Interview: Steve Austin of "The Expendables" talks Zakk Wylde and Working With Sylvester Stallone
Tue, 03 Aug 2010 10:18:10
Steve Austin was born for the screen.
While ruling the WWE, "Stone Cold" always had a presence in the ring that couldn't be matched. The champ was an anti-hero in the most classic sense, chugging beer and dispensing the "Stone Cold Stunner" with a reckless abandon that made him a legend in the sport. That style carries over to his turn as Paine in The Expendables. As one of the film's villains, Austin delivers a neck-snapping performance as he goes up against Sylvester Stallone's Barney Ross in some bludgeoningly brilliant sequences.
Steve Austin sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about becoming Paine for The Expendables, his favorite '80s heavy metal, trading "souvenirs" with Zakk Wylde and so much more.
Was there something about Paine that grabbed you from the second you read the script?
I was just glad to be a part of the movie. It was a thrill for me to share the screen and spend all that time on set with those guys. I'm a big fan of everyone, but working with Sly was pretty much a dream. Sly told me about who Paine was and what he did. It wasn't like it was going to be dialogue-heavy or anything like that. I've always enjoyed playing villain roles. From my wrestling career, I've always liked being the bad guy. I ended up succeeding tremendously as a good guy—who did bad things. "The Expendables" were cast, so that didn't matter to me. To be able to do Dan Paine and get my foot in the door, I was very excited. The thrill of being there was great. Doing all my scenes with Eric Roberts and watching how Sly directed Eric was a lot of fun because you can see inside Sly's brain. Watching all of his action movies and following his career and now seeing how directs, I see that he's a very specific guy with an artistic flare. He knows exactly what he wants to see from his actors and out of a scene. It's pretty cool to watch that guy's gears move.
Did you listen to music to get into character?
I'm a heavy metal and country music guy as well as old school hip hop and some blues—in the vain of Stevie Ray Vaughan. I've never really listened to music to get in the mood to go out or be in character though. As Stone Cold, it was just flipping the switch and that was me. Dan Paine was a calm presence ready to strike into violence, intimidate or do whatever needed to be done. It wasn't like I ever felt I needed an extra oomph to amp up.
Who are your favorite metal bands?
You know, I'm kind of trapped in the '80s. Zakk Wylde is a really good friend of mine. He played with Ozzy, and he's got Black Label Society. Of course I grew up a huge Scorpions fan. Way back in the day, my favorite band when I was growing up was KISS. I'm a big Ozzy fan; and I'm big into Ronnie James Dio. It's all the hair period. When grunge hit, Nirvana was okay for me, but Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains were more up my alley. Music has changed so much. I was a huge Boston and Van Halen fan. I dug Accept, Doro Pesch and Warlock—all that old shit.
Black Label Society carries on those traditions.
Oh yeah! I love Zakk. I had three rings made. One was made out of platinum, one was made out of titanium and one was made out of steel. For some reason, the ring that was made out of titanium was too small for me. At OZZfest in San Antonio when I was on Zakk's bus, I said, "Hey dude, I'm not trying to propose marriage to you, but this ring does not fit me!" He likes a jawless skull. I'm very picky about my skulls because I've used them on all my shirts. The ring fit Zakk, and I gave it to him. If you see his hands when he's playing guitar, he's wearing that ring [Laughs]. I gave him that ring, but he gave me one of his Martin acoustic guitars, which I have at my ranch. I can't play it, but he gave it to me.
Was preparing to act at all similar to preparing for a match?
I'm still learning about the acting thing, man. From the day I started wrestling until the day I finished, the guy changed a little bit and then I finally turned into Stone Cold. But there was never anything where I'd run up down the hallways screaming and beating my chest. Back in the day, you'd do a few push-ups to get a little blood flowing. Towards the end of my career, I didn't rely on that. I was relying on attitude, my wrestling chops—which I had—and not being a great scientific wrestler but being a fucking P.H.D. in the ring as far knowing what I needed to do. It's about having an ear and listening to the crowd. I always listened to the crowd because that's how you make your decisions. That was a job that after several years of working my ass off, I turned into a great mechanic. After I came up with the Stone Cold thing, the star thing happened. When you combine the great mechanic and this big star, then you have box office records, sell-outs, Pay-per-view records and all the other bullshit that we did. I'm still learning about this. You feed off the crowd, that energy and that noise when you're in the ring. On a set, you don't feed off that. I'm still learning to try to figure out what to feed off of on set. I always think that whatever you do, with repetition you get better. The more I do this, the better I'm going to get at it. I believe in myself, and I believe I have a talent. I don't think I've scratched the surface yet. I don't think I've done enough yet, but I'm damn sure going to learn. By the time I finish doing this gig, I'm going to be a good actor because that's what I set my goals on being.
Action movies like this can be really inspirational. That's important.
Anytime you can draw inspiration from something that's positive, then it is important. I've had so many people come up to me in my life and say, "You know what? I grew up watching you, and you helped me get through so many things." People would often ask me if I thought of myself as a role model while I was wrestling. I'd say, "If you look at what I do, as far as my product in the ring, that's not a guy you want your kids to grow up to be. However, when you look at the effort in my body of work and what it took for me to get there, I definitely think I'm a positive role model." That being said, so many people lived vicariously through the actions of Stone Cold, and the system's always against them. I was bucking the system. My actions, words and matches gave them a vehicle to succeed with. I think it's important to have great role models whether it's an action hero or whatever. We all need heroes.
That work ethic translates more than anything.
Yeah, man, I've got the work ethic. I'm still working on it, and I'm going to figure it out. That is my goal in my life. When I finished professional wrestling, I needed to get out because of injuries. I didn't know what I was going to do, and I didn't do anything for several years. I said, "Okay, I'm going to get into acting because I enjoyed doing Nash Bridges when I did." At first, I just got into it so I could do something. It was about being busy. Now, it's a passion because I'm hooked on it. I see the inner-workings and what it takes to be a great performer. When I'm passionate about something, I put everything that I have into it. That's what I'm doing now.
Will you be seeing The Expendables next Friday August 13?
For more Expendables, check out our interview with Terry Crews here!