Stuntman Pays Tribute To His Idol Jackie Chan
Beth Accomando: Welcome back to another addition of the KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast. I’m Beth Accomando. Today, we pay attribute to Jackie Chan by way of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a stuntman who grew up worshipping the Hong Kong actions star. [Audio clip] Okay, Jackie Chan is a human special effect. Only he works without a green screen or a net. And on Saturday, November 12th, his unique skill set was finally acknowledged by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with a special Oscar at the Governor’s Awards. Here’s Tom Hanks presenting the award. Tom Hanks: As you know, the Governor’s Awards are a chance for the Academy to recognized unique achievements across an artist whole body of work. And because Jackie Chan, the man who puts the Chan in chantastic, because he has work mostly in martial arts films and action comedies, two genres that had been for some reason, shall we say historically underrepresented at the Oscars. A fact that will change if I have any pull on the Board of Governors. It is especially gratifying to be able to acknowledge Jackie’s enormous creativity. His great gift for physical performance and incredible dedication to his work with this Governor’s Award tonight. Great acting comes in many different forms, but if you’re an actor you always know it when you see it. Now, Jackie Chan’s films had been incredibly serious, sometimes gruesomely so, as well as incredibly hilarious to the point of delighting millions of peoples around the globe. On one hand, you could say out of China came another version of John Wayne, the serious films and out of China came the Buster Keaton, the comedian films. How is this possible out of one man? His talents must be truly chantastic. But Jackie does something that neither one of those great screen legends was ever able to do. Neither one of those great artistes of the cinema ever put the bloopers on during the closing credits. And those outtakes never showed John Wayne or Buster Keaton fracturing his elbow or tearing his plantar fascia. And that’s just one of the many reasons why the actor’s branch is so pleased to be honoring Jackie-the-chantastic-Chan along with the rest of the Academy, Jackie Chan. Jackie Chan: Academy Award, I still can’t believe I’m standing here. It’s a dream. Long time ago, every year when I watch Oscar with my dad sometime with my mom, my dad always say, son, you get so many movie award in the world, when are you getting one of these. Then, I just look at my dad, ha, ha, ha. Dad I only make comedy action movies. Many years later, I come to Hollywood, meeting with some big studio, director, my friend’s house, Stallone’s house. That was 23 years ago. I see these little things in his house. I touched it, I kissed it, I smelled it. I believe it still have my fingerprints in the cupboard. Then I talk to myself I really want one. Finally, Cherry called, I said, are you sure? After 56 years of film industry, making more than 200 films, I break so many bones. Finally, this is mine. I want to you thank you, Hong Kong, incredible city, my home town, my hood, who made me; China, my country, proud to be Chinese. Thank you Hollywood, for all those years teaching me so many things and also make me a little bit famous. And I thank you my family, my wife Joan, my son Jaycee, especially Jackie Chan stunt team. This year is Jackie Chan stunt team’s 40 years anniversary. And all the friends, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. And ladies and gentlemen, and also distinctive guests and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, thank you, thank you, thank you. And I want to thank you who should I thank you, and I forget. I still have some dialog, I forget what should I say, I don’t know, I just is honored to be here and is my honor, thank you. Oh, oh, oh, last not least, millions thanks to all my friends, fans around the world, because of you, I have a reason to continue to make movies, jumping out of window, kicking and punching, keep breaking my bone. Thank you so much, thank you Oscar, thank you. Beth Accomando: But the award comes a little bit late. It was 25 years ago that the Hong Kong action star and stuntman extraordinaire, came to the United States and tried to break into the American market. But Hollywood didn’t know what to do with him. Chan, already a writer, director, action chorographer and star in Hong Kong, knew how to best showcase his own unique talents. But no one in Hollywood was willing to listen. So, his first American films were a week attempted comedy action in The Big Brawl. [Audio clip] A pair of wasted cameos in the cannibal-run films and blend cop drama called The Protector. [Audio clip] Fed up with Hollywood and newly inspired to prove that he knew best how to deliver Jackie Chan picture, Chan returned home to make some of the most breathtaking and exhilarating action films of all time. Most notably, the Police Story (trilogy), Project A parts I & II, and Armor of