Ray Park: From Darth Maul to X-Men, Part 3 - Mania.com



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Ray Park: From Darth Maul to X-Men, Part 3

In the conclusion of our interview, the martial arts actor looks back on playing Darth Maul and the Headless Horseman.

By Craig D. Reid     July 27, 2000

Ray Park seems to be making a living out of playing villains cloaked in makeup. This is true of his latest role, that of Toad in X-Men, but the character allowed him to break the mold at least a little bit: although still covered in green greasepaint, his features are at last recognizable on screen. And it's a very high sort of visibility that this film has granted: the box office has already passed $100 million, no thanks to the rumor mills that plagued the Internet before its release. The saving grace? It is just fun to watch, and you don't have to be an X-Men fan to enjoy it. Another reason for it's success is that the characters from the comic book seem to have translated well onto the screen, thereby satisfying those who made the X-Men popular in the first place, the fans.

In Part One of my interview with the rhapsodic Ray Park, he shared with us his experiences while working on the X-Men film. In Part Two, we learned about his background in martial arts and his fascination with Hong Kong film. In Part Three, Park tells us how he became Darth Maul and the harrying headless horsemen, and he shares a few philosophical comments on film, martial arts and life.

FANDOM: HOW DID YOU LAND THE DARTH MAUL CHARACTER?

RAY PARK: I had finished Mortal Kombat, went back home, and within four weeks I got a call from the stunt coordinator Nick Gillard from Star Wars, and he asked me to come down and have a chat with him. I took all my weapons and poles with me, like I did before. The talk went very well, and I didn't have to do anything. He wanted to a do a fight between a Sith and a Jedi, showed me some of stuffthe Sith was going to have this double-edged light saber. As I'm studying the storyboards, I'm thinking, 'I can do this character.' I loved the look, that manga sort of thing. I said I wanted to do it but never thought it would happen to me. The same scenario occurred again: he said that although I have a chance to get a part, if I didn't, he'd try to get me on doing stunts, like in Mortal Kombat.

BUT YOU WERE ACTUALLY GOING IN TO AUDITION FOR DARTH MAUL?

Yes. The way it worked out was I playing the Sith character all through the week, and they'd have me do the motions, like kendo, samurai style of swordplay. I was a bit frustrated 'cause I wanted to do fancy sword stuff I'd been doing for years. Then by accident, I did this block by spinning around, then followed with a spinning strike. He said, 'What did you do?' I'm like, 'Oh, I'm sorry.' He said, 'No, I like it; do what you are comfortable with.' So then I began doing all this one-handed stuff and started putting in butterfly twists and worked from there. At the end of the week we shot the fight scene. I put on this bald cap because I didn't want to shave my head at that time, and they covered me with that makeup and had me pretending to be the Sith. They cut it together with music and effects, and it really looked good. That actually became my audition tape. Then I got a call from Rick McCallum saying I got the part. I got that call in my car as I was on my way to a demonstration. I was so excited I had to pull over. We spent 6 weeks rehearsing, and I was on set shooting for about 6 weeks in Leavesdon Studios in London. It's an old factory place where they shot GOLDENEYE.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO GET INTO THAT MAKEUP?

About 2 hours.

DID THOSE KNOBBY PROSTHETICS ON YOUR HEAD EVER FALL OFF DURING THE FIGHTS?

They'd come off now and then but not in the fights. But actually, I have these two lumps on my head, where I got clobbered. What happened is that the strikes pushed the prosthetics down into my scalp and so it bled. The ones on the back were the most dangerous ones because I had to do back falls, so landing on my head on one of those prosthetics could have been dangerous.

IT WAS REPORTED THAT THEY USED A CYBER STUNTMAN FOR WHEN YOU FLIPPED OFF THE MOTORBIKE LOOKING VEHICLE. IS THAT TRUE?

