Ray Park, who played Darth Maul in the first “Star Wars” prequel, uses his martial arts expertise to fight for the good guys in Paramount Pictures’ G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The Scottish born actor is Snake Eyes, the mystifying black-clad mute ninja who battles along side the Joe’s. ComingSoon.net/Superhero Hype! caught up with the star on set and chatted with him about the challenges of playing such a mysterious character.
Q: Can you talk about the training you went through for the film.
Ray Park: On training, I’m always training anyway. Especially for something like this to come up unexpectedly, but when I started my initial training for “G.I. Joe” and Snake Eyes, I just pumped up and just concentrated on what I can do on a skill level with my weaponry, my sword work and my gymnastics. I’ve been training for 27 years in Shaolin, martial arts and Wushu and gymnastics. Really just getting into the character, I did a lot of research, bought a lot of comics, got as many old and new cartoons as possible about Snake Eyes. Snake Eyes is a character that I’ve grown up with. It was something that I’m very familiar with in the beginning. I just wanted to be prepared and be strong for any sort of unexpected challenges. In the beginning I was doing a lot of boxing, kick-boxing, I was wearing a sauna suit everyday, I was wearing ski goggles, I was wearing gloves. I was trying to put myself through the worst condition ever. On most training sessions I was puking up.
Q: So you’re wearing all that during the training?
Park: Yeah, during my training and I was wearing a few layers and I was wearing a hoodie. So I was like boxers would do. I was wearing many layers and I was trying to lean up and wearing my weight vest and just making everything hotter for me. So when it came to doing the shoot it was going to be a walk in the park really.
Q: How different of a fighting style do you want to make Snake Eyes compared to say, how you did the Darth Maul character?
Park: Well Snake Eyes is straight up my alley to be honest with you because the style that I use the Katana swords, I get to play with ninja styles and I used to do that as a kid anyway. I was a kid in the park thinking he was a ninja. So I got to be that sort of be that kid again in Snake Eyes. Darth Maul is a little bit different because it was a bow staff and it wasn’t so much of the Wushu style that I was showing. With Snake Eyes I’m working with the Fire Ranger and the stunt boys. We wanted to show a big range of martial arts they use my style to get to where we were going to get to so we combined all different types of styles of a hybrid. It’s not a new style. We’re just using everything. Kicking, punching, and especially when it came to the weaponry and the sword work I give my flair. Because that’s what I love doing, I love playing with swords, I love spinning swords, I love jumping with swords, and they just left it up to me when it came to the swords because they knew that I was going to add a little twist and a little spin here and a little twirl there. It was very different to work on than before.
Q: Your fight scenes with Storm Shadow, are they going to be a lot more weapons-based or would you rather do more hand to hand?
Park: It’s everything. Hand to hand, there’s weapons, we introduce an old traditional weapon, but made it more hyper, more modern. I’m not too sure what I can tell you about it, but we’re showing something new that you’ve never seen, I think you’ve never seen on screen before with myself and Storm Shadow. Especially with me I had to…
Q: Did you do a new kung fu / martial arts move or something?
Park: No, it’s not a new martial arts move. I’ll give you the basis, I use tonfas in one of the fight scenes. I’ve never used tonfas in my life so I had to learn how to use tonfas for this.
Q: Can you explain what these are?
Park: They’re like a police weapon. It’s got the handle and then the stick, so to use it in the martial arts sense in the Japanese martial arts sense, I’ve never done that before so I panicked a little bit, bought myself a pair of tonfas and just put it in my Wushu flair. The stunt guys taught me what to do, the little tricks, what you can do with a tonfa and then I just went away and just locked myself in a room and started playing them.
Q: Does Storm Shadow have these as well or is he battling with something else?
Park: He has what you expect Storm Shadow to use. He has his swords.
Q: Are the fighting sequences going to be more flashy or do you want it to be a bit more stiff?
Park: It’s going to bring out the best in both fight characters, these fight scenes. It’s going to show strength of both characters, flamboyancy, and also skill and style and speed. The crew was pumped up when we’re doing fight scenes a few weeks ago. We did a whole five days of fights. I lost about fifteen pounds in a few days, it was unbelievable.
Q: Any injuries?
Park: No injuries. Touch wood.
Q: One of the few redeeming things of “Star Wars: Episode I” was the Darth Maul character and the fight scene between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan; compare the fight scene, like the light saber fight scenes, how different are they?
Park: The fight scene that I’ve done with Storm Shadow is a lot different than what I did in “Phantom Menace.” There’s two different movies. We’ve got light saber and a “Star Wars” movie. In the fight scene that I have with Storm Shadow of course I’m using katana swords, there’s hand to hand, there’s gymnastics involved. I even put a bit of humor into it, ya know me being a big fan of Snake Eyes, there’s a moment that I wanted to give something to the fans and I wanted to have, in the old cartoons Snake Eyes does a little break dancing and so I wanted to have a touch of that in the fight scenes so Stephen [Sommers] gave me that opportunity to do that without over-selling, being too cheesy. I had a brief moment…
Q: Celebrating a victory or something?
Park: It was just a moment in the fight, in the laser room, I worked within the fight scene and it worked within that room. That it wasn’t a case of me doing it for the sake of doing it. I did it to get out of a situation and I wanted to do that, and I wanted to do it in a smart way so hopefully it comes across really well.
Q: Do you find it tough as an actor that you’re stuck behind a mask and have no dialogue?