God I and II. [Movie clip] Part of the problem in marketing Chan’s films in the US was that they were just too much damn fun. Their crowd-pleasing tendencies made them to crassly commercial for art houses. And their subtitles kept them from mainstream success. But Chan’s films offer pure escapism and display an exuberance of style that’s intoxicating. His films enjoyed a devoted cult-following here in the US, with fans buying Bootleg VHS and DVD copies of films that were initially unavailable here. But Chan who is already an international Box Office star, had to wait a little bit longer to find success in the US. In the mid ‘90s Chan kicked-off a multi-picture deal with Newline, which released Rumble in the Bronx. [Audio clip] And then the floodgates were opened at their best. Chan’s films joyously and unashamedly ravel in the sheer potential of the medium and the human body. Chan displays an exuberance, athletic prowess and brass showmanship, reminiscent of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. combined with the comedic timing of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. Chan’s appeal lies in his mix of superhuman physical skills and an everyman persona. He performs death-defying stunts yet he never forgets that he’s fallible. Sometimes his character slip and fall or miss a mark and he has to scramble for safety. He also stops in the middle of a fight to shake off the pain of having been hit and he’s not afraid to show fear. In Wheels on Meals, he hilariously turns and runs from a pair of bad guys who he says look super tough. [Audio clip] The audience likes and identifies with Chan because he rises up from defeat. In addition, there’s a unique rapport between Chan and his audience. Because with each film, he literally risks his life for them. He frequently plays out his stunts in a single wide shot and includes outtakes of the injuries to verify the risks he’s taking. Chan takes the action out of the hands of special effects artists and returns it to the actor. So, when the audience gasps and nod at a spectacular stunt, they’re reacting not only to the character Chan is playing but also to the man himself and they love him for that. Part of Chan’s success can be traced to his childhood years as a student at Hong Kong’s grueling Peking Opera Academy. Under the rigorous training, he learned acrobatics, martial arts and mime among other skills. After Bruce Lee’s death in 1973, Hong Kong tried to package Chan as Lee’s successor. But Chan smartly realized that he couldn’t imitate Lee. So, he decided to counter Lee’s image as a lethal precision killer by presenting himself in a lighter more comedic vein. Chan’s ability to mix humor with action revitalized the Hong Kong industry and established him as a star in his own right. Chan’s trademark became dazzlingly choreographed fights interrupted by broad humor. His style and screen persona reveal the influence of silent film comedians such as Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton. From Keaton in particular, he learned how to use cinematic space and how to turn props into active rather than passive elements in a scene and to execute precise comedic control of his body often in defiance of gravity. Like the Silent Clowns, he realized that sight gags and physical stunts are not only the most universal language in the world, but they’re also the most basic elements of film syntax. Stanley Tong one of the few directors who seems in perfect sync with Chan’s style notes that his background as a stuntman has helped him in directing Chan. When I interviewed Stanley Tong, he told me, whenever I choreograph action, I know how good Jackie is, what his weaknesses are, and what his strengths are. And I also will try out the stunt myself. I risked my own life before I let him risk his. Tong directed Chan in Rumble in the Bronx, which is the first film that stuntman Fernando Jay Huerto remembers being influenced by. Huerto is an actor, director, stuntman and fight choreographer. [Audio clip] He gets to jump off a 20-foot building as a regular part of his job at Universal Studios. And he also makes his own short films to showcase what he and his team of martial artistes can do. I’ve been following Jay for 72 hours as he partook in the Four Points Film Project where filmmakers are given three days and a handful of required elements to work with. Jay had Chan in mind when he was creating action scenes for his film. We spoke the morning after Jay had submitted the final film. Beth Accomando: Jackie Chan just received a special Oscar at the governor’s awards. So, I wanted to talk to you because you are a stuntman and you do have an appreciation for Hong Kong action. Tell me what it is about Jackie Chan that you think makes him unique. Fernando Jay Huerto: Jackie Chan, he’s the most unique martial arts actor because he uses prop work in his fight scenes. A lot of fighters, a lot of martial arts actors, there’s trait of one-on-one fighting, and Jackie Chan he likes to use creative prop work. Like if you put him in an IKEA, he’ll