With The Expendables 3 opening this weekend, last week Lionsgate held the world premiere in London’s Leicester Square, and I was lucky enough to attend the event with a few other American reporters. Like I said on Twitter, The Expendables 3 is a lot of fun and my favorite of the series due in large part to Mel Gibson,Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas. All three are awesome and Banderas steals every scene he’s in. In addition to the new cast, The Expendables 3 has a crazy third act that’s easily the best action scene of the franchise. I think the team kills over a thousand people. It shows once again how the MPAA doesn’t care about violence when giving out ratings. Only in America can a film like this get a PG-13.
I recently landed an exclusive interview with Victor Ortiz (another new Expendable). He talked about when he decided to try his hand at acting, meeting Sylvester Stallone, the background on his character, what it was like on set, filming in Bulgaria, the advice that Kelsey Grammer gave him, and a lot more. Hit the jump for what he had to say.
VICTOR ORTIZ: I decided that shortly after I got my jaw broken. I immediately went into Dancing with the Stars and then from Dancing with the Stars it kind of led to an opportunity like this, and thankfully for my agents and my management, they got me into this big movie. I was like, “Whoa, are you serious?” They offered it, Sylvester Stallone met up with me, and after that the rest is history. I was just like, “Whoa, I can’t believe I’m on something this big.”
Yeah, you definitely didn’t start in amateur mode, you went right into the big guns.
ORTIZ: Yeah, it’s like being a professional boxer and your first fight is a world title fight, you know?
What it was like for you on set, because you’re working with these massive action stars and obviously you must have grown up watching these guys. What was it like working with these guys and what advice did you share that maybe you put into practice on set?
ORTIZ: It was just amazing. I couldn’t really even express it all at once. It was amazing to sit there with some of the biggest cinema movie stars, and not only that, these guys all got along with me, they treated me like a little brother pretty much. We just had a great time. We conversed quite a bit about just life in general, not who they were, who they are. They accepted me for who I am and vice versa. I couldn’t have it any other way. It was amazing.
Obviously you’re a professional boxer and you can fight, and obviously that’s not the way it really is on a movie set, so talk a little bit about adjusting and what you brought to the table as a boxer.
ORTIZ: There were some things where I had to fight somebody, so I’d get close enough to make it look real, but I wouldn’t hit somebody, but I’d follow through and made it look like I hit somebody. There’s little pieces in there where I had to pretend to hit somebody and it really helped to be boxer, because it looked so real. I use my whole body to throw a punch and it wasn’t really real. Other than that, I think that’s the only thing, I don’t know just a fun time [laughs].
I was on set in Bulgaria and the stunt coordinators showed me how they pre-vized a lot of the fights and they tried to incorporate peoples actual skill set into their fight scenes, so how did they work with you to craft your fight scene to be able to showcase what you can actually do?
ORTIZ: There’s a particular scene where I have Sylvester Stallone and Kelsey Grammer and they’re trying to recruit me to join the Expendables team, and in doing so they have me in this military camp. I’m one of the elite military soldiers, or whatever. I’m getting a work out, I have dog tags on, I’m shirtless, I have my pants on, which are army pants with army boots on, there’s hand wraps and boxing gloves and I’m hitting a punching bag while they come up. And as I’m hitting the punching bag, I’m sweating, and Kelsey Grammer tells me I need to come meet Barney, which is Sylvester Stallone, and that’s pretty much the introduction of what I do. It’s pretty insane though.
Since you’re new to the franchise, can you talk a little bit about your character in general and what Stallone told you about the back story, or what Patrick Hughes told you about the back story?
ORTIZ: Absolutely. I play the character of Mars. Mars is a weaponry specialist. Throughout the whole movie I pretty much- [laughs] I’m between a nice guy and a bully. It kind of works in a way. I’m a guy who pretty much is willing to go to work at any given time. I’m fearless and I enjoy the moments that we have together. That’s pretty much it, but it’s very interesting. It’s pretty awesome.
