Darren Shahlavi Interview, the hidden treasure of action cinema
Darren Shahlavi is one of these remarkable martial artists who has worked on such films like Bloodmoon with Gary Daniels, Chronicles of the Riddick alongside Vin Diesel, Les Anges Gardiens with Gerard Depardieu and served as stunt double to Ray Liotta in In the Name of the King.
But in spite of all his brutality, he also has a creative side of his nature, he is passionate about painting, interior design, photography, travelling and music
If you still haven’t heard about Ip Man movie and all this fuss about it, so you probably miss a good chance to ride one of the biggest waves of popularity which catch martial arts fans in the act from time to time, the last one was made by Tony Jaa when he just shot out of nowhere with his Ong Bak and following Tom Yum Goong. Year 2010 is year of Ip Man and Kung Fu Wing Chun and let me introduce you one of the stars of this movie Darren Shahlavi.
Ip Man is the first film based on the life of Ip Man, it also marks the fourth film collaboration between Wilson Yip and Donnie Yen. Movie was released theatrically in Hong Kong on 19 December 2008, receiving widespread acclaim from critics and audiences. The film grossed over US$21 million worldwide, despite not being released in North America and most of Europe. It was nominated for 12 Hong Kong Film Awards, winning awards for Best Film and Best Action Choreography.
First of all thank you very much Darren for your openness and for this interview. I really appreciate your time in such a busy period for you during Ip Man 2 Asian premiere and your work on upcoming movies.
Budomate:When and how did you step into the world of action movies?
Darren: I was a production assistant on a Hong Kong movie directed by Ko Fai in England and had a few small parts in the movie, then I was hired to be the lead in a movie shot in Malaysia when I was 17 years old, I went there and the film never happened, but I stayed for a couple of months and worked for the Fight choreographer Mark Houghton, who I learned a lot from. My first big break in movies came from Yuen Woo Ping who hired me on Tai Chi 2 and then I worked for Producer Ng See Yuen, and Director Tony Leung Siu Hong on writer Keith Strandberg Bloodmoon.
Budomate: A lot of martial artists started practising martial arts under influence of Bruce Lee, who was your idol?
Darren: I saw Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee fighting Sammo Hung and I was hooked, I decided I would be an actor and I started studying Martial arts.
Darren: Born to Raise Hell was a lot of fun to shoot, my character is like a young Scarface, a Romanian gypsy who uses women as mules to smuggle drugs, and runs a nightclub, he also has an even darker side to my character in that sense is raising hell all over town and Steven Seagal is an international Drug enforcement agent who is tracking me down with the help of a local gangster. We do fight at the end but we were very limited due to time constraints.
Budomate: How did you receive this offer to come on board of this movie?
Darren: I was in China shooting the end of Ip Man 2 Film and I got a call from the Director Lauro Chartrand and he sent me the script which I loved, but the key was that Lauro who is a hugely well respected and creative stunt Co-ordinator and performer was making his directorial debut with this film so I was honoured to be be in his film. I was so happy with what we did on “Ip Man 2” and thought how to I follow this with something cool and Born to Raise hell with Lauro is that picture.
Budomate: Could you tell more about your character in Ip Man 2.
Darren: I Play the world boxing champion from England, a very bad, racist and ignorant Bloke from the tough streets of 1950’s London who visits Hong Kong and looks down on the Chinese and especially their fighting skills.
Budomate: What do you think about this fuss about Wing Chun and Ip Man movie? Have you ever tried this art?
Darren: I did a little wing Chun, I think the success of the first film resonated with the chinese audiences and Donnie’s performance, Sammo’s choreography and Wilsons direction combined with Edmund’s script and great production made for an awesome film which is loved around the world, I’m super pumped for the sequel.
Budomate: Was it hard to get back to Chinese fighting choreography style again?
Darren: I had no problem getting back into the choreography, I started working in Asia at a very young age so I still have the timing etc also for the Movie I Spy that I did with Eddie Murphy I had a wonderful boxing coach, Darrell Foster who trained Sugar Ray Leonard and is Will Smith’s personal trainer since they did Ali together, his boxing training never left me and was a big help. I worked hard on my conditioning and stuck to a strict diet and did my road work twice a day even while shooting. Sammo’s choreography is wonderful I never saw someone work so hard and be so in command of a movie set. He and his stunt team were awesome with me.
Budomate: Did anything changed for you in Hong Kong film industry since 1996 when you worked on Tai Chi movie?
Darren: We shot both movies in China, I suppose there is more money now for productions as the China theatrical market is so huge. Plus Ip Man 2 is the follow up to a hugely successful movie both critically and commercially, it’s pretty much a guaranteed hit with Donnie, Sammo and Wilson back together.