probably use every single piece of furniture against his opponent. You don’t see that in other martial arts actors like Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Bruce Lee, Donnie Yen. I mean they’re great in their own right and I love them all. I think they’re amazing, but Jackie Chan’s stands out in that way because he uses furniture as weapons. And also he takes from Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin that kind of physical comedy into his fight scenes. Beth Accomando: Well, he also seems to be someone who, his main concern isn’t for him to look good all the time. It’s to have these fights that are very engaging. So, sometimes he is the one getting beaten down or that he’s fallible and it seems to engage you a lot more in his fights. Fernando Jay Huerto: Oh, yeah I agree. Jackie Chan, he’s human. A lot of these martial arts fight scenes, the hero seems almost indestructible as they get 90 percent offense and when the day Jackie, I don’t know if he wins all of his fights. Actually, as I think about, I think he wins only 50 percent of them. If you watch like Police Story that’s probably the only time I can think where he wins, he wins the fight. But like Rush Hour, he doesn’t necessarily win, he gets away. So, yeah I think what makes him unique is he’s human. He just tries to run away. Oh yeah, Shanghai Knights he doesn’t win either. He just gets lucky. He’s lucky all the time. Beth Accomando: Well, you mentioned how he uses props and one of the things that I fell in love with Hong Kong action films especially with the Jackie Chan films, is everything in a room or a location seems to be potentially active in terms of how it can play out in a scene. And it could be anything from a piece of clothing, to knives and forks on the table, to a broom. Fernando Jay Huerto: It’s just thinking creatively, that’s art. You take what you have around you and you use it. That’s what that’s great about the cinematic art or the art form of creating fight scenes. Like I could look at this like this room in my parents’ house right now and I could think of two things at least to use. Maybe Jackie Chan could use like 50 of these things. But that’s what’s great about his mind and the way he works. He could take whatever is in the room and use it creatively. Not just like take a glass vase and smash it over someone’s head like he could throw it at a guy, the guy will catch it or kick them and he’ll make sure that vase doesn’t get broken, that kind of thing. It’s like Rush Hour I think that’s what he did in. But yeah, it’s using these pieces of furniture and these objects is in as a creative way as possible not in a way to, I can’t really explain. It’s just the way, it works like my boss at Action Horizons he tells me this thing called positive contact, meaning like when you do a fight scene, you knock into like walls or tables, or if you’re like swinging an axe if you try to swing it and the guy dodges, it’s best if it hits like a wall or something close by. That’s called positive contact. With Jackie Chan films, you see a lot of positive contact but also in a way that like he uses it. Like if he hits something if he hits a wall or a table, he’ll roll over it and then kick the table against another guy that’s coming after him. And that’s what sets him apart in his fight scenes. Beth Accomando: Do you remember the first Jackie Chan film you ever saw? Fernando Jay Huerto: Technically, it would be that one American film that, is it Robert Klaus did. It was called The Protector. I barely remember it as a kid but I remember not being oppressed. But the one that I would like to say that was my real first Jackie Chan film would be Rumble in the Bronx. [Audio clip] Fernando Jay Huerto: And that’s when I saw that martial arts films can be completely different from the norm in terms of like what we were talking about the prop work and the stunts. Beth Accomando: Now, when you tackle doing fights for film, what are your kind of primary concerns when you’re choreographing? Jay: The primary concerns first and foremost is safety. You have to make sure all your performers are safe especially using even fake weapons, prop weapons. Safety is paramount. Next after that is just making it look good on screen and that’s where the acting comes from. I mean I’m not just a stuntman, but I’m a trained actor and I’m not just going to throw a punch and have it land, there’s got to be intent to it, and especially if you’re the guy taking a punch. I’m also a wrestler and we learn to, in wrestling we learn to sell meaning like we have to make that punch look good. You could throw a punch really well, but if the other guy is not selling that punch then you both look bad. You could throw a shitty punch, but if you sell it well then you both look good. Beth Accomando: So, I got to watch you shoot this Four Points Film Project where you were choreographing fights for a film that had to be made in 72 two hours. And one of the things I heard you talk about was the fights didn’t necessarily have to be fast, but it