We were lucky enough to correspond with the one and only Tony Jaa this week, who we have been fans of for many years and not just his recent foray into western movies. Tony was kind enough to to shoot off some responses on his flight to Los Angeles. And given the amount of readers here we have who follow The Expendables, yes… we asked that question too.
ManlyMovie: What are the differences in making an action sequence in a western movie as opposed to an eastern one?
Tony Jaa: It really depends on the movie. It is not good to generalize. Many Asian action films concentrate more on just action than story line. Another issue is that a great many Asian action films don’t have the benefit of the budget or equipment that Western films have. It then comes down to the fight choreographer, stunt coordinator and action coordinator. There are some very good faction guys both in the West and the East. I must also say that in Western movies they are generally more safety conscious.
MM: Do you think shaking cameras are an injustice to fight choreographers who perfect their art?
TJ: I am not sure I understand this question. Most camera’s are on dolly’s or steadicam. If you have a good DOP and good camera operators then the shots look good. Lighting is also important.
MM: What are your thoughts on the action genre in general, where is it headed?
TJ: I think that the action genre is splitting between lower budget direct to video, which has action and a very light story and higher budget action thrillers that maintain a strong story line, dramatic elements and use action to accentuate the story.
TJ: We are friendly. However as I think you know, movies are not packaged and producers by the actors. It is a matter of a producer and script that ultimately puts a film together. There are a great many people I would love to work with if the opportunity comes up.
MM: Skin Trade seems to be a thriller first and an action movie second, are you consciously seeking more dramatic roles now?
TJ: Skin Trade has amazing action sequences, as good or better than any pure action movie. However it has a very strong story, very strong acting and a message. This ultimately appeals to a broader audience. I prefer a film with a good story, good acting and action.
MM: Are there any screen fighters in particular you’d like to work with, past or present? Anyone in particular who would compliment your style?
TJ: I had a great time working with my friend Michael Jai White, he is amazing. In Fast and Furious 7 I have had a chance to work with Jason Statham, Vin Diesel and the Rock. The film I am currently doing has Wu Jing who is very very talented. Scott Adkins is a fantastic martial artist so is Cong Le. Complimenting styles is often less important than choreography and being able to work together. There are some really good action stars out there, and they would be fun to work with.
MM: What can you tell us about your role in Fast & Furious 7?
TJ: I wish I could tell you about my role, but my role and the story line of FF7 are under wraps until Universal decides to release more information.
MM: If they asked you to appear in the next Expendables movie, would you say yes?
TJ: It would depend on timing, but it has been a great franchise with some great stars. I think it would be great fun to be part of it.
MM: Do you have any plans to return to the directors chair?
TJ: No, not at the moment. Last year was a real breakout year for me. I learned English and worked hard to improve my dramatic acting chops. I will concentrate on acting for the moment.
MM: Finally, beyond SPL II, what’s next for Tony Jaa?
TJ: I have several projects for next year. They are Hollywood based films and I am looking forward to them. I will tell you more about them in due course.
MM: Thanks for your time Tony!
TJ: Thanks very much for taking the time to ask me these questions. My best to your readers.