Chuck Liddell co-stars in D-Day, the latest action flick from The Asylum, the studio behind Sharknado and Z Nation. Unlike those campy projects, however, D-Day aims to present itself as an earnest war film, featuring historical characters and dramatizations of the real-life skirmishes of Operation Overlord. The film also features Randy Couture, Weston Cage Coppola, and prolific character actor Martin Kove.
While promoting his role in the film, Chuck Liddell spoke to Screen Rant about his career, both as a Hollywood actor and his rise to stardom as a legendary mixed martial arts fighter. He talks about getting to trade blows on-screen with Dolph Lundgren and reflects on his famous rivalry with fellow athlete (and D-Day co-star) Randy Couture. He also discusses his reputation as The Iceman, a cool and professional athlete who never lets his passion for combat sports leak outside of the arena.
You and Randy Couture are both in this movie, D-Day. You don't have any action scenes together, unfortunately, but I think seeing the two biggest MMA stars of all time in a movie together is enough to sell some tickets. Was that the idea going in?
I didn't have any part in that, but I think it probably was, yeah.
I know you're the Iceman, you don't carry any baggage out of the ring, or the octagon, but what's the dynamic, acting with Randy, as opposed to that one time where you beat each other up?
Me and Randy are friends now! We're intense competitors, and we were rivals for a long time, but we're both retired, and we've trained together at Unbreakable sometimes. He helped me get ready for my last fight, a little bit. We're friends. We work well together. You know, I would like to do a scene with him where we're adversarial, though, because it's easy to turn that back on.
You mentioned he helped you train for your last fight, and I'm getting flashes of Rocky III, Apollo training Rocky before his big fight with Clubber Lang...
Well, it wasn't that much! We trained a little bit in the beginning. He helped me get some of my wrestling back. I had been away from wrestling for some time. It's one of the things I regret, was not giving enough to ring wrestling after eight years. I was gone from fight camps. I eight years without being in any fight camps, other than a few days here and there. I should have respected that more.
So, you're retired from fighting now, and I think, at this point in your acting career, you're maybe as well-known among fans of action movies as you are among sports fans. What do you think is the next big acting milestone for you? What do you think may be the next big step for your acting career?
I think I just need to keep plugging away. I need to get a little more busy doing more movies consecutively, because I think that helps me improve and get better. I would like to move to more of a lead role, more of a full... I really haven't done a full lead role where I'm on set for three or four weeks at a time.
You've definitely paid your dues, I think we're ready to see you in that kind of a role. I mean, you look like you could pick up a forklift and throw it at someone.
I'm sure it's old hat for you talk about how an MMA fight is different from shooting a fight scene, so I won't ask you that. Instead, I want to ask, who would you like to fight in a movie? Do you have any personal cinema heroes you'd like to fight in a fictional setting?
I actually just did a movie, Acceleration, where I got to fight Dolph Lundgren. I'd been in a couple of movies with him before that, but I never had a real scene with him, or anything near a fight scene. We were in a big fight scene in Riot, in the prison, but we were never in the same room together. But I finally got to fight him in Acceleration. That was a moment where I was like, I used to watch movies with this guy in them, and now I actually get to do that now. I've worked out with Sylvester Stallone, but I definitely wouldn't mind being in a fight scene with him.
Speaking of Stallone... I don't think he's actually spoken out about this yet, but I feel like, watching his movies, you can see where he stands on this subject: there's been some talk about action movie stars who have contractual stipulations that they can only take a certain amount of damage per film, or per fight, they can't get bloodied, they can't officially lose, stuff like that. Do you have an opinion on this, anything you'd like to add to the ongoing conversation?
This has been their business for a long time, so maybe it's one of those things where their persona with people can't do that. For me, I look at it... I come from fighting. I'm an athlete. I'm playing a part. If my part is a guy who is an a**hole who can't fight and gets beat up by somebody, so be it. I'm playing a part. I'm not playing myself. I think some of those action stars get to the point where, if they get beat up in one movie, it's like, "oh, my hero got beat up." Then, in the next movie, it's like that character is going from movie to movie. It's almost the same character they're playing. But for me, I look at acting, coming from the fight world, acting is playing a part. You play the part you're given the best you can. If you get beat up, you get beat up. If you're beating everybody up, great! It's just whatever, you know?
