Lights, Camera, Action!


Embattled’s Stephen Dorff opens up on fight choreography, the flash behind character Cash Boykins

"It was intense, but I think I had a great team"

Stephen Dorff is a successful actor with over 35 years in the game, which he needed every bit for in his newest film, Embattled.

Born in Atlanta but spending most his formative years in Los Angeles, Dorff, 47, has transitioned successfully from 80s child actor to movie star, armed with a fierce determination to succeed while connecting and mentoring with his acting idols.

His extensive combat film experience made him a perfect choice to star in Embattled, which premieres Nov. 20 to select theatres and Video on Demand.

Dorff plays the main protagonist Cash Boykins, the larger-than-life WFA lightweight champion of the world. “I focused a lot of people that I knew like Donald Cerrone, guys like Conor McGregor, who brought the most flash to the sport as far as the lightweight champion,” Dorff explained on TKO Countdown. “I even looked to (Floyd) Mayweather in terms of his business sense and the cash element and the flash and the bling, and the talent and just kind of morphed all these dudes to make my guy, whose from Alabama.”

“I’m not a very good person (in the film) … It was a really dark look at fatherhood,” Dorff added. “Cash is pretty much stuck because of his own upbringing and the fact that he didn’t have a great childhood, he tends to get stuck in his own ways. And so it really is a look at a father and his son set against a backdrop of MMA, which has become one of the biggest sports in the world.”

The film unflinchingly explores serious issues such as abuse, violence, and excess. There’s also the action that combat sports  fans have come to expect.

It was not an easy task in terms of Dorff’s preparation for Embattled.

“I just finished working True Detective of about 110 days,” Dorff said. “I knew I was going into Embattled and I was coming off an adrenaline dump coming off that shoot. I went right into training because I wanted to put on some size. I usually I’d want two and a half months, at least 10 weeks, but I didn’t have it …  It just kind of morphed into this very intense training and eating. I basically ended up putting on eight and a half pounds of muscle on and the got on the ground in Alabama and met with Chris Connelly, who is an amazing coach and MMA trainer for a lot of great fighters whether it’s Eryk Anders, who is in the film …

Cash Boykins (Stephen Dorff) makes his point at a press conference.

“Chris wanted to see what I could do,” Dorff continued. “I have done a lot of fighting in movies and have a pretty quick memory when it comes to choreography,  but there were several moves that I needed to learn for this guy. With the help of Fernando who really kind of created the fights with Chris and Don, our stunt choreographer, basically we just hit the ground running. Once he could see how I could moved, he saw what weaknesses there were, we brushed those up, then we jumped right into learning the choreography because we only had about 10 days before we were hitting the arena, because we wanted to shoot the fights first. I thought it was important and get in the ring, field the characters and get all the fights in the can, and then we could relax a bit into telling the story. So much of the film is outside the cage.”

“It was intense, but I think I had a great team.”

In the Nov. 15 TKO Countdown interview, Dorff talks about working with his co-stars Elisabeth Reaser, Donald Faison, Darren Mann, his favourite MMA fighters, working in Toronto and Canada, and more.

Embattled is scheduled to release on Nov. 20 to select theatres and Video on Demand,


Kenai is a former Postmedia Network online news and sports editor. He is the Editor-in-Chief for MMA Crossfire.

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