Budomate: You work as an actor but have ever try yourself as stunt coordinator and do you want to do something more, maybe shoot your own movie like van Damme or try yourself in music like Seagal?
Darren: I have no interest in being a stunt co-ordinator, a fight director yes and I have a script I wrote that I may be directing later this year, writing, producing Directing and Acting all these aspects of film making I will do, and I will produce a rap song for the picture I’m making too, seriously.
Budomate: What do you expect from new Stallone project Expendables? Do u like idea to unite a lot of action stars?
Darren: Love the Idea, I have a few friends involved with the Expendables, I hope Ip Man 2 grabs Stallone’s attention for Expendables 2! We’ll see.
Budomate: Now everybody talks about Tony Jaa and his success with movies, he definitely created a new action style. Have u seen his movies?
Darren: Yes and I’d like to work with him too, super talented I admire him greatly.
Budomate: What is your favourite martial arts movie what u can watch every day?
Darren: Ip Man 2. LOL and Enter the Dragon!
Budomate: On your opinion what 3 martial arts movies made in US became classic for now?
Darren: Drive, Bloodmoon, Undisputed 2.
Budomate: What is the name of your next project? Do you play bad or good character?
Darren: I just started shooting a new movie “Aladdin” and I’m playing Aladdin who accidently unleashes an evil Genie and has to discover and follow a series of clues in order to gain control of the Genie and get it back in the lamp and save the land, it’s Aladdin with a darker twist it’s very cool.
Darren is a good lad and I wish him well for the future.
– Gary Daniels
Budomate: In 1996 you played in Tai Chi movie with Jacky Wu or Wu Jing. Today a lot of filmmakers predict very good carier to him, what do you think about that? Have u meet him since 1996? Have you seen his movie Legendary Assassin?
Darren: I think Wu Jing is awesome, I really enjoyed working with him, both of us were very young back then and just beginning our careers, he’s very talented and looks great on camera. Legendary Assassin was a cool movie, I haven’t seen him since then but there is a good chance of us working together again soon.
Budomate: Back to 90s, you played with popular Cynthia Khan who’s name was mix of Cynthia Rothrock and Michelle Khan. What do u think about this and do you remember her?
Darren: Yes I remember her, we had a small fight on a bridge that Mark Houghton choreographed in a Ko Fai film. She was very easy to work with.
Budomate: I know you worked with famous Gerard Depardieu on Les Anges Gardiens. How did u get this offer and have u got an opportunity to talk to him?
Darren: I was having lunch with a friend Mak Tak Law he got a call to do a casting so I tagged along, the second unit Director Michel Thibaud stopped me in the hallway and we got chatting. I went back to England and 2 weeks later they called and offered me the part. I didn’t talk with Depardieu much, just chit chat, He was nice though, I love his work.
Budomate: Gary Daniels told me that Matthias Hues is a great guy and they became friends. You worked with Matthias too on Hostile Environment. Tell about this movie and director David Prior who made a lot of good actions?
Darren: It was a cheap movie with Brigitte Nielsen, Matthias and myself, we had a lot of fun making it, I choreographed my own fights which was fun, we hired off duty cops to fight. David Prior was fun to work with. Matthias is awesome.
Budomate: One movie what I am especially interested in is GOD united great martial artists like Jalal Merhi, David Carradine, Olivier Gruner. Do you remember these sets?
Darren: Yes I remember them, I was shooting a movie in Germany Legion of the Dead so I couldn’t do GOD in a big role so they flew me out to Canada to shoot one day where I fight Jalal Merhi, then I did a second film for Jalal called Cold Vengeance.
Budomate: Talking about Olivier Gruner, I have read he served in French Legion and is world champ. What can u tell about him, it seems he is not easy-to-talk guy?
Darren: Olivier is very nice, he’s charming and a great martial artist, I really enjoyed getting to know him.
Budomate: You worked as bodyguard for Patrick Stuart and Bruce Willis. How it happened and when, and have you got any interesting situations during this work?
Darren: I was hired by Kim Maree Penn she has a security company Signal 8 in Hong Kong. One fun night of which there are many, was when me and 3 other guys were hired to do security for Bruce Willis when he was Promoting a movie at Planet Hollywood. A big crowd gattered then Jackie Chan suddenly turned up and after him Cindy Crawford also, this was unexpected so by the time they were ready to leave the place was packed with onlookers out on the street too. they had to get to the nearby Peninsula hotel for dinner, Bruce Got in his Limo, 2 of our other guys went with Cindy, I said to Jackie “where is your Car?” He said “never mind we can walk” so we just walked there with a trail of screaming fans behind us! that was a crazy night.
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