I think the '80s and '90s films were golden eras of film.
These movies just jumped off the screen in an epic way.
People wanted bigger and better.
The Road Warrior was everything was in camera.
Arnie and Sly came in perfect timing.
And suddenly we had those movies whose action was dominant.
And that was what they wanted and after Rambo was an explosion.
That's all they wanted.
Rambo was actually a Saturday morning cartoon.
When I see it now just the technical, the practical effects...
Unbelievable how those stand up.
I do think that Die Hard still to my mind is one of the top five if not the best action films ever made.
I was very lucky as a composer to come at a time where things were really exciting.
It felt like the lowest low budget film I've ever made.
Fuck you Don't be modest.
Arnold put his stamp on the movie so much, I've never seen that.
I'll be back.
"I'll be back" -That's cool.
You saw Schwarzenegger for the first time ever express fear.
Everybody was renting John Woo movies.
The beauty about action is that you don't need translation.
Watch this guy.
That's what I'm going to do in my life.
I want to do what he does.
In thirty-five-millimeter on a big screen, slow motion.
Yeah, that's Van Damme.
He's really doing that.
It was how you looked, physical and buff.
You looked buff.
By 1988 they were making movies for the video shelf.
I think once they realized how tough I was and I could fight just as strong as a man I gained a lot of respect that day.
That's what people want to live vicariously through and they had that.
But it's full on pulls no punches
I miss those movies man.
If you look at a list of film genres in any kind of book or publication about Hollywood you won't see action movies listed as a genre until really the '80s.
I grew up watching Westerns.
Red Ryder, Lash LaRue, Roy Rogers.
Gene Autry, Johnny "Mack" Brown.
That was the time that I really started to go to the theaters.
That was after the war.
I went to the theater basically three times a week.
I was addicted to American action films.
The chases, the horse chases, the action, the gun shooting.
A lot of movies from the '60s that I grew up watching in movie theaters.
The Great Escape.
I suppose I begin like many sort of people of my era with Bond. As a small boy the idea of a Bond movie coming on television was extraordinarily important in my life.
My father said," we're going to see this new action movie."
And then we watched the film and he said, "This is like the greatest film ever."
James Bond - 007 License to kill whom he pleases, when he pleases.
It was released as a kind of generic action picture but it caught on quickly.
We also watched also a lot of urban detective movies.
Private Eye movies.
So, they included sometimes also some bits of action movies.
I prefer '70s action films.
The French Connection.
There's a very strong director focus about the character what they should be doing and the believability of it.
Yes, Steve McQueen's golden years.
Steve McQueen was a great action hero.
He was not a physical specimen of beefcake but he was a cool guy.
He was probably the coolest guy.
One of the coolest action heroes of all time.
He did ride his own motorcycle.
He did a lot of his own stunts.
Action heroes of the '60s and '70s they were ambivalent about what they were doing.
Charles Bronson had to go out in the street and look for justice.
Charles Bronson's vigilantism it was a huge thing in movies during that period.
So that kind of switched it there I think with Death Wish where the good guy became like a killer.
In some of the sort of violent action movies of that time, obviously the Clint Eastwood movies and Death Wish and others.
Those guys were the heroes and they were just going around shooting everyone that people at home didn't like.
It's always believable of course a good actor as well is believable doing the action which makes a huge difference.
You've got to ask yourself a question Do I feel lucky?
Well, do you punk?
It was introducing me to a level of intensity, emotional intensity in action films in adventure films and a heightening of stakes.
Here's a guy who just lives for whatever reason he continues, he survives but he doesn't really thrive.
He just does his job.
The action film stars that I grew up watching first was Jim Brown and Fred Williamson.
They really had an effect on me growing up and they were images that I wanted to grow up and look like basically.
If you were an actor or a young person it gave you hope in the sense that you saw somebody that looked like you that was an action hero.
Many of us had never seen that before.
Those are my heroes first because I identified with them.
Luckily, I'm in a place where I start to resonate with youngsters who were very much like me at the time.
They have a lot of bang for their buck because you want to live vicariously through these people.
Of course, number one is Bruce Lee.
I was very much influenced by Bruce.
I was inspired by Bruce Lee.
He was a badass. You know what I'm saying?
When he came onto the screen, he was very dynamic.
He was a completely different character.
Really it was Bruce Lee that inspired me to take up martial arts.
And he throughout my whole life still now is a huge inspiration.
I got hip to Bruce Lee as a kid and loved him.
For me growing up martial arts was a thing.
Bruce Lee, '70s Kung-Fu films.
When Bruce Lee's movies were popular, they weren't popular in the mainstream.
You could see them in some small theaters and only fans would know them.
It was a while before I started seeing action pictures but I guess the first one that I saw was Enter the Dragon.
This is Enter the Dragon.
The first martial arts film produced by a major Hollywood studio.
Action is something...
It's deep within people.
It's the same way that I was inspired by watching Enter the Dragon.
Roper, Williams And Lee The Deadly Three penetrate the secret chambers of an evil island empire.
He went out and proved himself in a worldwide audience.
An audience that didn't look at him as someone who was not bankable.
But he did not appeal to a wide audience.
And this was something...
This was also foreign.
In Hollywood traditionally they like to do what works in America.
Especially in those days.
There's an obvious transition from the '70s into the blockbuster era that started with...
It really started with Godfather but then Jaws really cemented it.
In terms of action-adventure Jaws was a huge influence.
That sort of everyman hero that didn't have abilities, that just had pluck, just had guts and a little bit of savvy and was good at a job he did but was out of his depth with this thing that he'd never encountered.
Jaws changed the movie industry.
Suddenly you could have a movie that could make that much money that quickly.
So, people started leaning towards and the studio started leaning towards films that were going to do that.
That was kind of the gradual evolution and then came Star Wars and that whole side of it.
What changes is there's a level in which the action films are made.
A lot of action films, the '70s you say were serious times politically and so forth.
And that it's true but there were a lot of action films in the '70s.
But in terms of I suppose action films as a genre as an idea that came in the '80s.
Better and more complicated action scenes.
That's what the public wanted.
Less dialogue, bigger body count.
The '80s action films were actually shock value because that kind of excitement had never been done before.
And then of course, you start off the '80s and you have Raiders of the Lost Ark and boom, boom one after another.
I remember seeing the adverts of Raiders of the Lost Ark and honestly, I pretended to be ill until my parents took me.
I saved up to buy the VHS of.
It was like $100 for the VHS and I saved and scrimped and it was Raiders.
I memorized that soundtrack and now since then I've conducted that score live in concert.
Huge influence on me.
I think the '80s as an era that really was the golden era of action films.
The music I think rose to the challenge and it's kind of one of those chicken or the egg things.
You have great scores for the great action movies of the '80s.
And are those movies great partially because of the scores?
And I say yes.
If you have strong visuals and you put a dominant a really strong theme there then basically the whole film gets lifted up.
With Raiders you get something that is a huge hit and has a flawed hero but he's a good guy.
He's a grave-robber.
Good guy and it didn't always get away clean.
He got hurt.
Whatever it was.
He was not always perfect.
Action was the thing.
Everybody wanted action.
And you know what?
Also, today it's the same thing.
Films from the '60s, '70s, '80s when they were really doing real stunts. If you saw a car flip over five times
somebody was in that car and it was real.
Yeah, Road Warrior, everything was in camera.
I mean nobody had a clue what a computer was.
And suddenly we had those movies whose action was dominant and within 90 minutes we had at least 45 minutes of action.
Action films are always getting revolutionized when a true genius comes into the fold.
George Miller redefined what you can do with an action film.
This is a land that prays for a hero.
His films were epic,
They had underpinnings.
They had a great hero in Mad Max.
I think that Miller sort of took the things he liked most about Mad Max but certainly couldn't afford.
It didn't have the either probably the cinematic expertise yet or the money to realize his vision and said okay, great that's kind of detritus or effluvium and I'm going to use that as fertilizer and make this thing that's The Road Warrior which is a masterpiece.
I was seen by Sandy Gore who was George Miller's girlfriend at the time and she contacted George and said you've got to come and see this guy.
He came down and saw me, we had a cup of coffee and we chatted about all kinds of dumb crap and nothing about the film.
And about a month later my manager rang me and said they need you to fly up to Sydney for wardrobe, fittings and makeup.
And I went, "For what?"
And she said, "George Miller's using you in Mad Max 2 - Road Warrior."
And I went, "What's a Mad Max 2?"
Road Warrior which has got to be one of the most successful movies in history because this movie costs very little but yet it resonates worldwide and you could watch it over and over.
It was a renowned success throughout the world because action speaks louder than words.
Road Warrior started a whole genre.
It was like a Gone with the Wind of its own time and its own genre.
Road Warrior today is more relevant than when we shot it.
George Miller had made Mad Max and Mad Max 2 and they were having huge amounts of influence on what the action directors of the '80s were about to do and he made them on these kind of dirt-poor budgets but yet they arrived and became this cult phenomenon.
That idea of a bunch of macho dudes or a macho guy running around with guns and crime and things blowing up, kind of turned into its own genre.
In the '80s there was an opportunity for many independent producers and directors to produce a lot of so-called genre independent low-budget genre movies or B-movies.
Although they did very well people wanted bigger and better and that's when Arnie and Sly came in at perfect timing.
They were much stronger and bigger and full of muscles and it became the standard.
First Blood is a key action movie.
I mean that might be the progenitor of a lot of this.
John Rambo was just passing through town but they had nothing better to do.
John Rambo is this wounded vet with PTSD.
They knew he was innocent.
He's hiding out in the woods.
He wants nothing to do with people.
Sylvester Stallone in First Blood.
First Blood - the original movie was kind of a somber and kind of gritty.
It had big action sequences but it was very kind of real and then it became this larger-than-life thing.
It was a good story, very well acted, wonderfully directed.
When we did First Blood, we were not thinking we're making an action movie.
We were making a real drama, a real story but it became such an iconic movie because I'm watching him with all those bullets and big machine guns and his body and all that.
It was a huge hit overnight spread like wild fire.
It took actually two foreigners to make a real American story.
Without Sylvester Stallone it all falls apart.
I mean sometimes he gets or used to get a bad rap because of Rocky.
They all thought he was Rocky.
I mean Sly is a very bright man.
People want to write things off like oh, yeah, they talk about the voice and the tough guy thing like he's not an intelligent, He's probably the most intelligent person in every room that he freaking walks into.
Sly is the real deal in many, many ways.
How do you do that?
Well, the big bold risk on Rocky and he was able to deliver on that.
You just realize, this guy wrote Rocky.
The first Rocky was fantastic and well written and I much admired the fact that Stallone wouldn't sell the script unless he was playing Rocky which I thought that took a lot of courage for a young guy to say no.
I play the part or you don't buy the script.
