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Interview Roy Horan : gweilo actor and producer in HK
When Karate Kid meets Rambo 1/1 - Page 6
Author(s) : Arnaud Lanuque
Date : 13/3/2006
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
Loren Avedon
Matthias Hues
Hwang Jang Lee
Ng See Yuen
Cynthia Rothrock
Max Thayer
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Corey Yuen Kwai
Movies :
No Retreat, No Surrender
No Retreat, No Surrender 2 : Raging Thunder
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Page 5 : From Jesus To Ironman
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Page 7 : Exploring New Groups

HKCinemagic : Did the good profits made by Seasonnal overseas have an influence on the choice of productions?
Roy Horan : Profits from the international market gave Ng See Yuen some confidence. I think what really stunned him was when Karate Kid came out. To him, it was just a simple kung fu story yet it made so much money in the United States . He thought, “We can do better than this!” Next enters No Retreat No Surrender. Corey Yuen and Ng came up with the idea to do this film. I was in LA at the time and they wanted me to cast for the leads. Through some friends in Los Angeles , I put a couple of ads in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. We got quite a few submissions. Out of all of them, there were a few submissions we thought Ng See Yuen and Corey Yuen should have a look at. One of them was Jean-Claude Van Damme. I had learned from Hwang Jang Lee how to look at action photographs…to tell if someone has power, speed, control and so forth…just by looking at the action details. Hwang advised me certain things to look for because he had done some studies analysing images. I looked at Van Damme and, first of all, he had flexibility, that's obvious. He's also has some power…speedwise?…OK…maybe. I suggested that Ng have a look at him, and the rest is history. After No Retreat No Surrender, we signed Van Damme for three more pictures. He was supposed to be in No Retreat No Surrender 2, called Raging Thunder. Van Damme was gonna do the picture and Kurt McKinney was also supposed to act in it. I ended up writing the script. We were all ready to film and had our crew ready in Bangkok. I get a telex from Van Damme's lawyer saying that he is not going to show up…and McKinney as well.

Van Damme wanted to do Bloodsport. He told me previously that he was interested in Bloodsport and was hoping that both films wouldn't shoot at the same time. The shooting did occur approximately at the same time, so Van Damme, basically, broke his contract. Here we are in the middle of Thailand spending money by the minute in salaries, hotels and food. Once again, it's like the broken shoulder in Snake , “What do we do now?” I said, “Let me fly to LA and if I can't get back those guys, I'll just recast.” In L.A., I talked to Van Damme and McKinney. Van Damme gave me his song and dance: “Sorry, sorry, sorry…”

“That's very interesting, but we've got a contract.”, I said.

He replied, “What can I do?”. McKinney pulled out because he just got married and his wife was concerned about all the risks, like shooting near the strife-ridden Cambodian border. She had some safety concerns. Later, McKinney wanted to do the film, but I had already recast it with Loren Avedon and Matthias Hues.

