How Stephen Dorff Grew to become a Flashy, Brutish MMA Fighter in ‘Embattled’

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

“I used to be operating 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 complete life was figuring out and consuming throughout that point.”

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

Males’s Journal: What concerning the Embattled storyline drew you in?

Stephen Dorff: This script  simply moved me. There have been films based mostly within the struggle world that I like, however not as many as you’ll think about given how large the game is and is turning into. In distinction, there have been an entire lot extra boxing films, as a result of it’s been round longer. I like boxing films. Cinderella Man is a superb piece of labor. However there’s little question that now it’s MMA’s time. It’s extra related and prevalent. There’s been Warrior and some of that caliber, however the author of this, David McKenna, is simply so proficient it units itself aside. I needed the position instantly, I knew that he isn’t the nicest man, however undeniably an interesting character.

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

I began turning into a fan, as a result of I’d been following boxing a bit, and blended martial arts have been beginning to kick off. I began to prep for Felon with Ric Roman Waugh and thru there I met Greg Jackson’s workforce. There have been a bunch of nice guys on the market, like Cowboy Cerrone. I truly stored in contact with him. We based mostly numerous the combating we have been doing within the yard round their struggle types, and the story was loosely based mostly round what truly occurred in California State Jail, Corcoran.

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

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 as we speak with that form of flash and showmanship we have been searching for. Clearly a man like Conor McGregor goes to be an enormous inspiration, for those who strip away the Irish and change it with this Southern swagger. That very same form of abrasive combating expertise is what I needed—the form of unpredictable instigator who flusters opponents, will get of their heads, then places them on the ground. I took somewhat of the flash from Mayweather as nicely. I like how he’s at all times exhibiting off cash. I thought of Cowboy Cerrone as nicely, as far how a lot of a lion that man is. He’ll stroll into a hoop with actually anyone, anyplace. Not the largest man within the room, however the largest persona, bigger than life. I attempted to morph all of these guys collectively for Embattled.

And the way did you begin the bodily preparation for Embattled?

As soon as 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 informed them I needed to do it after I used to be accomplished filming, however I wanted a while as a result of I wasn’t going to be near as large 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 began the ramp as much as the method whereas I used to be filming although, slowly doing extra exercises and consuming extra. As soon as we wrapped, I went all-out with my coach, doing an enormous calorie load. I placed on about eight to 10 kilos of muscle within the brief time we had, which is rather a lot for me. Particularly 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 infinite quantity of shirtless scenes, along with the battles that have been within the script. I ended up connecting with these guys who work with numerous hockey gamers, one being Josh Perzow, who I’ve labored with on a number of films since. I simply actually preferred the best way he labored, and the actual fact he works with actual athletes and fighters. As soon as I acquired this, I gave him a hoop, as a result of I actually wanted somebody there with me in Los Angeles. We must always 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'
Stephen Dorff filming MMA drama ‘Embattled’ IFC Movies

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

The largest request I had was making the fights the very first thing we filmed. There have been folks in manufacturing who needed to get to them later, as a result of they didn’t need to threat folks getting harm throughout the stunts and never with the ability to end their scenes. However 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 exercises. That will find yourself chopping 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 stepping into form for fight. The actual effort began in Los Angeles, and Josh was capable of 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 stepping into the cage.

Talking of the cage, as soon as the exercises have been going nicely, how did you begin doing the blended martial arts coaching?

I used to be glad I put in all that work with Josh, as a result of as soon as I acquired to Alabama, it was time to start out working with Chris Conolley and his workforce out of Birmingham. Being round actual fighters at that time was large, and Chris is legit, working with guys who’re combating within the UFC now. I believe he has one in all his guys competing on Struggle 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 numerous nice grabbling strikes and submissions. We labored exhausting to have the executions look actual, ensuring I’m doing it proper on digital camera. There are some intense actions in there. I’m getting numerous feedback on a scene the place I provide you with my elbow on my opponent from individuals who know the game nicely. There are parts of that coaching 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 an actual science, so far as choreography, as a result of it’s so reactive. Did you end up coming involved along with your scene companions?

There have been a number of occasions I made contact. I clipped a number of doubles throughout these scenes. I used to be on the receiving finish myself a number of occasions. We are saying sorry, then we transfer on, normally. I bear in mind I acquired hit actually unhealthy throughout the filming of Felon. Took one to the cheekbone and it overvalued to some extent the place we couldn’t hold filming. That’s simply the price of doing enterprise.

How did you place collectively Money Boykins’ fashion?

I’ll be trustworthy, the look simply got here collectively. I used to be in Malibu when the director requested 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 tooth, and I believed his tooth ought to have been knocked out. So we went with it. We actually bonded the gold tooth onto my precise tooth, and I stored them on for some time 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 photograph to the director. He beloved it.

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

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

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

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