It was that sort of emergence of the Stallone-Schwarzenegger era and then cinema was about going out with your mates and sort of joining in some kind of collective experience.
Warrior Thief Conan I really miss many title sequences.
Conan is a perfect example.
You go into the film knowing it's Arnold Schwarzenegger and you know it's Conan The Barbarian but when you hear that brass and the music, it sets the tone.
You have a prologue with music.
Very rare, it established the themes but when it is it makes it feel like a saga, it makes it feel like you're stepping into another world.
It kind of gives the audience a second to just sink into the movie theater.
I think the arrival of Arnold Schwarzenegger was very significant.
Someone who had a name that was hard to pronounce, who had a very thick accent, who had this body that was just massive.
I mean we are a society, especially the female part of it, we are a society that likes to look at things like that.
It was like oh, look at those muscles.
And I saw Pumping Iron the documentary when I was in high school and I thought that was really cool.
Although I did think that Arnold was a bit of a dick.
He just tells the truth but it's like and he says things he has no filter and so he just says what he feels like and it's great working with him because you always know where you stand.
Everything has its timing.
So, for instance Arnold Schwarzenegger he was laughed at in the beginning.
This big Austrian guy with an accent who can barely speak English but luck has it if there is something at the right time, at the right moment that works for the general audience like Conan.
And if someone has a specific style that can actually create a trend.
I think the difference between a movie that works and people really like is having that story.
And I think also having that story that the star really fits into.
One day I got a phone call, we want you to read and look at the script.
We need to rewrite which is 48 Hours.
Nick Nolte is a cop.
Eddie Murphy is a con.
They couldn't like each other less. They couldn't need each other more.
So one of the reasons I was put on 48 Hours was once we had cast Eddie Murphy was to bring as much humor to the project as possible.
Jack, Tell me a story.
That's one of my favorites.
I thought it was a real movie by a passionate filmmaker that was summing up a kind of genre piece in which he scraped all the parts of the imagery and the style and the dialogue and the intensity of what he had grown up with knowing as action thrillers.
So, you take all the qualities of great road movies and great comedy duo's and then you sort of slot that into on the whole a fairly formulaic cop plots, you've got something new.
If you know Walter Hills, Walter Hills movies are like 48 Hours but they're not funny... at all.
You've got that whole kind of approach to action movies that was suddenly comedy movies at the same time.
Don't you think you're being kinda hard on the guy?
You go fuck yourself, convict!
Out of that we got 48 Hours and we got Beverly Hills Cop.
Eddie Murphy is a Detroit cop
on vacation in Beverly Hills.
It was the first time that I had been involved in a film that we sort of knew going in that this was a huge hit.
I've been in some films that turned out to be huge hits, don't get me wrong.
But that was one that we all knew sort of from the get-go that it was.
And it was just such a joy working on that film.
The film was written by Dan Petrie.
Well, Dan was my agent.
Dan had written this screenplay and Stallone came in and he had Cobra.
And he said here's the film we're going to do and he said no, we're not going to do that.
He said either you do this film or I'm walking.
And so they offered it to Eddie.
When you're the best you do things with style.
J.J. McQuade is the best.
My wife Elizabeth Stevens knew Chuck Norris before I did actually.
Her daughter, my stepdaughter was taking karate from one of Chuck's senior black belts.
She also knew Steve Carver who directed An Eye for an Eye.
Steve invited her to see the screening of the trailer for Lone Wolf McQuade.
He's a lone wolf lawman in the lone star state.
She saw Chuck at the screening and Chuck said, "Hey, are you still going out with that guy James Brennan who wrote an Eye for an Eye?"
And she said, "Yes, I am."
He said, "Do you have his number I wanted to write something."
So, I thought that it would be great to have a guy that walks softly but carries a big stick kind of type of concept.
A guy who tries to avoid violence.
The beauty about action is that you don't need translation.
You can see.
And the beauty about action pictures is something that is heroic.
There are bad guys and there are good guys and the triumph over bad guys is basically what the storyline is.
Chuck was actually a real-life world champion, a martial artist and I think that really translated to people.
We had kickboxing cops, kickboxing soldiers, Chuck Norris rescuing POWs.
Chuck had an idea he wanted to do Missing in Action.
Chuck Norris is James Braddock ex-prisoner of war I got a call one day from Chuck and he asked me to go and have lunch with this guy in Malibu and it was a producer named Lance Hool.
He said bring the script, he's interested in it.
So, I went out to Malibu and met with Lance Hool, gave him the script.
He liked it and the next thing I knew I'm going down to this new company called Cannon Films and they want to make the movie.
Chuck Norris worked then for Cannon for a long time making the movies with Joe Zito Invasion USA etc...
It was not a company that was making action movies at the beginning.
When Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, bought Cannon Film, they started to flirt with actually with horror pictures because horror pictures are much cheaper to produce than action.
The assistant director came to me and said, "Downstairs there is a call for you from Menahem."
He says you have to talk to him now, right now.
And he said listen, as soon as you finish to shoot this one, you're going to the Philippines and you do a movie called Ninja.
I said called what?
And he said there are action heroes that can kick ass and I'll explain to you later.
He didn't know more than that.
I begged him not to do the movie so somebody else was sent to do it.
This somebody else failed in the middle and Menahem went by himself to do it.
And this was the Enter the Ninja.
And so this was the beginning of the whole ninja things in the movies.
They made Enter the Ninja I would say by accident or by chance and it was working.
They were making money.
I mean they were exploitationers definitely.
I mean Death Wish 2-3-4.
I mean I think Roger Ebert called Death Wish 2 made by exploitationers.
Cannon Film was a small medium sized.
In the beginning was a small company became a medium size.
At some point they used to call them mini-studio.
That Cannon the way it would go like this at the beginning of the movie and I thought even to this day like you can feel it... that clung.
So, when I came, I did not come into a company that was making action movies.
I was one of the people who created this section of Cannon and swaying Cannon toward action.
So Menahem Golan came to me, he was looking for a director to direct Revenge of the Ninja.
So, he came to me and said OK Sam, you directed a movie, it's a drama.
I know you can put a beginning, middle, and end.
But I want to give you an action movie.
Can you handle action?
What am I going to tell him?
I cannot handle action?
I told him don't worry Menahem, I will handle the action.
Everything will be okay.
I didn't have a clue how to start with action.
Of course, I have people working with me.
It's not by myself.
I had the stunt coordinator Steve Lambert, I had Sho KOSUGI the fight choreographer.
So I had two strong action people to rely on.
There's an enduring quality which is the basics of these action flicks that means that many generations can enjoy the tropes.
And it's just that they're presented in a way that's more of their time.
When Revenge of the Ninja came out, they showed the movie around and one of the companies that saw it was MGM and they liked the movie and they took it for distribution.
Now Cannon suddenly were in a different league and this was the launch pad for Cannon to enter the action market.
When VHS started, I believe it started where everybody had access to it.
It was about 1976-ish.
That was when if a movie went to a VHS it's because it failed.
It wasn't a compliment that you were on the shelves in the video store.
But by 1982 it didn't matter anymore.
And by 1988 they're making movies for the video shelf.
Success of the low-budget independent company depended solely on the explosion of the home video market.
Going to a video store just browsing was a wonder.
The fact that you could actually bring these movies home and watch them unedited, uncut.
All of a sudden everybody could watch a movie at his home and it was like the best time ever for the independent companies.
It's just like evolution.
It's what happened.
It was like sex.
It's a no-no at certain times and then it becomes accepted and then it's a part of your life.
Well, the same thing with off-screen movies.
My favorite thing was going to the VHS store.
There's my film.
You could actually hold it in your hand.
So, the VHS stores were really a place that was so crowded every weekend.
Then we got a huge boom of...
It was like the boom under the boom because we had the huge theatrical films come out and of course a year later they would be on video.
50 copies on the shelf and under that you'd have all the guys like Cynthia Rothrock and Richard Norton.
You'd have movies with these B action stars.
For me it was all the same stuff.
It didn't matter about the budget.
Because of the explosion of the home video market there was a lot of money that came to the independent producers and it trickled down to the directors, people like me to make those kinds of movies.
My films were sometimes down there and then Van Damme's films were up here, I was taking my film and put it there and I'd put Van Damme's down there.
For me, if you would go to the video shop and it seemed like as a teenager there was a new martial arts film.
Certainly, a new action film every week.
Yeah, back in the '80s I remember like the VHS that the companies would take me to every video store and company and do all this promotion.
So it's interesting that we were the biggest sellers in VHS back then but yet we never really broke out of the independent pictures.
I was inspired by those guys like Don Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock and all those movies that would come out in the early 1990s and they were specifically made for the video market.
But in the '80s there was born a fantastic school of cinematic film making and storytelling that was about special effects and about huge amounts of personality.
Why is it we remember lines from these films more than any others?
Come with me if you want to live.
Action is an extension of drama.
Drama is between characters.
Characters perform the action and the action becomes a bigger manifestation than just the human side anymore but it's always powered by the human element.
From a future where man must hide underground.
Has come a machine wrapped in flesh.
As a whole I think James Cameron is arguably second only probably to Spielberg in terms of influence on the whole of '80s culture and especially in terms of cinema.
And Cameron, he was kind of born in the '80s and in some ways he's more synonymous with that era than Spielberg because he emerged from the '70s.
It's purely happenstance of his age and his time that he arrived in the '80s because he just wanted to be a filmmaker and he was such a forceful personality that it was almost inevitable.
He's just incredibly passionate about what he's interested in and when he sets his mind on something, he just has a single-minded purpose to do what he wants to do and if you don't care that much about what is going on or your job then there is hell to pay.
And he'll step in with this amazing intellect in this audacity to just assume that his filmmaking and storytelling vision is as important or more so than what people tell him can or can't be done.
While, stuck in this dreadful Italian hotel with no money.
He got the flu and had this kind of great fever dream and dreams this image of kind of robot or half a robot sort of clambering its way using a knife out of a burning sort of fire behind him and thus was born The Terminator.
I had done a lot of low-budget films and television and often you sit with the director, we had a little talk first and he tells you what he's doing.
The big picture, the philosophical picture, the picture of what's on his mind and then you watch the film and you go where is it?
I don't see it.
And I knew this was rather low budget and Jim told me some of the things that he wanted to do and it sounded pretty ambitious and it was all there.
So, we knew we had something special.
I probably would venture to say that we didn't quite know that we have something that special because who would have known that it would become a household word.
It's like Frankenstein is a household word, the Terminator is a household word.
It's important to have a theme though.
The '80s, that period of time was a great time for film scores.
So many great scores during that time and it's because they had themes.
In the agency that was representing me as a composer there were the two main partners and there was a young, younger woman.
She said there's this film and director I really think we should try to get you there.
And the word came back that this guy wanted to have a meeting with me and I was like fine.
So, Mr. Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd came to my studio and showed me the rough cut of The Terminator.
