In "Inside Out," five-time WWE World Champion wrestler Paul "Triple H" Levesque is getting serious in a drama with nary a bodyslam or piledriver in sight. It's the story of a man named AJ who leaves prison after 13 years to find his old flame Claire (Parker Posey) now married to his best friend Jack (Michael Rapaport). When Jack screws things up with mobster Dr. Vic (Bruce Dern), it's up to AJ to set things right.
It's an interesting departure for Mr. H, who shows off some genuine acting chops in the Sept. 9 release. We talked to this king of the ring about working with a great cast, his acting career and living the gimmick.
From the plot and poster for "Inside Out" one would expect a more Charles Bronson-y experience, so it was surprising how character-oriented the movie is. Were you trying to push away from the stereotypical "dude with a gun" thing?
We did some movies that were shoot 'em up, crash, bang, wallop, the whole thing, but at WWE Films we want to look at from a larger perspective... We made some action films, we made a horror film, kids films. We did "That's What I Am" which is completely different, won some film festival awards. This is a different kind of film. We're trying not to be stereotypical, "Oh, it's got a WWE guy in it, he should blow some stuff up." At the same time, we want to sell films and DVDs, and something exploding on a cover with a gun on it surely sells better than me standing there all weepy-eyed or something.
The cast has a good pedigree, and you share some pretty charged scenes with the legendary Bruce Dern. Were you ever intimidated by the only guy who ever killed John Wayne in a movie?
To hear that story was intimidating. It's not that long ago, but people were so confused with that John Wayne character [in "The Cowboys"] that when he killed him it almost screwed up his career. He got typecast. The beautiful thing about this film for me is I was surrounded by a bunch of great people, so it makes me look good. Michael Rapaport's a great actor. Parker Posey, what more can you say? Bruce Dern, holy cow. To your point, sitting there sharing a scene with Bruce Dern, just watching him work... I would go to the set even when I wasn't shooting and he was shooting, just to watch him work. He's just phenomenal, a legend.
How was this experience working with Parker different from working on "Blade: Trinity" together?
Obviously it's a much different film and a much closer working environment. She was a lead vampire, I was a henchman vampire. This was much more us acting together, reacting off each other. We had to have an awkward relationship because I'd been in prison and she's now married to my best friend and has a kid with him. It needed to feel awkward and forced. She's great, I can't say enough good things about her as a performer.
Your mentor, Killer Kowalski, had a mean persona in the ring, but a reputation as a perfect gentleman in real life. For you, how does living the gimmick compare to movie acting?
Walter was like the nicest guy in the world... unless you screwed up, then he hit you in the head with a phone book. Nicest guy in the world, but when you saw him in the ring he earned the nickname Killer Kowalski. You live the gimmick to a degree. WWE characters are larger than life versions of yourself, to a degree. I don't understand the mentality of Method acting where the guy says, "I gotta play this psychopath, so I'm gonna be a psychopath the entire time on the set." When you're on a movie set, if you're actually on camera for two hours during the day that's a really busy day, you shoot a lot. For the most part you're sitting around waiting, eating catering and talking to people. At the end of the day I'm me, I don't hit anybody in the head with a sledgehammer... that you know of.
Whose acting career do you model yours on?
It's funny you say "acting career," 'cause I don't look at it like that. I've done a bunch of movies and some TV shows, but my career is a WWE superstar, I'm a wrestler. When I did "Blade," New Line Cinema offered me a three-picture deal and I turned it down. When they were casting for "Conan the Barbarian," they kind of had me in the running a little bit. They had me do a read and then called me back, and one of the guys I know there was like, "Dude, let me just run this by you because they're gonna go to Prague or Belgium or wherever they're doing this for six months, you have to stay there, live there... do you really want to come back for this second meeting?" I was like, "Say no more! I'm out!"