Casting actors for video game movie adaptations can be tricky. You can get someone who looks the part but can't act. Even if they can act, they might not be in the kind of almost superhuman shape that most video game characters display at all times. 1995's Mortal Kombat movie lucked out in getting Robin Shou to play the lead role of Liu Kang. Not only could Shou act, but he was a legitimate martial arts star who looked like he was ripped straight from the games. But Shou did not initially view the role of Liu Kang as a match made in heaven, as the actor told SYFY Wire.
"I was working in Hong Kong in the '90s, and I'd done all of these Hong Kong action movies. And then, a friend of mine was a talent agent, and he said 'there's this movie called Mortal Kombat.' First of all, it sounded stupid to me. So I said 'no, I don't think so.' And then he kind of pressed on saying 'Robin, this is you. You should go in.' And I eventually got the part."
While Shou's take on Liu Kang powered the entire movie, he was ably supported by Linden Ashby as the irrepressible Johnny Cage. While Cage in the original game was meant to be a Jean-Claude Van Damme clone, Ashby was able to make the character his own. According to Robin Shou, the reason the film worked despite its low budget was that the team behind the movie was truly passionate about their job.
"I didn't know anything about the video game. I read the script, and I went and met with these guys. What was cool about it was that it was a movie that we all needed... we needed it to work. There was nobody who was there just going through the motions."
While Shou and Ashby were not familiar with the game they were helping immortalize in cinematic form, director Paul WS Anderson was a different story. The filmmaker had been a fan of the Mortal Kombat games for a long time and for him, the desire to make a film based on them was so great that he was even willing to fudge the truth a little bit in order to convince New Line studios to greenlight the project.
"I was a huge Mortal Kombat fan. I came to L.A. and I thought 'I'd really like to stay in America and see if I can get a studio movie to do off the back of this small independent European film.' Mortal Kombat was going around. It wasn't a script yet, it was just an outline. There weren't a huge amount of directors competing for it, because most people looked down on video game adaptations. Because I played the game, I knew there were great characters and great mythology. I had to go audition at New Line Studios several times, and lie to them, basically, about my ability with visual effects."
This news originated at Syfy.com.