The Terminator theme, you know that Brad Fiedel's...
It's very engrained in my mind.
The original Terminator theme.
I think the film would have suffered without the theme but the use of it being judicious and not to sometimes overuse of the theme can kind of distance you from what's happening in the moment.
But there's no doubt in the making of The Terminator there was just the birth of a kind of visionary and the birth of someone who would make films with an extraordinary instinctual propulsive form of storytelling that we hadn't really had before.
Imagine editing the scene when Arnold says "I'll be back" at the police station for the first time.
I'll be back.
It became iconic.
"I'll be back" -That's cool.
If I studied something about American cinema, it was Terminator.
And the editing of Terminator, the speed of Terminator, the harshness of Terminator.
I mean all that stuff basically all of what Cameron did.
It transcended the genre because it was about ideas because it was mythic, it was a love story, it was comic in the right places, it's just self-deprecating when it needed to be but it was classic and solid.
I think Arnold Schwarzenegger has got to be one of the coolest cats on the planet.
When he wants to do something, he gets it done.
I mean who would have ever thought Arnold would come here and become such a star and a governor of California?
How can you go from being Mr. Universe to movie star to Mr. Maria to governor to divorce from
Maria to action hero again?
How do you do that, man?
Death Wish 3 Acting in Death Wish 3, especially cause I was actually in the middle of film school at the time.
It was like a summer job I did between sophomore and junior year.
It was really starkly in my face that extremely right-wing reactionary mentality of like we're going to take literally going to take the street back, right?
That's what great about the Death Wish movies it raises that to such a completely absurd degree.
It's probably because it's a chain reaction.
It's like the snowball effect.
If one movie ups the violence the other one has to overdo it.
The genre of films at the end of the day they're not for everyone.
The people in Cannon, they were clever enough to look for niche area -What can they do that other don't do and maximize the profit in this area?
If the audience don't buy, the studios don't make it.
The studio makes what the audience likes to see.
And then somehow, they come up with the idea American Ninja Boy.
It makes a lot of money.
For two thousand years the sacred art of the ninja has been guarded in the East.
That ninja craze kicked up again and my dad bought me a ninja suit and it was the first black belt I ever got.
We just mail ordered it and I put this ninja suit on and I never took it off and we would do little missions where my dad and my brother would be in the top room watching me out on the street and I'm like, I'm here, can you see me?
Yeah, we can see you.
And then I would go creeping around the gardens they'd have to keep trying to keep me in their view and I would disappear like a ninja.
Many, many, many people applied for the part of American Ninja.
We definitely saw more than 300 capable good young kids or young actors.
And Michael walked into the room and this was it.
Before even I talked with him before I read, before we read any lines just by talking, conversation I knew this guy is the American Ninja that I had in my mind.
The first few days of shooting he was very dedicated.
He took time with Mike Stone.
Two weeks with Mike Stone to train to prepare himself to be American Ninja.
And the first day of shooting, we were shooting, I had a very good feeling that something is happening here with this character, with this guy.
Boom! It merged together and it worked.
And when the movie came out American Ninja it was obvious, they loved him.
The audience loved it.
So, I was growing up seeing Bruce Lee, seeing a bit of Chuck Norris, seeing American Ninja.
I'd never seen a Jackie Chan film in my life at this point.
I'd tell a lie I had seen the Protector but they were selling him as Bruce Lee and he clearly wasn't.
When the Hong Kong actors started to come into the United States it was a very good sign.
Especially for me as an Asian American.
If you're looking for that Asian action people they had to come from over there because it seemed like there was not very many of them that were here.
There was no representative of action stars globally, especially in the United States.
People like Jackie Chan, they made quite a bit of impact.
I was training in Kung Fu.
I always looked at Jackie Chan.
I used to watch his movies every Sunday in Chinatown and come home and practice his movements.
And I always thought I want to be like Jackie Chan.
I never thought I would want to do movies.
It just wasn't in my mind because it all happened by chance.
He's the one that yeah, I looked at and said yeah, that's how I wanted to move because I liked the realism in the comedy.
Like he would take a telephone and start using that as a steel whip and I loved that.
And I think in some of my films I tried to do that like take two frying pans and try to fight with them because I like that because it's real.
Sometimes you're not going to be carrying a weapon on the street and you have to use whatever is available.
There's a reason why we know who Jackie Chan and Jet Li and Jean-Claude Van Damme are but yet we don't know other actors from those regions because they do action.
No man, no law, no war can stop him.
Sylvester Stallone is back.
It took it to a new level because the stunt work was great and we had terrific crew.
We had great set design, we had Jack Cardiff on camera.
I mean it was Jerry Goldsmith's score.
Rambo - First Blood Part Two Rambo's theme by Jerry Goldsmith is absolutely the touchstone for me for '80s action.
Jerry Goldsmith is my all-time favorite composer and he always has been ever since I was a boy.
He really created a sense of heroism and humanity for Rambo and when I think of that it's immediate childhood.
They've got Rambo going back to Vietnam rescuing POWs.
In other words, he's atoning for the mistakes that were made beforehand.
Yeah, there's a big difference in that we see that sort of evolution to a branded character as opposed to an actor playing a character.
First Blood was an actor's role, the other was a Stallone vehicle.
So, why complicate your life and make those art movies and then go see how where you go, who buys it, whether you release it?
You make something that people want and that's what they wanted.
After the Rambo movies, it was an explosion. So that's all they wanted.
There's a Vietnamese officer and he's got his pistol out and he's nervous and he's firing.
He's firing at Rambo and he was trying to hit him.
He can't hit him.
Rambo meanwhile is just calmly pulling back on his bow, he's got a grenade tip arrow, he's pulling back on the bow and they keep cutting to this and he's got shaking and firing he can't hit him.
Rambo let's go of the bow and the grenade hits this guy.
There's an explosion and there's like human tissue flying.
The audience went nuts.
And I'm sure Stallone and the guys from Carolco, Mario and Andy were in audiences watching this also and they realized you know what?
We got to take a completely different direction with these Rambo films because they're loving this.
We didn't want the outgoing crowd to clash with the people coming in and we put them out the exits and immediately they joined the queue for a ticket for the next show.
My parents took me to see Rambo I think three or four times in the theater.
I mean we just went over and over again.
I believe it was the most successful movie the year that it came out.
Also, it had the most negative reviews of any movie.
The fact that Rambo 2, biggest success of the year.
Rambo 2 most negative reviews of the year.
Here's a guy who went against the grain in everything that he ever did.
Here's a guy who transformed himself, literally he chiseled his own body into this statuesque muscular specimen.
But he was very toned, the way he eats, how he exercised meticulously every day, every day.
I don't know how many times a day, how many hours.
This guy lives at the gym.
Have you ever seen a body weigh that much and be that lean at the same time?
How does a person do that?
He does not eat and only does juice and works out.
America needed a boost of confidence and what could be more confidence boosting than a muscular physical specimen?
The American audience with the help of Hollywood was looking to kind of elevate the feeling, the good feeling of being American but we are talking about the subtext.
We are not talking about the movies.
The movies were action movies except First Blood maybe.
Stallone goes off on this rant.
He's got a handicap; He's got a mental handicap.
This was an image that people had of Vietnam veterans throughout the '70s.
In First Blood you had a guy in a big baggy army coat come back looking for his compadres and found they've all died of Agent Orange, basically.
He's the last one left.
And the most of that movie is him in that big jacket acting scared, vulnerable, angry and at the end getting arrested and put away.
It was a real movie and it was really good.
Then you have the sequel.
Do we get to win this time?
This time it's up to you.
Now it's about the muscles. Now it's the superhero realm where it's almost like a fantasy the first John Rambo had.
He gets to go back and save all these buddies.
He's a powerful superhero.
It's no longer about losing the Vietnam War; It's about winning the Vietnam War.
And guess who loves it?
I'm reminded of a recent very popular movie and in the spirit of Rambo let me tell you we're going to win this time.
Ronald Reagan had this macho cowboy image about him.
But the world should know that this administration continues to attach the highest priority to the problem of those missing in action.
There was this renewed sense of patriotism in America. In terms of the response to the times, it was the Reagan era in the U.S., things were getting a lot more militant a lot more conservative, a lot more reactionary.
He's America's hero.
It's a good feeling being number one.
I have a photo of with Reagan holding something saying Rambo is a Republican.
It became even political.
So a lot of people copied it.
And even Arnold started doing like Commando and stuff like this.
Vietnam played a part in the Rambo series where it was about a veteran taking revenge for misdeeds.
So that had that whole Rambo had that whole Vietnam parallel but I mean Commando didn't.
But I was trying to get with the current day politics.
Now somewhere somehow someone's going to pay Barry Diller said he met Arnold at a party and was struck by how intelligent and charming he was nothing like the Terminator or Conan.
And he came into the studio he had just been made head of the studio and he said to Larry Gordon I just met Arnold Schwarzenegger, a charming guy.
He's nothing like those characters he plays.
If you can make a movie with him for ten million dollars, I'll greenlight it immediately.
And a week later, we were greenlighted with Commando.
When it came to like a Commando with Schwarzenegger that was designed as like a hero.
Somebody takes his daughter, he's going to be a hero.
That movie set the tone for action movies for years to this day.
I like the script because it had several levels of action and comedy.
Don't disturb my friend.
He's dead tired.
So, I said we have to put all of these laughs in the film like one liners, and the producer Joel Silver, he said, "That's fantastic because a pure action movie won't make as" much money."
The night before shooting I called Arnold and I said tomorrow's shooting you're going to walk across the street holding this guy with your two arms and then you hang him over the cliff as you're talking to him and you drop him.
And he goes, I can't do that.
I said what do you mean?
You're like the strongest man in the world.
You lift 400-pound weights and he says, "That's weights. Those are balanced I cannot carry" a man across the street and then hold him over a cliff and do a whole scene.
Remember Sully, when I promised to kill you last?
That's right, Matrix. You did.
To be honest, I don't think anybody knew that this would create the trend that it created.
You scared, motherfucker?
Well you should be, because this Green Beret is going to kick your big ass!
I was doing the next film that the producers were doing.
Joel Silver was Commando.
And he actually took me and introduced me to the director and the director said no, I've got somebody else I want.
The producer wanted him always because of Road Warrior and then he had done some Weird Science and other films with Joel Silver but then we found this other guy and then I never shot him but we did rehearsal one day and he was like oh, man we need somebody else.
And then it came well, we got to use that Road Warrior guy.
Vernon Wells is like the only one that could have played against him and it was odd because he was like in love with him but he hated him too.
He wanted to kill him but he was in love with him.
This character, this man wanted to be Arnold.
That was the whole premise.
He wanted to be number one.
When we did the scene I just had jumped on him and did that whole scene and when it was over Joel Silver said, "So what do you think?"
And he went, "Never give him a real knife."