HKCinemagic : So, it's you who found Loren Avedon and Matthias Hues? It was their first feature?
Roy Horan : Yeah, and there is a pretty funny story in it as well. I got to L.A. and am looking for two parts, one for the lead bad guy, one for the lead good guy. Loren Avedon comes along and says “I'm your man!” Rather dubious, I say, “Right!”. He didn't look very muscular, but I watched his action, did some choreography with him and he seemed to do OK with it. I called an acting coach, a friend of mine, who also checked out his acting. She said “OK, it seems we can go with this guy”. We had tried a number of people in that short period of time, and he seemed to be the best. Yet, I'm still having problems finding the bad guy who I wanted to be big, tough and a good fighter. Then, Matthias Hues showed up from Gold's Gym with his long blond hair. He's really gentle, a really nice guy. We checked out his acting, “OK, maybe we can work with him”. Then, I get to his fighting…he couldn't do anything...couldn't punch, couldn't kick! So, I asked, “What's your sports background?” He said, “German decathlon champion”, or something like that. I could see he was athletic; he also had the look, and the body. I hired him immediately…he was very, very happy. Back in Bangkok, Yuen Kwai, the director, takes a look at Loren Avedon, smiles and says “I can work with this guy.” Then, Matthias shows his moves. He didn't know that the Chinese stunt guys were all swearing at me (laughs). Yuen Kwai asked me, “How can you screw us up so badly?” I said, “Patience, don't put him into action for another two weeks, let him do dialogue scenes and give him time to work on the action.” So, I put Matthias working out with Hwang Jang Lee. Matthias worked his guts out…from morning to night, training footwork, kicks, punching, choreography… everything. I've never seen a guy put his heart into something, so hard, and so much in such a short period of time. His first action scene was OK, nothing spectacular. It was with a stuntman that he swings around and shoots with a revolver, fairly simple choreography. Later, he did a little bit with Cynthia. We were actually pushing him gradually on his choreography toward the final scene. By the end of the film, he was able to follow choreography pretty well, to work with HK stuntmen, do some stunts himself…and, Yuen Kwai actually praised him! He said “I can't believe it; this guy came from that to this, in such a short period of time”. Even though Yuen Kwai didn't get the great martial artist he was looking for, he got somebody that showed confidence and was believable. The film helped Matthias' career; he later found work in Hollywood. He is one of the greatest guys to work with, no attitude, very nice, very humble, and he takes direction well. It's really a pleasure to work with people who are very serious about what they are doing, and who try hard.
HKCinemagic : This second episode seems very inspired from the Chuck Norris style of movies…
Roy Horan : Yeah! That was the idea. We wanted to take a little bit of Rambo, Chuck Norris, military stuff combined with Hong Kong 's style of action. It was an interesting project.
HKCinemagic : You did the script from A to Z?
Roy Horan : No, originally, there was a guy by the name of Keith Strandberg who wrote the first draft. After getting the script, Ng, Yuen Kwai and I had a meeting, looked at it, and they weren't too pleased with it. Keith was probably trying to apply too much character development…going light on action. We then decided to have some regular script sessions, Ng See Yuen, Yuen Kwai and myself. From time to time, there may also have been some key stunt people present. I came up with a new story framework; they came up with some action sequences which I joined together into a new script. When it actually came down to filming, however, there was a fair amount in the new script which was altered.
HKCinemagic : Was it removing action scenes on more on the storyline structure?
Roy Horan : Yeah, there were some gaps…some of the drama was removed. The action scene at the end was written a bit differently. There was a bigger part for Hwang Jang Lee. Notice that in the film, after a big build-up, he dies so easily. Once again, Matthias is supposed to be the bad guy, so they didn't want to take too much of the film away from him. When you make a film, you need to watch the balance of characters, see what talents you have to work with, and make some executive decisions. Anyway, I enjoyed my role in all of this.
HKCinemagic : You are credited as the acting director so basically Corey Yuen was handling the action and you, all the rest?
Roy Horan : Corey Yuen was the director. He directed the whole film. He didn't speak English, so, he had the script translated into Chinese. He knew what was supposed to happen in every scene. However, when it came down to the actors speaking, he couldn't follow what was going on, so I had to work with the actors to get a performance out of them. That was quite a challenge because the cast wanted to re-negotiate the dialogue from time to time. Not being very experienced at directing, I thought it's good to give some freedom to the actors, to allow for their interpretations. However, Loren Avedon's scripted character changed completely around. What was originally a humble but physically adept character lost in a brand new land became Rambo Kung Fu, the 2nd! It was a very American stereotyped-hero concept and you could see in Loren's performance that he was pretty determined to go in that direction. We just worked with him the best we could. Also, he didn't really have the look, or attitude, to pull off the character the way it was originally scripted.
HKCinemagic : Cynthia Rothrock's part was always planned to be so short?
Roy Horan : In the original script, she had more…more for Hwang Jang Lee, more for Cynthia Rothrock. But a lot of that also got pulled out. There was another major change… the original focus was on a love interest between Loren Avedon and the Thai girl leading to his efforts to save her from the Russians. But you'll notice that towards the end of the film, it becomes a love interest between Max Thayer and Cynthia Rothrock. They were stronger characters and the emotions between them were stronger. So, once again, we opted for flexibility. (laughs)
HKCinemagic : Was the shooting in Thailand complicated?
Roy Horan : Oh yeah, very difficult. I don't know if I should tell you this… There were difficulties because it was a multi-cultural film. We had Americans who worked at a different pace than the Hong Kong crew and HK stuntmen who were pretty tough guys. They worked at a different pace than the Americans, and in a different way. Yuen Kwai had not worked much with Americans before and was frustrated a bit by their working style. Then, you had the Thai crew. They provided support. However, the explosives crew were also pretty tough characters and they had access to handguns. We also had Thai Special Forces and Thai police involved in the film… It was a pretty violent mixture. After a couple of weeks, the powder keg of miscommunication was about to erupt into some serious violence.

