“I couldn’t keep up,” he says. “I tried to tabulate my own. I had to quantify it like this; I had to see that cat die for it to count. I did it in the first movie and I got to twenty-six, like I saw that dude die, I know I killed him. I got to twenty-nine in the second movie.”
It’s doubly confusing because the same stuntmen were coming back day after day to be felled again.
“I beat Danny up several times,” Couture laughs.
The former five time UFC champ plays demolitions expert Toll Road in the Expendables series, a character he describes as “the glue that holds all of these dysfunctional guys together.”
He’s a real-life tough guy who turned to acting after retiring from the ring. Many of the skills he learned while fighting, however, have crossed over to the movie set.
“There is no other time in my life when I’m more in the moment then when I’m standing in a cage looking at a cat who wants to kick me in the head,” he says. “That’s what acting is, being in the moment. You have to listen. Know your cues and your fellow actors. Know your lines, be coachable, have discipline, show up ready to go and I think all those things, for me, came from athletics.”
At least one other habit transferred from his former career to his new one—his tendency to knock people out.
“It was an accident!” he says. “I didn’t mean to do it. There’s a guy who comes at me with a pistol [in the movie] and I take him, bring him around and throw him over my back. He flies up and lands on his head. He wasn’t supposed to land on his head, he was supposed to land on his back, but he got hung up on a shelving unit that I threw him against and then hit his head on a granite floor.
“To credit the stunt guys I worked with, it seemed like the higher you threw them and the harder they landed, the bigger the smile was when they came up. They are that crazy. This guy was worried he had ruined the scene. I said, ‘You were supposed to be dead. You looked dead. I’m pretty sure that’s the take they’re going to use.’”
Even though he’s worked with a who’s who of action heroes, there is one he has his sights set on.
“I half jokingly said I would come out of retirement to fight [Steven] Seagal. If he would sign on the dotted line I think I would have to really consider it.”