He always says in all these interviews, he says he's the sweetest human being but say action and he turns into the biggest raving monster.
When that movie again out performed its domestic box office overseas that kind of woke up
20th Century Fox to this kind of movie and all the other majors as well.
It's so famous today.
Everywhere you go everyone has seen this film.
And so I think it did set off a whole genre.
A whole genre of this type of movies.
And I remember at the time Stallone and Schwarzenegger they had this rivalry.
Stallone was bragging on how Rambo made more money at the box office but Arnold said, quite wisely he said in the long run people are going to remember mine more.
Now they are very good friends but I'm sure in the old days there was some competition.
It was all about the muscles.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was the reigning champ of action movies.
Maybe it was Stallone, they were competing.
So, Stallone definitely upped the old...
I mean definitely that was because of Schwarzenegger.
Would he have gone to those lengths to get as big as he was if not for Schwarzenegger?
Maybe not but that was the way it was back then.
They grew together.
I made movies with both of them so I was happy with both of them.
Actually, I was going to make a movie with both of them in the same movie and it almost got made but then for somehow it didn't happen.
Can you imagine the stress on the set having this?
I remember quite vividly driving down I think it was Hollywood or Sunset Boulevard when I was six years old and seeing the largest billboard I've ever seen in my life for Cobra.
And that was a Warner Brothers pickup of a Cannon Film.
I remember my dad pointed it out.
He's like look at that, just look at that thing.
During my days younger people than the age that's supposed to be sneaked into theaters.
They bought, they got in.
I mean somehow they found a way to get in.
This is where the law stops...
And I start.
My co-writer Lenny Macaluso and I, we originally wrote The Touch with the movie Cobra in mind.
And it didn't get in the Cobra movie but the record label at the time Scottie Brothers they said we got The Touch in this movie called Transformers about these cartoon robots.
And we're like, what?
You watch any film from the '80s and the music is a big part of it, the soundtrack.
They worked out great so it turned out to be a real phenomenon.
This was a more innocent time.
We didn't have all these choices on your TV.
I think when the record labels realized what a lucrative potential promotional vehicle this would be first for music to get them in films, there was more of a scramble to get those slots.
And I think it became more competitive as time went on to get that big soundtrack cut.
The inspirational rock anthem kind of thing it started with The Touch and it became after that it seemed to be a good fit for me.
That whole like upbeat sort of believe in yourself thing to me is just great.
Kids need sort of, they need to have positive things in their lives.
It was a beautiful time to be a boy and to grow up during that period.
These movies were made for us.
The kind of aura that grew up around those films began to invent the whole geek culture.
We always kind of lay that at the door of Star Wars and that created it all.
But I think there was a kind of following certainly around the personalities of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Kurt Russell and their like that invented a kind of film fan and film cult.
That was a sort of kin to following a rock star and in that sense, you'd wear t-shirts and you had posters and you've got collectibles because that's what you did when he followed bands.
Shortly after Rambo 2 came out there were Rambo toys for an R rated film.
It makes sense to me.
What was the difference between Rambo and GI Joe?
Same thing basically.
We had more toys on that movie between the arrows, bandana, whatever was in the movie we had the figure of Stallone or the other characters.
They were selling like pancakes.
Rambo was actually a Saturday morning cartoon which was the craziest thing in my mind.
The fact that these toys were a little bit edgier as a kid and I was a kid when that was happening. I was psyched, I was like good, I can play with this stuff.
It's not too scary for me.
I don't need to play with a Smurf or something.
As someone who lived through that I found it very exciting and I didn't care at all that it was being marketed to me because I bought what I wanted.
It started in the '80s, there's the whole sense of high concept.
You're going out there to destroy them, right?
Not to study. Not to bring back, but to wipe them out?
I think in the beginning of Cameron's career there was something of a kind of surge.
As soon as The Terminator became a box-office sensation when it was really thought of it was going to be a horror movie that would last one weekend and suddenly everybody wanted to have lunch with him.
Suddenly he was kind of like, he got the clout to make Aliens.
He'd already written Aliens but now he got the clout to direct it.
He realized that it's the story of Ripley. It's not the story of an alien.
That's kind of almost coincidental.
It's not about these creatures at all.
It's about a woman and her journey.
This is kind of a theory about Cameron is that all of his films are really about the creation of the nuclear family.
All these films kind of end or with the kind of family sort of being put back together because I think he's kind of quite, sort of conservative about family life in that sense.
Hicks and Ripley and Newt as the daughter, you have a nuclear family again.
And that's inspired in the sense that everyone going in and watching these films can relate to that.
When I see it now just the technical, the practical effects, that's what's unbelievable how those stand up.
But it really comes back to the story and Jim's script and the actors and the ensemble work.
When she falls with the loader down into that sort of airlock and lands on top of the alien there's a moment where you see it under her and they didn't have the CG then that was a practical effect and it's just perfect, it makes it real when you see it in the airlock in that stark environment for the first time just exposed without flashing light.
It is squirming under her and because it's so starkly presented you go, "Get out of there!"
I love it.
It's one of my favorite moments in Aliens is the point where the guys have gone into the nest and it's just going wrong.
Shit is going down in the middle of this nest.
It's just fantastically directed.
Because you always can't figure it out if you see it on different screens and he's dropping out the heavens on these poor guys and Ripley takes over because Gorman can't deal with it.
There he's kind of flaking out and she just goes right and that's the moment she takes charge of the movie.
From now on I'm the only one who could deal with this.
That's brilliant but you don't even question it.
It's just about how brilliant the character is in that moment and how great the storytelling is.
With RoboCop I don't think that I wanted to do anything let's say innovating.
I didn't even think about American action movies.
I mean it was my jump from Soldier of Orange, Turkish Delight and Spetters into RoboCop was the adventure, shot completely different.
And on top of that I was very inspired by a movie that was one year earlier that was Terminator.
Ronny we have this film called RoboCop.
RoboCop -The Future of Law Enforcement But the script was kind of considered a joke and was not considered a really serious film.
I'd spent 15 years playing nothing but Mr. Super Nice Guy, good guy.
So if a role had any balls I never got it.
So I found it intriguing.
So, I went in and met with Paul and meeting with Paul then I realized that he had a vision for this film that made it the absolute special film that it became.
It was not to do something different.
I think the script was already different and the producer Jon Davison was already different than say a normal producer.
The script invited you to be different. It's not that I wanted to be different, the script ordered you to be different.
In retrospect yes, I can see that is different than other movies out at that time but I didn't know.
I exaggerated perhaps because I thought that you'd have a different style than American action movie.
That it should be partially light-hearted, that it should be a bit funny.
Paul grew up in World War 2.
He saw real violence.
And his whole concept of the violence in RoboCop is he wanted it to be so over the top that you got the joke immediately.
Violence is underestimated.
If you look at the paintings of the very famous English artist Turner, he has these battles, sea battles with explosions in them.
Then you could say violence close-up is horrible.
Violence from a distance is beautiful.
There is something like that into violence.
In the original concept it was so bloody in the first couple of frames that as an audience you'd say I get it. I get it.
This is where we are.
Because they had to go back to the censors God knows how many times.
They cut it back so much so that it finally got to where it was right on the edge of what you could stand and they made it the violence more egregious by doing it that way.
That's non artistic people trying to make decisions that they have no business making.
One of the most inspired movies perhaps together is a dutch movie like Turkish Delight.
The most inspired let's say shooting that I ever had.
That film to me is a triumph of Paul Verhoeven.
Thank you for your cooperation.
In 1987 they released The Predator and it was remarkable for a number of reasons.
One, it was at the height of the Rambo craze and the height of the craze over Alien.
Nothing like it has ever been on Earth before.
What kind of works about the Predator was just the brilliance of its high concept.
Yeah, it wasn't just an alien.
It was this chameleon alien.
We cannot see it.
But it sees the heat of our bodies.
Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator We've got this kind of gang of macho idiots that were all kind of rivals to one another.
Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura.
All these kind of ridiculous people who were more ridiculous than Arnold.
They made Arnold look like the straight guy.
But then you saw a film where Schwarzenegger actually went beyond and tried in that movie to really act.
And the result was a guy who was scared.
You saw Schwarzenegger for the first time ever express fear.
When we got to Puerto Vallarta which is where we shot most of it and went down to Palenque down by the pyramids, Arnold I think it was two ballrooms and he had two tractors and trailers bring gyms to those ballrooms.
They would get up at 3 o'clock run miles then come back to the gym, work out for an hour, an hour and a half, eat breakfast after that and go to the set.
I did it for a week and after that I just went to the set.
Rather than becoming just a daft film like Raw Deal or Commando even which I kind of cherished for their nonsense, Predator was kind of exciting.
I think that had a lot to do with McTiernan as a director.
Filmically I don't think there is anybody that tells stories better with a camera than John McTiernan.
He understands actors and brings the best out of you.
So, we were in good company.
He had a skill with taking the tenets of '80s action movies but giving them a kind of robustness.
Die Hard is great because there's something just robust about its storytelling.
It's kind of Cameron's skills in a way where he's so good at keeping a film going, going and going yet the story has a shape.
It just comes together as a thrill ride.
There's the humor in it, there's the strangeness of it, there's occasional moments where it breaks out and doesn't work like when he says stick around, at that point, it was not appropriate to do the traditionally branded Schwarzenegger lines.
It was also a good science fiction movie that you felt created a kind of world and a franchise that could be invested in its own right.
And so, it is kind of again mixed the kind of pleasures, the idle pleasures of the great
With something a bit more Alien-like and a bit more Star Wars even.
It had just a bit more weight to it.
You've got a movie that brings up the best and worst of the '80s.
It's a perfect slice of '80s, of what pulp does best.
It manages to avoid the pitfalls and it avoids the cheesy movies that it could have been.
What's interesting about Lethal Weapon was it kind of sort of swung the pendulum back slightly.
It took the basic tenets of comedy but did it with two sensibly straight actors.
The archetypes for me, the ones I draw from there more often something I read than something I saw in a movie which is good because it gives me this sort of little-known advantage.
It's a little knowing.
I mean anyone can read but so few actually do.
It's all there.
All the influences which are always two steps ahead of what movies are currently portraying.
All the sort of complex action-adventure private-eye.
All these sort of genre heroes.
You make those, you put those shapes in your head much more effectively when you combine movies with a library of stuff.
And since I was a kid I have been addicted to the retreat and the sort of isolation that books provide.
I look at Lethal Weapon as Dirty Harry, 48 Hours but it's more Ed McBain's 87th Precinct.
And what was fun about it knowing about it was that one of them was Mad Max.
I think thinking of Lethal Weapon is you could bring something of Mad Max, the spirit of Mad Max and in the presence of Mel Gibson it kind of just carried over.
I think we hadn't quite realized that Mel Gibson that he's a bit nuts, that he was quite highly strung and that it kind of works.