I was afraid the damage would be irreversible. So, I did something very drastic. Max Thayer was having some communication issues with Yuen Kwai. Max was a little bit frustrated to say the least. One rainy day, Max was really steaming as we were preparing a scene where Matthias had to shoot a machine gun….with live ammunition! Through some contacts in Thailand , I had access to a new Special Forces machine gun that wasn't yet in the market place. It shot 900 rounds/per minute, 9mm, 30 in the clip…a very powerful machine. That morning, I was testing it out because I had to teach Matthias how to use it. We had some targets set up and I was blasting them to pieces. Of course, I enjoyed shooting guns. (laughs) So, the cast and crew could also see I was enjoying myself. It might have made them a bit nervous.

Because the Special Forces didn't want to lose the gun on set, because it was a very special piece of equipment, quite expensive, I decided to carry it across my shoulder. I also had it loaded with live ammo most of the time. As I said, it was a rainy day and Max Thayer was pissed off at Yuen Kwai, so he opted to drive, without permission, one of the Thai crew's vans back to the hotel. It was a brand new van, the Thais were upset and I could just see the tires blowing out over a jungle road as Max, in a furore, drove back to town. So, I stood in front of the van to block Max, pulled out the machine gun, put a clip in it…it was actually a blank clip but no one knew that…and told Max that if he didn't get out of the van, I was gonna shoot him right there on the spot. Max freaked out. Everybody else was watching. I put up a real show, like I was completely nuts! Max was like “Wow! What is going on here??!!” And the entire cast and crew was rapidly grumbling among themselves, “Hey, we're here to make a movie…not make a war!”

And so, I became the bad guy, the crazy producer who was going to kill them all. As a result of that, people started communicating much better, because they had a common enemy. (laughs) That helped to pull things together…it was a reality check. Just imagine, people who don't have a clear concept of reality, are angry and possess weapons with live ammo on a set…they can be very dangerous. We could not rent many weapons with blanks in Thailand, so the problem became the solution. Rather radical…but it worked. Later on, when Max saw the finished film in Los Angeles, we had a talk. He was laughing “That's one of the greatest stories I've ever had in the movie industry! I'm telling it to everyone in Hollywood !” (laughs). For him, it was some excitement, a new story to tell his grand children. Even though there were difficult communication issues, it was an interesting, exciting type of film to work on.

HKCinemagic : How long did it take you to shoot it?
Roy Horan : I think it was around 8 weeks... maybe a bit longer. Kung fu films usually take longer, sometimes over 100 days.
HKCinemagic : And did you got a good box office?
Roy Horan : It didn't do as well as No Retreat No Surrender ….but it made profit for sure. Ng See Yuen spent a lot more money on this one, more than part one. No Retreat No Surrender was done for a very low budget. Part 2 used a stereo surround soundtrack which was recorded in Los Angeles. We really tried to make it look good by putting a lot more money than usual into post production. Anyway, it inspired Ng See Yuen to make more international pictures.
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