July 1, 2014

Gary Daniels Interview

Gary Daniels was born in London, England and was inspired as a child by Bruce Lee.

He would grow up to become an actor with small roles in movies like ‘Deadly Bet’ and ‘Ring of Fire’ but he would get his first starring role in ‘Capital Punishment’ which would open up more roles like ‘Full Impact’, ‘American Streetfighter’ and ‘Firepower’.

It would be 1995’s ‘Fist of the North Star’ which would really make his name as the next action hero and his career has gone from strength to strength ever since.



Gary recently stopped by to chat with us about his upcoming movies ‘Misfire’, ‘Bullpen Fight Club’, ‘Skin Traffik’ and more.

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us.

I’d like to start off by talking about your work with director R. Ellis Frazier; I think he’s one of the most visual directors working today but he also creates great stories. I was a big fan of ‘Across the Line: The Exodus of Charlie Wright’ and it really showed off your dramatic side as well as action. Can you tell us how you guys initially met and what it is that makes you work so well together?

I met Frazier back in 2005 , he had written a short called ‘Locker 541’ which I was hired to work on. Frazier is one of the best, most intelligent writers whose work I had ever read. He has written a number of excellent scripts that are yet to be made but I have no doubt that soon he will get the budget he needs to realize his vision.  Then when he got another of his scripts produced, La Linea (The Line), he asked me to come in and play a role, it was a good script with a great cast, Ray Liotta, Andy Garcia and Esai Morales among other great actors.

Frazier is an ‘actors’ director

The next film he did was ‘The Exodus of Charlie Wright’, another great script that Frazier directed for the first time which again  attracted a stellar cast of Aiden Quinn, Andy Garcia, Mario Van Peebles, Danny Pino.  I was hired to play a mercenary in a team with Luke Goss and Bokeem Woodbine, unfortunately a couple of good scenes which showed character development for the team was cut as one of the leads felt that our storyline detracted from his own story line.

Frazier is a very intelligent writer and as can be seen from his films he has a very unique vision. He is an ‘actors’ director, by which I mean he spends time with his actors helping them to bring out their best performances and you might think ‘well that’s his job’, but you would be surprised how many directors are good technically at setting up shots and working with the camera but spend no time with the actors. Frazier is a very relaxed , easy-going guy so he creates a great atmosphere on the set and he trusts me as an actor so it is easy to have a quality, enjoyable and functional working relationship with him.


You’re working with Ellis again on ‘Misfire’ and ‘Bullpen Fight Club’; tell us about those projects and what appealed about the scripts? I’m sure working in Baja must be terribly hard too… 

So last year Frazier approached me to play the lead in a film called ‘Misfire’ which again was a top-notch script, it is not a martial arts film and even though I love doing fight scenes it is flattering to be offered a non martial arts character that is multi dimensional.  I loved the script and the character so it was easy to say yes to my old mate. Now it is not a martial arts film but there is no shortage of action, though the action  is driven by a good story and interesting characters.

Tijuana Mexico has a unique character of its own

We had a talented lead actress who is relatively new to the business called Vanessa Vasquez who I believe has a bright future ahead of her and 2 great Mexican actors Luis Gatica and Fabian Lopez. As well as a special appearance by Justin Nesbitt who added a lighter element to his character. We shot the film on location in Tijuana Mexico which has a unique character of its own, which was shot beautifully by D.P Jorge Roman who has shot 300 films in Mexico so has an exceptional eye for shooting that city. We also shot at the Fox Baja studios which was a studio built for the filming of ‘Titanic’ but sits empty now.

‘Misfire’ will be released in the U.S in October.
‘Misfire’ turned out well and sold well just on a trailer and 1 sheet at the Berlin film festival so then a script called ‘Bullpen’ (a name which will probably change) was written for me with more action and a bigger budget.  Now this script kicks arse ! Its full of action, street fights, pit fights, gun action, car chases set in a script with so many twists and turns, great characters and is shot very Mexican noir, another typical Frazier Ellis masterpiece.  We just wrapped filming in Rosarito last week and again using the Fox studios.

Misfire Official Trailer from r. ellis frazier on Vimeo.

Frazier allowed me to choreograph and direct all the fight scenes on this film and I am grateful for the assistance of ‘Action’ Eddie Fernandez who can be seen as ‘The Mexican Wolverine’ in 22 Jump Street and Marco Morales, trainer of Anderson Silva who helped me with some of the Jui Jitsu action. Now I am just hoping or should I say praying Frazier allows me in the editing room to cut the fights, such an integral part of getting my vision. We had a very limited schedule to shoot the fights, just a couple of hours for each but I think we got some great stuff as I had some good stunt fighters to work with.

‘Bullpen’ especially looks like it’s going to have some brutal fight scenes; what’s your training schedule been like for it?