He's kind of cool as Mad Max but once you kind of let him off the leash a bit he's a bit odd and a bit edgy and discomforting.
But it was guys who were very vulnerable and the best ones even the toughest ones, the best parts of the films for me even Dirty Harry was where they were sort of in-between and vulnerable.
Where you saw that they're really good at their job but they're really fractured as people.
And that's what influenced me the most.
I think that's what encouraged me to make the Mel Gibson character in Lethal Weapon not just a really good cop but a fractured cop.
And you put him up opposite a weary aging kind of black cop in the brilliant Danny Glover and you have kind of everything would work.
Opposites, comedy, straight man, comedian.
I look back on it.
Do I remember the action scenes persay?
No, I can't bring them absolutely to mind.
There are great action sequences but I just remember their interaction and the way they played off each other more than anything.
And that's I think is just a great recalibration of the grand tradition of The Odd Couple.
Have you ever met anybody you didn't kill?
Well, I haven't killed you yet.
The Lethal Weapon franchise is interesting.
I did work with Donner on the first one.
The second one, I wrote a draft.
It was good, it was a fairly depressing draft and needed a bit of work but the work it needed was not so much the issue as the somberness of it.
That second one was very much in the realm of sort of the Dirty Harry of tough '70s driven more like Bullitt than Animal House.
They wanted like the Joe Pesci of it.
They wanted a lot more humor and I didn't dig that.
I thought it was going to be a feel-good fun ass movie and I thought well, it's not so much way kind of like a taut suspenseful thriller.
And that was where it parted.
It was part of it was I killed Riggs at the end.
I didn't have to do that.
They call that sending away the bread truck basically but in retrospect I was probably being a little too somber and too pretentious about it.
But it was enough for me to say look, I don't want to do this anymore.
I don't want a comedy. I'd rather do something different.
Die Hard is based on a novel called Nothing Lasts Forever which itself is a sequel to another novel by the same author called The Detective.
Interestingly enough, The Detective was a movie made, was Frank Sinatra produced and starred in I think in the late "60s."
Curiously enough because it was the same author and the same book series Fox had to offer Die Hard but under the title of Nothing Lasts Forever to Sinatra.
Fortunately, he said I'm too old and too rich to do this which is good because otherwise the chases in the building would be on Rascal Scooters.
Willis, that was an interesting choice.
He was a funny guy, there was a TV show, Moonlighting.
Casting him in Die Hard was brilliant.
I tried to make Bruce as grounded as possible.
I was already aware of the overworked overbuilt steroid muscular hero which becomes problematic who do you have to fight him?
After Schwarzenegger, Willis sort of started the more regular sized human being kind of action hero.
So, when I construct an action movie, the first thing I think of is the villain.
So, the protagonist of Die Hard is really Hans Gruber and the antagonist is John McClane.
And if you think about it that way in your mind you end up getting the cat and mouse chess game.
I do think that Die Hard still to my mind is one of the top five if not the best action films ever made.
It's exciting. The big sequences are great.
It's incredibly well plotted.
They have great characters, great actors.
McTiernan was the perfect director, Jan de Bont was the perfect cinematographer.
One of the best bad guys in film history which is incredibly important.
Alan Rickman which I thought was incredible.
But I talked about him many times saying this guy's talking too slow.
This is not going to work.
And it comes out on film and he's incredible.
Due to the Nakatomi Corporation's legacy of greed around the globe they are about to be taught a lesson in the real use of power.
And I also loved that sense of it being contained.
There is something about that if it's just all taking place in this one building.
You get the logic of it.
You get the sense of the challenge for the bad guy, the good guy and in the back of your mind for the writers and the filmmakers.
It's just how are they going to make this work?
Well, I think what happened post Die Hard is a lot of people did this Die Hard in it and it became shorthand for a movie pitch.
Not everybody did what we did which was have an ordinary guy.
So for example, Under Siege all you think he's an ordinary guy but it turns out he actually was a Navy SEAL who got demoted because he punched an officer.
Die Hard is one that if I'm flipping channels and it's on I'll say I'll wait, I'm just going to wait to the scene which they put in late in the game which is Hans Gruber going up and looking around and running into McClane.
And going oh, no, no, don't shoot me.
Oh, my God that scene.
I love that scene so much.
And then I end up watching the whole film.
In the late '80s I remember how huge some of these R rated films like Terminator 2 and Rambo 3.
I remember how big those movies were and how expensive they were.
Rambo is never looking for a fight.
You've got to force him to fight.
And that was one discussion that Stallone and I had about Rambo 3.
We've got this war going on in Afghanistan.
It's Russia's version of Vietnam.
There are bad Russians in Rambo 2.
Let's have Russians again.
But where are they causing a lot of trouble?
Where are they killing people?
Rambo's got to go to Afghanistan.
We had less luck I think on Rambo 3 because the political climate had changed.
I did mention to them when we were shooting Rambo 3 that Glasnost was happening and people were shaking hands and not killing each other but I was a little bit ignored about that.
First of all, Peter McDonald was not the director initially.
It was Russell Mulcahy.
Russell actually directed the film for I think the first couple of weeks before he got fired.
Sly was not very happy.
Rushes were dark or something.
Maybe the guy was intimidated by Sly.
I have no idea, I wasn't there.
I just came when the things started to happen.
And then we all got together and said okay, well, unfortunately he's not working with him but we're making the movie.
So, we have the second unit director which is Peter.
On Rambo 3 I was directing and photographing the second unit as I had done on Rambo 2.
During that period, I took over photographing the first unit for two or three days and they were quite well behind schedule.
Stallone asked me into his trailer which was big as a normal house and then asked me about taking over the film.
And I really was very dubious because I knew I was going to inherit the first film I was going to direct, was a totally out of control film.
So, I looked outside and saw all these people who were now going to be sacked.
So, I said well, I'd do it.
It's a pretty damn good movie and in retrospect so many people are saying that Rambo 3 is their favorite of all the Rambo movies.
Personally, I like Rambo 2 but back then they just felt that they had to hate it.
Sly did say to me do you realize this is going to change your life? And I said for better or for worse? And I'm still trying to work out whether it was for better or for worse.
It's been a while since there's been any good martial arts movies.
Sooner or later they're going to make a resurgence.
And then bang, Bloodsport.
Jean-Claude Van Damme came to our office and he just wanted a part in a movie.
Whoever came out any of the executives he would start doing his splits and somersaults and stuff.
And then Menahem Golan was the head of the company.
He said okay, we'll do Bloodsport.
I had been introduced to Frank Dux a few years earlier.
He was telling me these stories about this Kumite tournament that he participated in and he had an article that was in Black Belt magazine.
That's when he told me this competition used to get very bloody.
So, we had a nickname for it which is Bloodsport.
Somebody had suggested you should go check out this movie No Retreat No Surrender in which Jean-Claude played a villain.
He played Ivan the Russian was the name of his character.
And we were just blown away by the guy.
Frank Dux met Jean-Claude.
According to Frank they had some training sessions, he showed Jean-Claude a bunch of stuff.
I doubt it.
Jean-Claude knew far more than Frank ever knew.
In fact, Bloodsport sat on the shelf for about two years if I'm not mistaken before they finally released it because Menahem thought it was a terrible movie.
And actually, the first cut was really bad.
It was bad.
I saw the first cut with Jean-Claude.
We all saw it.
We all thought this movie's a mess.
And they brought in a guy they have like a film doctor but he basically recut the movie.
He allowed Jean-Claude to come in the editing room.
Jean-Claude helped a lot with the action scenes but until all that work was done the movie looked pretty bad and Menahem thought it was a piece of shit.
I'm quoting,"It's a piece of shit.
Jean-Claude is a loser.
Poison was his word for Jean-Claude.
This is before Bloodsport had been released.
It gets released and suddenly he does a complete 180 and now he wants to put Jean-Claude in as many movies as he can but he's only got a three-picture deal with him.
When I saw Bloodsport when I was 12-13 and that's an age where you kind of can work out between 12 and 16, you could kind of work out what you want to be like I think for the most part.
And for me it was seeing Bloodsport and realizing that that's what I wanted to do.
I was so inspired by Bloodsport and Van Damme I remember calling my mom in and saying look, watch this guy.
That's what I want to do in my life.
I want to do what he does.
A team is not a team if you don't give a damn about one another.
The reason that I made Best of the Best was something that was very close to my heart.
I represented USA in the 1980 Olympics in Korea.
There was five guys who made it and that experience was phenomenal for me.
I wanted to share that story into a movie.
And that's how Best of the Best was made.
I accepted that job in Best of the Best part one because I loved the script.
We choreographed those fights before we shot anything.
And Simon Rhee was basically the fight choreographer on all the movies.
And you did what Simon told you to do.
Simon says do this, do this, do this.
Wait, do this, just like that.
For me I wanted to be grounded.
Let's do our actions wide-shots so we can see the technique rather than go boom-boom-boom and keep it really tight and you don't see what the heck is going on.
I have never been more surprised to being a hit that big.
That was a giant smash of a hit.
Part 1 did really well.
Part 2 did phenomenally well.
Part 2 is okay.
Part 3 and 4 aren't very great.
I got a call from the Bob and Harvey Weinstein's company.
We want to do Best of the Best 3 and after that they called me back again and said, we want to do Best 4.
You write it, you direct it, you produce it and you star in it and we'll write you a check.
I am the only Asian American to ever write, produce, direct and star in a movie in America.
And that's a shame.
In the beginning at first, I was like there was always the guy that would come in and save the day and I would fight and then he would come in and save the day.
That was a little bit different as being the lead in the American pictures.
And it took until I think China O'Brien but then Lady Dragon and then when they realized that those movies were really successful and made a lot of money, I was the lead pretty much after that.
For me it was a glorious time as a teenager.
Every week go to the video shop and there would be a new China O'Brien or Blood Fist or whatever it was.
When we were shooting China O'Brien, I did find a big difference in shooting with Robert Clouse then shooting in the Hong Kong because remember, that's all I had was Hong Kong experience.
He wanted to do everything in one long shot and one long take and I was used to them doing that but coming in for close-ups.
Close-up of the foot to the head and this and that and we'd be like no, but wait, you have to come in and do the close-up of it.
And he'd go, "Bruce Lee didn't do that."
At that time, I think I was just as up there with everybody else.
My movies were making top money so I never I never felt inferior in the market.
Any Hong Kong movie that I did that's my favorite fight scenes.
On my films I think what I'm really proud of is actually Righting Wrongs or Above the Law.
The fight scenes were phenomenal.
The Chinese people really embraced me because they weren't used to seeing a white woman that could fight so hard.
And I remember the first day of filming we had an all-night shoot and it was in the airport scene of Yes, Madam! And it was very tough and it was brutal and I didn't know what to do so I just said I'm just going to do my best.
