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From Stone Cold to ‘The Stranger’

28 May, 2010 By: John Latchem

Hoping to leave his “Stone Cold” nickname behind, Steve Austin has set off on the difficult transition from professional wrestling to movies. Anchor Bay Entertainment releases his latest thriller, The Stranger, June 1 on DVD ($26.97) and Blu-ray Disc ($34.98).

“My guys brought me the script, and I enjoyed reading it,” Austin said. “I thought it was a challenging role for me, especially trying to transition into acting. It wasn’t pushing my physicality, but my acting chops.”

In The Stranger, Austin plays a man trying to discover his past. Drifting through the streets with no memories, his mind periodically reprograms itself with a new personality, leading the stranger into dangerous situations where he leaves a trail of bodies in his wake. On his tail are an FBI agent (Adam Beach), who may be tied to the man’s former life, and a psychologist (Erica Cerra), who is trying to help him recover his memories.

“Someone asked me what it’s about, and I told them it’s a working man’s Bourne Identity,” Austin said.

With each clue, the stranger learns more about his true identity, keeping the audience guessing until the very end.

“You gotta stay on your toes,” Austin said. “It was an interesting experience to film a new personality every scene.”

Austin said director Robert Lieberman helped him keep track of the various personality changes required of the character. Austin’s favorite moments, he said, involved filming flashback scenes showing his character with his family.

“I enjoyed doing the scenes with the wife and daughter,” Austin said. “I liked that it showed a different side of me from the Stone Cold killer of my wrestling days — a much softer side.”

For WWE Hall of Famer Austin, acting in movies is a far cry from performing in the squared circle.

“Wrestling is like a violent form of Broadway,” Austin said. “You’re using the crowd to help you make your decisions. You play to what they want to see, and it’s a lot of ad libbing, which was one of my strong points — and it’s live. You shoot a movie out of order, and if something doesn’t work you call cut and do it again.”

Austin broke through to the big screen in 2005 with a small role in the Adam Sandler football comedy The Longest Yard, followed by a star turn in WWE Films’ The Condemned in 2007. It would be nearly three years before he got top billing in another movie, playing an underground cage fighter in the direct-to-video thriller Damage, released earlier this year by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

“It took a while to follow up The Condemned, so it’s nice to finally have product of mine out there,” Austin said.

Next up for Austin is a role in Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables, due in theaters in August, followed by a movie called Hunt to Kill, co-starring Eric Roberts.

At this point in his career, Austin said he doesn’t mind being associated with a particular kind of role.

“My physicality kind of points me in the direction of action,” Austin said. “So, I’ll do 20 action movies if I have to. I just want to work, and I want to be a good actor.”

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