Park: This one was tough because with anything else I’ve done you see my face whether it’s in make up or not, so I can show expression and emotion. With this, it was really all body language. Whatever I was thinking and feeling, I had to show through my body and whether it be small little gestures with my fingers or something small and interacting with the other actors, bringing myself into the scene without speaking was a challenge. When I auditioned for this, I cleansed for five days and thanks to Robert here he’s the reason that I found out about that they were casting a martial artist for the role of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, so it got me on that I wanted to play this character and because of the fans telling me for the last four years, “You’d be a great Snake Eyes.” It really plants a seed in my head and so when I heard about it, I jumped on it. I did whatever I could to be Snake Eyes and everything fell into place and I was able to go down and do a screen test and audition and I had fun with it.
Q: Are you prepared for going to like a Comic-Con and being the face of the “Star Wars” character, the face of a “G.I. Joe” character, and a “X-Men character?
Park: You know, I’m really looking forward to it because I’ve met so many fans over the years some of them have become really good friends of mine and I actually look forward to sharing my stories because it’s really because of the fans and going to Comic-Con and going to conventions its really kept me going as an actor to want to do more creative roles.
Q: When is your next romantic comedy?
Park: I don’t know. I’m Peter Pan all the way, I’m the boy that doesn’t want to grow up. I love doing these types of roles. I don’t care if I never speak again in my life. It’s good because my wife would be happy about that.
Q: How restrictive is the suit though?
Park: I want to say, to be honest with you it was really, really hard. It felt heavier than what it is because of how it fits on me. It was hard. Now when I get into it, it’s second nature, but in the beginning I freaked out. Having something on my face, not being able to see, not being able to move and freaking out I’m thinking, “Wow, they really hired me because I can do this stuff. I’m not going to be able to show this.” [They] let me take one and practice with it and luckily the training I did before with the sauna suit on and the weighted vest and everything else prepared me for that and I always know that being on the set and doing what you can do in the gymâ€¦ nothing prepares you for the set. Last week we did an awesome scene where a tons of water was being blown up behind me, I had to come through rain showers and take out two Vipers, jump down three steps and save Scarlett and run while there’s like tons of water around me. I mean, you don’t prepare for that in training. [We did] it once in rehearsal and I was like, “Alright, I’m going to do that again.” And it was funny. That’s where I really enjoy doing what I’m doing because I get to do the stuff that I grew up watching my idols did as a kid and I’m getting to live out my childhood dreams.
Q: Do the restrictions of the suit require that they change any of the fight choreography?
Park: I worked through it. I knew with the suit and the way it worked, being enclosed, it wasn’t going to work. So to my advantage being a Wushu guy, because Wushu’s all about this. So rather than being like a fighter I can be the Wushu guy and show off the muscles and show off the suit and having that suit and taking it home, I did my own little film test on my camera. Went home and went, “No, that doesn’t work, I need to do this, I need to change this.” And had the stand-by’s film it for me and so that helped me because feeling it and doing it and actually seeing it are two different things and I wanted it to be all about showing the suit off and showing what I can do off as well. And for the fans to go, “Yeah, that’s Ray.” Because of the style that I do.
Q: Scarlett and Snake Eyes have a whole romantic thing going on, right? Or romantic back story at least?
Park: There is in the comics, there’s something there, but Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow in the movie are very close. In the sense, like Rachel says, Scarlett is there for Snake Eyes and speaks for Snake, because she knows how Snake thinks. So there is a close relationship between the two of them.
Q: But not necessarily a romance or anything like that?
Park: Not in this one. Maybe in the sequel.
Q: I’d like to see that love scene. You obviously have a big battle or two, or three, or whatever, but how many days did you train for these sequences on film and overall, how many days have you been filming all these battles?
Park: The main battle with Storm Shadow took about five days to film, we did it few weeks ago. I started training in January with the stunt guys and the fight team and I was training with them on a fitness level working that out, the weapons I might be using. The sword work, I can do in my sleep, it’s something I’ve done ever since I was a kid. We got into about a month of training with the guys and we had a few sequences tied down and a few fight scenes locked down and then I had about six weeks of a gap because I was working on the set I had no time to train with the guys so I had to come in at three in the morning before I was pulled in on the set and do my training when I got home at eight o’clock at night, so it was really full on for me because I wasn’t getting to work with the stunt team so when it came to going on set it was literally a half an hour before filming, I had to have a re-cap and a revision of what we had to do and a lot of stuff had changed because things evolve and change with the story and the fight scene. I was basically learning some of the stuff as we were doing it so that’s where a test of my training came in hand. It’s basically like dancing and remembering your steps with your partner.
Q: Can you talk about walking across the floor on your finger tips, how’d you pull that off?
Park: My fingers are still killing, and my forearms are still killing me from that. I mean, they’re really sore.
Q: So it’s for real? You can really do that?
Park: I can walk on my hands, but I can’t walk on my fingertips no.
Q: So is someone like holding your feet like wheelbarrow style?
Park: No, we had a bit of system with wire, but the thing I was talking to my wife about, she’s a gymnast and I said to her, “I shouldn’t be in pain at all.” I really should have let the wire do the work, but what I had done, I wanted to do it, so I was actually putting the pressure on my hands to make it feel more believable that I was doing it and it killed me, but I’m so glad I did it and I said to Stephen, “You know what you’ve done to me? Now you’re going to make every kid in the world ask me, “Hey, show us the finger walking hand stands!” So, now I’m going to have to start practicing the hand stands with fingertips. I know it can be done because I’ve seen one of my masters in China do it, he’s done a two finger hand stand and he used to do a press-up. So, I know, he showed me and he picked up and he was on his fingers, so it can be done. It’s whether or not I want to break my fingers or not is a different story. I don’t know if my fingers are strong enough for it. There’s a lot of this type of training for that, a lot finger press up.
Q: Wow, if they need Snake Eyes’ dad for the next movie, get that guy.
Park: There you go.
Source: Heather Newgen