If I get hurt, I get hurt.
So, I gave it all and I think that first day it impressed everybody and the stunt people because they could hit me hard and I wasn't going to complain.
And they weren't oh, no, it's just that we don't have to put on the delicate gloves for her because she's a girl.
I think once they realized how tough I was and I could fight just as strong as the men I gained a lot of respect that day.
The idea of the female action hero I don't think quite took hold.
There's an interesting sort of like almost through sub-genre within the '80s which was created I think ostensibly by a decision Ridley Scott made in 1978 when he was filming Alien where someone said why don't we just make Ripley a female?
And they did this and this is really the key bit.
Obviously, Sigourney Weaver is amazing and the casting of her is important but I think what's really important is they didn't change a line of dialogue.
So, nothing about Ripley's dialogue was changed to make her female.
We know it's using the air shafts...
Will you listen to me, Parker?
She was pretty fierce.
I think it was a very empowering thing even for me to see a woman in a movie just be that effortlessly cool, intense and effective.
Never gave up.
Cameron drew a lot from that.
Yeah, he loved Alien.
I think he loved that idea that females could be tough.
Really it's her arc as she becomes Ripley.
She finds the facility to survive.
The transformation of Linda Hamilton from the victim to the hero was really shocking.
It's a chance to do the suspense genre but to channel something that was a little more rare going into the '80s or '90s which was a woman who was lethal, a woman who had the same sort of admirable yet frightening skills that we found in previously male heroes.
Being Vasquez was really an incredible opportunity.
When I was discussing with Jim about how I wanted to play her and I said well, she's not going to be likable.
There was this thing also like in the '80s especially in television where you had to relate to the character.
They had to be relatable and likable.
And I was like I'm going to play her who she is and how she is and I'm not going to be that way.
He said that's great.
I've got your back.
Don't worry about it.
There's of course, the situation of the male dominance that has been there for thousands of years, in fact.
When I grew up, when I went to elementary school, the women in the class were as clever or mostly better than I.
So, I have never seen a difference.
I thought basically yeah, they look different and of course, there is a certain bit biologically there is a difference clearly but here there is no difference.
For a long time in Holland by coincidence because how I started there were a lot of male parts because I like to work with Rutger Hauer.
And here in the United States at a certain moment basically there were female parts like the one of Sharon Stone and it moved to that direction.
So, I don't see the difference.
I think the pickings are slim as far as female action stars is because there's a stigma I think and it's that same old thing.
Well, women don't sell as good as the men or something like that.
There was a lot of pressure when we did the Long Kiss Goodnight and halfway through I had told some people what I was doing including various producers.
They'd say what are you working on?
I said this thing with a female protagonist.
And across the board they said dude, that's not...
If you want that to sell, can't you make them a man?
Why does it have to be a woman?
And I would explain sort of dichotomy of the woman who's desperately living that sort of housewife mentality to shield herself from the memory of the things that she can't abide.
They say well, just do it with a guy.
No... it didn't feel interesting if you put a man in there.
It had to be this woman.
As I got more into it, we got Gina involved.
It became a really powerful film that ultimately the critics who had said use a man, box-office wise they were probably right.
Story-wise they were wrong.
It didn't work with a man.
It was a perfect woman role.
It didn't sell.
Tango & Cash was an interesting experience because you had this diverse group.
Jon Peters producing Sly, Kurt and Andrei Konchalovsky directing who Andrei had directed a couple of good films but they were very different to what we were making.
And I had an office next to Andrei and I was sitting there with my assistant we heard Jon Peters outside the carpark shouting out to Andrei, don't forget you're making a buddy-buddy film.
And at the time Andrei's English wasn't that good at the time and he came to his Romanian assistant and said what is buddy-buddy?
Look up buddy-buddy.
And I thought well, we're probably in a bit of trouble here because it's a genre that the director didn't understand.
They went way behind schedule.
I mean I was the executive producer and directed the second unit.
The studio should've said after week two or three This is not working.
Instead of that they waited till week 14 just to say this isn't working.
And I said that we've only got two weeks to go I mean you're sacking Andrei with two weeks to go that's fairly stupid.
But they did and it was fairly stupid.
It was Jon Peters that made a suggestion about the end action sequence.
We had these great big earthmovers because he'd drive into the studio, he passed this earthmover working down the road and he said I want to hold a sequence with 12 of these.
I said but it cost five hundred thousand each maybe we can do it with less.
He had the idea of making it bigger.
Sly and Kurt wanted to make it a more thoughtful film and I think it was Jon that wanted to make it a more kind of wow this is a biggest action film in history.
The film worked okay.
It could have been better but what film couldn't be better?
And I think it made them money.
And there was always talk about making another one which in a way is quite good because there is a good chemistry between Kurt and Sly and I must say Kurt's a charming guy and very easy to work with.
He made life so much easier.
Early '80s Arnold wanted to do Total Recall.
But Dino refused.
Company of Dino there went, let's say, bankrupt or something like that, Arnold's basically called Mario Kassar and said buy the script.
I took that movie because of the ambiguity.
Get ready for a surprise.
I think the idea that you don't know if Arnold is dreaming or if it's true, it felt postmodern.
There is two realities and they don't even compete with each other.
They are next to each other.
That was a funny thing about Total Recall.
It felt like the lowest low-budget film I've ever made.
They cut so many corners.
At one point they called me up and they said Ronny this is an expensive film.
I said everybody's agreed to fly down to Mexico in coach.
Are you telling me that Arnold Schwarzenegger is flying coach?
They said well, no, not Arnold.
So, I said well, no, not Ronny.
Obviously, they were spending a lot of money on the screen and those are the biggest most wonderful sets at that time.
The technology was not nearly what it is today so it can take you a day to get a shot.
We were really very hard trying to make the script true both ways.
That it would be a dream and he is still in the factory and at the end of the movies he is basically wiped out or he is a really a wonderful guy that basically is abused by Cohaagen the bad guy.
But finds out his humanity and at the end save the world, the world of Mars.
These two things they're true too.
You never know if it's real or not.
Arnold put his stamp on the movie so much I've never seen that basically.
And all for the good.
Always on my side, always preparing.
If production was basically difficult and that they didn't want to pay because the scene was too expensive, Arnold would say-I want the scene.
Paul Verhoeven was making Total Recall then I thought which was the most exciting Schwarzenegger movie ever and Cameron was going to turn up and make one that was twice as good and twice as expensive and twice as Schwarzenegger than ever before.
When I decided to go ahead with Terminator 2, I got so much flack from you name it.
The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, CNN, I'm going to bankrupt Caralco, I'm crazy, I'm overspending you name it all...
Success has many fathers.
At the end it was a big hit they all said of course.
Terminator 2 was a classic example where that felt like a great use of money.
When you went to see T2 you felt like okay, they took what was already a great movie and made something that was so much bigger they're both great movies but arguably better.
That never felt like a waste of money to me.
Everyone expected a sequel sooner and then after a while people started to learn about Mr. Cameron and he takes time between things.
And then he had this inspired idea of can I get one better than the T-800 the Arnold one?
How do I make a worse one?
Then he created this idea of the liquid metal and then he had to figure out how to make the liquid metal.
James did something very, very smart and very expensive.
He perfected the special effects and showed me a reel of the special effect that you see in the movie before we start really shooting.
So, we spend I don't know how many millions of dollars in doing the chrome guy, the finger that goes like this.
Then the guy that comes out from the floor and when you start seeing all this you say oh, my God this is going somewhere amazing.
What expanded with Terminator 2 was not just the level of action and the level of excitement there's also going to be a special-effects revolution as well.
And when I saw the T-1000 and I came up with this stuff that kind of almost made you nauseous when you listen to it because I felt like the visual was so groundbreaking that the music had to meet that bar and not be any cliché of music that we know because we're now seeing something we've never seen before.
Which is I wanted to disorient the audience somewhat.
It was like these weird samples of brass sections backward and upside down that I was stretching out and playing with.
So that you kind of got this woo because like all of the sudden reality isn't reality.
It's like you go to do something and you go right through it but it's not a ghost it's a thing that can kill you.
What I love about Terminator 2 is the characters and the humor.
The idea of Arnold Schwarzenegger sort of being a good terminator.
It's definitely you.
If I ever sat alone in a room with Cameron and say Avatar is great and all that and you're doing such amazing things but you're the guy who flew a helicopter under a freeway bridge and you've not bettered that.
In some ways Terminator it's kind of like the cusp, isn't it?
It's the kind of culmination of the great '80s era.
It was '91, I know that.
Yeah, it's the point where all the '80s stuff had done as much as it could possibly do and you can feel the kind of the move toward CGI and Jurassic Park or things that were just around the corner.
So it's a film almost to be celebrated as the last great hurrah but at the same time it's just another wonderful piece of storytelling.
There was a period of time where the John Woo style was very prevalent.
I think John Woo had a huge impact on me and Adam Leff.
I remember watching The Killer and just thinking oh, my God, this is better than any Hollywood action movie because we thought this is really the kind of action, this is just better. In terms of the stylization of the action and the way it was shot.
Everyone I knew in Hollywood was watching those movies.
One of the executives at Warner Brothers they said why do you want to use this guy?
They don't even shoot sync sound and they kind of disrespected John at that time.
So, then Universal swooped John Woo and he made Hard Target with Van Damme.
So, Van Damme, he went through this period where he was the guy bringing in these Hong Kong directors right?
John Woo, Ringo Lam, Tsui Hark.
He was sort of the guy to bring them to Hollywood and it made perfect sense because obviously martial arts is a big part of it.
Not so much with John Woo funnily enough.
But that style, it stuck around.
It really did influence Hollywood for a period of time.
I kind of discovered Roland Emmerich when he was down in my building, he did a movie called... a very small movie, I don't remember.
It's a very futuristic movie that cost nothing that he did.
And I wanted to meet him after I saw the movie and I met him and he's a wonderful guy very, very smart and very creative.
I had this screenplay called Universal Soldier where I managed to put Van Damme who came to Canne and said Mario I want to make a movie with you at the right time, right?
So, I get the screenplay with I needed two guys they were all presented by the same lawyer.
Jake Bloom who was our lawyer at that time.
He was very nice and very helpful.
I said look I want to try to put Jean-Claude and Dolph together in this movie and I'm going to have this German director Roland Emmerich do it.
And it was actually the first big hit of Van Damme that costs a certain amount and from then on of course, he became more and more famous and more expensive and it worked.
So, that I did it not because I wanted to be in the sci-fi movies but that was the story that I liked about it.
I am in the original Universal Soldier but you need the pause button to see me.
It's in the early part.
It's in the Vietnam flashback.
It's Jean-Claude and I in the foxhole and I run off and I guess I get blown up and put on ice and come back eight years later as the bad guy, as Seth.
I guess you can look at it like that.
