Ray Park ('G.I. Joe')
'A Walk with the Park!'
Ray Park was born in Glasgow, Scotland. Park always wanted to be in the movies, but he was most inspired by martial arts. He began to nurture a love for martial arts from the age of seven. Specializing in the traditional Chinese Northern Shaolin Kung-fu (in the Chin Woo style Park moved on to master various other styles, most notably Wushu.
Soon becoming a regular fixture at martial arts exhibitions and tournaments, the now defined athlete topped Great Britain's martial arts championships before later travelling to Malaysia to refine his skills.
Park soon set his sites on acting gaining more scenes and became a natural on the set, he was later contacted by stunt coordinator Nick Gillard to audition for George Lucas' upcoming Star Wars prequel. Offered the job by producer Rick McCallum, Park was given the creative freedom to develop his choreography by an impressed Lucas, and was soon gaining the confidence to develop his role to the best of his abilities.
Later essaying the aforementioned headless horseman in Sleepy Hollow (1999), Park finally saw his face and voice joined on the silver screen (regardless of his moves, his voice was dubbed in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace) with his role as Toad in Bryan Singer's X-Men (2000).
Park took the lead as the title character in Iron Fist later the same year. Though curious Star Wars fanatics clamoured to rumours that Park would return as Darth Maul in the eagerly anticipated Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002), their many speculations were shot down by George Lucas himself with the announcement that although that specific character would not return for the sequel.
And just recently Park starred in the brand new #1 Hollywood movie 'G.I. Joe' that premiered this past August.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with star Ray Park about the new movie 'G.I. Joe,' his role in 'Star Wars,' and, well ... of course, penguins!
Taking it from the top, what was it back in Glasgow, Scotland (and at what age) that first got you interested in martial arts? "It started around the age of 4 or 5. I remember there was a TV show called “Monkey Magic: Journey to the West” which was based on a Chinese monk’s pilgrimage to India that was full of action and he had this magical stick. It’s my first memory of bad guys vs good guys. I took my first martial arts class at the age of 7.”
It's been said that even as a wee lad you wanted to be in movies. Growing up, were you a Bruce Lee fan, someone perhaps that you could see yourself being re: a movie star and a martial arts master? “I always wanted to copy the guys in the movie like Bruce Lee. I never thought to be a movie star I just wanted to excel at martial arts. It wasn’t until I was 14 that I realized I wanted to have a career in film. I thought I would come to Hollywood and end up working in the martial arts movies. I never dreamed I would end up in more mainstream movies like Star Wars.”
Indeed, for as a Hollywood actor, you're most well known for playing Darth Maul in 'Star Wars: Episode One.' Please tell us what it was like back then when you got that call to be that character. Did it come from George Lucas himself, perhaps? “The call came from Rick McCallum, the executive producer, he said that George had seen my tapes and thought I would be perfect for the part. I was beside myself. I was on my way to martial art exhibition and had to stop and pull over. It was great.”
What are your memories of those 'Star Wars' filming days? “It was like being part of a big family I loved everything about it. I loved the part, I loved a showing up everyday. Everything that has happened to me since then has been because of that role in Star Wars and I’m very thankful for that.”
For your latest role, that of Snake Eyes in 'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,' you once again get to show off your martial arts skills. But, it's been a while since we saw you doing this on the big screen (perhaps even as far back as Toad in 'X-Men'), so why the long delay in cinematic face time? “It was a matter of waiting for the right opportunity to come along. I was also working on the independent film King of Fighters which comes out this year.”
Word has it that the original script told the story of an international co-ed force of operatives who use high-tech equipment to battle Cobra, an evil org headed by a Scottish arms dealer, but that had to change due to overwhelming negative responses - from fans and even servicemen! Is this true and how did it affect your role, if at all? “I have no idea if that is true. Because I’m a huge fan of the series, I wanted to make sure to stay as true to the character as possible for myself and for the fans.”
Tell us more about your role in this movie as Snake Eyes and what were some of the more dangerous stunts or martial arts action sequences that you yourself were involved in ... and survived, obviously! “It takes a lot of practice for all those stunts. We really had to take our time. I’m working on Heroes right now and my character uses knives so it’s been even more challenging because I have never worked with knives before.”
What was it like wearing that all-covered black outfit the entire time you were on screen? "It was a big challenge at first especially with the mask and the visor I wasn’t expecting it to be so thick and I couldn’t really move my head or breathe very well. I asked them to give me a practice costume so I could practice moving in it. I started going to the sauna and wearing hoodies and as much clothes as possible so that I could work through it and overcome it. Eventually it became standard to put the mask on and channel the character and I think it added depth to my character so it was good to have something to focus on while playing a character.”
During fight scenes you always do a certain spin move! You did it in 'Star Wars - Episode One,' in 'X-Men' and also in 'Sleepy Hollow'! Does this move have a name and is it you yourself that always adds it to the roles you undertake - as opposed to being asked to create something? "It something I enjoy doing its something. I learned it from practicing Wushu, it’s something I do naturally. If I get a chance to I include it in most of my characters. When we are rehearsing I always try to make the moves my own and add to them a bit. I have been very lucky to work in roles where I am allowed to do this and I hope to continue finding roles like these.”
Please tell us more about your upcoming new movie, 'King of Fighters' due out later this year “It’s an independent film with a lot of action. It also stars Maggie Q, Sean Farris and Will Yun Lee.”
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins ...do you?! "Of course I do. My kids love the movie “Happy Feet” we watch it all the time. I would love to play the Penguin in Batman someday!”
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
So, if you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED 'G.I. Joe' movie poster signed by RAY PARK himself, just answer this easy question:
In what TV show will Ray play a soul-less mercenary, who, along with an elite assassin, Johnny Yong Bosch, and the last remaining member of the long dead Knights Templar, Esteban Cueto, must overcome their innate mistrust of each other and join forces to defeat Legion?!
Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful AUTOGRAPHED posters by Ray Park himself! Just send us an e:mail here before November 15th with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: SIGNED RAY PARK POSTERs to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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