Cast of Dragon Blade say what drew them to the East-meets-West period flick was their admiration for HK gongfu superstar Jackie Chan.
'He's the reason I took role'
With the Academy Awards just around the corner, US actor Adrien Brody will once again be feeling thankful.
In 2002, when he was just 29, he bagged the Best Actor Oscar for his role in Roman Polanski's The Pianist, becoming the only actor under 30 to do so.
Speaking to M in an interview last week, a relaxed and charming Brody, 41, said: "Every time the Oscars come around, I am reminded of my gratitude. You can see how difficult it is to determine why one performance is singled out over other really impeccable performances. That's a challenge there.
"To be able to receive that recognition as an artist is a remarkable thing, seeing how much energy you gave to that project. The chance of (winning) that is very slim and so many great actors do not achieve the recognition that they deserve."
The Hollywood star was in town last Tuesday, along with fellow US actor John Cusack, Hong Kong action superstar Jackie Chan and K-pop idol Choi Siwon, to promote their new blockbuster epic Dragon Blade, which opens here tomorrow.
In the US$65 million (S$88 million) movie helmed by Chinese director Daniel Lee, Brody plays Roman General Tiberius, an ambitious and ruthless conqueror.
Chan is Chinese commander Huo An, who fights Tiberius to prevent him from getting his way.
Said Brody of his character: "He is a typical villain. He's got ambition and vendettas and he has his eye for power. He's a necessary evil."
He said the main reason he accepted the role was the chance to work with Chan, 60.
"Jackie's outgoing nature is apparent. You can genuinely see his enthusiasm and his gentleness as a person. Getting to know him and becoming friends with him really gave me a chance to see the unending supply of energy he has.
"He is just so motivated, not just for work but for his charity endeavours, his knowledge of the film-making process and his attention to details. It's very interesting.
"I'm pretty detail-oriented as well, so when I encounter people with that sensibility, I feel good about it."
Brody also liked the idea of being part of an East-meets-West drama.
He recalled working in China with famed Chinese director Feng Xiaogang on the historical war film Back To 1942 in 2012.
"I realised I enjoyed being there, being a part of that movie was very special to me," he said,
"I am a world actor. There is this idea of Hollywood movies and then there is the idea of Chinese movies, but really it's a much more blurred line now."
Bringing up The Pianist, he continued: "It is a film that has the potential to be a world movie. It is based in Europe and I was the only American actor (in it). So I find myself in these scenarios and I encourage that.
"I am very nomadic and I like to explore different opportunities."
'I respect him as an actor'
Fans label K-pop idol Choi Siwon as the charming gentleman from A-list Korean boy band Super Junior.
But the 28-year-old shows a different side in Dragon Blade as Huo An's (Jackie Chan) subordinate Yin Po, a military guard whose loyalty sways with power.
He isn't worried his antagonist role will cause him to lose supporters, telling M in fluent English: "My fans, they don't care. That's why I like them.
"They don't confuse who I am with the roles I play. They will watch the movie and tell me I did well."
He laughed and added: "I'm always posting weird and funny things on Instagram. I am a very real guy. My fans like it, maybe that's why they are weird like me too."
WORKING WITH CHAN
Choi said he enjoyed working on Dragon Blade as he respects Jackie Chan a lot and had "always wanted to work with him".
But the pop star, who has acted in several movies and TV dramas such as Poseidon (2011) and Athena: Goddess Of War (2010), is aiming for Hollywood next.
However, he has a set of criteria when it comes to choosing scripts.
"Hollywood movies usually do not give Asian guys a good role.
"I hope to be able to change it slowly. I want to film a romantic movie with an American actress in the future. I want to play the lead role."
Choi recalled asking people in the US and Europe who their favourite actor in Asia is, and the answer he got was the usual "Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Chow Yun Fat".
He said: "No one mentioned any Korean actors and I feel challenged. It makes me want to represent Korea in the future.
'I grew up watching his movies'
No matter what critics say, US actor John Cusack does not think that signing up for Dragon Blade is a step-down from doing Hollywood films.
The 48-year-old told M: "That's bulls***. That's a very American-centric view of the world. There's a whole world out there, and some of the best and most innovative directors in the world are coming out of Asia now.
"The idea that this is a step-down is almost laughable. It's a great adventure to come to Asia. It's very interesting to me, getting to work with artists from different cultures."
In Dragon Blade, Cusack plays Roman General Lucius, a warrior who is forced to flee his own country and later befriends Chinese commander Huo An (Jackie Chan).
FAN OF CHAN
Cusack is a fan of Chan's, and it showed during our interview.
"I grew up watching Jackie Chan movies. He has a certain distinctive style of acting, directing and writing, and he is so innovative with his stunts and action," he said.
"Jackie has such a sweet persona. He is constantly asking if I am tired, if I need a stuntman. He wasn't being competitive, he just wanted to know if I wanted to keep going or go home."
In Dragon Blade, there is an intense fight scene between Cusack and Chan.
He said: "Jackie is one of the greatest stunt choreographers that ever lived so I was in good hands.
"The only problem with action scenes is that your body can only stay warmed up for so long... As long as you keep going and stay loose, it's okay.
"Sometimes, after a while in the Gobi Desert where we were filming, my body may tighten up and I may pull my muscles. I just needed to drink a lot of water and remember to stretch.
This article was first published on Feb 18, 2015.
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