Studios are making pictures for the largest common denominator of people.
They want to get as many seats in that theater and paid seats as they can.
Now they need the date crowd, they need the women to come with them into the theater.
Maybe younger audience.
The original cornucopia the studios were chasing was the foreign box office which liked the R rated hard action movie.
Bloodshed, action, mayhem and a plot that is not dependent on dialogue.
They saw what happened with the Ninja Turtles that appealed to everybody.
Hey, there's toys and hamburgers to be had here but they have to feature PG-13.
Let's rein that back in.
And there were the franchise elements, there were the books and hats and t-shirts and cups and mugs and in some of the cases almost made as much money sometimes as the movies.
I mean it started as me saying to my writing partner Adam we should do a reverse Purple Rose of Cairo.
Where a kid goes into a movie and it's an action movie and we get to live out all of our fantasies as fans.
And the idea that you as a fan by knowing the genre would actually have a huge advantage just seemed to me who wouldn't want to see that movie that just seems like exactly what I would have wanted to see when I was younger?
I mean I was only 22 at the time.
I think you could definitely say that Last Action Hero turned into the classic snake that eats its own tail.
It definitely was a weird moment to be parodying certain people and then have those people take over the movie.
It was a chance for us to step in and take this sort of basic idea of lampooning the current action genre.
But I wanted to take it a little further now.
Eventually the writers of that script that originated, they didn't like what we did.
And they were pretty vocal about not liking what we did and that's fine.
Then something fun happened which is someone did what Zack thought we did to his script that got done to our script.
Then we said hey we don't like it because it got taken away from us.
It became less about suspense, adventure, detective stuff, cop stuff and more just about a big world of movies with dinosaurs and things like that.
In other words, the spectacle of just movie world as opposed to cop movie world.
Sort of overwhelmed.
I think a lot of problems probably came out later in the process too but I do think there's something to be said for two total movie buffs writing this movie where we love that genre.
We thought we didn't sit there and say Commando this is so stupid.
We thought it was awesome.
Whereas I think for McTiernan and then for Shane and for a lot of those people they had kind of gotten tired of this stupid version of what they...
I mean Shane writes the smart version of those movies, right?
I mean Lethal Weapon is the smart buddy cop.
It's the better buddy cop movie.
There's a lot of crappy ones, he writes the good ones.
I think with Last Action Hero even when I first saw it, it's not like there aren't a whole bunch of great moments in the movie.
I mean there's a couple left over from our draft but there's also the dogs that form a pyramid and everything with Charles Dance is great.
I've just shot somebody, I did it on purpose!
It is very hard for me to watch it at the time because I really had no idea what I was getting into.
I was at the premiere and afterwards there was this bubble of silence and...
It was the only time I went to a premiere back then of something I'd written and I just went I'm not that excited.
I'm glad I did it but... great party.
We went into there they had Kiss playing and they had like giant statues and all the food you can eat but this is good food.
I'm glad we made that movie because I'm having a great snack but meanwhile no one's talking about the movie, no one liked it.
There's so many people who love the movie and there's so many people who at least acknowledge one thing that I even felt at the time was this is a deeply weird movie.
This is one of the weirdest big-budget movies that anyone's ever made and the fact that people appreciate that now is hard for me to...
I'm not going to dissuade someone from feeling that way.
And I do think it's aged much better than people expected.
If my twenty billion dollars are not delivered, the hostages will die.
I don't think so.
Capcom executives are coming to Hollywood.
They're having a round of meetings with producers all over town looking for someone to make a movie out of their successful game, Street Fighter 2.
Do you understand?
Do you know this?
I said yeah, my kids have put like their college fund into that coin-op machine.
Can you have a story to tell them, an approach to this movie in three days?
With this like crazy schedule stuff like that I'll only take this assignment if I can direct the movie as well.
So, I don't want to do another tournament movie.
So, I came up with more of a G.I. Joe In other words, people have said to me since then you actually made the first G.I. Joe movie.
I just decided that General Bison was the ideal person to be the villain.
I'm looking at the cast of characters and since the characters were all international fighters, I thought they'd come together because the UN goes too and then it rolls for everybody.
So, I pitched this to them in the meeting and they go crazy.
And they were on the same wavelength.
They showed me a sketch of Bison's underground base with missiles and stuff.
So, I inadvertently pitch them something they were thinking of doing.
But anyway, they had a budget in mind, so the first couple names on their list Stallone, Schwarzenegger, the obvious choices, they were unaffordable.
And then they said Van Damme and can we afford Van Damme?
We go well, probably but he has his accent.
And they go, what accent? Because they're only hearing him dubbed.
Isn't there a danger putting Van Damme in the movie that people are going to expect an R-rated movie?
Because you wanted it PG-13.
So, that was nagging me but they were adamant about that.
I mean I completely understand why Van Damme did Street Fighter at the time.
It was a massive payday and it was a big property.
It was a big film.
Everyone's going to go and watch it.
For General Bison our first choice was Stephen Lang who was the wonderful villain in Avatar and he came in and read for us.
He was phenomenal but the Japanese they were really into this marquee value and Raul Julia was a much bigger name and as it turned out his children played the video game.
So, he knew it and he said all right I'll do a popcorn movie for my kids.
Right before the movie came out the censorship board even though I without doubt had done a PG-13 movie they rated it R. You cannot advertise toys for an R-rated movie on Saturday morning television.
I had to start cutting back on the fights on the impact on any blood.
We turned it in again.
It was rated R again.
So, now we cut deeper into the fights and we turn it in and they rated it G.
Like oh, my God, that's the kiss of death in another way because no teenager is going to want to see a G-rated movie.
That's a Disney rating.
So, I had Jean-Claude come back in and give me one wild line.
Where he said...
Four years of ROTC for this shit.
And then we submitted again and they go we have to give you a PG-13 now with that curse word.
It was a very profitable movie and made over a hundred million dollars.
It's only one of two Van Damme movies that broke a hundred million dollars.
That and Time Cop.
It wasn't the best film.
I think most people agree especially as a fan of Street Fighter.
It's very different to what the original concept is for Van Damme to do that it didn't put it past him at all.
He's like yeah, you got to go for it.
It's a big payday, big film.
It's a bit more for the kids.
Go for it.
You've made me a happy man.
Next, I make you a dead one.
True Lies is almost the exception that proves the rule I think in Cameron's films.
I'm sure it was sold in as what if James Cameron directed a Bond movie with Schwarzenegger in?
What would it be like?
It's the one he didn't originate.
So, it came through Schwarzenegger.
It was a Schwarzenegger project and I think he persuaded Cameron to do it.
I think he came into it almost like a director for hire and I think that kind of interested him.
So, it's a slight anomaly in terms of his career as a whole.
I think that counts tonally as well that it's got this sort of comic spy edge to it.
It has this kind of really interesting Jamie Lee Curtis sort of subplot or you could say plot.
Obviously, she's the wife of Schwarzenegger secret agent, there's no idea what he does.
So, it's a domestic problem.
Again, we come back to Cameron's sort of fascination with the family unit.
True Lies I think it was, I had to pitch.
I had to really sell him on it.
He did hire me before I presented any of the music.
He and I had never done an orchestra score together.
We thought about orchestra on T2 but we didn't have the time and we decided that we liked what we were getting on True Lies ironically going back one notch.
I think what got me that job was Striking Distance.
The orchestra sounded really good. I said, well, yeah, okay. So I now realized okay, he needed a solid thing.
So, it's kind of an unusual pleasure I think True Lies.
It's sort of you come back to it and think I forgot about this one.
And it's got that slightly sort of buoyant silliness about it.
It's the kind of, it was that period where Schwarzenegger began to get lines and he kind of thought himself as more of an actor and you kind of have to come and go with that.
And he's alright, he's fine... we have problems with contractions again and you know?
It's got horses riding into elevators, we've got stuff blowing up, it's got Harrier Jump Jets.
He doesn't stint on any of the Cameron stuff.
You got to be totally sold on what you're doing.
You can't be a step back kind of going ha ha about it.
Even though there's James Bond-ish things it wasn't a spoof.
It was his movie True Lies with that story and he was having fun with it.
The studios decided rather than getting these bodybuilders and martial artists like Seagal
and Van Damme and trying to turn them into actors, why don't we hire actors and teach them how to do some of this action stuff and use doubles?
They called me in at 20th Century Fox to talk about a movie called Speed.
Why are they messing with me?
Do they think I'm doing this for fun?!
Speed's script first went around the sort of nickname for it was Die Hard on a Bus and to which I said fantastic.
Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed.
If it drops below 50, it blows up.
And so, it was an inspiration for Speed.
That said, I had been playing with that idea for years even before Die Hard came out.
And it was something that my father had told me about that there was a script that Kurosawa had written about a train that couldn't slow down or blow up.
That became Runaway Train.
I saw that movie.
Andrei Konchalovsky's movie.
It's pretty good but I thought hey, it would be better if there was a bomb because in Runaway Train they just can't get to the brakes.
If it was a bomb and if it was a bus.
We were trying to find a lead for Speed and then someone at the studio said what about Keanu Reeves?
And he was very young.
We didn't know for sure and then we met him.
He's like 6'2".
He was lean, he already had the cool haircut.
He hadn't bulked up yet but he was riding a motorcycle.
I was like he's cool and he had done Point Break.
So, we knew he could run around with a weapon and do stuff like that and hopefully we could make it a little less sort of over the top.
I was speechless like you're talking about the guy that was in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure...
I am the Duke of Ted!
Is going to play a cop in this action movie.
Is that the best we can do?
Well, how wrong was I, OK?
In the first drafts of Speed there was a whole thing I tried where you find out that his partner who was eventually played by Jeff Daniels is actually the one who's doing things and it's a big twisty twist thing and it ultimately didn't work.
The reason I done that is because I didn't think having Jack go up against someone who and if they had no contact really except on the phone if there was no personal thing it wouldn't be that interesting and I just neglected to think that if you cast Dennis Hopper it's going to work great.
I think Speed showed that you could have a cast that didn't have big stars in it but that the movie itself would be the star.
I think when Hollywood realized that they could cast somebody like Nicholas Cage in something like The Rock. I think when that happened around that that time the Jerry Bruckheimer type film the Simpson Bruckheimer movies, these movies forsook the action stars, the real action stars, the bodybuilders the guys whose acting was a little rougher around the edges.
Maybe we can do, we can have Nick Cage in The Rock which is one of my favorite I'm not always a huge fan of Michael Bay films but that one I love and it's got Nic Cage and Sean Connery and it's like this is pretty awesome.
One thing you'll notice with a lot of those characters and those actors is they've got a sense of humor.
And Nic Cage oh, my God. He was a comic actor, he knew how to do that.
So, you get that guy in the lead and I think you're probably rooting for him more than you are for someone who's huge.
I was called in by Jake Bloom who I had a three-picture deal with.
