Here’s an interview piece you might like, fight fans. One with stuntman, actor, character, all-round good bloke – indeed, a guy you’d love to go for a drink with – Barry Hanley of Ireland. Hanley, who plays the role of tough heavyweight warrior Steve Zouski in the forthcoming “Big George Foreman” movie, has quite the story.
Having played rugby, having fought, in both tough-man bouts and boxing, and now earning a substantial crust as an actor and stuntman (credits include: ‘Olympus Has Fallen,’ ‘The Commando,’ ‘Hangman,’ ‘The Mandalorian,’ and the Foreman flick) Barry came up the hard way and that’s the way he likes it.
Gregarious and friendly to all, Barry speaks here for the benefit of ESB readers:
Q: The George Foreman film is going to be huge, first of all….
Barry Hanley: “I hope so, I do. We worked really hard on it. I had seen the (Foreman Vs.) Zouski fight before. I’m a huge boxing fan. I boxed a bit myself. I lived in South America for a while, when my parents were teaching down there. So I boxed down there and then I boxed here in the states, actually in the tough-man competitions a few years back, that they got rid of. And as for Foreman, I always followed him and liked him, he’s very likeable, you know. So I live in East Texas, right. I married a bird from here. And we’re literally ten minutes from Marshall, where Foreman is from. So that kind of tied into it as well.”
Q: How was it playing Steve Zouski?
B.H: “It was great. But it wasn’t a sure thing I was gonna play Zouski, there was a few other lads in the running for the part. I won’t mention any names, but the boxing coordinator, Darrell Foster, who also did ‘Bleed for This’ with Vinny Paz. He ran a few lads off because he said they couldn’t fight a lick. So then he brought me in, and I’m no spring chicken. I’m 50 years old now. This was last summer. We shot it down in New Orleans. It was hot, it was sparring every day, up at 7 AM every day, and shadow boxing, and getting up in the ring with Khris Davis, who plays Foreman. And just re-enacting the fight. We watched tape, and the sequence, as you’ll see when the film comes out – we don’t deviate from the real fight. It’s the fight, as it happened, punch-for-punch. The director (George Tillman Jr) was a stickler, he really wanted everything to be accurate, you know.”
Q: Zouski was a tough guy and it’s great you know all about him and have worked hard to portray him. Have you ever met him?
B.H: “I haven’t met him. I’d love to meet him. I know he’s from Minneapolis. I don’t know if he’s still up there, or where he is. But I’d definitely like to have a chat with him eventually.”
Q: Can you remember when Foreman made his comeback and what you thought of it? Because George’s comeback was ridiculed by almost everyone at the time.
B.H: “To be honest, I didn’t think he’d do it, he was in his forties. It had never been done before and I don’t think anybody gave him a chance. And especially to beat Michael Moorer, later, who was the champion. The one fight that stands out for me though, is the Tommy Morrison fight. That was just mad. Then I thought, yeah, Foreman can still punch at that age, and that’s the last thing you lose.”
Q: Is your part in the film large and do you have dialogue?
B.H: “You know, I am an actor as well as a stuntman. But this one, no, I have no dialogue. My corner-man, the actor who plays my coach, he has a couple of lines. I don’t want to give it away before the movie comes out. But yeah, I was a main character, because I obviously play a real guy. And the fight is kind of a pivotal part of the movie, because it was George’s first fight back after retirement, so it was a test for him – was he serious, did he really want to go all the way again? It’s an important part of the story and it was fun doing that fight. We put a lot of sweat and blood into it. It was important that the fight was accurately portrayed. You have to be in good nick to be a boxer, and to play a boxer. Zouski and myself, we had a similar style. He had a good jab, I had a good jab. He lived off the jab, really. ”
Q: As you know, Zouski also fought Mike Tyson…
B.H: “He did, and he gave Tyson a decent fight. I don’t think he got knocked to the ground, I think it was a case of the ref stopping it, similar to the Foreman fight, which was also a TKO. Again, a tough, tough guy.”
Q: Did you get to meet Foreman at all? Did George hang around the set?
B.H: “No, unfortunately I didn’t get to meet him this time. But when this thing premieres, I hope we will all be getting together. He was around [on set] but I missed him.”
Q: Fans love boxing movies, as you know.
B.H: “Yeah, I think ‘Rocky’ did a lot for that. There were great boxing films before ‘Rocky,’ of course – the Paul Newman one, ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me,’ I watched as a kid and I loved that one. I worked with Sylvester Stallone, in ‘Tulsa King.’ We played bikers, basically, and this gang came in and beat us up with bats, so that was a good laugh. But it was good to be around him. As far as boxing films, nobody did it as well as Stallone, because he figured out the camera angles and how you could shoot the punches where it looks like the punches are landing when they’re not. And if you can get good stunt guys, good movie fight guys who can sell punches, it really helps. And I think the drama of fighting, people love it. It never gets old, like. You’re always gonna enjoy a good scrap (laughs). ”
Q: You were in ‘The Mandalorian,’ and I guess that was a lot of fun?
B.H: “Yeah, well that was a fight too. That was up in a ring. We had to wear masks and all that stuff, we were swinging axes, it was tricky. But it was a great laugh and they actually made a toy of me, that I go and do signings of now.”
Q: Wow – you’re an icon!
B.H: “Yeah, exactly. So that’s the gift that keeps on giving, that one.”
Q: How was it shooting the fight scenes with actor Khris Davis, who of course plays Foreman?
B.H: “He’s a decent boxer and he’s a great actor. The guy who did ‘Bleed For This,’ Darrell Foster, he’s a tough taskmaster, he knows boxing, and he wants everything right, he wouldn’t let us slack. I think he moulded Khris, to the point where, as good an actor as he is – he’s a great actor as I say, he’s a Broadway stage actor – he got the mannerisms and the fighter behaviour, as Darrell calls it, of Foreman very well. That came out very well. He punches the same, he walks the same way as Foreman. He really studied him. He’s a big lad and he punches hard.”
Q: What’s next for you? Have you got stuff in the pipeline?
B.H: “I just did a show there last week, Taylor Sheridan’s show, who does ‘Yellowstone’ and all that. And a well known English actor is in the starring role, as a famous Wild West lawman from back then, called Bass Reeves. The actor’s name is David Oyelowo. He played Martin Luther King in that film ‘Selma’ from years ago. He’s a quality actor. I had a scene with him. I played an Irish fellah and I had to sing a song in Gaelic. They couldn’t find anyone else to do it so they got me (laughs). I’m trying to get more into acting now I’m getting older. You know, Father Time is undefeated, as somebody said. I’ve just got to be sensible. I can’t be falling on the ground for ever, you know.”
Q: What’s tougher – acting or being a stuntman?
B.H: “To me, I think stunts is easier, because I come from the boxing and the rugby background. So for me, I do that shyte for free. The fact that we’re getting paid, is brilliant. There’s an old joke: How do you scare six stunt men away? Give them a line (laughs). Most stunt guys don’t want to be actors, they have no desire to be actors. They just like the physical side of it, which I understand. But there’s a lot of fellas coming up now who are kind of hybrids, they enjoy doing both. And I think that’s my path.”
Q: It’s great speaking with you. We really do look forward to the Foreman film.
B.H: “Yeah, I hope you all like it when it comes out. Look out for my ginger head [in the film] because, no offence to Steve Zouski, but I had to wear an actual wig in the film. The thing is, I wouldn’t even say Steve was a journeyman. He was beyond that, he was a little better than that. He was just a guy who was a real test for other guys. He was tough as nails and it was an honour to play him.”