In between staging fight scenes on the set of "Rogue," famed choreographer (and director of the upcoming "DOA: Dead or Alive") Corey Yuen sat down with RT’s Senh and Phu to chat about the Jet Li-Jason Statham pic, working with director Phillip G. Atwell, and which scene action fans should look forward to most.
Hong Kong action fans need no introduction to Corey Yuen. A graduate of the legendary Chinese Opera Academy (where fellow alums include Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung), Yuen launched himself into movies more than three decades ago and has since racked up more than 150 combined acting, directing, choreography and producer credits. Best known overseas for directing and choreographing Hong Kong films like "The Legend of Fong Sai-Yuk" 1&2, "The New Legend of Shaolin," and "The Bodyguard from Beijing," Yuen’s also developed a prolific working relationship with martial artist extraordinaire Jet Li — with whom he’s broken into the world of English-language action cinema. Starting with 1998’s "Lethal Weapon 4," Yuen choreographed Li all the way through his rap-fu phase ("Romeo Must Die," "Cradle 2 the Grave") to "The One" and now, "Rogue" (whose other star, Jason Statham, learned how to do flying kicks from Yuen on the set of "The Transporter" and "The Transporter 2").
So it was with no small amount of respect that our own Phu and Senh put their own lives and well-being at risk to chat with one of Hong Kong cinema’s resident stylized butt-kickers. Though the interview was brief — Yuen got pulled away by director Phillip G. Atwell for advice on filming a scene — our RT correspondents did get to watch him practice moves with Jet and a few other players. Read on for a description of the action!
Senh’s scene break-down: Inside the ‘Yanagawa Motors’ dealership, Jet filmed a scene with at least three different sequences. In the dealership, a set of stairs leads to offices overlooking the motorcycles and cars on the floor; underneath the offices there’s a walkway with mirrored walls, and this is where the scene was being shot.
With the mirrors on the walls, the fighting is reminiscent of the mirror scene at the end of "Enter The Dragon!" In one sequence, Jet’s character is dressed in a business-type suit and comes around the corner, where he encounters one of the goons. The goon attempts a kick to Jet’s stomach, which he deflects, after which Jet delivers a hard kick to the guy’s nuts. Fight over.
Check back tomorrow for the last "Rogue" set interview with Jet Li, when Senh will break down the bloody fight sequence he saw Jet film!
Rotten Tomatoes: How do you decide which project to take?
Corey Yuen: It depends on what comes along and if the premise sound interesting. For "Rogue," we have Jet and Jason onboard, so the movie is interesting in that sense.
RT: What is it like working with Jet and Jason?
CY: I’ve collaborated with both before; Jason in three films ("The Transporter" 1&2, "The One") and numerous times with Jet, so we have an easy time getting along.
RT: You have worked both as a director and an action choreographer. What does each job entail?
CY: As a director, you have total control, from beginning to end, of drama and the action. As an action choreographer, I only have control of the action portion of the film, and in that, I support the director and try to realize the director’s vision.
RT: Which do you enjoy doing more?
CY: Ideally, the best setup is to direct a movie every two years and in those in-between years work with other directors to see how they do things, and I can best accomplish this as an action choreographer.
RT: What is it like working with a first-time director?
CY: The fact is, we need to work more with new directors because they can bring with them fresh ideas and by working with them, we can, hopefully, learn from them.
RT: When you are choreographing the action, how do you decide what to do? Do you adapt to the individual actors or have a set fighting style you want bring forth in the movie?
CY: I first look at the script to determine what story the movie is trying tell and come up with what I think would work in that regard. Normally, what I choreograph depends on the script and not who’s starring in it.
RT: Are there any scenes in "Rogue" that the audience can look forward to?
CY: The ending. I think the biggest selling point for the audience is why Jet and Jason fight. They’ll be most interested in this scene.
RT: Will Jet and Jason have a lot of fight scenes together?
CY: Besides the ending fight scene, they rarely interact.
RT: Do you prefer a longer fight scene or a shorter one?
CY: It depends on what the story requires. We’re trying to tell a story after all and not put on a martial arts performance. If the story calls for the characters to fight, then they’ll fight. If it calls for them to stop fighting, then they stop fighting. It doesn’t make sense for it to go on any longer. If the fight goes on for too long, the audience will probably be bored.
RT: What are your thoughts on the director wanting the fight scenes to be more realistic i.e. using fewer wires?
CY: Like I say all along, I’m here to support the director. It’s his movie, not mine, so if he wants the fight scenes to be more realistic by using fewer wires, then we work within that requirement.