interview (12/04)
Inside the Blade Game with Triple H
Written by Heather Turk, Movie/TV Editor

Ever since The Rock left the world of wrestling to pursue acting on the big screen full-time, there's only been one dominating name in sports entertainment. And whether you love him cause of his talent or love to hate him because of his supposed backstage pull as the newest McMahon, one thing is for certain: the face of wrestling today wouldn't be the same without The Game, Triple H.

Once buried for breaking kayfabe (character), Hunter Hearst Helmsley has come a long way since his former days as a D-Generation-X member. The nine-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion has overcome everything from a torn quadriceps muscle that had doctors predicting he would be hanging up his title belt for good, to marrying the boss' daughter, Stephanie McMahon, and fighting every day to prove to the WWE's fans that he's not just the current champion because his father-in-law owns the business. Now HHH is setting out to do what The Rock did just a few years before and show mainstream audiences everywhere that there's more to this wrestler than just pedigrees and Evolution -- there's an actor destined for the silver screen.

Although it's hard to remember Triple H as anything but the biggest heel in wrestling today, it wasn't that long ago Triple H was a baby face and his real life wife was the on-screen villain. Rewind just a couple years before his on-screen storyline romance with the youngest McMahon, and HHH was wrestling's biggest prankster, telling everyone to "Suck It!" while making motions towards his genital area. Fans may love to hate him today, but back then the former WWF was making millions off his antics in the retail world, selling everything from D-X jerseys to D-X foam fingers. The WWE is hoping to cash in on that success again, when Triple H makes his big screen debut as the smart-alecky muscle Jarko Grimwood in New Line cinema's Blade: Trinity.

In Blade: Trinity, Helmsley (whose real life name is Paul Michael Levesque) plays Grimwood, the muscular right-hand man to Parker Posey's character, Danica Talos. Talos is the leader of a group of vampires trying to take over the world with the help of Dracula (played by Dominic Purcell), whom the group recently resurrected. The role of Jarko Grimwood not only lets Helmsley play off of his dominating, muscular role in the WWE, but also gives the wrestler a chance to remind fans of his earlier days as wrestling's comic relief. HHH says he was drawn to the role because of this fact, and that he's not just required to stand there and look dumb -- he gets to inject a little bit of comedy into the action-packed Blade franchise.

Complete with a dog that looks tailor-made for Zsa Zsa Gabor and some witty dialogue with Ryan Reynolds' character, Hannibal King, Triple H appears to have made a wise decision with his big screen debut. He plays the part without coming across as something he's not, and fans of the WWE will see bits and pieces of all of Triple H's previous wrestling personas coming into play throughout the film. But what initially drew the wrestler to the project wasn't the subtle stretch from the character he portrays week after week on Spike TV's Raw, but the script for the film in general.

"I had met with a New Line executive previously and we wanted to do business together, but I wanted to wait for the right thing," Triple H states. "I was a fan of Blade beforehand, so when I got the script I read through it and really liked the project. There was a lot of action and some comedy to it as well. It was just really entertaining, and first and foremost I am an entertainer."

An obvious natural when it comes to action, Triple H's input was called upon by Blade: Trinity's stunt coordinator when it came time to choreograph his intense fight scenes with Ryan Reynolds. The two designed the fights together, giving Helmsley an added sense of comfort during his first theatrical role. However, the big screen is a lot different from the wrestling ring, and even Helmsley had a hard time catching his breath when it came to shooting the fight sequences.

"The hardest thing about making Blade: Trinity was keeping my energy level high," HHH states. "With wrestling everything is live, so you do it once and you're done. If you miss it, you miss it -- there's no second take. With movies though, it's hard to keep the level of intensity up take after take."

Despite the initial challenges of making his first movie, rumor has it that New Line was so impressed with Triple H's natural acting ability and on-screen charisma that they added lines for his character in order to give HHH more screen time. A similar instance occurred during The Rock's movie debut, when Universal was so impressed with the wrestler's talents that they signed off on a spin-off to The Mummy franchise focusing strictly on The Rock's character, the Scorpion King. With Jornada del Muerte (Journey of the Deadman), a modern-day Western written specifically for Helmsley by John Milius, coming out next year and talks of having Triple H star in a remake of Conan, will Triple H be the first McMahon to leave the family business?

"The Rock chose his path, but for me wrestling will always come first," says Triple H. "If I were to create a resume it would say pro wrestler first. Nothing can beat the adrenaline rush you get when you step out in front of 50,000 screaming fans. I will always be involved in the wrestling business, whether it be in front of the camera or behind it. Wherever the business needs me, that's where I'll be. I'm so lucky because I have a job that I love, it pays well and I have a lifestyle that I enjoy, so I don't have to take every script that comes my way because I need a job in Hollywood. It's not like, 'if I don't take this movie, I'm going to be scrubbing dishes.' I can choose to do a Hollywood movie a couple times a year, and hopefully they will be successful. And with Blade I didn't even leave wrestling. I would miss a show or two here and there so I could go film for a couple weeks and it was intense, but I'm a good juggler. You don't see that on TV, though (laughs)."

But if there's one thing that's for certain, it's that people should never say never. If you asked The Rock a couple years back the same question, he would have replied almost the exact same way -- wrestling first, Hollywood second. But after multiple blockbusters, now The Rock's just making cameos on Raw and at Wrestlemanias. So who does Triple H see filling his shoes as the poster boy of the WWE should his Hollywood career take off in the same manner as The Rock's?

