How Jack Nicholson Inspired This ‘Ip Man 4’ Villain

The Ip Man movie saga concluded on Christmas Day with Ip Man 4: The Finale. The worldwide release was the fourth installment of the historical dramas about the martial arts master played by Donnie Yen. Ip Man was a legendary martial arts teacher. One of his pupils was Bruce Lee. However, the films take a dramatic approach to his legend. In the exciting conclusion, Ip Man faces a villain modeled after Jack Nicholson.

L-R: Donnie Yen vs. Wu Yue | Well Go USA

Scott Adkins plays Barton Geddes, an American military commander who picks a fight with Ip Man. Adkins has played the hero in his own action movies like Boyka: Undisputed, Ninja, Accident Man, The Debt Collector and Avengement. As a villain in Doctor Strange, Triple Threat, The Brothers Grimsby and Wolf Warrior he’s formidable. Adkins spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet before the holidays about how he created a worthy opponent for Ip Man.

Ip Man faces the Jack Nicholson of martial arts

Ip Man is actually a peaceful character, but troublemakers keep picking fights with him. Barton Geddes is the latest. He wants to prove America’s dominance, using Japanese Karate, and his attitude has shades of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. Ip Man can handle the truth though.

Scott Adkins in Ip Man 4
Scott Adkins in Ip Man 4 | Well Go USA

“It was apparent that they really wanted that sort of Full Metal Jacket gunnery sergeant for the character which is the fairly typical sort of vision of what a U.S. soldier might be from that era,” Adkins said. “You think of American soldiers, maybe you think about characters. I took inspiration from Jack Nicholson for the bullish tone. Not completely but there’s elements of it.”

Even when Nicholson plays the bad guy, he’s charming and quotable. Adkins hoped to achieve that.

“It is a big bombastic character that you hopefully love to hate,” Adkins said. “I tried to make him a well-rounded real character as much as I could.” 

Jack Nicholson is the most famous voice Scott Adkins has mimicked

Scott Adkins is British but he’s played characters from America, Russia and other countries. Every time he does an accent, he picks a reference. Jack Nicholson is only the most famous one.

“Boyka was the first one I suppose,” Adkins said. “I copied the Russian general from Rambo III. That was Boyka but Legend of Hercules was a British actor called Stephen Fry and I used to watch BlackAdder as a kid, British TV show, BBC, loved it. Melchetts on Blackadder, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, Hercules.’ I copied that voice. It makes it a lot easier. Rather than just trying to do an accent, if you can think of a character together with it, it makes it easier sometimes.”

The fight in ‘Ip Man 4’ was only acting

Barton Geddes tests his Karate against Ip Man’s Wing Chun and you can find out who prevails in the movie. Adkins is clear that Ip Man 4 is a performance, and not the main event between Scott Adkins and Donnie Yen.

“I’m not playing myself in this movie. I’m playing Barton Geddes. It is not Boyka fighting Ip Man either. I’m there to tell the story, to be this racist American *sshole that the director wants me to be so that he can tell the story that he wants to tell. He’s not the most pleasant character I’ve ever played but he’s necessary to the story and I’m honored to be part of the Ip Man franchise. I think it’s fantastic but yeah, I’m not playing myself. I’m playing a character. We’ve still yet to see Scott Adkins fight Donnie Yen for real. That’s not what they’re going to get. They’re going to get Ip Man vs. Barton Geddes.”

Scott Adkins, interview with Showbiz Cheat Sheet, 12/18/19