How Stephen Dorff Became a Flashy, Brutish MMA Fighter in ‘Embattled’


Stephen Dorff was coming off the grueling manufacturing schedule of True Detective’s third season when he started the work to change into Cash Boykins, the risky brawler of MMA drama Embattled. The HBO anthology sequence had taken a lot out of him, and he dropped weight for the function, so the trail to changing into a welterweight roughneck was already uphill.

“I used to be running on fumes after True Detective, however I used to be enthusiastic about Embattled, and I had this surge of adrenaline that lasted a month,” says Dorff. For 4 weeks earlier than filming kicked off in Alabama, the veteran actor labored with coach Josh Perzow to get into combat-fighting form. “My whole life was working out and eating during that time.”

Not making weight wasn’t an possibility for Dorff, who’s a long-time fan of blended martial arts, and can be sharing his set with UFC headliners like Tyron Woodley and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. We spoke with Dorff on his training course of for Embattled, mixing it up with MMA legends, and pulling swagger inspiration from fighters like Conor McGregor to create Cash Boykins.

Men’s Journal: What in regards to the Embattled storyline drew you in?

Stephen Dorff: This script  simply moved me. There have been films based mostly in the battle world that I like, however not as many as you’ll think about given how huge the game is and is changing into. In distinction, there have been a complete lot extra boxing films, as a result of it’s been round longer. I really like boxing films. Cinderella Man is a sensible piece of labor. But there’s little doubt that now it’s MMA’s time. It’s extra related and prevalent. There’s been Warrior and a few of that caliber, however the author of this, David McKenna, is simply so proficient it sets itself aside. I needed the function instantly, I knew that he isn’t the nicest man, however undeniably a fascinating character.

I do know you’re a fan of UFC. How did you first get launched to that world?

I started changing into a fan, as a result of I’d been following boxing a bit, and blended martial arts had been beginning to kick off. I started to prep for Felon with Ric Roman Waugh and thru there I met Greg Jackson’s crew. There had been a bunch of nice guys on the market, like Cowboy Cerrone. I truly stored in contact with him. We based mostly a lot of the preventing we had been doing in the yard round their battle kinds, and the story was loosely based mostly round what truly occurred in California State Prison, Corcoran.

How did you envision the character as soon as you bought the function?

He’s had a welterweight title at one level, however he’s actually the featherweight champion of the world…the form of fighter that brings in six or seven million pay-per-views. He’s that man. I instantly went to the champions that exist immediately with that form of flash and showmanship we had been in search of. Obviously a man like Conor McGregor goes to be a huge inspiration, for those who strip away the Irish and change it with this Southern swagger. That identical form of abrasive preventing expertise is what I needed—the form of unpredictable instigator who flusters opponents, will get in their heads, then places them on the ground. I took a little of the flash from Mayweather as properly. I like how he’s at all times exhibiting off cash. I considered Cowboy Cerrone as properly, as far how a lot of a lion that man is. He’ll stroll into a ring with actually anyone, wherever. Not the largest man in the room, however the greatest character, bigger than life. I attempted to morph all of these guys collectively for Embattled.

And how did you start the bodily preparation for Embattled?

Once it was introduced that I used to be going to be doing the third season of True Detective, they knew they needed me for the half. I instructed them I needed to do it after I used to be performed filming, however I wanted a while as a result of I wasn’t going to be near as huge as I needed to be. The plan was to be fairly lean and thin for True, so I wanted time to remodel into an MMA fighter after. I started the ramp as much as the method whereas I used to be filming although, slowly doing extra workouts and eating extra. Once we wrapped, I went all-out with my coach, doing a huge calorie load. I placed on about eight to 10 kilos of muscle in the quick time we had, which is a lot for me. Especially in simply 4 weeks.

Did you have already got a coach in thoughts?

