Interviews

INTERVIEW: KURT ANGLE

By • Jul 5th, 2009 •

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After 30 years in the ring as an amateur and as a professional, Kurt Angle is at a crossroads in his life. Heralded as the only gold medal Olympic champion in the sport, he soon rocketed to stardom at the top of the professional wrestling world. So the question is, does he retire from the ring in the near future? If so, then what does the proud son of Pittsburgh pursue as a career? Angle envisages the silver screen.

Numerous wrestlers have been in films, and a few left the ring apron for a successful Hollywood career. Primo Carnera appeared in MIGHTY JOE YOUNG along with long time wrestlers turned thespians, Karl “Killer” Davis and Henry Kulky. THE WRESTLER, from 1974, showcased Sam Menacker, Vergne Gagne, Don Muraco, and Danny Hodge, among others. Roddy Piper’s film career is well noted for his portrayal of Nada in THEY LIVE in 1988. Hulk Hogan’s Thunder Lips character from ROCKY III propelled him to stardom in the wrestling world and decades later, between lack luster film and TV roles, a reality show debacle that chronicles the demise of his marriage. None other than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson topples the competition in this category. Is Kurt Angle ready for his close up?

When did you first have thoughts of acting?

I always loved movies as a kid, I was always inspired to be an actor, I can remember from five years old that I always wanted to be famous. That’s kind of a selfish thing, but it’s something that I always wanted. Bruno Sammartino inspired me to become a professional wrestler and when I first got into professional wrestling and signed a deal with Vince McMahon, I thought of that as an avenue to get into movies. Once I got the feel for pro wrestling and felt how good I was, I stayed in a lot longer than I thought I would. When I made the jump from the WWE to TNA, I felt another surge of success because we quadrupled our ratings…and that also inspired me to stay longer.’

I’m kind of caught in the middle right now but I am making the jump into movies. I’m in four films this year. They are rather action-packed. One I play a government assassin, one I play a convict who escapes from jail, one I play an MMA undefeated Russian fighter. I am playing all different types of roles. When you get into professional wrestling and you see how brutal it is and you are on the road for 250-300 days per year, it starts to wear on you a bit. I got to the point where I knew I could not do it anymore. I am 40 years old, and as much as I want to stay with TNA as long as I can, I know I can’t go full time forever. I want to provide for my kids and give them everything they want and give them all the things that I never had and save enough for them to get through college.

Hopefully, I will have the same success that Dwayne Johnson has had these past few years. I can picture myself doing that. He made the transition very smoothly. I respect him for that. Although he is a couple of years younger than me, he’s been my hero as far as making that jump from professional wrestling to acting. He has been very inspiring to me. Lots of people love wrestlers and wrestling, but they don’t realize that there are a lot of wrestlers that can crossover and make that transition. They don’t take them seriously as actors. When you look at the WWE and TNA you can pick out a handful of guys that are actually that good. I think Hollywood is starting to look at that, and with Vince McMahon’s WWE Films…that has opened up avenues for wrestlers to do movies and TV. I think Dwayne Johnson definitely has helped. Obviously guys like Hulk Hogan and Macho Man had key roles in big movies, but as far as a full time actor, Dwayne has been the one and only. I’d like to be the second one to have the success that he has. How many guys can say that they have had a movie come out the first week and been number one more than once? I think he has done it two or three times. Hopefully, God willing, I can do the same in the future.

CHAINS is your first film of several that you have been cast in.

My first acting role I played a guard in a prison. It was a film that was out of the book of Job. It was about a guy that was wrongly convicted. I was a prison guard who called him a lot of racial names and just beat him down. The guy would just not give up his faith.

I really enjoyed doing the film even though I did not like the character that I played. It was a lot of fun to step outside myself, and be that ignorant person for that week.

When I first did that, that’s when I got the fever for doing films. I started doing smaller films. I just did one called END GAME. It’s not exactly an A film. It’s a film in which I had the lead role in which I played a serial killer. They wanted me to play the police officer, the guy in charge of the investigation. But I thought that he was one-dimensional. So I asked to play the serial killer because he seemed to have many different personalities. The film is okay. I enjoyed doing it. I started going out to Los Angeles. Dixie Carter and Jeff Jarrett started flying me out to meet with casting directors. I was cast in MY NAME IS EARL, but I had to pass that up due to scheduling conflicts.

WWE has made films such as SEE NO EVIL, THE MARINE, THE CONDEMNED, and 12 ROUNDS. Did you want to be part of their production company?

I knew I had to make a choice. I knew being in the WWE, the money was there, the movies were there with WWE Films, but I wanted to go outside the circle, the realm of WWE, and spring out on my own. When you are with WWE, you are under the WWE umbrella. John Cena is a big star right now, HHH is a big star, those guys are doing incredibly well and I am very happy for them. But, you are still under that WWE umbrella. I don’t blame Vince for doing that. I think that he is going to make a whole new avenue of stars with WWE Films. But I wanted to go beyond WWE Films. I am not saying that I am doing films that are better than their films, I think that Vince is doing a great job with some of the films he has done already. They have done real well on DVD and fairly well in the movie theaters so my hat is off to him but I just didn’t want to be under that umbrella.