"Dave Batista (fellow Evolution member) is definitely on that list," Helmsley replies. "He has a lot of room to grow, and he's really funny in real life, which you don't see on television. Randy Orton and John Cena also have a lot of potential. But it's never really the one guy you expect, I think. Like with (Stone Cold) Steve Austin, no one ever said, 'This guy's going to be the biggest baby face wrestling's ever seen.' Same with The Rock. When he first debuted people were chanting, 'Die, Rocky, Die!' It's never the top wrestler. You just never know."

The same could be said for Triple H. While many found his breakaway from D-Generation-X and into the spotlight in 1999 shocking, Triple H quickly proved that he was ready for the responsibility that came with being one of the WWE's high card wrestlers. And although there are those that will argue that Triple H's real life relationship with Stephanie McMahon played a huge part in how quickly he rose to the top once leaving D-X, HHH says that being a McMahon in real life didn't make anything easier -- in fact, it just made everything harder.

"I'm a McMahon now, so I'm not just seen as talent in Vince's eyes. He's overly sensitive towards me because he doesn't want to favor me because I'm his son-in-law. And for me I can't say no to certain things because Vince is more strict with me. Consequently, there are a lot of things that could have been done better if I weren't a McMahon."

One storyline that pops into HHH's head instantly is the Katie Vic angle, which had HHH dressing up as fellow wrestler Kane and climbing into a casket to make love to a dead woman. Easily remembered as one of the worst story angles in wrestling history, HHH says that he fought hard not to do the storyline, but that Vince McMahon was convinced it would be a success and made Triple H do it.

"If it were Austin or (Hulk) Hogan, they would have said, 'no, I'm not doing it' and Vince would have changed it. For me though, I didn't have any choice."

Triple H isn't bothered though by the fans who say his backstage pull as a McMahon is holding down other qualified wrestlers deserving of the heavyweight title, like Chris Jericho, or that the show's constant focus on him and Evolution is ruining the pro wrestling industry. He says that he never listened to people when they said he was the greatest wrestler to hit the business, so why should he listen to them now when they say he's the worst?

"I remember something Kevin (Nash) said to me when I was being buried after breaking kayfabe with Shawn Michaels, and that was that no one can hold you down. Wrestling is like a democracy -- the fans make the show, not the writers. The writers just guide the show and its storylines by what the fans are doing. If anyone is complaining backstage about me and Evolution being in the limelight, it's just an excuse as to why they aren't doing something that they should be doing to be there themselves. Fans control the spotlight, and whomever they want to be in it will be there. It's the person who gets the loudest reactions. That's not something that is thrust upon me. If fans didn't want it, I wouldn't be where I am today. Look at The Rock. When he was a good guy the fans crapped on it. When HBK and Bret Hart were supposed to be the main guys, the fans pushed Steve Austin. People will continue to say what they want to say, but that's just a fact of this business."

As Triple H states himself, there's an art to keeping people in the wrestling industry hating you while keeping the fans' cameras flashing at the same time, and Triple H has successfully managed to do both. But who is the real Triple H? Not surprisingly, the real HHH is just a less amplified version of his on-screen character, a guy who is happy with his life and content with his newfound fame on the big screen. But more surprisingly, he's also someone who's fairly down-to-earth with all he's accomplished in his life. When asked what he would consider his greatest accomplishment -- coming back from a career-ending injury at the top of his game, winning the World Heavyweight Title nine times or simply marrying the love of his life despite being pushed apart by everyone backstage because she's the boss' daughter -- the wrestler doesn't deliver his answer with his classic, cocky 'I'm that damn good' attitude, but replies thoughtfully instead.

"I'm very proud of coming back from my injury, but to me I see life as a bunch of things to accomplish, so I want to go out there and do more and accomplish more. I never understood the mentality some wrestlers have that they've done everything. To me the challenges constantly change and you have to continuously overcome new obstacles."

Humble words from somebody who supposedly has an ego the size of his oversized biceps. But in real life the wrestler is a lot more grounded than Internet fans would think. In fact, HHH has been asked for three years now to follow in the footsteps of The Rock, his ex Chyna and Hardcore Legend Mick Foley (the man HHH "retired" during a Hell in a Cell match at 2000's No Way Out pay-per-view) and write an autobiography on himself, something Triple H consistently turned down.

"To me an autobiography is something you do at the end of your career, not during it. But the WWE kept asking me to do something, so I created a work out book (Triple H Making the Game: Triple H's Approach to a Better Body). The most commonly asked question I get asked on the road, outside of wrestling and movies that is, is how I manage to get and stay in shape. So hopefully this book will help younger people get somewhere with their lives. It's a guide for body building and getting into shape that is life story shaped. It discusses the work out routines and exercises I did that helped me recover from my injury, and how I may have never recovered if it weren't for them. The book is very motivational."

If the book and Blade: Trinity follow suit with everything else in Triple H's life, both will become enormous successes. But even if Blade: Trinity doesn't become a box office hit or Making the Game doesn't reach The New York Times Best Sellers List, one thing is for certain: the game is far from being over for HHH. And with Jornada del Muerte and possibly Conan on the horizon, Hollywood hasn't seen the last of the Cerebral Assassin... it fact, Tinsel Town may have just found their newest action star.

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