I discovered myself in Montreal doing the film Immortals, and I actually wanted to be in form for that. There was an unlimited quantity of shirtless scenes, in addition to the battles that had been in the script. I ended up connecting with these guys who work with a lot of hockey gamers, one being Josh Perzow, who I’ve labored with on a few films since. I simply actually preferred the best way he labored, and the very fact he works with actual athletes and fighters. Once I received this, I gave him a ring, as a result of I actually wanted somebody there with me in Los Angeles. We ought to have had two months for this type of prep, however we had 4 weeks. We made it work, although.

Stephen Dorff filming MMA drama ‘Embattled’ IFC Films

Was it tough to steadiness the Embattled battle scenes with the remainder of manufacturing?

The greatest request I had was making the fights the very first thing we filmed. There had been folks in manufacturing who needed to get to them later, as a result of they didn’t wish to danger folks getting harm in the course of the stunts and never having the ability to end their scenes. But I knew we wanted to place belief in our crew, as a result of if I needed to movie these loopy lengthy days, simply doing the drama, I’d be beat and don’t have any time for actual workouts. That would find yourself slicing the legs out from underneath the work I already put in. So we moved the fights to the entrance of our manufacturing schedule, which allowed me to focus singularly on entering into form for fight. The actual effort started in Los Angeles, and Josh was in a position to put measurement on me instantly. We traveled to the set in Alabama collectively and stored up our periods—two weeks of eight hours a day, then entering into the cage.

Speaking of the cage, as soon as the workouts had been going properly, how did you start doing the blended martial arts training?

I used to be glad I put in all that work with Josh, as a result of as soon as I received to Alabama, it was time to start working with Chris Conolley and his crew out of Birmingham. Being round actual fighters at that time was large, and Chris is legit, working with guys who’re preventing in the UFC now. I feel he has one among his guys competing on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi quickly. Not solely was he engaged on the film, however he’s additionally in it; he performs the referee. I realized a lot of nice grabbling strikes and submissions. We labored exhausting to have the executions look actual, ensuring I’m doing it proper on digicam. There are some intense actions in there. I’m getting a lot of feedback on a scene the place I give you my elbow on my opponent from individuals who know the game properly. There are parts of that training I wish to sustain with even previous this expertise. I would like to ensure I keep in contact with the fellows.

The sprawls that occur in MMA are exhausting to get right down to a precise science, so far as choreography, as a result of it’s so reactive. Did you end up coming in contact along with your scene companions?

There had been a few occasions I made contact. I clipped a few doubles throughout these scenes. I used to be on the receiving finish myself a few occasions. We ask for forgiveness, then we transfer on, normally. I bear in mind I received hit actually unhealthy in the course of the filming of Felon. Took one to the cheekbone and it puffed as much as a level the place we couldn’t hold filming. That’s simply the price of doing enterprise.

How did you set collectively Cash Boykins’ type?

I’ll be sincere, the look simply got here collectively. I used to be in Malibu when the director asked me what I used to be feeling, and I simply mentioned let me deal with it. I truly had a dream the place I pictured myself having these gold enamel, and I assumed his enamel ought to have been knocked out. So we went with it. We actually bonded the gold enamel onto my precise enamel, and I stored them on for a whereas after filming, till I needed to get into one other gig. I additionally had the thought to shave my head, so I simply did it, and despatched a picture to the director. He cherished it.

There are some well-known UFC personalities in the film, like Tyron Woodley in Embattled. What was it like having guys that that in the reduce?

Getting champions like Tyron Woodley and acquainted faces like Kenny Florian as a a part of the manufacturing simply provides us all of the extra purpose to get it proper, and the suitable recommendation. Getting their thumbs up after among the fights was large. Not to say, it makes it really feel actual for everybody. The battle group in the film known as the WFA, but it surely’s fairly clearly the UFC to the fashionable viewer. We received a Dana White-type actor to play the top of it. We truly even went to Dana White and tried to get him to be in the film. He mentioned, “I’m not an actor, but I want to see it when it’s done!” It’s been nice getting the response we now have from the entire MMA world. I’ve a behavior of selecting aside the flicks I’m in, and this one stands up greater than most. I’m extraordinarily pleased with it. I hope everybody is ready to get pleasure from it, and to see the trouble we put in.

Embattled might be launched in choose theaters and on VOD on November 20th.

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