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Interview with Steve Tartalia : another gweilo bites the dust
Current career 1/1 - Page 3
Author(s) : Arnaud Lanuque
Date : 16/10/2005
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
Sophia Crawford
Hung Yan Yan
Lau Kar Wing
Jet Li
Robert Tai Chi Hsien
Tsui Hark
Yen Shi Kwan
Yuen Biao
Yuen Clan
Movies :
Charlie's Angels
The Matrix
The Transporter
Companies :
Film Workshop
Lexic :
Hung Gar
< Previous
Page 2 : Filmography
Special Thanks to Steve Tartalia for his time and patience.

Good luck for his Hollywood carreer.

once upon a time in china

HKCinemagic : It's certainly your most known work in HK. How did you get the part of Tiger? Were there any instructions from Tsui Hark on how you were supposed to play the character?
S T : Lau Kar Wing, was the original action director. He auditioned me for an hour on the grass in front of ‘Film Workshop' – combinations and reactions, a little acro…that kind of thing. I remember thinking, I better look familiar with southern style as he and his family are famous for their ‘Hung Gar' so I ‘Tigerized' an Eagle set at the beginning of my audition, I guess he got me in. Tsui Hark never really directed me in person so much. He seemed very occupied with ‘the big picture' I wish he had.
HKCinemagic : Was there any attempt from the action directors (the Yuen Clan) to design the action according to your character, and thus using more English boxing rather than kickboxing?
S T : I knew going into the first fight in the French restaurant that I was to throw out the kung fu and prepare for ‘Old English style'. Although I'm not versed in queen's English boxing by any means I felt ok that I would give it a good go. But I tried all week before filming to try on and fit the boots and clothes, and rehearse a bit in advance, but to no avail. When I got to work on the day, I was gutted to find that the boots I had to wear were way to small at size 7 (American) to my size 10 inches... I was told that ‘no matter what' I'm wearing them. When I got in them finally, I could barely walk let alone fight and was in a very bad mood. When It came time for my work with Jet Li, They danced it out, then I rehearsed maybe twice quickly with (I think) DeeDee and Hung Yan Yan and then we shot it twice and they moved on to the rest of the whole day restaurant fight. I wasn't happy at all. Later when I saw it for the first time, I was mortified! I believe if the Yuens were on this from the beginning they would have spent a little time on lesser characters …like mine.

Yuen Biao Vs Steve Tartalia in OUATIC
HKCinemagic : You were supposed to fight Jet Li at the end. How were you told about the final change (fighting shortly Yuen Biao) and how did you feel about it?
S T : Philosophical. I was cooked with immigration at that moment as the authorities knew I was working illegally in films and Film Workshop didn't see fit to sponsor me… Time to get well hung and die! I left Hong Kong very shortly afterwards.
HKCinemagic : What are your own memories of the shooting of the film and what do you think of the final result?
S T : Best of times: Watching in awe as Jet threw a 720 revolution butterfly spin during rehearsal (see picture) for waterfront opera fight. Many moments like that throughout my time on set.

Worst of times: Great moments of working on a big epic punctuated by long stretches of not working (nor being allowed to work elsewhere by contract). A sense in the air of impending doom with the upcoming China takeover, film companies shutting down all around. No more work for gweilos.

Honestly, I had no idea at the time that O.U.T.I.C. would be the Classic that it instantly became upon release and will be for all time along with most of the series. It was a big gamble by Tsui to go against the entire modern gangster/hate/revenge/comedy genre's and take a fresh approach to a ‘republic period' hero story. Yen Shi Kwan reluctant relationship to Yuen Biao's character was very emotional. Many subtly nuanced relationships, fast and hard Kung fu with some nice floaty wirework made it a great film. Love it. Wish my work in it were better though…


Jet Li Vs Steve Tartalia in OUATIC

Move to the US and nowadays career

HKCinemagic : What motivated you to leave HK and go back to the USA ?
S T : My funds were running low and an escort to the airport by HK immigration sort of sped up my departure...Hah!... it was time to leave anyways as there was no more film work period.
HKCinemagic : Did you find what you learned in HK useful for your career of stuntman and action director there?
S T : Yes. After coming back and taking a break for awhile I hooked up with a film grip/rigger/kungfu guy named Roberto Lopez and we formed our own group working many cool small projects in New York City fighting, flying and yanking people around - including ourselves. This led to a NYC shot film with Godfrey Ho (Manhattan Chase) then another with Robert Tai in Vietnam called ‘Trinity Goes East' (based on the old Terrence hill & Bud Spenser Trinity Series) Then a trip to LA had me bumping into an old colleague/friend from HK -Sophia Crawford on the set of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer' that led to a 5-year run on that series and ‘Angel' as Spikes stunt double, Michael Vartan's action double on ‘Alias' roles/stunts in many features and TV shows. From 1999 to now I've been working my ass off in Hollywood .

As a result, I am a regular visitor to my local Chiropractor.


To be or not to be (OUATIC)
HKCinemagic : What do you think of the trend of incorporating HK action style in recent US blockbusters or TV series?
S T : I love it in the Matrix series, Transporter 1&2 etc... But hate it in Scoobee-Doo or Charlie's Angels. If the story doesn't motivate it and the actors can't sell it believably without being doubled to hell, then I won't like it. If well choreographed and action isn't shot right, it looks like shit, (or almost as bad)...nothing special. On Buffy, We would work up very cool stuff but run out of time to shoot it well and have to cut the cool stuff out and simplify so the actors could do it while talking their scene. I believe though that we did some cool work as loyal as re-runs can attest. As much as this genre has done for me, sometimes I just like some good raw Macbeth/Rashoman Style... No Wires and Acrobatics. But, everything has its place. If Hollywood employs HK inspired action without the emotional content and all the attendant elements a good Chinese director will employ, it'll be off. No matter HK style meshed with Hollywood traditions to become nearly inseparable at this point. I heard that many influential HK directors in the sixties were watching ‘ Hawaii Five-O' and being influenced by their 20-22 frame per second fight and action scenes. What Goes around Comes around...right back at you! Right?

So long and thanks for all your hard work on this great site! ... Salute!

Steve Tartalia

HKCinemagic : Thank you .
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Page 2 : Filmography

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