I think more people should look at it that way! You really are The Iceman, which means you're cool. You're cool under pressure, and you're cool outside. So, a lot of athletes, across all contact sports, not just MMA or boxing, the ones that are overtly about fighting, these athletes get themselves into trouble. They start rumbles in the street or otherwise say things that get themselves into trouble. You've never, as far as I know, had any issues with that. You have a reputation for being professional and decent. Can you talk a little about your approach, and how you manage to keep it all professional?
I'm a laid back person in general. I think that's one thing that helped me with my first acting roles. If I'm out there being intimidating, that's acting. That's not the way I am. I'm not a very aggressive person... Trust me, I can turn it on if I need to. I mean, I worked in bars for eight years and that helped. I learned how to deal with people and talk to them. If you say something to me that's somewhat aggressive, I know what to say to calm you down, so we can both sit down and drink a beer. But I also know what to say if I want to fight you. I don't want to cause any problems. For me, a lot of the time, it all comes down to competition.
The thing that excited me about fighting was the competition. I grew up street fighting, but I grew up. The way I say it all the time, I never started a fight, but I figured out when I was 21, 22, I'll never let you out of it easy, either. You know? If some guy starts something, and you leave with your tails between your legs and crawl out the door, you look like the biggest p**** in the world. But why do that to somebody? It's not worth it. So I learned how to give people outs. Obviously, if you see somebody being a bully to somebody, you're not going to let them do it, but you can give them ways to handle it without looking like they're... You can talk them out of it. Fighting, a lot of time, just isn't worth it.
That's a way to live, right? Don't start anything, but don't let anything start.
The funny thing, most really good fighters I know, if you see them out there, they're not getting into fights. They're not bullying people. The ones who do that, they're trying to prove something.
Right? I live in New York City, I've seen that kind of macho attention-seeking plenty of times at bars and the like.
Yeah. Well, I grew up learning... I never worried about fighting people. I never worried about whether I could beat you up or not. I don't care. It doesn't matter to me. If you do something where I need to stop you, I'm gonna have to try to stop you, whether you can beat me or not. I have nothing to prove. It doesn't make me better than you. I would prefer not to have to do it. But if you make me, I will.
I know you've weighed in on this here and there, but right now, the polar opposite of your cool approach is Conor McGregor. I know it's kind of cooled down a bit since his "alleged retirement," as I like to call it, but he's arguably more infamous for his shenanigans outside of the sport than his reputation as an athlete. Do you have any advice you'd give him on how cool it? Like, "C'mon, what are you doing, man?"
You know, it's one of those things, like, look man. What are you trying to do? People around him gotta help, too. Get him under control. If he's starting to get that way, take him away, get him out of that situation. He's making bad choices. It is what it is. He's a great fighter. I've met him, and he was a respectful guy. I talked to him, he's a martial artist. Ya know, it's just like, "Why are you doing that?" But I think he'll get a hold of it soon.
It actually reminds me a bit of Elvis, who had this big posse of guys around him, and all it would take is one of them to go, "Hey man, can we chill out, fire Tom Parker and have a salad?"
Yeah. I mean, he hit a guy who's sitting on his stool, still. Like, c'mon, it's not like he... C'mon, you're not a thug anymore. Maybe that's what he grew up with, but it's okay, you're not that anymore. Maybe you can laugh at him. I don't know what happened, but maybe you can laugh at him, make fun of him, like, someone can speak up and go, "Hey, alright, tough guy, let's go," and move on. My trainer used to do that all the time! Trying to heckle me. He's hysterical!
Now that you're retired, do you feel there's more you want to do in the future with the sport? Commentating, mentoring, TV, stuff like that?
All of the above. I want to stick around the sport. I'll be doing something around this sport for the rest of my life. I love mixed martial arts. I love watching it. I love helping out. I really enjoy, actually, working with guys who are high-level fighters and teaching them some stuff. One of my favorite things is teaching a guy something he uses in the ring to win in a fight. I can go, "I taught him that." Actually, at his last fight, this kid – he's not a kid anymore – went to me and said, "Remember that move you showed me? That works every time. It helped me out a lot, thank you." That makes me so happy.
D-Day releases On Digital and On Demand starting September 13.