He told me, Matthias you might as well give up.
And I said, what do you mean?
What do you mean it's over?
It hasn't even started.
Oh, no, I told the same to Schwarzenegger, Stallone.
You guys are done.
It's the Keanu Reeves, it's the Brad Pitt's, it's the other guys now.
It's not you anymore.
It did seem like the very specific tropes of the kind of loosely cop or military based action movie were starting to wear themselves out.
These guys weren't able to sustain a career in theaters.
Arnold's movies didn't make any more money.
Stallone's movies didn't make any more money because they were too expensive to make.
I remember seeing a test screening of Eye See You years before it came out.
It had a disastrous test screening.
It was Stallone's big comeback after Copland.
People cheered when he came on screen.
By the time that movie was over people were cursing in the lobby. Just a handful of years before with stuff like Rambo 3 the biggest movie of all time at that that period just a few years later he was in this movie that it was junk.
Stallone and Van Damme started using stunt doubles a lot once they moved into that straight-to-video era just because they didn't feel that what they were doing on-screen was appreciated as much as it used to be when you'd see it in thirty-five-millimeter on a big screen, slow motion.
Yeah, that's Van Damme.
He's really doing that.
Remember digital effects have it big.
That's a very important part of the story.
Because what you saw was a transition from a time where the best that Hollywood could deliver in terms of spectacle was makeup and stunts and certain types of action to we can do anything.
I remember when the Matrix came out and thinking to myself okay finally Hollywood have figured out how to do it right.
This is how you shoot a fight sequence.
You do it the Hong Kong way and here we're seeing it in the Matrix.
And it's glorious.
But now we've found a way to especially with all the comic-book movies to take an Oscar-winning actor, a top actor in the game and give him enough skills to look believable as an action star whether that's putting a stuntman in a superhero suit or whether it's taking them for six months, three months and putting them in a grueling training regimen to get them up to standard to be able to do stuff in camera like Keanu Reeves does Charlize Theron.
They figured out how to make anyone look competent.
Even Arnold when he came back after Batman and Robin and Jingle All the Way.
What the heck was he doing in those movies?
His big comeback was End of Days.
It was just such a grim time to be a real action star because all these actors were coming in and starring in action movies.
And how far could the Schwarzenegger thing go without it becoming self-parody to a point where it was sort of self-damaging?
Maybe we just got tired of that testosterone massive bulging chests period that we celebrated
for such a long time.
I always say it's the death of the superstars.
There aren't that many anymore because there's too many nothing's.
There are too many TV shows, too many nothing's.
How do you stand out?
There's something about being on a big screen and your eyes are this big and people can see the soul of you.
You can't hide that from people.
So, you're either real or you're not.
That's the problem with a lot of these new guys.
They can't stand up to that.
I mean the Bourne movies.
I think Doug Liman had a lot to do with the changes in action movies.
That he was going to do handheld action.
I remember him, he actually told me that and I thought he was crazy but then I saw the movie was like okay, you were totally right and I was wrong.
This is what's sad.
Bourne which was echoing Bond, there was the new version of Bond was so successful that Bond started emulating Bourne.
That whole thing with the shaky cam which I hated with a passion but that was a way of disguising the shortcomings of the performer and saying okay this is your new action star.
You just can't see what they're doing.
And Expendables was the first time and done so cleverly where it made sense to have like a Chuck Norris and an Arnold because their personalities come with it.
I remember at that point maybe he'd done three films with...
No, four films with Jean-Claude and I was his henchmen on Expendables 2 and we're there with Stallone and Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis.
And I remember looking at Van Damme and I could see that he was more nervous than me.
It was nice to see that from him to be honest.
A little bit of vulnerability and that sort of in that moment because it was a big deal for everyone to be on those films.
Even Stallone and Arnold you know?
It was not lost on them the fact that all these action stars had to come together for one film.
When the Expendables came out and I was like, "How come I'm not in there?"
I should be in there.
You have all these guys in there.
Are you kidding me?
Why am I not in there?
Because I was the top female then in the '80s and '90s.
Executives are going to hire somebody for their popularity and it's just going to be like oh come on, we're not buying that.
There's a lot of movies with names that did not make it.
So, there's no more the star system that was in the '70s and '80s.
I think that's done.
Well, the big change has been you don't do the stunts for real anymore and the CGI has changed them entirely.
I think they can almost cut the stunts out because the fact is special effects can do so much stuff, they can make nothing look great.
Yes, we can do anything now with the computer but in the back of your mind you know when it's real and when it isn't.
The Fast and Furious franchise is the most surprising franchise of all time.
There's just no way anyone could have predicted.
Every like last hope of classic '80s action movies to me is in the Fast and Furious because all of these things of the countdown and the thing and the missiles going to go.
All that stuff you don't see that in other films.
That pretty much is gone.
I'm glad that we're getting the last gasp of the vitality that guys like Stallone and Schwarzenegger still have and possess a little bit.
I mean look at Arnold if you're smart enough he's 70 some years old and he's still involved in The Terminator series.
You somehow have to find an angle how you fit into it.
I would argue that Terminator is one of those like the Matrix and like X-Men, the nature of the idea allows the universe to keep expanding.
Bruce in these Die Hard sequels is getting more formidable.
You know Die Hard, what's tough about it is it's a premise about a character who finds himself in an unlikely situation.
If he keeps finding himself in that unlikely situation it becomes increasingly difficult to keep that premise going.
So, the character is getting older but he's getting more indestructible.
I was at one point approached and I wrote a very extensive treatment with my friend Chuck Mondry of Lethal Weapon 5.
Never really kicked off but I like it.
I still keep it.
Some people ask to see how would you do it?
I said well look at this it's 63 pages as a treatment read it God damn it.
If someone right comes along and tomorrow comes and knows how to do Aikido it could be another Steven Seagal being born.
It always has to be that guy that knows how to capture the audience.
People are finally aware of who Scott Adkins is.
Scott Adkins for example is a great martial artist.
One of the best I've seen.
And I think that's the allure about Scott is that he can get up and do entirely all of his stunts and do some incredible kicks and fight sequences, choreography that make people watch the film and tell their friends about it.
When I first started, I'm talking about independent lower-budget sort of action movies but when I first started you had about seven weeks to make a film.
It was difficult but you could do it and now that seven weeks is shrunk to about four weeks, sometimes three.
And that for me is the most difficult part about being an action star as it is in today's world.
Scott Adkins, myself, Tony Jaa, we're finding our way.
Well, Scott and Tony are like my brothers and I'm very connected to Scott.
I'm just super proud every time I see him doing stuff and I'm glad that he's producing and getting involved more in front and behind camera.
He's kind of like my big brother really.
Someone I look up to and can ask advice.
He's very wise guy.
He's been in the industry a long time.
Tony is such a beautiful spirit.
He's probably the most person that's closest to the exemplary idea of what a martial artist is then anyone else I know.
The things that I love about Jason Statham and Gerard Butler are again their charm because both of those guys can kick ass and do great stunts but they also are funny.
The Rock is incredible.
I mean he's a guy that you'd think that this guy is so big and whatever he can do whatever you want to do.
But he's like one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.
Somebody should have had a word with the Rock about ten years ago when he'd lost all of his muscle because he was obviously thinking maybe this muscle thing is not good anymore Maybe I'm too big to make it in Hollywood.
Well, he has changed is his tune now, hasn't he?
When he did Pain and Gain wow, he went big again and he stayed that way ever since.
I want Dwayne Johnson to just make his R-rated movie.
I want to see him make his Commando, his Rambo.
He doesn't have a touchstone movie.
I mean present-day there's the Deadpool's which cost a lot of money.
They don't cost probably as much as an Avengers does but they cost a lot to make and they are are as R as you can get.
I like The Raid.
I like The Raid 2.
Again, these movies are not for everybody though.
Raid movies are borderline horror films.
I mean there's so bloody and just taxing on your spirit after a while.
Like Commando you can watch with your dad, your grandfather, your son and your wife or your girlfriend.
You can't watch The Raid with those people.
You got to watch The Raid by yourself or with your like your buddy.
I think you are seeing a return to R-rated action movies.
I think obviously Taken was one of them but John Wick...
I mean John Wick is I would argue kind of a better version of an '80s action movie in that you could pitch the first 30 minutes of John Wick and grab somebody's attention.
And the action is so different than the action in other movies.
I look at Keanu Reeves and what he does in the John Wick films and the Matrix and other movies, action films, and because I'm someone that does it, I understand how hard it is.
And I can see the hard work that he puts into it.
If Keanu Reeves can pull off John Wick other people can pull this off too but why can Keanu Reeves pull it off?
It's not that Keanu Reeves even has a muscle but Keanu Reeves is so super cool.
The true action stars of today are something like Keanu Reeves and Tom Cruise and he's literally putting his life on the line, Cruise.
I mean, you got to respect that.
He might not be as physically capable as Jet Li or Van Damme but man, he is hanging off the side of planes, right?
A couple of the big action directors nowadays started out being stunt doubles.
Chad Stahelski who's directed the John Wick movies he was a stunt double for Keanu Reeves.
Also, David Leitch was Brad Pitt's stunt double for years and he was also the stunt double for Van Damme.
They're both directing huge movies now.
David's did the Deadpool sequel and they basically know how this shit works.
It's not clear to me what the kids think about this.
What a teenager now thinks about Stallone and the Rocky's and the Rambo's and Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator that's about to come out, the new one.
For you and I, we remember the glory days of action cinema.
It's full on, pulls no punches, gory, violent.
I miss those movies man.
It's because I fell in love with these guys the first time we saw them.
Above the Law.
He came out of nowhere.
What a beautiful talent he had and he was different than anybody else.
And even though over time their skills or their appearance may have degraded a bit, I mean we look at Steven Seagal today he's not the same guy we remember but he still has that skill and it's still worth watching.
The action movies of the '80s the ones that are memorable they had a little more plotting, more twists, more plausible villains and nowadays I think people are emulating just the stunts and not looking at the underlying material.
Well, I think the films of the '80s I think they came from old-school heads who they knew story arc, they knew character arc and built on that, they put action there that was organically motivated by the story.
I find more today that the action motivates the story, not the story motivates the action.
The question is do you care about anybody that got shot?
That's the real question.
But today I don't know if you get shot...
I like that special effect. That was great but do I care about you?
Today's generation just seem like they don't care what's out there.
I'm going to go see it.
We're still hopefully grasping to that feeling we have when we watch those movies for the first time as kids.
I can't compare anybody nowadays to Stallone and Schwarzenegger.
These guys aren't meatheads even though the people seemingly, one of the sophisticatos want to like kind of downgrade someone.
No, these are the smartest dudes in the room and they will whoop your ass.
That's why they're cool.
That's why they'll always be around.
That's why those guys will be in wheelchairs and still doing it.