Action star gets physical
Manu Bennett. Picture: Supplied

Both on screen and off-screen Manu Bennett's energy is infectious.

Stealing a few minutes during a hectic schedule, he describes his audition for the hit TV series Arrow, in which he plays a Special Forces operative.

"I had just been in Kuwait visiting US troops and I spent time with the Special Forces guys," the Australian/New Zealand actor says.

"There was this one guy they called Rambo. He had been on lots of operations and seen a lot of action, so he was a highly experienced operative, and he showed me this choke hold."

Bennett had been back in Los Angeles for only three days before he had to fly to New Zealand for the premiere of The Hobbit, in which he plays the white orc Azog.

Hours before the flight, he got a call from his manager and raced over to the audition.

The script called for the character, which would become Slade Wilson/Deathstroke, to jump behind another character and get them in a choke hold.

"So I said: 'This guy in Kuwait showed me this move, can I have the reader come in front of the camera? Can I get him in this choke-hold position?' Half way through the scene, this guy went limp," Bennett says.

"I said to the director 'Is this part of the scene' and the director said 'No, no, I think he's unconscious'."

Bennett apologised but got the part.

The enthusiasm he brings to his craft also transfers to his fans. Hordes of them lined up for his autograph or photo during the recent Perth leg of the Supanova sci-fi/fantasy convention.

He greets each fan warmly and charms them with a smile. After meeting him, girls walk away giddy and guys (some in costume as Deathstroke) are beaming.

WA fans are finally set to see the second season of Arrow this week and Bennett says he is happy to reprise the role for a third season.

"If that's what the fans want," he says.

In season two, Bennett says the relationship between Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), and Slade/Deathstroke begins to deteriorate.

"We develop through a period on the island where basically challenges begin to cause a rift between those people who live on the island," Bennett says.

"There are developments of relationships that ultimately test the friendship between Oliver and Slade."

No doubt this will lead to a showdown between the two characters but Bennett says he has had to take it easier on the Arrow set than he did playing gladiator Crixus in the TV series Spartacus.

In New Zealand, where Spartacus was filmed, performers are compensated (through the Accident Compensation Corporation) if they are injured, whereas in America, where Arrow is filmed, studios are more vulnerable to being sued.

"So, basically, in New Zealand we were allowed to fight almost to the death," Bennett laughs.

"And the producers didn't care too much because at the end of the day, the ACC would cover any kind of injuries."

Bennett was known for playing hard on the set of Spartacus, breaking four of his ribs during one fight scene, and took that same intensity to the set of Arrow.

"When I came to Arrow I was very physical immediately and I think I sort of spooked Stephen Amell. They went into protection mode. Production wants to make sure number one on the call sheet isn't injured, so they said 'We're going to let the stunt guys step in'.

And while Bennett may feel bad about the audition, it is still a fond memory.

"To this day that casting agent and I still have a great laugh about this scenario of getting this Special Forces role after choking out the reader."

The West Australian

Popular videos

Our Picks

Follow Us

More from The West