What is the movie that you are shooting now?

The movie I am working on right now is called WARRIOR. My character’s name is Koba. I play an unknown but respected fighter from Russia. I have been taking Russian accent classes and learning how to speak Russian and I have been training my ass off at the Pittsburgh Fight Club. I am so happy they are doing the film in Pittsburgh; it has made it a lot easier on me.

If I were to compare it, the character is a lot like Dolph Lundgren’s when he played the Russian in ROCKY IV which really jump-started his career. This is a thousand, a million times bigger. This guy is an undefeated MMA fighter. Very one-dimensional though, as far as emotion. He goes in there and just beats everybody, he hurts everybody, he crushes everybody, he kills them. He’s in this tournament called Sparta. There are 16 of the best fighters in the world. I can’t tell you what happens but…some of these guys find out why this Russian is the greatest.

[the story] stemmed from a guy name Fedor Emelianenko who is a highly respected fighter from Russia. He’s done so well, but a lot of people don’t even know who he is yet because he hasn’t fought under UFC. He has been fighting underneath Pride, now he is with Affliction, but people are going to know him rather quickly. This guy shows zero emotion, he goes out there and he is so good, there isn’t anybody that can touch him. I think that he is 41-1. His only loss wasn’t really a loss. He got cut and was bleeding so much that they stopped the fight. They are really going way out there with this character. They are bringing back the 80’s cold war kind of thing. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see the American fighters against the Russian to get the same affect that ROCKY IV did.

How did you get the role?

I happened to be at the right place at the right time. I was just going down there to be cast in the movie and they wanted to know if I could speak Russian. I said I can’t but I could learn quickly. They said, ‘you are perfect for the part.’ They asked if I had any tattoos, and I said I have one. They said ‘Well, this guy has no tattoos, how big is it?’ I said it’s only about two inches and they said, ‘we can cover that up.” I lost 20 pounds for this film so far and I have been getting picked on. People have been coming up to me and saying that on the Internet it says that you look smaller than the referee. There is a reason for that. I have been trying to get my weight down. I am supposed to be a 185 pounder. So I have to get my weight down to 200. I weigh about 203 right now. This is the thinnest I have been since before the Olympics in college. It has been hard to keep my weight down but I have been able to do it.
Does you foresee this role advancing your career?

This character is going to be the name and face of the film. You are going to see advertisements and posters with this Russian guy on there. It’s not going to say Kurt Angle. It’s going to say: Koba. The tournament is Sparta. The movie is called WARRIOR.

The guy you are seeing isn’t Kurt Angle. It’s the greatest fighter in the world who is undefeated. It’s cool that they are doing that. I’d probably be somewhere traveling or walking down the street and someone will say, ‘Hey there’s Koba.’ It’s going to be that type of character. You never know how that is going to turn out. You don’t know if it’s going to help me or if I am forever known as that guy Koba. I think the film is going to do incredibly well and it will help my career.

What movie genres do you like? What actors?

I love comedy. Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Mike Meyers, Jim Carrey. I’ll never be as funny as guys like that. I like guys like Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. I love action movies. Matt Damon in the BOURNE SUPREMACY, Keanu Reeves in THE MATRIX.

The GODFATHER series.

I always have taken my acting seriously. I remember being in WWE; Vince McMahon liked me to do a lot of comedy. I was never really taken seriously until 3 to 4 or 5 years into the business when Vince turned the switch and made me into more of a serious wrestler. Before that I was kind of a goofball.

I think that he got all the money that he could out of me from a comedic standpoint, then he saw that he had a legitimate gold medalist that he could make money from an ass kicking perspective. I have always enjoyed playing the baby-face role, but for some reason I always get cast back to the heel role. It takes a lot of emotional drive to be a heel. A lot of people say that it is easier. I think that the baby-face is easier because you can always just be yourself. When you are yourself and you are humble it’s easy to be a good guy. The hardest part is having a guy that makes the company a huge amount of money who is a heel. When you have a money-making heel the company is going to make a lot of money. I think that HHH has been the cornerstone of WWE because of that. Everybody says he always wants to be the heel; he’s good at it. Shawn Michaels was a great heel but look at him now. Booker T could be either. And I can go either way.

I prefer the heel. I like the heel character. I think they are going to keep me in there for a while. It’s my turn to make these wrestlers popular. I can’t remember the last time I actually won a pay per view, but there is a reason for that. It’s time for me to give back to the younger generation. I know that a lot of the younger guys feel that the older guys are too politically involved. I have always been out there, and I know a lot of guys that are with me, especially those that are in the Main Event Mafia, have always been for trying to make the younger guys a lot better. I hope the younger generation can appreciate some of these guys that grew up having to fight for their position and once they got it, had to hold their position, and are now putting their hands out and saying here take it, we’re passing the torch. I hope they can understand and appreciate that. Guys like Kevin Nash, Booker T, Sting, and Scotty Steiner, and myself. I think we are doing a good job. We had to make the Main Event Mafia before we could start making guys. We are still trying to make the Main Event Mafia, before we turn it around.

