Culture Vulture (Oct. 24 2012)
Martial arts actor Roger Yuan has worked with many stars of Hollywood in movies such as Batman Begins, Black Dynamite and the latest James Bond movie Skyfall.
Yuan came to HCM City for a week to practise with Vietnamese martial artists in preparation for the movie Lua Phat (Once upon a Time in Viet Nam), which will be shot in mid-November. Its director, Dustin Nguyen, is his long-term friend.
He was interviewed by Culture Vulture.
How do you feel after one week working with Vietnamese martial artists?
I think they are dedicated, hardworking and friendly. The level of performance seems to be good. I will see more as we get into filming and working together. I look forward to working with everyone.
What decided you to act in the film?
I liked the script when I first read it, it's an entertaining story with strong characters. I am also a fan of the Sergio Leone [Italian director] westerns and thought a martial arts fantasy shot in that style was a unique take. Also, I wanted to do a film where Dustin and I could finally act together.
How does the film fit in with your other projects?
I have just finished Skyfall and there is a film project that may start in January in the US. So when Dustin called me and told me about his film, I committed myself from October till Christmas. I am going back to the US to train one of my clients, Tim McGraw, for two weeks but I'll be back a few days before we start rolling cameras.
What's your role in the film?
I play Long, who would be considered the villain/adversary to Dustin's Dao. I can't say much, other than he is not a conventional bad guy.
You are a black belt in several kinds of martial arts. What are they?
I have a black belt in Chun Kuk Do, which is Chuck Norris's system, based on Korean, Japanese and some Brazilian Jujitsu styles.
I also have a background in western boxing, Muay Thai, and some Shaolin Kung Fu. Actually, I don't think of myself defined by a belt colour, I am always learning. In reality, everyone is a white belt. The longer one trains, the belt gets dirty through sweat, work, blood and grime, so it turns darker and darker. That's where "black belt" historically comes from.
Once upon a Time in Viet Nam will be the first action-fantasy of Viet Nam. What do you think about this kind of movie?
I think that with fantasy the world is interpreted by the writer and director, yet the story and characters generally reflect the real world of romance, problems, heartbreak, etc. No matter what the subject matter, if the story is engaging and draws emotions from the audience it has done its job as a piece of escapist entertainment.
Hopefully along the way, it helps raise insights into philosophical discussion. I like a lot of fantasy-action films. My favourite is the one I haven't seen yet. I like being optimistic.
You have worked with many Hollywood famous actors as well as Asian stars, like Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-Fat and Jet Li. What are their differences?
They are different people. Some are more engaging, some are more loners, some are funny, some quite serious. There is one thing in common with most successful actors, however, they are hardworking and have great stamina.
What is your plan after Once upon a Time in Viet Nam?
I don't have a plan. I also don't talk about what might be coming up as things often change in the film industry. Projects that are planned to start at a certain time may go or not go for different reasons.
And then there are projects that appear out of nowhere and you do them because it feels right. Once upon a Time in Viet Nam is such a project. — VNS