‘Bullpen’ had a lot of action and I trained hard for this film although I was hindered by a calf injury which prevented me from running, hitting heavy bags or jumping rope which are regular elements of my normal work outs, as well as injuries to both forearms which hindered my weight training but I worked around the injuries and dieted for 2 and a half months super strict to get as lean as I could as I knew there would be some shirtless scenes.  The character of David Goran, an ageing fighter with a serious knee injury that is reliant on pain killers and alcohol is very different from the hardened D.E.A agent I played in ‘Misfire’.



You’ve got ‘Zero Tolerance’ coming up with Scott Adkins, Kane Kosugi and Dustin Nguyen; how big is your role in the movie?

Okay, I want to make it clear that I never worked on a film called ‘Zero Tolerance’.  I worked on a film called ‘Angels’ which morphed into ‘Zero Tolerance’. That transformation is best explained by my dear friend , the director Wych Kaosayananda in an article he did.
However, Zero Tolerance (formerly ‘Angels’) is an exception. That was a very personal project. I raised the money through 5 different investors, people who were my friends, and through friends of friends. I wrote the script and had full control, and once the movie was complete, it was the first time in my life I felt we accomplished exactly what i set out to do. It was a slow burn, character driven drama that had action in it, clocking in at 106 minutes. Some say it was too long, but what makes movies so special is that, it’s art, and therefore subjective.

Angels at 106 mins was the perfect length to tell that story. That’s my opinion. Now, I was clear from the get-go that Angels isn’t say, The Raid, but a different movie all around. It isn’t full on action and was never meant to be. We had great actors, and the biggest star I had in it was Gary Daniels. I wrote his part to play against type – No punching or kicking anyone in the movie. He came in and gave a terrific performance unlike anything he’d ever done before, and I loved it.

But, we couldn’t sell it. Buyers were expecting action and it turned out to be a drama. So from that perspective, maybe I would have been better served to have had someone who understood the buyers’ world to help me shape the movie in a way that would suit the buyers, because, it’s still a business. So, while I remain confident that Angels would have found an audience that would have ensured the movie was profitable at the very least, most people who saw it liked it, but the one universal answer I kept getting was, we don’t know how to sell it. And that was when Andre Meyers and Marcus Warren stepped in.

Andre is a terrific businessman who was trying his hand in the movie world for the first time. He really liked the final product and was very supportive. But after a while and as I was having difficulties selling the movie, he stepped in and brought on his friend Marcus who is a producer working in England.

Through Marcus’s contacts, it was determined we had to change the movie to make it more marketable for the buyers. And that is where Scott Adkins came in. I was given a set of new parameters and it was me who rewrote the script to make Scott’s presence in the film work. Andre financed the whole thing and we set off and shot for another five days.

Just to be clear, Zero Tolerance is not Angels. They are two completely different movies. Zero Tolerance is a very slick, fast moving, more action oriented film, whereas Angels was a slow burn, character driven drama. The actors are all the same with one new addition, but the characters have all changed. ‘*
I was hired for ‘Angels’ and I had a great experience working on that film with Wych. There are a couple of things I felt could be changed , especially that in the script there was an end fight between Dustin’s character and myself but Wych felt the film didn’t need it so it was never shot although I think the audience was owed that showdown. As an actor, part of my job is to help the director achieve his vision and Wych is one of my favourite directors I have ever worked with (he is an exceptional writer, director and D.P) as well as one of my very best friends so I trusted Wych, he wrote the role for me and it was a great part.
With the new version I felt that the exec producers disrespected me but this is called show BUSINESS and the object of any business is to make money, a profit, so I understand why they did what they did but I am not happy about it. The film was already good and I didn’t think it needed new actors to be written in but one thing I have learned is that in this business it is not about your ability , it is about your MARKETability. I loved ‘Angels’ , we had a wonderful red carpet première in Vietnam, I was very close to that project but ‘Zero Tolerance’ is not that project.


Do you have any screen time with Scott at all? We would love to see a fight scene between you both…

I have no screen time with Scott and I do not fight in that film. I worked on ‘Angels’ and he worked on ‘Zero Tolerance’.


‘Angels’ was shot in Thailand, isn’t that right? How has the shoot been?

Yes, ‘Angels” was shot in Thailand and it was a very good experience, I love that country and as I said before, Wych is a dear friend and a very good ‘actors director’, so it was pleasant on a personal and a professional level. Wych has a great crew that he puts together (he also produced Angels) and I have worked with him and his crew on 4 films so they are like family now.



We’re excited for ‘Skin Traffik’ which looks like it not only has great action but a current and realistic story; is that what drew you to it?

Yes I liked the script for ‘Skin Traffik’, although so much was left out during the shoot that attracted me to the character and the story which was disappointing. Also the idea of shooting in London, my home town was a big attraction. I got to work with some great stunt guys from England, New York and Germany which was a definite plus, My props to Levan Doran, Kenny Wong , Roberto Lopez , Oliver Juhrs, Vinnie Wilson , Frank Bakker, Zack Roberts and all the stunt guys for their great work under tough conditions. That was a very difficult shoot on many levels.