had to have like good rhythm. So, what’s this kind of connection between the rhythm of the fight and the speed of it and how it looks on screen? Jay: Oh, you know there’s that military adage is, slow is smooth, smooth is fast. So, basically if you’re trying to go for speed, you’re definitely going to stumble because when you factor speed into like throwing combinations, your brain has to process all that information and the other person has to catch up with you or you have to catch up with them. But if you have good rhythm, what’s going to happen is you’re going to look smooth and smooth translates to camera as speed. [Audio clip] Beth Accomando: From the Hong Kong films, a lot of the Hong Kong films especially Jackie Chan, he talked about how he learned from people like Jean Kelly who was a dancer that a lot of times the way to shoot a fight is from a single wide angle so you can appreciate everything that’s in the frame and everything that is kind of involved in the fight. Did you learn something from that as well? Fernando Jay Huerto: Oh yeah, absolutely, especially in Jackie Chan’s Hong Kong films, he shoots a lot of his fights wide. He does a couple of over the shoulders but that’s just a accentuated punch, but if he’s going for a long combination or nice big move, it’s usually wide so you could see the technique and he likes to shoot these combinations in a longer take as opposed to like the state of action films now where you see taking where it’s all shot close and there’s maybe 17 cuts in one second, so you can see anything. But with Jackie Chan in Hong Kong films, yeah, that’s, I noticed also like in, Jean Kelly films or anything like a west side story or any movies, musical numbers or dance numbers, they’re shot in wide and done in longer takes so you could see the technique and that’s what I learned from that. Also from friends that I film with when we do fight scenes, we shoot typically wider and we hold the shot longer than a typical American action film. And I think it really showcases the actor and the performer and the stunt people and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to make sure everybody looks good and showcase the skills of everybody. Beth Accomando: Yeah, a lot of American action films are cut so fast that it’s like you can use anybody in a fight if you’re just taking one second of a punch being thrown or something where it doesn’t seem that you get quite as engaged in who’s fighting and what’s happening at each moment. Fernando Jay Huerto: Exactly, and that’s, it does a disservice to everybody, all the performers and the stunt performers because like I said, you can’t see their skill and you could just take, I mean I don’t want to say this in a negative way but you could just take any actor and have him throw like several punches and edit it fast but what do you accomplish out of that? Nothing really. It’s just a mess and especially if you got actors like Keanu Reeves who trained as bud-off, then you really want to showcase what they can do and that’s what Matrix did for him and I really like the Matrix. It showcase Laurence Fishburne, Carey Moss and Keanu Reeves training and in my personal opinion, I think they did an excellent job and I’m glad the Wachowskis shot it in wide and showed that the actors can do it themselves and it just make them and everybody look good. Beth Accomando: Well, and they were smart enough to hire a Hong Kong action choreographer and Yuen Woo-ping, so that was the first time I remembered an American film kind of using that Hong Kong style and putting it to good effect. Fernando Jay Huerto: Yeah, exactly. For some reason, you know, like 15 years, 16 years later, we’ve gone backwards. I mean we’re using Hong Kong guys, but still we’re shooting it and editing it in a typical American action way. You see Jason Bourne films and taking films. I mean my boss in Action Horizons, he’s the stunt double for Liam Neeson, but I don’t want to knock the Taken series, I think they were quite good. But I just wished that you could showcase Liam Neeson and my boss better because they put in the time and the work and I believe that Liam Neeson’s a great actor and a great performer of, I’m sorry but taking this, you know like mentioning the prequels that shall not be named but I thought Liam Neeson did quite well with the lightsaber fights in episode one and they shot in wide and he’s very capable of doing action. So, I wish we could’ve seen Liam Neeson’s do this really cool. Krav Maga, military martial arts sequences in Taken because he really does have the skill. I totally believe that but you know, that’s just a state of where we are right now. Beth Accomando: Do you have a favorite Jackie Chan film or Jackie Chan fight, one that really impressed you? Fernando Jay Huerto: There’s two. There’s all the fight scenes in Police Story 1. The playground fight in Police Story 2. All of Drunken Master II and I really liked Rumble in the Bronx, the two fights, the one in the alley and the one in the gang hideout. [Audio clip] Those stands out to me