An Interview with Highlander’s Adrian Paul

One of the celebrities coming to RI Comic Con for the first time this year is Adrian Paul, best known for playing the immortal Duncan MacLeod in the “Highlander” TV series for six seasons in the ‘90s. Motif publisher Mike Ryan’s old karate school used to get together to watch episodes and discuss just how badly MacLeod could have kicked JCVD or Steven Seagal’s butts. He had the chance to ask the British actor and martial artist a few questions about what he’ll be up to at RICC.

Mike Ryan (Motif): Have you been to Rhode Island before?

Adrian Paul: Honestly, I’ve been so many places I can’t really be sure, but I don’t think so.

MR: You’re from London, but you live in the US now, correct?

AP: I’ve lived in the US for 30 years now.

adrianpaulMR: I imagine “Highlander” is what you get most recognized for. How do you feel about that?

AP:  It’s par for the course really. I enjoy it, and it’s nice to be recognized.

MR: Are you coming back to the “Highlander” universe, that you know of?

AP: Not that I know of. There is a new movie that’s coming out, that seems to be gaining traction after several years of development; I think it’s probably on the road to possible pre-production.

MR: I read that you started in dance.

AP: I started in dance at one point. I also modeled, I also choreographed and was doing a lot of different things.

MR: Did your martial arts experience evolve from that, or for film purposes?

AP: I did kickboxing and training like that when I was younger, but it was “Highlander” that really pushed me into taking on martial arts forms. Because I needed to do it.

MR: What styles did you study? Do you have a preferred style?

AP: I studied Hung Gar Kung Fu and Shaolin Kung Fu, although I’ve worked with a lot of other people who favored different styles. I studied Pencak Silat, from Bali. Various things. It’s mainly the people I’ve worked with that have taught me different things. I never really stopped training. The hours and days and months I spent training after “Highlander.”

MR: Martial arts for camera is different from martial arts for non-cinematic reasons, with bigger movements than self-defense – do you practice both, or each differently?

AP: It’s not a question of bigger movements for the screen. It’s a question of more movements, that don’t connect, but they’re the same movements … You’re trying to shut the person down in front of you, whether you’re trying to do it with a sword or you’re trying to do it open handed. In a movie, you’re trying to create a cinematic feel to a piece, so it goes longer and the hits obviously are not genuine.

MR: Tell me a little bit about The Sword Experience and how that works [Mr. Paul runs a sword fighting training program called The Sword Experience].

AP: The Sword Experience is a way to teach people a fight they’ve seen in a movie or on TV and give them the experience of being a star in their own movie for a few hours. I have different types of Sword Experience – three … well, four actually.

There’s the Con version, which happens at a convention space where we find a set outside or maybe we have time to build a set. There’s the regular version, which is actually on location – I did castles this year in France, England, Ireland and Scotland. Then we do corporate training and team building, which plays up the similarities between doing this and working in an office, plus the similarities between the movie business and other business. And then the fourth one is going on tour to different places, where it will be a three day, or five-six-seven-eight day event, where you do a tour with elements of The Sword Experience. You might do sight-seeing or walk up a volcano, bike ride tour or yoga or meditation or massage.

MR: So that’s like adventure tourism?

AP: Yep. We’re doing at least two this coming year, a “Highlander” tour that will be up in Scotland and a Sword Experience that will be down in France.

MR: If you’re immortal and the only thing you really need to protect is your neck, do you fight differently with a sword?

AP: No. [thoughtful pause]

No, you just have to duck better.

MR: Do you have work you’re most proud of?

AP: I take each job as it goes. “Highlander” was a really deep learning process for me. The Breed (2001) was a fun piece that I did – it was very stylized, which I liked. I did Nine Miles Down (2009), which I’m told was a good acting piece to put my chops into. Shortly I’m going to shoot a pilot that’s coming up that should be fun.

There are a couple of other projects coming up – a film called Snapshot I’ve got coming up.

MR: Tell me what you can about the pilot.

AP: It’s a set up that’s gonna try to be sold as a series. I play the Devil.

MR: The Devil?

AP: Let’s leave it at that.

MR: I know there was a dark “Highlander” for a little while – have you gotten to play a lot of villainy?

AP: Yeah, in one way or another, I did a short that should be on Netflix pretty soon called Red Sneakers. It’s a villain of a different type – the head of a post-apocalyptic group of people, like a sect. Even though he’s very nice, it’s kinda like he’s the bad guy. Or was he? That type of character.

There’s a lot of them I think I’ve done.

MR: Is it more fun being the hero or the bad guy?

AP: The bad guy. But mostly I like the work. The role is the role, it doesn’t really matter.

MR: Tell me about Snapshot. That hasn’t been released yet.

AP: Not yet. Snapshot is an English film. I think it’s about to be sold and released. It’s a mystery about a shooting accident. I play the head of a CIA covert operation in Mexico. Although it’s set in England.

MR: A lot of your work has been sci-fi related. You were a producer on “Tracker,” which is total sci-fi. Is that an interest of yours?

AP: I like sci-fi. I was also the producer on “Highlander: The Source.” I think it’s fun producing sometimes – I have a couple of projects coming up through my company that I’m producing. I’m going to Italy before Comic Con to hopefully finalize a deal – once it’s finalized I can announce it. But I have things I want to direct, things I want to write. That company is called FilmBlips.

MR: You also founded a non-profit, right?

AP: Yes. The PEACE fund. It stands for Protect Educate and Aid Children Everywhere. We founded it in 1997. We partner with numerous organizations around the world and facilitate different initiatives in Thailand, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, El Salvador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the United States. Currently we’re working on the hurricane – sending school supplies to kids who lost all their school supplies.

MR: In Houston or Florida or Puerto Rico or..?

AP: Not in Puerto Rico – it’s very hard to get on the ground in Puerto Rico, so we’re directing people to Unicef to help there. We’re working with areas in the US, helping with the recovery efforts – it takes months, if not years, to really recover from these events.

MR: And the publicity subsides after a few weeks.

AP: Exactly.

MR: What motivated you to get involved in that charity?

AP: Well, I founded it.

MR: Right, but you could have founded anything…

AP: I didn’t want to attach myself to an organization, I wanted to do it my way. I didn’t want to just turn up at events and say, “Hi! I support things.” I wanted to get more involved. It was really “Highlander” that inspired me because I saw so many kids looking up to a celebrity, and I thought if they can do it with me they can do it with more, and I was sure I could get more celebrity participation to help with some of the initiatives.

MR: Anything else I didn’t touch on that you’d like to get the word out about?

AP: I’m looking forward to coming to RI – it’s going to be good. We’ve got a sold-out class in Rhode Island and we’re going to do a Star Wars fight. The Sword Experience does all sorts of different fights – it doesn’t just do “Highlander.” We’ve done Game of Thrones, we’ve done Star Wars fights, Blade, Dracula, King Arthur – lots of different ones. We like to give participants an idea of what it’s like to be in these different situations. Here, we’re inside a convention hall. What better place to turn out all the lights and swing a light saber? We start with bokken, which are the training tools, and then we’ll use light sabers to do the finale. We have the ‘real thing,’ if you like – plastic fighting things, as opposed to some of the cosplay ones that you can’t really do much with.

MR: It sounds like you have a lot of fun with this.

AP: Yeah, it’s fun to help people through the process. It’s fun to create something. I get to film it. I shoot the video and I edit it with my editors. It’s part of my creative process as well, as a director. I see certain things, and it just keeps feeding me every time I do it. We do about one a week, so I get a creative juice and that’s what I really like.

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