Mike Leeder Interview, the walking Encyclopaedia of Asian cinema

Budomate: Talking about Tony Jaa and his break through into Hollywood, he is almost everywhere now. Do you think he will get bigger and better roles?

Mike: I think Tony’s initial success with Ong Bak & Tom Yum Goong wasn’t handled properly by his former management, I understand they might have been worried they were going to lose him or that they had plans to make him an international star in their own way, but it didn’t work. I remember a few times we had him up for roles and they were not helpful in any way about letting him cast or audition for projects, he was originally supposed to be the character Hiriyuki Sanada played in Rush Hour 3, but they were against him playing the villain or even to audition.

There were some mis-steps and some issues, but all of that has been resolved, and now Tony really has the right people managing and supporting him, they are looking out for him and see the big picture and want the best for him. The team is lead by Mike Selby in Thailand who put together Skin Trade, and Brett Norensberg in LA at the Gersh Agency. They are helping Tony find his way, and since they’ve been working together he’s done Fast & Furious 7, SPL 2 and now he’s co-starring in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage with Vin Diesel and Donnie Yen.

I do think he will get bigger and better roles internationally, its just a matter of time and building the reputation. A lot of Asian stars have come in with a big amount of press and promo and the film hasn’t worked, look at Rain in Ninja Assassin or Jay Chou in The Green Hornet, those projects didn’t open the doors that everyone expected for them.

Tony Jaa and <a href=Rock” width=”300″ class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-13274″ />Sometimes and I think this is what people forget you have to look at the international films differently, Rush Hour is not a Jackie Chan Hong Kong movie, its an international movie aimed at a very different demographic and when I first saw RH I was disappointed as I went in to see it as a dyed in the wool Jackie Chan fan, I then had to think what if I’ve never seen a Jackie movie, this is a really good introduction to Jackie and his work. Look at Jet Li in Lethal Weapon 4, I don’t think that film delivered the way the franchise had previously, but what stood out in the movie was Jet Li.

Look at Fast 7, I remember when the trailer came out and it showed some of Tony’s fight in the bus against the late Paul Walker, and the bus going off the mountain. We posted it on the Impact website and while a lot of people were very excited, some people weren’t, one fan started claiming that that was racist and that was his entire role in the movie and once again Hollywood was bullshit.

And then a few months later that same fan is saying how great Tony was in the movie and what a great International debut it was. Fast 7 was seen by an audience that far exceeds the pure martial arts movie crowd, more than a few of whom then checked out some of Jaa’s other work after being introduced to him in this movie.

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Budomate: Scott Adkins… this guy is an absolute talent, any plans to work together?

Mike: Scott Adkins, should be the next James Bond! I would work with Scott in a heart-beat! He’s a great guy and a very good friend. Scott used to send me his showreels when he was trying to get started and you could see the man had talent from day one, and he worked on the whole package, not just the looks and the moves, the physique, the acting all were important to him.

He is a solid dramatic actor, of course I love to see him in Boyka mode flying through the air and Guyver kicking the hell out of someone, but there’s much more to him that that. I find it frustrating when some people only seem to want to see him as Boyka, don’t marginalize the man!

Scott AdkinsThe funny thing is I met Scott when he made his debut in Extreme Challenge, and we’ve always maintained a lot of communication over the years, and we have a lot of mutual friends but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago on Ninja 2 that we caught up again in person, and then shortly after-wards when he was heading off to Wolf Warrior.

Would love to work with him, we’ve come close to working together a few times, originally when I was casting Man with the Iron Fists 2, there was a character that Scott would have been perfect for, the younger take on the character Russell Crowe played in part one, but whereas Crowe had his character rewritten to become a good guy.

This was a really cool Spaghetti Western styled blade kicking bad guy, but rewrites saw the character dropped from the project, although Scott then got to work with the director Roel Reinne on the upcoming Hard Target 2.

I honestly think Scott could carry off James Bond, he’s got the looks, the dramatic chops and the action ones, he could bring that physicality to the character, I’m not necessarily saying we need Bond doing 720’s and jump spinning kicks, but especially now with the style and more realistic physicality that they’ve invested with the Daniel Craig 007 movies, I could really see Scott handling a role like that and showing people just what he is capable of.