the most. Oh, also Armor of God and Armor of God 2, I thought those fights were excellent and those have to be my favorite Jackie Chan fight scenes. Typically the ones in the ‘80s are the ones that stand out but the ones with the best prop work would be probably the ones in the ‘90s. So, those stand out to me but a lot of it just kind of becomes like a mix like a greatest hits type of thing for me. So, I can’t really put one particular thing but those four films stand out. Beth Accomando: I also like the ones in Wheels on Meals where he fights. I think it’s his bodyguard Benny. Fernando Jay Huerto: Benny Urquidez, he’s well, that’s had his burger, that’s a friend of his. His bodyguard is the guy who was Ken Lo. Yeah, the one he fought in Drunken Master II, that’s his bodyguard. But yeah, he has a great fight with Benny Urquidez. He’s both in Dragons Forever and Wheels on Meals. And I think, Jackie’s not really known for his one-on-one fight scenes. He’s really known for his group fights and his prop work, but his one-on-one fights that stand out the most are, his fights with Benny Jet Urquidez and Ken Lo and that’s the only fight, the one-on-one fights of Jackie’s that stands out to me because when you see like Donnie Yen, you could pick out a ton of one-on-one fights are excellent because that’s mostly how his movies are, but with Jackie Chan, there are always group fights. Beth Accomando: And what I love about those two is well, there’ll be these moments of real intensity where the fight is going full blast and then he like step away and shake his hand like, ow, ow, ow, ow like it hurts and like it gives it, just like light moment or comedic touch at times when you don’t expect it. Fernando Jay Huerto: It also gives him a sense of humanity. And you just hit it on the hand right there like, you know, after just fighting a lot, you’re going to get hurt, your hands are going to hurt from punching so much but, and I noticed a lot on the martial arts actors, they don’t do that. They really do that, the only time that you see like, showing depend as when they get hit, but yeah when Jackie hits people, his hands going to hurt, that’s what happens in real life. You going to get broken, you’ll probably going to get broken knuckles who knows. But yeah, that really, that’s another subtlety, another thing of Jackie’s that I really appreciate because I think that’s acting moments like that really show you how much he cares and how he’s actually a really good actor. Like I mean, you got to think about these things and that’s actually when I do my fight scenes I think about that too when I, like even in my live shows, when I throw a punch that lands, I’m going to – I show the audience that my hands hurt, I’ll shake it like, I’ll winch and pink because my knuckles were hurt. That’s the way an actor, an actor thinks. They think the subtle and the real. I think that’s what make Jackie an incredible actor as well. I’d say he’s really underrated in that area of performance. Beth Accomando: Jackie Chan won the special Oscar which was given at a separate ceremony from the Academy Awards. In Hong Kong, you have a category, they are main awards which is four action choreography. So, they seem to recognize how important part of a film that is. Do you think that’s ever going to happen here? Fernando Jay Huerto: I hope so because I know in LA and I have a lot of stuntmen friends and colleagues and they have been pushing for a stunt coordination award in Oscars, best stunt award like that and they’re still fighting for that and I hope one day that’ll happen. That will come into play. And I know in Hong Kong, that’s always been recognized and if the Oscars had that category awhile back, I think Jackie would’ve gotten his Oscar sooner than now. But I’m glad he got it because I believe like he got that that Oscar not just because of his stunt work, but he is an important part of cinematic history. One of the single greatest pieces of cinematic history. Movies have been around, what, for like a little over a hundred years and when you look back and thinking like, who were the pioneers of film and one of them has to be Jackie Chan. He’s made over 200 films, he’s done stunt work, he’s an actor, producer, director and everybody loves him. He’s a worldwide icon, everybody knows who he is. So, I think receiving that Oscar just solidifies that he is a major part of cinema’s history. Beth Accomando: Well, and he is a mixed two of being a creative artist but also a really smart businessman? Fernando Jay Huerto: Yes, he is, I mean like, I don’t know much about the business aspect of this career, but from what I see he always been good with Mitsubishi or his own clothing line and yeah, he is a very smart businessman for a guy who like, what a barely a high school equivalent degree. He is smart in how he makes his movies and how he deals with his business partners. So, he is just a guy who know what he is doing and knows the aspect of his craft and it encompasses his personality and his talent as a whole and I’m glad that finally