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Mania Interview: Street Fighter's Michael Clarke Duncan and Neal McDonough
We're the Best at Bein' Bad
By Rob Vaux
February 24, 2009
Michael Clarke Duncan as Balrog in STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN LI(2009)"main"
© 20th Century Fox
Michael Clarke Duncan is very, very large. Neal McDonough is very, very blonde. Neither of them are strangers to genre filmmaking. Duncan has appeared as the Kingpin in Daredevil, Manute in Sin City, a very angry gorilla in The Planet of the Apes and a doomed convict in The Green Mile, for which he received an Oscar nomination. McDonough has made notable appearances in Star Trek: First Contact, Ravenous, Minority Report and Tin Man for the Sci-Fi Channel. Both of them appear in the upcoming Street Fighter adaptation, The Legend of Chun-Li, with McDonough as the evil Bison and Duncan as his disturbingly cheerful henchman Balrog. They demonstrated an easy friendship during their lively press conference for the film: trading jokes and stories about their time on the set in Bangkok, as well as talking at length about the possibility of future sci-fi and comic book projects.
SPOILER ALERT: Some of the film's secrets are briefly discussed here.
Question: Neal, you're playing a character who really doesn't have a single redeemable quality…
Neal McDonough: Sure he does! That goatee was sweet! (*Laughter*)
Q: Do you have to like the characters you play? Or at least like some aspect of them?
NM: Oh, I love every character that I play. I based Bison after Richard Branson: this worldly bon vivant with the great clothing, the best of schooling and everything. You're walking down the street thinking, "Man, I really want to be like Bison," until he does something really horrible. And even then, it's part of a code. When he kills Katana… I wasn't going to allow someone else to kill her. She's like my daughter, so I owe it to her to kill her myself. That's absolutely twisted in our thinking, but for Bison, that's just a matter of fact.
Q: Were you sad that you didn't get to wear the big red suit?
NM: No. (*smiles*) I look a lot better in Saville Row than I do in a big red suit.
Q: Michael, your character seemed to have a lot of fun with all the evil things that he did…
Michael Clarke Duncan: I didn't want to be the stereotypical big heavy who's mean and growling. I believe that the scariest person in the room is the big guy who smiles a lot. I'm already big; I have the size. But if my boss tells me to do something and I do it with a smile, it's way more sinister than if I huff and puff.
Q: Neal, had you seen Raul Julia's performance in the first Street Fighter film?
NM: I had never played Street Fighter and I hadn't seen the original Street Fighter film either. When they asked me to do it, I really didn't want to see anything. Everyone spoke so highly of Raul Julia's performance and how fantastic it was. "Can you live up to that?" "Can you live up to Bison in the video games?" I said to myself, "Make a new spin on it." As soon as the film comes out and I see it in the big theater with everyone, then I'll go watch Mr. Julia's performance… and probably be happy that I didn't try to match it, because he was an amazing performer.
Q: Michael, we hear there's a finished script for Sin City 2 going around. Have you seen it?
MCD: I haven't seen it yet. Hopefully, I'll get that script and start shooting with Robert Rodriguez, but I have not seen it yet. I love playing Manute. He's another heavy guy, like Balrog, a no-nonsense type of guy. A very easy character for me to play.
Q: You guys have some really tough scenes with Kristen Kreuk: emotionally tough. Did you talk about them beforehand?
NM: Those are actually the most challenging. We rehearsed a lot in the beginning, and we shot almost chronologically. So by the time we got to that, we hadn't rehearsed for a few weeks on purpose, just to keep everything fresh. There's this scene where… well, where I'm not very nice to her daddy. I think it was one take, two takes for each angle. It's a pretty powerful scene and we tried to keep it raw and simple and truthful, instead of being over the top with everything.
MCD: Kristen worked a double every day. Six days a week for three months. She was by far the hardest worker on set. And the woman never complained one time.
NM: She worked so hard and for so long. If she didn't do it right, the film wouldn't have worked. It's difficult to make a video game into a really cool movie. Kristen's hard work was infectious. And her good attitude. And her good spirits. We had a blast doing it, and I think it shows on the screen.
Q: Any more supervillains in your future? Or superheroes for that matter?
NM: I sure hope so. I love acting, first and foremost, whether it's a good guy or a bad guy. Last year I had the great fortune to play Wyatt Cain in Tin Man. That could have been my favorite performance out of everything I've ever done. That character was really close to me. I do enjoy playing the villains, and I've had a great run in the last year or so doing it, but I'd certainly love to go back and visit a guy like Wyatt Cain again. Whether it's Tin Man: The Series, which we've talked about, or something else.
Q: Is that a real possibility? A Tin Man series?
NM: It is. SciFi and Robert Halmi have been talking about it. We were literally going to start it up when I got back from doing Street Fighter, but then Desperate Housewives came along [McDonough has a recurring role on that show]and we weren't ready yet. But that's a definite possibility. It was the biggest hit SciFi ever had. 25 million viewers watched the mini-series. It was massive.
Q: Michael, would you ever consider playing the Kingpin again?
MCD: Yes. It would be an honor to do the Kingpin again. I don't think I'm hefty enough right now. When I was the Kingpin I weighed about 335, and I weigh 275, 280 right now. But you know he'd want another piece of Ben Affleck. Affleck hit me dead in my face with that damn stick during that fight scene. (*laughs*) I was so goddamn mad at him. I told him, I said, "You're gonna hit me in the face with that!" He said, "No, I got it," and then on the first take… CRACK! That stick was made out of metal. It hurt. I need payback for that. So to answer your question, hell yes.