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Ecks interviews!

09.17.2002

I learned a couple things recently when I saw the advanced press screening for BALLISTIC: ECKS VS. SEVER. First, I realized that multi-ton train cars can actually be flipped. Second, I made a groundbreaking discovery in the area of dermatology. From what I gathered, Antonio Banderas, who plays special agent Jeremiah Ecks in the film, has permanent 5-o’clock shadow. And lastly, I realized that Lucy Liu can absolutely, one hundred percent, kick ASS. The movie was certainly entertaining, while lacking an elaborate plot, and was filled with so many explosions and gunfire my ears were ringing as I headed back to my car afterwards; but what stood out the most was Liu. I must say, she’s unbelievable. I think I’m in love.

So, as lovestruck as I was, it’s understandable that I was fired up to hear Warner Brothers was holding press interviews for the film. By Saturday morning, I was a mess. I scurried around my apartment, gathering the usual press-dude stuff….pen, tape recorder, long-stemmed rose….and headed out the door. The event was held at the Park Hyatt hotel in Century City, the perfect romantic backdrop for me to make my move…and…. OK, listen. To make a long story short (which is, I’m sure, what you’d all love for me to do more often), nothing happened. Despite my constant attempts at flattery, and my repeated use of the word “organic” in order to sound intelligent, the interviews went off as they always do…business as usual. I was heartbroken, but plugged away.

RAY PARK

Oh yeah, Ray Park was there too. He came in first, in fact. He plays the head “evil” henchman, A.J. Ross, working for sinister villain Robert Gant. Park is a martial arts master who got his big break playing Darth Maul in STAR WARS: EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE but also starred as the headless horseman in THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW and Toad in X-MEN. He is, as they say, “the most recognizable actor you’ve never seen.” Needless to say, Park was very happy to finally be playing a regular guy, without makeup. Sure, he still plays an ass-whoopin dude, but at least you see his face. During the interview he came across as very mellow, especially for a guy who could snap your neck just by looking at you. He talked about his days growing up in Glasgow, Scotland, how he once was jumped by 10 drunk guys (some with knives) and came out alive, and how he once competed in the Martial Arts World Championships. Here’s a bit more from Park…

So you said that you were attacked once, and it motivated you to try acting. Is it true that in real life, unlike movies, you don’t get attacked one at a time, like you do in films?

Yeah. I’d like to one time try it in a movie, though. It’d be nice to have five guys jump at me at once, and I have to just defend myself and see where it goes. It’d be fun to do that.

Do you still live in London?

Yes. I commute a lot to Los Angeles, though. I’m married there, but don’t have children. I like it in Los Angeles, but I love it in London. My home is there. But I like to travel. I always have. Through my martial arts I’ve always been able to travel. And now because of my work I’ve felt really privileged to travel a lot.

Have you begun pre-production on IRON FIST yet?

In a way, yes. We’re looking to start that later this year. And I’m really excited about that. It’ll be my first leading role, and I’m playing a good guy. I might be able to kiss a few girls even.

When you first got into movies through martial arts, did you expect to be a leading man?

I started martial arts because of movies…the Hong Kong movies, etc. I wanted to be able to do what they did in the movies like fly through the air, you know. And I actually believed as a kid that I could do that. As I got older, I got more into the love of martial arts. When I was 14, I realized I wanted to take a crack at movies. I said that when I was 25, I wanted to be in movies…I figured the way to do it was start in Hong Kong movies, then move to Hollywood…Then I got my lucky break in a martial arts movie in London and it took off from there.

Is there an age limit for martial arts actors? Say, by the time you’re 30 are you too old to do some things?

I don’t think so. In martial arts there’s something for everyone, at every age…There’s all different styles of martial arts for everyone. In Malaysia there are kids as young as 5, and adults as old as 80 doing it.

What do you do for fun now, besides martial arts, to relax?

Martial arts does relax me. I love going to the gym. I used to be a fanatic as a kid. I would be in there all day. Now I just go in for a few hours…But I also love reading scripts.

Do you ever envision a point in your career when you’ll be acting, and martial arts won’t be involved?

It will always be a part of me. I’d love to do comedy. I wouldn’t see myself doing Shakespeare, but comedy I’d like to do. I like fooling around, myself. It’d be nice to be light and doing action as well, like Jackie Chan.

What did Darth Maul do for your career? Was it what you expected?