he’s got recognized that and probably the biggest cinematic I guess organization in the world. Beth Accomando: And someone who is a stunt performer. What would you like to see happen in the future in terms of how filmmakers approach stunt work to better kind of integrate stunt work into a film and to make it look better on film? Fernando Jay Huerto: Well, if they have follow the Hong Kong model, I think that’s the best way to tackle that part of movie making. One, it’s cheaper, two is efficient and three it makes everybody look good, it just looks cleaner and it looks nicer. And people appreciate that. I know a lot of people do, even people who aren’t really martial arts fans, I mean I they see the skill and they see the performers doing some incredible physical feats. So, I think if instead of going backwards into the closed-up fast cuts style of Bourne Identity or that kind of action, I think that’s definitely the way to go in order to present a better sense of and better performance of action films. Beth Accomando: Well, I just remember saying two films that stood out recently are The Raid and 13 Assassins. In both of those films, there were some fast cuts but the thing that both of them accomplished for me by the end was that, by the end of it you felt as exhausted as those characters who are fighting and I remember sitting next to my son who loves marital arts and there was a point in the movie where it goes like, I need water, just need water. Fernando Jay Huerto: Yeah, I mean like, well for The Raid that’s a movies where they’re in a situation where they there are fighting for the live the entire time. Because the entire movie takes places in a building so it’s like, you can’t have any dogs sequences when you’re constantly getting shot at or attack by machete wilding, tenants, drug dealers. So, it’s like where can you go you just have to keep going up, you have to keep fighting. And yeah, it’s is very exhausting and you feel it and that it just and that’s what the nature of that particular film was. So, yeah, you don’t really get that in Jackie Chan movies because there is periods of rest characters development but The Raid they’re trying to get out. Beth Accomando: And some grueling fight scenes where it’s just going down a hallway you just stay with the characters so that you feel, again it’s like you feel how exhausting it must me be to have to fight for an extended length of time without a break and when you make cuts, I think you lose that feeling for the audience? Fernando Jay Huerto: Yeah, you lose that because, I mean behind the scenes you have the breaks, you’re doing a couple moves and you have a break. So, there is the - but when you’re fighting in real life and you’re fighting like two minutes straight, for instance when I used to spar in Taekwondo class, within a minute I’m already exhausted because there is no cut, there is no take two, it’s just you’re straight on fighting for a minute. You got to be a super athlete in order to go two or three minutes of fighting especially if you’re fighting multiple opponents. And I think a movie that shows that well as probably Oldboy and Tom-Yum-Goong or The Protector Tony Jaa, only because they do a one-take sequence like in the action scene that’s done in one entire take and that helps the actor simulate exhaustion. Because like, if you’re doing a fight scene where you’re doing plenty of cuts, as an actor then you’re going to have to think oh, shit I have to like pretend I’m tired. So, I mean well, typically if you’re skilled actor then you’ll know, okay, I’m this characters fighting like a minute straight then I’m going to have to be tired and I’m going to so, just I’ll just do jumping jacks in between take so I could put up a sweat and try to recover that. But in movies like Oldboy and then The Protector where you’re doing a one-take fight you really don’t have to think about it because you’re naturally exhausted and the realism of fighting comes out better in those things. Beth Accomando: The fights we’ve been talking about in Jackie Chan in particular is martial arts work. There is an element that it’s been brought into some recent film called Parkour which, was highlighted and kind of got a lot of attention in the film District B13. What does that add to stunt work and how is it different from just fighting or martial arts? Fernando Jay Huerto: Well, Parkour is a way to get from A to B as efficiently as possible. Parkour compliments action movies in a way that it allows the character to have a creative way to escape or to run way. So, I actually like having Parkour in there I and think it really changes the game in terms of actions films in the last martial arts guys. Well, Jackie Chan he was pretty much the pioneer of Parkour. And then David Belle and Sebastian Faquadi, I think I guess name wrong. But they expanded upon that idea and created that athletic form of Parkour. When you’re doing a fight scene and you add Parkour element, for me I would use that as a way to escape or run away from the bad guys instead of just