Did you see the movie, THE WRESTLER?

I loved it. I thought it was a great film. Mickey Rourke did a great job portraying a wrestler who fell from fame and lost all his money and never had a relationship with his daughter. Does it happen to all wrestlers? No. I would never leave my daughter or my son; I would never leave or walk away from them. They are too important to me. THE WRESTLER was probably 75% accurate. The rest was a little over the top. If you take every single wrestler and then you take the amount of them that passed on, the amount that were wealthy then went broke, the amount that never made it at all except for independent wrestling, Mickey Rourke was one of very few wrestlers that that happened to. One is Jake. Everybody knows that. Iron Sheik. Other than that, a lot of wrestlers did pretty good. I think wrestling, Vince McMahon, and Dixie Carter have been picked on way too much. When you join wrestling and you sign that contract, you are making a deal. The deal is, they can book you whenever they want to book you. And if you want that contract changed, all you have to do is tell them you want it changed and the amount of dates you want to wrestle. Everybody always wants to blame the boss.

I had some bad feelings because of the way I left WWE. When I thought about it, and my behavior, I then realized Vince McMahon really wasn’t at fault, it was really me.

I have always extended my hand out to Vince, and told him that I was wrong, I am sorry. I had to make a decision, I am not sorry that I joined TNA. I know that he is happy for me. I am living much healthier now. I love Vince. I always will. It was time for me to leave and I think Vince knew or he would have never released me. I had 5 years left, he had me. There was nothing I could do. He had enough courage to take that initial step and release me. When he did, I respected him more. All I had to do was go back and say I want my job back. Instead I went to TNA, ready to start a new chapter in my life. Do I regret it? No. Do I regret not working for Vince sometimes? I miss it, I don’t regret it. I miss the comradery we had, and miss some of the ideas Vince had. He’s smart, he’s a genius. I serve a much bigger purpose in a company that is on the verge of being another WWE. It’s smaller but it has a lot of potential. At the same time I am making my dream of becoming an actor come true. I am very grateful to God that I am in my position. I don’t think I could be in a much better position right now. So, I am really content.

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22 Responses »

  1. Great interview, great pics. Well done!!

  2. HEY FRASSETTI, GREAT WRITING.
    U SHOULD MAKE A MOVIE OF YOUR OWN ABOUT WRESTLING SOME DAY

  3. I saw one of Kurt’s films at Sundance. Time will tell if his talent and more so, his handlers, if he has what Dwayne Johnson does to make it in the industry. Does anyone know if there are any athletes that have become successful in the movies?

  4. Very informative about my favorite wrestler of all time. WWE studios is nothing without Kurt!

  5. Hulk Hogan was a terrible actor and a good showman in the ring**Not much of a wrestler either.

  6. Finally wresters will get their SAG cards

  7. Nice reading an interview that takes me behind the scenes and shows where Angle’s head is at, his influences, as well as his goals. Good reading.

  8. I heard Kurt is leaving TNA and going back to the WWE

  9. […] ceaseless reporting of Prowrestling.net we were handed an outstanding interview by Kurt Angle on Filmsinreview.com. I’ll start at the top of this interview and mock n’ roll to the […]

  10. Great interview =)

  11. […] champion Kurt Angle recently spoke to FilmsInReview.com about trying to get his acting career off the ground. Here are some […]

  12. Wonderful interview, well written and insightful.

  13. Franco… A wonderful interview, well written and informative. A look at a great athete behind the scenes minus the kayfabe.

  14. Angle is great and Franco knows his subject matter.

  15. I really hope Angle makes it in films. Guy is awesome and has a ton of talent.

  16. […] can read the full interview here: http://www.filmsinreview.com/2009/07/05/interview-kurt-angle/ kurt […]

  17. I am a former MMA Fighter, turned Trainer.

    I like Kurt Angle. He has been hurt so many times performing his craft, and STILL comes up high and mighty …its not easy for the dude.

    Kurt, I love ya dude, you’re the man, a man of class, integrity and style.

    Michael Kulibabo
    Brampton, Ontario Canada

  18. […] champion Kurt Angle recently spoke to FilmsInReview.com about trying to get his acting career off the ground. Here are some […]

  19. kurt angle is the best .. i like all the films of kurt

    it’s real .. it’s damm real

  20. I have decided based solely on the feedback of this article to find a wrestler to interview as I have been on the wrong track all this time….besides wrestling does have it’s moments

  21. wow! kurt looks too skinny, almost scrawny. Gives the impression of being sick or something.

    He can definitely do comedy– imho. I loled when he was on WWE.

  22. your still the best wrestler in the world today and always will be iam your biggest fan and i hope you make it bigger than hulk hogan ever did because i think you have got what it takes to be a big movie star iam a bit sad that your laeving tna wrestling but i hope you do great no matter what you do i hope kurt angle leaves wrestling with the world heavy weight championship or the lengends title good luck to you kurt angle.

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