Joe Manganiello and Josh Holloway Talk ’Sabotage’
This week’s new release "Sabotage" casts action legend Arnold Schwarzenegger as the leader of an elite DEA squad who are disbanded under suspicion of stealing drug money. They really did try to steal the money, but it was stolen out from under them so there’s no evidence. When the squad is finally reinstated, a killer starts murdering them one by one. The squad includes Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Max Martini, Kevin Vance, Mark Schlegel and Mireille Enos in a film written and directed by David Ayer ("Training Day" and "End of Watch.")
Two of the actors available for press in Los Angeles were Joe Manganiello and Josh Holloway. As the character nicknamed Grinder, Manganiello towers over even Schwarzengger. The author of the fitness book "Evolution" puts his body on display in movies like "Magic Mike" as well. He cited Schwarzenegger as a lifelong inspiration.
"I had a poster of Arnold and all the other Mr. Olympias on my wall as a kid, those old Art Zeller pictures out in Mussel Rock," Manganiello said. "I’d seen every movie. I’d have 10-, 20- minute conversations with my brother in Arnold’s voice doing all of his movie lines without breaking character. The reason I picked up a weight in the first place and ever started bodybuilding was because of Arnold. The reason I ever dreamed in my head, pipe dream that maybe someday I will be an action hero in a movie, was because of Arnold. Yeah, it was a bit daunting at first."
Asking Arnold for advice
Manganiello was writing "Evolution" while he was filming "Sabotage," so he asked his costar for advice to include in the book. "Arnold has become one of my best friends," Manganiello continued. "You couldn’t wish to have a better friend in the world. Right around the time we started shooting, Simon and Schuster called me and asked me to write a cutting edge book of men’s bodybuilding, and here I am sitting next to the man in the makeup trailer. I told Arnold about it and he said, ’Whatever you need, I’m there.’ He wound up writing this amazing forward to my book and we’ve traveled the world, driven 28,000 pound military vehicles and gone to the Arnold Classic."
Arnold joked about regretting his contributions to "Evolution." "Well, I was very happy to help him but I had no idea that his six pack is going to be better than mine ever was. That was not my intention of the help, okay? I wanted to help you to a certain level. Now he’s taking up all the Muscle covers, muscle magazine covers. What happened here?"
While Holloway did not follow his costar’s footsteps into the bodybuilding world, Schwarzenegger still impacted his young boyhood. "I have three brothers and I grew up watching everything you’ve done," Holloway said to Schwarzenegger. "So it was incredible and also to shoot in my backyard, my brothers got to come and meet Arnold so it was really special for me. What I found most impressive about working with you, Arnold, is that someone of your stature, I’ve seen someone with much less of your stature that’s surrounded by an entourage and cell phone, you can never talk to them. Arnold was completely present with us. There was no wall to get to Arnold to speak with him on set. He was just one of us, laughing, joking, very present and part of the team, and that was impressive. I enjoyed that."
Hollaway heads home
"Sabotage" filmed in Atlanta, GA for the tax breaks the state affords filmmakers, but appropriately because Georgia has proven to be a hub for drug cartels in the southeast. Holloway calls Georgia home, so having moved to Hawaii for six years of "Lost" and filmed all over the world for movies, he welcomed the production at home.
"I’m from Georgia so I had a great time being back home," Holloway said. "I have three brothers and it’s kind of my backyard. Georgia is normally buggy and muggy, or way too cold, but it was amazing because we were there in the fall which is the golden time to be in Georgia when all the leaves are changing. It was amazing. I thought that was awesome."
The actors are virtually unrecognizable playing undercover DEA agents. Holloway grew a mustache and shaved his head. Manganiello based Grinder’s appearance on Jay Dobyns, an undercover ATF agent who documented his time with the Hell’s Angels in the book "No Angel."
"The pictures of this guy were just this thick necked linebacker looking [guy], covered in tattoos," Manganiello said. "He looked like the scariest guy on the planet and not like a cop. So I always thought that. One of the things that really struck me about ’Training Day’ is you see Denzel walk out with his bling and get in his low rider and you think he looks like a gangster, and that’s the point. Undercovers, they look like the guys they’re chasing after. So I always kept that in the back of my mind and then when I got cast in the role, I started thinking about that neck down tattooed look."
Big and scary
Manganiello stepped up his workout routine for the role too, and then decided to do his hair like the drummer for Black Sabbath.
"I turned to my trainer and I said, ’I want to be linebacker big. Like scary big, that guy in the bar you don’t want to spill the beer on,’" Manganiello continued. "I had that all in the back of my mind and then I wound up backstage at a Black Sabbath concert with the Osbourne family, and Ozzy’s new drummer had these cornrows and this big beard and covered in tattoos. I thought you would never think that guy was a cop. Then I wound up working closely with an undercover narcotics agent and he showed me some pictures of him with cornrows and I kind of thought okay, let’s try this out. I had a friend of mine do it to my hair."
When the rest of the cast saw Mangeniello as Grinder, they dropped everything. "I came into the training facility and everybody just stared at me. Terrence said, ’Man, you look like a shark.’ Somebody else said, ’You’re going to turn that corner and somebody’s just going to drop the bags of meth and leave." I thought, ’All right, I’m onto something.’ I ran it by David and he was down with it."
Short for ’redneck’
Holloway plays a character nicknamed Neck. He read between the lines and came up with an appropriate costume for himself. "Obviously it was short for redneck," Holloway laughed. "I have a little experience with that. I went in and I was so excited to work with David and so excited to shave my head and do something cutting edge. The first thing, he’s like, ’I want you to be the preppy guy, the guy that is unassuming, you wouldn’t think he’s a killer’ and my heart just sank. So I somehow got him frustrated about it because I kept asking, ’No, really?’ He’s like, ’Oh fine, Scud it out’ like Scud missile. When I came back and I had a shaved head and a big mustache, he’s like, ’What did you do?’ I was like, ’You told me to scud it out.’ So it was tricky."
The entire cast trained as DEA agents. Schlegel himself was one of the technical advisors, along with Jaime FitzSimons. Manganiello was working for their approval.
"I think you have to give it up to Mark Schlegel and Jaime FitzSimons," Manganiello said. "They’re the best at what they do and so I think when portraying someone that does exist in real life, there’s an amount of respect and you want to do justice. I don’t really care what anybody says out there about what I did in the film. I care what these guys thought about what I did. If I’m making them happy then I know I’m on the right track. Getting to work with David and knowing that he’s somebody that does pay respect to these guys, you want to do them justice and you really learn about what’s happening out there in the world. You learn that when you’re sitting at home on Sunday night watching TV in the safety of your home, it’s because of these guys. So I think it’s really out of respect and I think everybody in the cast really took it seriously."
Pushing the actors
Ayer pushed every actor to participate in training, even to roughhouse a little in ways that might make insurance companies nervous.
"There are some big names in this movie," Holloway reflected. "Of course Arnold is our anchor, but it’s amazing to see people show up to that training, no ego whatsoever, completely available and go through that training. We were sweating, Arnold’s in there sweating right next to us. We’re all joking and it was fantastic and that’s really what gelled us as a team. Also David had us sparring each other. You don’t put headgear on actors and have them fight each other. We’re all ego. It really gelled us as a team and David’s also very open to improv. He’s like once you drop in that character, he goes, ’I need this, I need this, fill the rest up.’ He’ll push you in different directions. It was a lot of fun. That was a major part of it, the teamwork and trust."
"Sabotage" opens Friday.