like running 17 blocks and just looking back and stuff. I think it’s more creative to like, jump over stuff volt and then also presents the character as a skilled martial artist. It just compliments it perfectly I think. Beth Accomando: I guess Jackie Chan was doing it before they had a name for it? Fernando Jay Huerto: Yes, yes, he did yeah and a lot of that, a lot of his movies are inspired by his escape sequences. Beth Accomando: Is there anything else you want to add about the state of stunt work right now or some films that you think are promising for what the future of stunt work is? Fernando Jay Huerto: Well, it’s always evolving and I notice a lot of fights now are using tricking which is basically martial arts and gymnastics. There is a movement of fight scenes going that directions where you see like people doing corkscrew flips in the air and kicking people. It’s not typically my strength because I don’t do that I’m more of like a stand up fighter. But stunt work in actions films in general are heading towards that direction but also we’re going into a more realistic type of action like with John Wick, Keanu Reeves, he leaned Brazilian jiu-jitsu and I think Krav Maga but he is also leaning tactical gun fighting and Krav Maga. And these realistic fighting tactics and firearm tactics have been used with military personnel, law enforcement and martial artists for quite a while but now because of the sophisticated eyes of the views, now they’re all clamoring for more realistic set pieces. So, I see the stunt work in action films going to that directions and John Wick is a good example of that, because, it’s all very realistic tactical, but it’s also presented in the what we called pleasing way for the audience. Beth Accomando: Wasn’t John Wick actually produced or developed at a stunt company? Fernando Jay Huerto: Yes, the directors are of, John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2 they are part of 87Eleven stunt team, which is the stunt team that help with the Matrix and have done all sort of mainstream action films. David and Chad, they were stunt coordinators and they are presented with actually directing their own movies. So, that’s why they’re doing John Wick and John Wick 2 and that’s why it’s so successful. That’s why the action is so because you’re giving people who create action sequences, you’re giving them the wheel and that’s why those movies are so well done and that’s why everybody loves them. I love them so much. Beth Accomando: All right, well, thank you very much for talking stunts and Jackie Chan with me. Fernando Jay Huerto: Thank you for having me and hopefully you’ll see more from us, from our team, Jabronie Pictures. So, you could check us out at youtube.com/jabroniepictures for all your independent action comedy films and please subscribe and we’ll keep doing this if you keep watching and I’ll keep working my butt off and hopefully you get to see me working one of the bigger films someday. Beth Accomando: All of your short films that you’ve done for 48 Hour Film Projects and Four Points. I think my favorite was Rule 43, is that the one with the Jenga. Fernando Jay Huerto: Yeah. Beth Accomando: All right, definitely check that one out. Fernando Jay Huerto: Yeah, please check that out and my personal favorite The Finisher and if you want and also the Deadliest Date that was done on one shot and I’m really particularly proud of that one. [Audio clip] Beth Accomando: Thanks for listening to another edition of the KPBS Cinema Junkie podcast. Next week, I’ll have a special episode for Thanksgiving, all about the films we’re thankful for. So till our next film flicks, I’m Beth Accomando, your resident Cinema Junkie. Oh, and one more thing Jackie Chan could do, he could sing.
"John Wick" arrived in 2014 and now makes his third appearance with "John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum." Stuntman-turned-director Chad Stahelski talks about the franchise and his approach to creating action for the screen.
Keanu Reeves is not just the actor who plays John Wick, the hitman who came out of retirement to avenge the death of his puppy, but he's also the man who gave the script for that film to then stuntman Chad Stahelski and suggested he think about directing it.
Stahelski worked with Reeves on "The Matrix" (1999) where Yuen Woo Ping was the action director. The Hong Kong fight choreographer introduced Stahelski to a new way of looking at creating action. The main thing Stahelski learned is that for action to reach a high level it needs to be thought about as early as the scriptwriting phase and then during rehearsal, it's vital to involve the stunt team, actors, writer, director, editor and cinematographer. That ensures that the action is treated with the same degree of importance as a dialogue scene.
I'll have a review of this latest chapter in the "John Wick" saga and play my interview with Stahelski from 2017. He will explain why the action in the "John Wick" films serves up an intoxicating rush of adrenaline like no other American film.