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Mania Interview: Ray Park Talks Snake Eyes
From Star Wars to X-Men to G.I. Joe.
By Robert T. Trate
August 04, 2009
Ray Park as Snake Eyes in Paramount Pictures' G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA(2009).
© Paramount/Robert Trate
Darth Maul is late. Sitting there and waiting I realize it must take a lot to coordinate two different halves. I start looking around the room hoping to catch his entrance but instead of seeing a horned toped tattooed faced demon I see this short, stocky guy walk in with a beard and an awesome skull t-shirt unescorted by any kind of security enter from the main door. “How’s everybody doing?” comes from this guy in a fading Scottish accent. Darth Maul, I mean Ray Park, just entered the room and the crowd lets out an enthusiastic cheer.
Having been to numerous cons before I have seen Ray Park tucked away next to Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) but I have never gone over to get an autograph or even chat with him. Not only was I completely shocked that he walked right into the room without being recognized but I was blown away how grounded and in touch with the fan boys he was. After he spoke Park sat down and signed autographs, not an uncommon thing at a con but his line didn’t diminish in four hours, and he was all smiles. Could you do that after working all day and then flying to a comic book show? The man who played the baddest Sith in the trilogy really is a fan boy at heart and knows what it means to meet people that you admire.
Park was open to questions about the Iron Fist movie, working on Heroes and of course playing Snake Eyes.
Mania: What can we expect from G.I. Joe and your role as Snake Eyes?
Ray Park: (laughs) Action. (smiles) Kick ass. No, it is going to be good. I haven’t seen the film yet but from what I remember seeing and doing, it’s going to be really great. The director [Stephen Sommers] called me and said, “Look Ray you must be the first actor I’ve ever told this to but none of your scenes have ended up on the floor. We have used everything you have done”. Which is great.
M: What was your personal history with G.I. Joe before the movie and what lead up to you getting the part?
RP: I grew up with G.I. Joe but it was called Action Man when I was a kid. I was really into it and my Dad was a big kid and he got me into Batman and Superman. I would love to do Batman but I know it is not going to happen. Maybe I could be a villain or even just a ninja in Batman (laughs) or even just an extra in the background, just so I could say I was there. I knew about G.I. Joe [the movie] and a friend of mine is in the media called me and said he announced the producer, actually he was a big producer who was the reason why Transformers got made as well, and that they were doing a G.I. Joe movie. [He said], “You would be perfect for Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow. You should get your people into it.” I’m like, what people? I don’t have people. So I called as many as I knew, which was two or three, and asked if they knew anyone who was making this movie. Can I get in the room? I just want an audition. I don’t want the part, I want to work for it. I want to audition.
I know a bunch of stunt guys so I asked, can I use your cameras? I am going to play Snake Eyes in this little audition tape. I am even going to dress up as Snake Eyes. I even went out and got myself the gear and got my buddy, who I’ve known since I was fourteen, to play Storm Shadow. We were going to do this whole big thing and were going to show them how this should be. We were preparing to do this audition tape. I got all these stunt guys, I had fifty guys and I was going to take out fifty guys as Snake Eyes with some fabulous stunts. They were going to do me a favor. Then I get a call from a man who got a call that they were interested in me. It just sort of all worked out. They wanted me to come down for an audition and I just rocked it. I just knew that I wanted that part so badly that no one else was going to get it. In my roundabout way I showed them how Snake Eyes should be and I won the part. They had me in mind anyway but they wanted to see if the old geezer still had it I guess (laughs).
M: A lot of people are bothered that Snake Eyes is going to speak in the film. There has been some speculation about the Snake Eyes costume as well. Does it indeed have a mouth?
RP: Yeah in the mask you have these motorized pieces so when I said my whole ten lines… (smiles) ha ha, got ya!. I’m joking. It is a different take on Snake Eyes and more of an updated version for the movie. I didn’t get an answer as to why at the time because my lips aren’t as big as that but I kept it real, I kept true to the character from the comics. You have nothing to worry about for that.
M: Will the Timber wolf be in the film?
RP: I can’t answer that. Sorry. I wish I could answer that but I can’t.
M: What got you into the Martial Arts?