No, that was me. The actual thing itself was horseshoe-shaped, the same sort of shape as a Speeder, but I had to improvise as if I was driving it. So I did this thing as I was diving off. Of course, it was CGI when I was speeding down the mountain for a bit. For that I had to do the dolly tracking stuff with me on it. I was actually sitting on it on wires and then come off it doing a front somersault with a half twist, followed by doing it off an air-ram, pretending that I was sitting on it. I did a load of tests on this by running and jumping off a trampoline, doing all these double twists and double fronts. They wanted one with a triple, but it was so hard because the cloak was heavy and would weigh down on my legs making it hard to twist quickly.

ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED YOU DIDN'T GET A CALL FOR THE NEXT STAR WARS FILM?

Not really. I would have loved to do it, though, because it sounds pretty good. I've heard lots of rumors: Jet Li is on it; a Japanese guy might be playing Boba-Fet, but I heard that from someone else. My sister spoke to me today and told me that an English magazine called 'Empire' was reporting that it was announced that Ray Park won't be back on Star Wars as Darth Maul but as another character. I'm like, 'What? I've never heard about anything like that.' [laughs] I'd love to get on Matrix.

YOU'VE SEEN CHINESE FILMS. WHAT THEY DID ON MATRIX IS NOT REALLY NEW. THEY'VE DONE THAT SINCE THE LATE '70S, ALTHOUGH THE EFFECTS WERE DIFFERENT.

Yes, I know, but I'd still love to do a film with some really good Hong Kong guys, because I can do all that stuff without needing a double. What I liked about Matrix, is how they shot it with digital freeze frame. It was cool the way they used the actors for a lot of the stuff too.

IN SLEEPY HOLLOW, AGAIN, WE DON'T REALLY SEE WHO YOU ARE.

Becoming a habit, aye? I had a long break after Star Wars, about 18 months. I didn't want to commit myself to coaching because that is unfair to the kids [if] I have to leave. So for a long time, I just trained and didn't earn money. Then Nick [Gillard] called me. I was trying to haggle. I was looking for a guarantee I'd have work and not just say I might be on it, because if that falls through then I have nothing. I went down and rehearsed the fights he wrote for Sleepy Hollow. I had a lot of fun on that film because I got to use swords and axes, and he knew I'd put my little bit of flavor into it. I did bits of work on that a few weeks before Christmas and a month after Christmas. It was all night stuff and fun because I got to meet Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, and I didn't feel any pressure.

The toughest thing with that film was taking the head off. If you've ever seen the 'making-of' film, I'm in it rehearsing with everyone, and I had to take the head off and it's really just a blue mask. Again, it was fun, but I still just want to do something where I get out there and people can see me.

WE SORT OF SEE YOU IN X-MEN.

Yes [laughs], finally.

HOW HAS FILM CHANGED YOU AS A PERSON?

I don't think it has; I just get hungrier. I want to eventually do something where I can do more weapons and show my real martial arts and work with some really great people and be the eventual center of attention, because I am a performer and that comes from my wu-shu background. Although in X-Men I do some staff twirling during a fight, it is sort of like what you saw in Star Wars. They just wanted me to do that, to get that sort of Darth Maul moment going there for a little bit.

The pole was my hardest weapon to compete with in tournaments, but somehow I always did well with it. I'd watch the former champions in China like Jet [Li] doing that stuff, and I'd go nuts with it. I used to put weights on my ankles and use a heavy pole just to get faster because they were smaller than me.

AS A MARTIAL ARTIST, WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE?

I just want to do good, and have a good karma. I believe in karma and always want to be good, even to people who have been bad to me. I don't now if I really have a philosophy, so to speak; I just want to enjoy what I do and take everything to the fullest and be content with myself, and sometimes I have to be selfish to say, 'This is what I need to do,' so long as it doesn't affect anyone close to me.

ANY CAUSES?

I don't know if it's a cause, but I like the idea of being a teacher. Like with Star Wars, I think I've provided positive output to those who've seen it. So maybe people can learn something from that character. I've often thought if I can teach someone, if someone can learn one thing from me about anything and they can take that away and it can make them a better person and make them achieve something, then I'll be content. So I hope that is what I can do.

ANY FINAL COMMENTS?

When I do roles, I'm thinking in Scottish before I pronounce things. I have a naturally better Scottish accent, so one day, I really want to play a good Scotsman role...one day.

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