From Wrestler to Action Star, Stu Bennett Talks I Am Vengeance: Retaliation Image

Now I’ve followed your career a long time, and you’ve recently started acting. It seems you have your feet planted in both the worlds of film and wrestling. Do you have a defined career trajectory at the moment, or are you just kind of playing things by ear?
100% playing things by ear. I don’t think that I can really dictate what I want to do. It’s not like I can phone up Steven Spielberg and say, “Hey, I’m free, let me know when you need me for your next film.” A lot of it is a case of waiting to see what comes in through my agent. I love acting, but it’s not an easy world to break into. It’s also not an easy world to maintain the kind of positions I’ve been very fortunate to get in films so far. I’ve been very I would say high profile.

I’ve been in five films in my career now, four of which I’ve been in a lead role. It’s hard to maintain that and figure out what to move to next because once you’re in a lead position, you don’t want to drop too far down and start taking much lower roles. There’s a bit of a balancing act there. The other thing is that I really love commentating on pro wrestling. I love being around that world. So it’s something I hope to do more of. I hope to continue working with NWA for a long time. And I like the balance that I get from being able to straddle these two worlds and do different things.

While I was with WWE, one of the most significant issues was its all-encompassing lifestyle. My personal life, other endeavors, and career options were all forced to be neglected because I just didn’t have time for anything else. It was 100% you’re in this world; nothing exists outside of this. In the last four years, I’ve been able to grow personally and experience different things in film, TV hosting, and the wrestling commentary. I really enjoy the unpredictability of what’s coming up. It’s hard for me to say that I have a definitive plan, but if there is one, it’d be to take the opportunities that sound good and decline the opportunities that don’t. I’m fortunate that I’m in a position that I can do that at the moment.

Let me ask you how you got involved in the I Am Vengeance series. I talked with writer-director Ross Boyask a few days ago, and he mentioned hanging out near the set on the film you were doing at that time.
Yeah. In 2015, I was filming Eliminators, which was produced by WWE Studios. And I was still a full-time professional wrestler, but sort of just got a mini career vacation for a few weeks to shoot this film in London. I co-starred with Scott Adkins, and James Nunn was the director. While I was filming that, it just so happened that we were all meeting one day to head off the set. We were meeting at a studio parking lot, and Ross just so happened to have an office nearby. He heard I was there and came running out of his office with a script in hand and gave it to me before we left. We had a quick two or three-minute conversation. He kind of pitched the concept and told me he thought I’d be perfect for the role. Explained what it was and said, he hoped that one day it would become more of a franchise rather than a one-off film.

“…making that leap to hero was kind of the only thing that I was a little apprehensive about.”

I took everything he said with a pinch of salt because it’s the entertainment industry, and you get lied to a lot, as we all know. But I thought, “Okay, he seemed like a nice guy. I’ll have a read.” A couple of weeks later, I was back in the U.S. and had time to read through it. I really liked it. We ended up arranging a Skype call with myself, Ross, and John Adams, who is the head of Evolutionary Films. We all bonded. It just so happened that I was at a point, career-wise, where I was looking to start making some steps away from WWE. And my contract was coming up soon. I thought, “Well, this has to be a sign that this has kind of fallen into my lap. And it’s something I enjoy doing, and I’d like to explore it with these guys.”

That was the final nail in the coffin for my decision not to sign a new contract at WWE. I was pleased with how the first one turned out, and the fan base really supported it. It did well financially, and because of that, we were able to bounce it into a second one. And fingers crossed that people support I Am Vengeance: Retaliation just like they did with its predecessor. And then we can make a third, fourth, fifth and then who knows where it can go. Because I know Ross already has the next two scripts written out, which is quite incredible. He’s a very creative guy. He’s kind of a nonstop workaholic. I know we’d all love to continue making these and see where we can take the John Gold character from here.

Particularly with the first one, it stretched your acting chops. Were you already an actor at that point? Were you confident in your acting abilities at that time?
The first one was the third film I’d ever made. I did Dead Man Down in 2012, in which I had a tiny role, but it gave me a good taste of film sets. The second one was Eliminators, where I had a leading role, but I was the bad guy. In terms of coming into the first I Am Vengeance, there was a bit hesitancy from me as I was to be the good guy. Because even through my many years of being a pro wrestler, I was always the bad guy. The kind of personas that I would play in pro wrestling, how I would talk, and the way I moved, always aimed to project the bad guy.

So making that leap to hero was kind of the only thing that I was a little apprehensive about. But the nice thing about the John Gold character, certainly in the first film even more so, is more of an antihero. He’s not the hand slapping, baby-kissing kind of smiley good guy. He was very much, in essence, a nasty bad man. It’s just his intentions are always pure; his heart is in the right place. So that, to me, was quite a natural transition. I think the years of playing characters and performing stories in pro wrestling are what held me in good stead to transition to the world of acting.

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