Mike Leeder Interview, the walking Encyclopaedia of Asian cinema
Budomate: You recently finished two interesting projects, one is One Million Klicks and another one is Ultimate Justice, can you tell about them?
Mike: One Million Klicks was the first project that I produced along with my very good friend Ruediger Kummerle who many of you might know him under his screen name, Brandon Rhea from battling Jet Li in Fearless, he played the German spearman credited strangely as a Belgium!
We had formed a company and wanted to move into production ourselves, and I had been aware of German martial arts maestro Mike Moeller for some time, he is a powerhouse, incredible skill set as both a performer and a choreographer and one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. I showed his stuff to Ruediger and made an introduction, they met and hit it off and we agreed, lets test the water and the working relationship between all of us.
One Million Klicks was shot on a modest budget to say the least, and all I can say is pound for pound, punch for punch, kick for kick, Mike Moeller is the REAL DEAL when it comes to martial arts movie making. Mike wore multiple hats on this movie as leading man, main choreographer and basicly directed the movie, it’s got plenty of fights, they’re all high quality, high impact and now thanks to Evolutionary Films who are handling the films International Distribution, it’s getting released. The film has already been released in Korea with other territories coming up as we go to press.
For Ultimate Justice, we decided to raise the ante and the budget somewhat and reached out to Mark Dacascos and Matthias Hues to come join us, they accepted the challenge and if I say so myself, we shot a good old fashioned action movie that I am very proud of and can’t wait to see people’s reaction to.
We’re not a studio, this as with One Million Klicks, is an independently produced action movie, shot in Germany for an International audience. There’s some incredible martial arts and action talent in Germany, which too often gets told “there is no market for these kind of movies if they are made by Germans’, yet they get hired to bring their expertise and skills to work on international projects shooting in Germany and across Europe.
We shot the majority of the movie in Geislingen, the area where Ruediger was born and raised. It’s beautiful countryside and really lovely people, they were very welcoming and I don’t think anyone had really shot a movie there before, so people were very excited and helpful with regards to us shooting there.
We had a fantastic cast and crew, I can not say enough thanks and respect to all of them, in every department everybody worked so hard and saw the potential in what we were doing. And the German action team, lead by Mike Moeller who was handling the fights, Thomas Hackiglou, Stefen Jung, Alexander Mack, Matthias Schendeil (Car Stunts) and the rest of the guys, I can not praise enough.
Mike Leeder” width=”300″ class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-13268″ />These guys are incredibly skilled and incredibly nice and mellow, they have all worked on big movies across Europe but they came in to Ultimate Justice and many of them had worked on One Million Klicks previously, and worked with out budget and schedule and pulled of some incredible action worthy of a much bigger film. The German martial arts and stunt industry should be very proud of these guys, I am very proud to have had them working on the movie and to consider them friends and colleagues, and would work with them all again in a heart beat. They even made me look like I could fight!
I also need to say a very big thank you to all of our cast, the lovely Sandra Tauro, Yasmeen Baker, Martin Baden, Wolfgang Riehm, Susan Ermich, Bartholomaus Kowalski, and everybody else who came in and rose to the occasion, Wing Chun Master Henry Mueller who is I would say pound for pound one of the best real world applications and real world Wing Chun fighters who came in and makes his film debut as one of our team and adapted his real world skills to the screen very easily. All of our crew, from our exceptional DOP Alois, Master Flo and his lighting team, I wish I could say thanks to all of them, everyone worked hard and pulled together on this film.
Young Mike Moeller, who once again stepped up to deliver as both fight choreographer and as the enthusiastic pugilist Benny in the movie, I can not say enough good things about him, exceptionally talented, genuinely a great guy, and a true fan too, he is one of the good guys and I am proud to have him as a friend and to be able to showcase what he can do. He should be doing more projects, both in front and behind the camera.
Matthias Hues, truly the gentle giant! I hadn’t seen Matthias for years, he has worked with everyone from Corey Yuen & Hwang Jan-lee on No Retreat No Surrender 2 Dolph Lundgren on Dark Angel, Albert Pyun on Kickboxer 2 etc. Matthias is one of the nicest most easy going people on the planet, he may not regard himself as a full on martial artist but he knows how to perform for the camera and what works for him, and what he can make look good. Absolute pleasure working with him, and he can play comedy just as well as action, want to see him do more of both!
Mark Dacascos, if I could I would hire or recommend Mark for any and all projects, you want someone to play the hero, Mark Dacascos, the villain, Mark Dacascos, you want someone to play the shark in jaws? Mark Dacascos! Why this man isn’t a much bigger star I’ll never understand.
Been a fan of Mark’s work since I first saw him in action, and met him back in 1995 when he’d just finished Crying Freeman (still can’t believe this never got an official American release!) had the opportunity to spend some time with him in Hong Kong, and we got along pretty well and over the next 19 or so years we managed to keep up some contact, and seen him deliver time and time again as an actor and screen fighter.
I remember myself and Darren Shahlavi geeking out at a screening of Drive in the Philippine’s many many years ago (once again why has this never been given a proper US release?). Many of my friends had the opportunity to work with him over the years, and we finally got the chance to work together on Ultimate Justice. He came in and rocked, he’s still an exceptional martial artist, one hell of an under-rated actor, he loves his Shakespeare and knows it well (one thing I’ll never forget is seeing him work with one of the German stuntguys who had a stutter, teaching him Shakespeare to get control of his voice. I think theres a good few people who have been taught how to throw a kick by Mark D in person or through his movies, but to see him spending the time and having the patience while we shot to work with the stuntman on his voice control was very cool).
He really stepped up on this movie, and rolled with the punches on and off screen, like any project we hit a few bumps but he never let that affect his performance or inspire him to bring any issues or attitude to the set. A lot of actors could learn from him in regards to that. He’s genuinely friendly, isn’t stand’offish or insisting that nobody look at him, or any of the bs that some stars seem to think is necessary. He comes in prepared, he knows his dialogue, he can roll with changes, he can improvise and the man can move!
I also need to mention my brother in arms on this project, Ruediger W Kummerle who produced Ultimate Justice and One Million Klicks with me, and using his screen name Brandon Rhea, plays the character of Doc in the project. I’ve known him now for about 14 years, he came over to Hong Kong to break into film and worked on Silverhawk fighting Michelle Yeoh.
He relocated here, and built a life for him and his family, built his business outside of film but had always maintained his interest in it and while he put film on hold after his role on Fearless, he’d never forgotten about it.
We formed a company together to start doing projects starting with One Million Klicks, and moving up to Ultimate Justice and if there’s a driving force behind the projects, its him. He saw the potential in Mike Moeller and then agreed we needed to raise the stakes for the second film, there’s a lot of ‘producers’ who talk about doing stuff but never actually do, but he does what he says he will do.
Movie making can be a lot of stress even when things are going smoothly, and its very important to have someone who you know has your back, and with Ruediger I know he’s always thinking of how we can make it work and seeing how he can put things together that enhance the project and benefit those involved. He’s one of the good guys in the business and proud to call him my brother.