Ray Park talks Snake Eyes and G.I. Joe Retaliation, debuting on Blu-ray and DVD July 30th
Before landing the coveted role of Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace and Toad in X-Men, Ray Park began his martial arts training in Shaolin Kung Fu and wushu at the young age of seven years old, competing in international tournaments by the time he was a teenager. This year, he reprised his role as the silent but deadly Snake Eyes in the sequel to 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, G.I. Joe Retaliation. I recently had the chance to speak with the actor for the Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, and DVD release on July 30. Here's what he had to say about that amazing mountainside fight sequence, working with director Jon M. Chu, and much more.
I have to imagine that, with all of your martial arts training, that nothing could exactly prepare you for that mountainside scene. It was a fantastic scene, and one of my favorite action sequences I've seen in awhile. When you first picked up the script, how much of that sequence was spelled out on the page?
Ray Park: I read the first draft of the script, and the mountain scene was in there. My first thought was about all the wire work, wires and ropes. As much as I like doing it, it's something that does beat you up. You're in the harness, and it bites your legs, you can't do the same kinds of kicks you want to do, so I was concerned about that, but excited at the same time. I just did a lot of cardio, and (director) Jon (M. Chu) wanted to play tribute to the silent issues, because he always talked about that, the mountain scene and the ninjas. No one speaks, and to see that come to life was pretty unbelievable, and a lot of work at the same time. I watched it again just recently, and it was great, the work that went into doing that.
Where did you actually shoot that sequence, and how much time did you have to prepare and choreograph the scene before you actually shot it?
Ray Park: There's a lot of choreography that was put into it. I was on two sets at the same time. I was in the dojo scene with Jinx, Elodie Yung, so we were rehearsing that, and that was the biggest challenge. It was an awesome set. We don't see as much of it in the final cut of the movie, because it changed the tempo a little bit. Originally, it was a train sequence, and it was a longer sequence at the beginning of the movie. With the cliff sequence, I was jumping back and forth with the dojo sequence. That was the most important thing to get done, and it took a couple of weeks to shoot it. It was a hot set as well, and it was tiring, but a good tiring. I wanted it to be good and right, because it's the first time you get to see Snake smile while he's fighting, if that makes sense.
I loved the dynamic between both you and Elodie. She's obviously highly trained as well. Was there any work that had to be done to get in sync with each other's styles, or was it seamless?
Ray Park: She's great. Elodie was awesome. I've seen her work before in District 13 Ultimatum. I thought she was great in it. She was in it, she wanted to work hard and rehearse with me, so I couldn't rest if I wanted to. She wanted to be in there, and it was great. It was a hard sequence for us to do, because she's blindfolded, and we've both got to make it look like it's not choreographed. It was good, and she was awesome to work with.
That must be a tricky line to cross, because it's obviously choreographed, but you have to make it look like it's not choreographed. With Jon coming from a dance and choreography background, did you find that helped the action, in a certain way?
Ray Park: You know, I've loved everything that Jon has done, and the League of Extraordinary Dancers too. I thought it was great because he really appreciated the things that we do, on a performance side, when it comes to the action and martial arts. He understood that, and he knows how to tell a story in that way. It was great to work with Jon. He's young and he's got a lot of energy. I always thought it was a blessing to work with him. It was great, and he always called me Snakey or Snake Eyes. It was nice to be on set and hear, 'Snake! Snakey!' There's only one Snakey on set, you know. I wasn't Ray. It's nice to play a character like that, for me, because I think it's Snake Eyes and it's the first good guy role I played.
I was surprised by that scene towards the beginning where he talks, but it turned out not to be you. Were you surprised when you read that, Snake Eyes actually talking? It threw me for a few seconds, until we found out it was Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee). What was your first take on reading that?
Ray Park: When the DVD comes out, you'll see some deleted scenes and you'll see that scene, where it leads up to. I actually did all that, just so you know, because I remember reading it and going, 'Snake Eyes kills someone?' Then I read on more, and it's Storm Shadow. I called Jon about it and he said it has to be Snake Eyes, so I had to think what would Storm Shadow to as Snake Eyes? It was fun to do. I really enjoyed it.
After the first film and much of the second, it was cool to see that scene at the end where you and Byung-hun Lee are fighting together. Was that one of the highlights of the shoot for you, getting to fight with him instead of fighting against him?
Ray Park: Yeah, it was a great moment. I love Byung-hun Lee. We worked together every day rehearsing for the first movie, and same for the second movie too. He's always there for me. He wants to make it like two brothers in a fight, it's going to be a rough fight, and that fight in the hallway was like that. He just got in there. That's the other thing about Snake, he has this compassion as well, he'll save someone as well, whereas Storm Shadow will just take you out. There's no remorse.
Can you talk about your role in Future Fighters? That must be awesome getting to work alongside Gordon Liu and Yasuaki Kurata. Is there anything you can say about your character in that, and when that might be coming out?
Ray Park: Yeah, that's been in the cards for awhile, and I'm waiting for something to happen. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and it seems like a good idea. They asked if I'd be interested, and this was a few years back, but I need to read the script and see if it sounds cool. I'd love to work with Gordon and get to work in Hong Kong. That'd be nice, because that's a childhood dream for me too. I grew up with Hong Kong movies, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean movies.
Great. That's my time. Thank you so much. It was great talking to you.
Ray Park: You too. Have a nice day.