I know with the guys on set, everyone has told me this, that there was a little bit of competition with hitting the gym, lifting weights, lifting weights in between shots, did you get in on all that? Or not at all?
ORITZ: No, I had my coaches on set so anytime we had a break I was always out working out, because I was doing training camp while I was in the movie. I took my coaches out there with me and between a break, whether there was two hours, three hours, I’d be doing the boxing thing with the coaches.
Obviously you primarily filmed in Bulgaria, what was that experience like for you and how long did you spend there?
ORTIZ: I spent three months in Bulgaria. It was the best experience I’ve ever had. I’ve never been in eastern Europe and it was great. People were pretty awesome and I just had an amazing time just being part of the whole situation. I wouldn’t change it or trade it for anything.
If you could go back there tomorrow what’s the first place you would go back to?
ORTIZ: If I could go back? I definitely have to go to this- they have this Gyro, a little sandwich or kebab or something.
Yeah, the kebabs.
ORTIZ: Dude, they’re so amazing, jeez, making me hungry [Laughs].
[Laughs] I’ve had those kebobs before, they are amazing.
ORTIZ: Yeah, I love them with that little spice in them, oh my goodness, it was so delicious.
Obviously you have a huge cast and I’m curious, everyone usually starts to bond a little bit with one or two people, or sometimes the whole cast goes out for food. Was there one or two people you spent most of your time with?
ORTIZ: On set, the guys I spent all my time around were Jason Statham, Randy Couture and Antonio Banderas. Antonio Banderas and I got along very, very well because we both speak Spanish, so we would talk smack to each other, just playfully. Jason Statham and I got along like two college bros, just hanging out, talking smack to each other as well. Randy Couture and I, we bonded so well that I’d go work out with him and he would just drill me on the workout. Other than that I think for the most part when we were off set I was always with Kellen Lutz or Glenn Powell or Rhonda Rousey, we spent a lot of time together, like every single day. My room was right next door to Rhonda’s so I’d just come over, or she’d come over, or if I didn’t want to bother her I’d go downstairs, and I got keys without the guys knowing, to all their rooms [laughs], so I’d pop in without them even knowing. They’d be like, “Come on, Vic!” I’d be like, “What’s up?”
[Laughs] You got very lucky. The hotel has a lot of security, I can see.
ORTIZ: Yeah, well you know we’re all together so I think they assumed, you know, he’s not going to be a bother. Even so, even after I got the keys they were like, “You would. You would, Vic.” I was like, “Yeah.”
Obviously this is the first big film for you, what did you take away from the experience that you can take away for your next acting job? I assume you’re going to want to do it again.
ORTIZ: Absolutely. I learned so much. One thing that Kelsey Grammer told me was, “Vic, keep yourself like you are, keep grounded, because the moment you start thinking that once you’re on set- If you ever come back and you say this to me, you’re out of it already.” He said, “Don’t ever think to yourself, ‘When I got up there I disappeared for a moment.’ Or ‘When I got up there I went somewhere else.'” He said, “That’s when you know there’s something wrong.” [Laughs] That’s Kelsey Grammer, so those are words from a wise man and actor, not me. That was his advice to me and I was like, “Yes, sir.”
Have you started talking to your agents and people about what kind of role you’re looking for next?
ORTIZ: Absolutely. We have a few offerings right now and I just told them like, “Whatever you guys say.” My trust is in my team and we’re doing well now.
ORTIZ: At this point in time, I’m not really sure what I have. It’s between action and between an actual performance of acting.
I definitely want to ask you a boxing question. You boxed for a long time and obviously have an amazing career, when you look back on it do you remember one or two people who were just on another level in terms of how hard they punched? You know what I mean? When you look back on the people you fought were there just one or two people who were just the shit?
ORTIZ: Not necessarily. I never thought any of that about any of the guys that I boxed. You know, not impressed [laughs].
[Laughs] I like that answer. Listen man, I want to sincerely say thank you for giving me your time today. The rumor mill is telling me that the movie turned out really good and I can wait to see it.
ORTIZ: Me either, I know. Me too, I’m with you [Laughs].