Interview: FRANK SHAMROCK, Everlast

Frank Shamrock (born Frank Alisio Juarez) is a retired mixed martial arts fighter. Shamrock was the first to hold the UFC Middleweight Championship (now known as the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship) and retired as the four-time defending undefeated champion. Shamrock was the No. 1 ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the world during his reign as the UFC Middleweight Champion…

Now, Shamrock has turned to acting, and his latest venture is a short film called “Everlast”. I had the pleasure to briefly speak with Frank in May 2014 about this film.

GS: Obviously, in the UFC, unlike the WWE, the fighting is completely real. But what about the personalities? Are the athletes who they appear to be, or is that played up for the camera?

FS: Oh, definitely the personalities are played up. We’re in the business of sports entertainment, and one you’ve been in this business for a while you realize there’s more to it than just throwing punches. You have to present well, be memorable and have a brand and stand for something. You know, you’d think people would figure it out, but a lot of people can’t see through the acting when it’s close enough to the truth.

GS: Specifically, it’s apparent that the Diaz brothers come across as complete jerks. Is that exaggerated for effect or more of the truth?

FS: Well, they’re actually really nice guys, nice kids. They grew up in a different culture, in a different time. You have examples like me who were drawing a line at times, but they’re doing it a little tougher. Much like Tito Ortiz was with the last generation — he’s a real nice guy, very down to earth. They just present very differently.

GS: There was talk for a while that you were going to fight your brother. Had it happened, who would have won?

FS: Oooooh. Well, ten years ago my brother would have beat me to a bloody pulp. But flash forward ten years later, I think I could take him.

GS: So, overall, we’ll call it a draw.

FS: Yeah. Once you factor in age, injuries, it’s probably a draw. Further, if we had ever fought, we would have hurt each other so bad that we’d never recover. Half of me wishes it had happened, and half of me is glad it didn’t. At the time, it was the only way we could have reconciled our differences and fixed what was wrong. But luckily we’ve grown past that and fixed it in other ways.

GS: As far as acting goes, you’re relatively new at it. But you once appeared on an episode of “Walker, Texas Ranger”…

FS: Oh yeah.

GS: How did that come about?

FS: It was one of those Hollywood moments. I was having sushi in Westlake (a Latino neighborhood in Central LA) and my lawyer at the time said, “Hey, do you want to meet Chuck Norris?” And I said sure. So I met him, shook his hand, and he told he he had this script and was just waiting for the right guy to fill it. I thought he was just being nice, but I told him to call me and thought that was it. A few months later, his brother Aaron called me and told me I was going to be on the show. That’s how I got into the business.

GS: Just like that.

FS: Just like that. And actually, when I went to the shoot, I was two and a half weeks out of fighting Tito Ortiz for the championship (September 1999) and still had 16 stitches in my head. They took them out on set for me.

GS: With “Everlast”, what was it like shooting at YouTube Space LA?

FS: It’s pretty awesome. Completely state of the art. Everything is brand new, it’s like every toy you could ever imagine as a filmmaker or director. So when you walk in, it feels like you’re walking on to a giant playground. To see a solitary MMA cage in a blank studio, with nothing else, it was both arresting and stimulating. It was wonderful, the whole experience was very enjoyable, and that whole community of young filmographers, videographers and story writers down there is just on fire and a joy to hang out with.

GS: Co-star Kevin McNamara is an amateur mixed martial artist, but obviously he’s not a champion. Did you have to tone it down a bit for him?

FS: No. He’s an athlete and a martial artist, really good at boxing. He picked up right away what we were trying to do. And let’s be honest, I’m almost never going to be opposite someone on my level, with my skill set. I learned that a long time ago, and I learned how to make a scene work, make my punches look real. We did a lot of choreography. Kevin was very giving, and I think I hit him at least two or three times and felt bad about it each time. When you see it, you’ll see it looks awesome and really gritty. I think Leo, the director, got what he was looking for.

GS: You play a dead fighter. Without giving too much away, are you a ghost or something else?

FS: I am one of the world’s greatest fighters, Nicolai Faust. I have made choices that put me in a place where I have to fight all comers for eternity. That is now the place where I live. That’s where I meet Kevin, and we have a go at it.

GS: Kevin is the lead, but it sounds like your character has his own problems.

FS: Oh, definitely. I don’t know what you do to get placed in a netherworld where you have to fight all comers for eternity, but it’s gotta be bad. It’s just gotta be. And I took that as I made a terrible choice that wasn’t right and I’m resigned to my fate, doing what I have to do. The reason I took the role was because I saw Faust as a deep character. Fighting is easy and fun, but putting myself in that position and becoming that person… imagining myself in that position, especially now that I’m retired, made me feel really dark, and I hope it came out on camera.

GS: It’s obvious why you were chosen by the producers for the role, but what actually lead you to them?

FS: It’s another one of those being there and being prepared things. I was actually there filming another film the week before. Leo (the director) was working as the action photographer on that film and followed up with me, asking if I could fill his role. As soon as I read the script, I saw that it was me. So it was another one of those accidental things. And that’s a lot of what acting is about — being prepared in the moment, and performing when your time comes.

GS: That’s not all that different from how Doug Jones got his role. It sounds like everything just sort of came together.

FS: Yeah. A lot of these things… if someone is very passionate about it, they keep pushing forward, there are a lot of people ready to jump on board. This is a business where one afternoon could lead to three or four different things.

GS: Now that your credits are building, is acting a primary pursuit or just something you’re tinkering with?

FS: I’m totally going to pursue it this year. I’ve been thumbing my nose at Hollywood for 15 years — I’ve been in the Actors Guild since 1999. I had to put my desire for mixed martial arts above that, but this year I’m looking for any part that challenges me, makes me think, and makes me play with emotions I’m not comfortable with. I want to be as real as possible.

GS: Not that you want to be typecast, but if you’re looking for fighting roles, it seems to be on the rise…

FS: Yeah, the genre really changed. Ten years ago Hollywood was saying action was on the way out. Now everyone wants cool fighting, awesome action. So I ended up in the right place at the right time — again! I’ve been in the game long enough to know the right players and have some great ideas.

GS: That sounds great. Thanks, Frank!

FS: Thanks, Gavin.

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