I was supposed to interview the great Vernon Wells this week however time and other issues did not permit. This interview however did not slip the net, as ManlyMovie talks exclusively to the director of Steven Seagal and Michael Jai White’s upcoming movie Asian Connection. We talk about a few things below, including what it’s like to work with the big man himself. Check it out.
How’d you end up landing the director’s seat for ‘The Asian Connection’?
I am friends with actor Tom Sizemore, and he had been pitching me the concept of a script he wanted to write – with a similar hook, called The Mexican Connection…. among other films he wanted to do. After a couple years, I circled back and ask if he had written it yet, and since he hadn’t I put him with my frequent co-writer, Glase Lomond and we had Tom just talk the story ideas on video, then developed the script from there. I had just finished directing the film “Time Rush” in Thailand, and wanted to convert to to Thailand (to use my stunt teams and local kick-ass crew, and shoot in these exotic locations), so thus, rewrote it as the Asian Connection. This worked better as well since the Asian audience is huge so can reach more viewers, and I was able to get a distribution commitment. Next I was put on a call with Seagal (thanks to my producers), and we hit it off over the phone. After a few revisions, Seagal signed on.
Can you tell us something about this movie’s premise?
It’s about the expatriates from the US and UK, living in Thailand, and crossing into Cambodia to rob banks, thinking they can hide out over the border. Problem is, the banks are laundering cash from Seagal’s character “Gan” (he plays a crime boss)- then Gan sends a hitman to hunt them down… I can’t tell you much more without spoiling the plot, but lets just say there are some twists and turns and deaths, and the Americans Thai girlfriend joins him on the last heist. Then its lovers on the run…
Was this your first time working with Steven Seagal? What were your impressions of him?
Yes, this was my first time working with SS, he and I worked together well, he has a strong personality, and that’s fine with me.
In some movies Seagal is almost taking on a light supporting role, will he be featured more heavily in this movie?
Seagal’s character is major and pivotal, its not a light supporting role. He is woven in and out of the story from beginning to end.
You’ve worked on MMA fighting scenes before, what’s the key to a good fight scene?
First its setting up the “stakes” with the story so it means something to the audience. But also- it’s closing the right stunt coordinator and actors/stuntmen, then blocking it out in a fresh way hopefully, rehearsing, then taking time to choose the angles. Obviously most of the “hits” do not connect (some do- put are pulled) so making sure the camera is in the right place is key. Then you cover the fight “beat by beat” trying to get several hits in the same take as possible so it looks real- that the actor can actually fight (instead of too many “quick cuts” which is more easily “faked” and does not look as real). Then you “overlap” the beats of the fight, so they connect, shoot reaction shots, etc and try to get a good master wider. then edit very specifically.
A lot more movies, especially action movies, are moving east. Is there a ‘screw it, we don’t need Hollywood mini renaissance going on? What are the benefits of shooting in Thailand?
As noted, I love the crew and stunt teams in Thailand. The locations are exotic and amazing and fresh. The texture and the colors and the variety of sights, from the cities to the countryside to the beaches of Thailand make for fantastic visuals. Even in Bangkok, you can feel the energy of the place.
What about a limited theatrical release for this one?
it will be in some theaters, but not sure exactly yet! more news when I know.
Finally, what’s next on your slate?
I have 3 films I directed coming out within 4 months of each other, Time Rush, then Crossing Point, then Asian Connection, and i’m proud of each for different reasons, but i am being very careful about the next film i direct, story and cast are crucial so I am taking my time and producing a couple of films in the meantime. A couple other films I produced will be released soon as well, including”It’s so easy and other lies” based on Duff McKagen’s book of the same day about his life and Guns N Roses”…. and i’m currently in Thailand again developing two screenplays. I will keep you posted, and THANKS for your interest!