RP: My Dad actually. He was really into sci-fi and comics. My Dad is a big kid as well. He was a young Dad or is a young Dad and he got me into Bruce Lee. Then Jackie Chan came about and I was just fascinated by all the different animal styles, plus Ninja movies as a kid. I actually watched more Ninja movies than anything else; just the secretiveness of it all and being a ninja climbing walls, buildings, samurai swords and katana blades. Then I saw this guy training in the park when I was seven and he was doing these different animal positions. He looked jacked and ripped and something out of a movie. My Dad went up to him and asked him where he practiced and here I am. He knew I wanted to do it but he wanted the right style for me to do something that had everything in it like gymnastics, acrobatics, weapons cause he wanted to do it but he was a larger man, too old, set in his ways and stubborn. I just fell in love with it and I fell in love with movies. I didn’t know there was anything like special effects. So when I started watching shows like “how stunts are done” it spoiled it for me because for me as a kid I really believed in that magic. Maybe that is the reason why I can do what I can do today. I felt like you had to be able to do it, like fly. I actually believed you had to be able to climb that wall, which I can do (laughs and points at the wall next to him) but not so high. So when I saw that they did wire work and air rams it spoiled it for me but it encouraged me as a kid to think that I could do that.
M: Where you a Star Wars fan before you became Darth Maul and how do you feel about it now?
RP: Star Wars was another reason why I got into film. It was the first movie I saw as a kid when I was seven. Later my Dad took me to see Empire Strikes Back and when I saw Luke Skywalker with Yoda training, it was scary for me as a kid because Darth Vader was staring at you in the swamp, but when he [Luke] was doing the hand stand with Yoda on his back that’s when I knew I wanted to do that. I want to be able to do a hand stand with someone on my back. All at the same time the second Superman was out and everything just gelled for me as a kid. It was just the right time. I wanted a lightsaber. I grew up watching Star Wars and I remember when I was twelve Return of the Jedi came out. It was that time in my life and it did a lot for me. My Mom was sick of it because my Dad went and got it on tape and whenever I played hooky from school Star Wars went on. It was Star Wars, Krull, Treasure Islandand Superman. I remember my Mom bitching, “not Star Wars again”. When I got to work on Star Wars I had to contain myself. George [Lucas] told me don’t watch the originals because he wanted me to bring something fresh for the character. But (smiles) I had watched the originals (laughs).
M: What characters have you been involved with on Heroes?
RP: I really couldn’t tell you. I mean I am working with everyone. Met Milo [Ventimiglia] the other day it was cool. Of course I’m geeking out, I really shouldn’t use that word, but I am fan. I’m on set the other day and I meet Jack Coleman who plays HRG and he comes up and I’m <insert babbling here> (laughs). I was trying to contain myself. I would sit up ‘till two in the morning watching it thinking this is the kind of TV show I want to work on. A few years later here I am. I don’t know how long I’ll be on but I have had some cool scenes. I worked with Robert Knepper from Prison Break (also joining the cast next season). He was really good.He’s a cool guy I like him.
M: At Wizard World Chicago in 2000 you spoke about playing Iron Fist. What became of it?
RP: Something did come of it for a while. We had a director on board for a while named Kirk Wong, who directed The Big Hit (1998) with Mark Wahlberg. They were looking for a female lead like Beyoncé Knowles. I was throwing in Little Kim because I had a crush on Little Kim. A lot of things happened you know in the world [9-11] with movies and stuff and it just changed things. I think Spider-Man came out as well plus my acting wasn’t that great after all. To do Iron Fist now I’d be a better performer as an actor. I have more baggage, more skeletons, more tools in my bag to play the character. Also, I would be better as a performer. I am more experienced in film and I understand how it works a bit better. I am hoping it does happen. I really hope that fire lights again with G.I. Joe and they say oh come on let’s get Ray in on this again. I would love to do it. I would love to take my shirt off and show myself as Danny Rand. It would be a great excuse to have a six pack again (laughs) and not the kind you find in the fridge.
Ray Park will appear as Snake Eyes in G.I. Joe the Rise of Cobra on August 7th 2009. The following month he’ll appear on the new season of NBC’s Heroes.