When you were a kid, you always wanted to be a badass. The thing is, 78-year-old Scott Glenn doesn’t like being called a badass.
What’s his reason for not wanting to be called a badass? Well, he trains with members of SEAL Team Six and he says “I know what badass really is.”
But to us, he’s still a badass. He open-water spearfishes, he rides motorcycles, and he even does martial arts with knives.
He stopped ice-climbing… but only because his doctor told him to. He stopped skydiving at his wife’s request – but he might still pick it back up again.
Lucky for us, Scott did an interview with GQ here: https://www.gq.com/story/actor-scott-glenn-76-year-old-badass
Were you active growing up?
“When I was a kid, I had scarlet fever. I wasn’t supposed to have survived it. When I got out of bed, my bones were so soft that they kind of bent. I had a slight limp for probably three years after. We’re talking about age 9. So before that happened, I wasn’t a physical kid at all. Scarlet fever attacks all of your senses, so they don’t let you read. You’re left alone with your imagination. And I remember having all these fantasies and telling myself: When I get out of this bed, I’m gonna make all these things come true. So it made me physical. After I recovered, if somebody was playing pickup softball or football, I just said, “Me,” and got the shit kicked out of me. The bully who beat up everybody in class—I’d fight him!”
So what do you do now?
“One of the sports I do—my wife thinks I’m nuts—is open-water spear fishing, what we call blue-water hunting. We get in a boat and we go offshore, normally about 30 miles. So when you jump off the boat, there are no reefs and the bottom is no longer fifty or a hundred feet, it’s thousands of feet. It’s sort of like being in outer space. And it’s all free diving. No tanks or anything like that. Statistically, they call it the third most-dangerous sport in the world.
And I do motorcycle touring, and hiking. I used to be an ice climber, but I don’t do that anymore because it puts too much vibration on one of my shoulders. What I do more than anything is kata, basically martial arts, with a heavy, very sharp knife. I’ll do it in slow motion, going from right hand to left hand. You don’t want to do it too fast, because what I’m holding is potentially lethal.”
So you’ve done skiing, skydiving, motorcycle racing, ice climbing, open-water spear fishing. Is there anything I’m missing?
“Um…well—are you a member of PETA?”
I am not a member of PETA.
“I hunt. And I don’t hunt for trophies. We’ve lived for over two years on an elk I shot about two and a half, three years ago. And I won’t shoot another one until we’re done with that. But I’ll go out again at four in the morning with my buddies and do that.”
So the only activities you’ve stopped are ice climbing and skydiving?
“Skydiving is something I might—I promised my wife and kids I’d put that on hold for six years or something. But that time’s run out.”
Have you been hurt more doing these things, or doing the stunts in your movies?
“I’ve never been bitten by a shark, though God knows I had to poke a lot of them in the nose. I’ve never really been seriously hurt skiing. But in Urban Cowboy I sat on a bull in the let-out gate, and the bull was in the gate for way longer than its Pavlovian response tells it it’s gonna be in there, and it decided to just get out while I was on it. I got a concussion and a cracked collarbone from that. A horse came over backwards on me in Silverado and broke my wrist. I was doing a TV show and I broke the knuckles in my right hand once, slamming my fist into a wall that was supposed to be breakaway, and they never replaced it with the stuff that was supposed to break away.”
You’ve had to punch a few sharks?!
“If a shark gets within, say, two or three yards of me, I’ll put three inches of steel right in its nose. I’ll have my gun on safe, and I’ll just use it for a spear. And they’ll pull back and look at you like, ‘What’s your problem?’ They were coming in just to get familiar. But the problem with getting familiar is, they might do what they call an exploratory bite. But with a big oceanic white-tip, an exploratory bite could be your leg! So I stick them in the nose with a spear, and they pull back and look at you, and then they turn around and swim away. So far it’s worked for me.”
What does your doctor say about this?
“When I had my shoulder replaced the second time, my orthopedic surgeon said, ‘Okay, no more ice climbing.’ And I went, ‘Oh, okay, it’s not that big a deal.’ And he said, ‘And I don’t want you slamming your left hand hard into a heavy bag.’ And I’m like, ‘I can live with that.’ And he said, you know, ‘No more track days on motorcycles.’ And I said, ‘Forget it! What do you want me to do, stop living?’ And he said, ‘Well, what if you low-side on a bike at 120 miles an hour, you come off and crash your shoulder?’ I said, ‘I’ll see you back in the operating room.’ ”
What about, like, normal guy stuff? Going to the gym?
“In terms of working out, I’m in the gym maximum twice a week, but for a pretty intense period of time: two or two and a half hours nonstop. Most of the exercises are body weight. We’re talking pull-ups, chin-ups, decline rows, elevated push-ups.”
What’s the hardest thing about doing this now, at your age?
“I have to do a long warm-up. Like, really a long warm-up. If there were a pull-up bar in front of me right now and somebody wanted to take a picture of me doing a straight leg raise, I could do one. But if I were gonna pop off a set of 20 or 30 of them, I’d really have to warm up my lower back. The big thing that’s changed is not the stuff I do but the recoup time afterward. When I was young, if I got a decent straight 15 minutes of sleep, I was ready to rock for another 24 hours. So now the recoup is a lot longer. But you can either sit around and whine about it or you can say, that’s the way it is.”
How have you been able to sustain this for so long?
“By not stopping. It’s pretty simple. I love doing all this stuff. So it’s not like I wake up and say, ‘Oh, shit. I gotta ski because I gotta keep my legs strong,’ or ‘I gotta go to the gym.’ For me, I say, ‘Wow! I get to do this shit!’ ”
It sounds like the motivation to be so physical isn’t just because your actor role requires it, but almost more: “If I stop, that could be the end.”
“That’s exactly right. And the other thing about being old, as opposed to being young, I do a lot of core work, but I don’t think even for a second: Do I have six-pack abs? You want to look at somebody with his shirt off, whether they’re a man or a woman, you want to look at a 19-year-old. So for me, it’s all about function, about what turns me on, about what’s fun for me, just joyful. It’s a liberating thing because I don’t have to, you know, stand in front of the mirror and say, ‘Ooh, my biceps aren’t big enough! I don’t have ripped abs!’ That I don’t give a fuck about.”
So the key to looking like you when you’re 75 is never stop being a badass.
“Well, I don’t like the word ‘badass’ because I train with guys up in Idaho from SEAL Team 6. And my son-in-law—I think of him as my son—has been a SEAL for most of his adult life. So I know what badass really is. It’s like when you see MMA guys, you know, out on the mats and then you hear someone saying, ‘These are real warriors!’ No they’re not! They’re not fucking warriors! Warriors put on Kevlar vests and load M4s, and when they go to work somebody dies and somebody lives. There’s nothing about it that’s a sport or fun or good at all.”