It helped, but not as quickly as I would’ve liked. I’m an impatient person, and when I have focus on something, I achieve it…It was hard to wait 18 months for a movie to come out before everyone knew who you were.

Any chance you’ll be in another STAR WARS movie?

I’m not too sure. I’d like to. It’d be nice to come back as Darth Maul.

LUCY LIU

Next in was . Famous for her roles in ALLY MCBEAL, CHARLIE’S ANGELS, and SHANGHAI NOON. She plays Agent Sever in BALLISTIC, a renegade/robotic special agent who has tendencies towards love (just not towards me). She chatted about shooting the film, saying Banderas got his face burned during one scene (you can actually kind of see it during the movie). She also said that her character was originally a man, but producers thought a woman would bring a new twist to the action genre…they were right. Here’s more from Lucy…

Was this movie exhausting or what?

Um, yeah. It was. Not only were we kicking butt but the weather there was frigid, so cold. But I had a great time doing it. I trained a lot beforehand here in Los Angeles that I was pretty prepared for it. When we started shooting it was already pretty natural to your body. You can’t just pick something up and do it. You have to practice and then let it flow.

But you did CHARLIE’S ANGELS. Did that make this easier?

Yes. I now understand the vocabulary of fight choreography…So I could understand them and I could also give them my input.

What kind of training did you guys do?

Amazing. Three and a half months of 7am to 6pm. I did some weight training, and a ton of choreography and stick fighting. And then the worst thing, well not the worst thing but the most difficult thing was when you got out there you suddenly had to beat up a bunch of guys you don’t know. Some guys are harder and not as soft when you hit them. So it can be very painful. You have to kind of re-learn everything.

Any injuries?

No major injuries, but tons of bruising. Tons of bruises. I had done a lot of acupuncture and massage before I left to shoot, but then when I was up there I just took hot baths to recoup.

What role do you play in KILL BILL, the new Tarantino film?

We are all assassins in KILL BILL. I’m an assassin, but I become queen of the underworld in it.

What do you think about the violence in this movie and others you’re doing?

There’s excessive violence in this movie, but the irony is you don’t see blood, ever. You see a couple of cuts on Antonio’s face, but that’s it. I don’t endorse gunplay at all. That’s what we did in CHARLIE’S ANGELS. There’s no gunplay for the girls. But this is that kind of movie. I’m not going to deny that this is a full action movie. Let’s face it, the title is BALLISTIC. This isn’t a romance. And if you don’t want to go ballistic, don’t go….But this is more of a bullet, Steve McQueen, old school action movie. There’s no C.G.I. in this film…That was not our intention. It’s a simple story about two people trying to find something that’s important to them.

Is there a superpower you wish you could have to help save the world?

You don’t need a superpower to do that. You just need people to love each other. I know, it sounds so cliché, but it’s true.

Did you get to keep any of the cool clothes you wear in the film?

No. Never. They always say you’ll get stuff from the movie….not.

You have little dialogue in the film. How did that help or hurt you?

I think when you’re doing action, unless you’re Indiana Jones, the less exposition the better. For her, she was kind of doing one thing and it happened to coincide with what Ecks was doing. But I think that having less dialogue just makes her seem more intense. As opposed to giving her all these lines, which I think would take away the intensity that you could bring to the audience.

What drew you to the part?

She was originally supposed to be a male character, and that I liked. So turning her into a female I thought, good, you can have a woman fighting a man and not have her whining and pulling hair. For this movie it wasn’t about gender and emotion, it was just about skills, and I think it’s nice to see a woman who have skills and not try to make her seem like she’s weaker.

KILL BILL is also about revenge, right?

Yes. Uma Thurman is the lead in the movie, and it’s going to be a kick-ass movie. I don’t know, I haven’t been there for a month or so, but I feel really good about it. I feel very proud to be a part of it. I just felt like it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had.

Are you done with it?

No. I have to go back intermittently.

Where does your family come from?

My family’s from China. They came here and I was born in New York.

Were you a fan of martial arts films as a kid?

When you’re younger, you just watch what your parents are watching. My dad watched martial arts films. It’s very normal to watch those films when you’re Chinese, when you’re exposed to it when you go to the theater in Chinatown and that’s what’s playing.

That’s about it. Thanks again to Warner Brothers for their hospitality.

To criticize, bother joblo@joblo.com. If your last name is Liu, email johngunn@joblo.com.

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