of the character, the tragedy, I was almost in tears[...] if your parents died in front of you, and then this culmination of years searching for revenge and it comes to you now, but even revenge isn't gonna satisfy your loss, that's the tragedy of it, there is no source for it, there is no redemption, you're screwed...

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