What do you think the appeal is to audiences about the subject matter of trafficking?

Trafficking of humans is a subject matter right out of today’s headlines, it’s a terrible thing that needs to be policed and wiped out. I think everyone feels strongly about it so it can make for a very intense and dramatic storyline. And if films bring more attention to the subject matter then all the better.


You’re currently filming ‘Tekken: Kazuya’s Revenge’ and returning as Bryan Fury; what made you want to return to the character?

‘Kazuya’s Revenge’ is finished. Bryan Fury came back for a small appearance in this film but it was shot in Thailand and was directed by my mate Wych . I know the producers want to make it a franchise so I was happy to reprise my role with hopes of bigger better sequels in the future.



You’ve tended to avoid doing sequels and concentrated more on doing original fare; has there ever been a movie that you wanted to do a sequel to and has it been a deliberate move to avoid sequels?

No I have not made a conscious effort to avoid sequels, I would love to have done sequels to ‘White Tiger’ and ‘Fist of the Northstar’ , even possibly ‘Misfire’ and ‘Bullpen’.  But sequels usually come about when a film makes tons of money and for me nowadays, the bottom line is the script. I will take a film if I like the script. There is a project called ‘The Uncle’ that Wych has written for me and I am currently attempting to raise money for. It is a nice project that lends itself to sequels.


What is it you look for in a character when you receive a script?

When I receive a script the first time I read it just to see if I enjoy it, does it bore me?, does it keep me on the edge of my seat?Some scripts take me many sittings to get through them and the good ones I can’t put down till I’ve read the last page. Then if I like it I read it again with the character I am being offered as the forefront of my focus. Is it someone different that I haven’t played before or is it someone I have played already?

Is it a character I think I can bring something unique to?  Do I like this guy or not? Is he multi dimensional or very flat? Does the character have an arc, does he develop / grow as the story moves along? There can be many reasons to like or dislike a character and make me want to or not want to play him.



You also have a very different movie coming up called ‘East Side Story’; can you tell us about that?

East Side Story is something very different for me and possibly not a movie that fits the category that your site covers.  It is basically a dance movie, a coming of age dance film about 2 teenagers from different upbringings that have to fight the odds so they can be together. It is directed by the Emmy award-winning dance choreographer David Winters whom was one of the stars of the original ‘West Side Story’.  I play the father of the lead lady, a wonderful, beautiful young actress / dancer named Whitney Carson. I am a divorced ex champ that owns a hotel in Florida and staffs it with dancers and entertainers.

Having not seen my daughter in 5 years, she comes to spend a summer at my hotel where she falls in love with my dish washer played by Chehon Wespi-tschopp, (a winner of the TV series  ‘So you think you can dance’) and obviously I am not happy with that so the story unfolds.

It was a very different role for me which I thoroughly enjoyed playing.  Unashamedly I will admit that I am a big fan of the TV show ‘So you think you can dance’, and we had a lot of stars from that show in the film. Its amazing what these kids can do nowadays combining dance with acrobatics, they are terrific athletes. I loved going to the set even when I wasn’t working just to watch these kids dance, they were amazing.


You’re working with ‘Across the Line’ co-star Luke Goss on the upcoming action drama ‘Rogue’; have you guys been friends for a few years? Was it deliberate that you both signed on for the movie or a coincidence?

It’s purely coincidence that I have been working with Luke Goss. I respect Luke as he is very dedicated to his craft. I actually read for the part that he got in ‘Tekken’ but was offered Bryan Fury which I was probably more suited for. And then we did ‘Exodus of Charlie Wright’ at a time when I was going through a rough time in my life and Luke and his mate Jim Turner took me out in Tijuana a few times to ‘Cheer’ me up and we had a blast , he is a good guy and I was grateful for his friendship at that time.


Thanks very much for chatting with The Action Elite and good luck with all your upcoming projects. 

Thank you very much for your time and support.

Source: Film Combat Syndicate

About the Author

Eoin Friel
Eoin Friel

I grew up watching JCVD, Sly and Arnold destroy bad guys, blow things up and spew one-liners like it’s a fashion statement. Action is everything I go to the movies for and the reason I came up with this site is to share my love for the genre with everyone.



All New Luke Goss Interview

Actor, writer, producer and director Luke Goss has been working on his directorial début entitled Your Move. It tells the story of a business man who must transform himself into a hunter after he helplessly watches his wife ...
by Eoin Friel


Art Camacho Interview

Award-winning action film Director/Fight choreographer & stunt performer Art Camacho stops by The Action Elite to talk about his new projects The Chemist and Flawed. We also reminisce about the Gary Daniel’s classic...
by Eoin Friel


Tom Sizemore Talks ‘An Honest Thief’

Tom Sizemore was born and raised in Detroit. He left his hometown to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. He realized that dream with star turns in the films Heat, Saving Private Ryan, True Romance and Black Hawk Down, among o...
by Eoin Friel