Mike Leeder Interview, the walking Encyclopaedia of Asian cinema
Budomate: Can you name nowadays underrated martial artists who have a talent and deserve much more?
Mike: Ron Hall, fans with a good memory will remember him as the flipping and kicking dynamo from Bloodsport 2, Triple Impact etc. He was the guy doing Hong Kong style action in western movies long before anyone was ready for it. Exceptional screen fighter, solid actor, really good guy, never got the spotlight he deserved, he did a great job on the potboiler Almost Related aka Kung Fu Brother, he acted, choreographed, kicked ass and for whatever reason the film has still yet to get any kind of proper release.
I met Ron when we were supposed to do a Frankie Chan movie together, then he got signed by Paramount and asked to return to the States, and then studio chief’s changed and he got put on a shelf and I think missed his window. Still great skill set, hell of a good guy, got short changed by a lot of people, even when he directed a movie, it was taken out of his hands and the finished version was a fraction of what it could have been. I hope to be able to work with Ron on something down the road, I still think he has got a lot he can bring to the table, great dude.
Fan Siu-wong, if ever there was a man who could have been and should have been a contender, its Fan Siu-wong, he could have been the Chinese Tony Jaa, he was given such a great action debut in Stone Age Warriors, and had so many offers on the table but Story of Ricky while a huge cult hit internationally, was a huge critical and box office flop in Hong Kong & Taiwan etc, and threw his career way off track for a very long time. He always delivered and did some great action in movies like Death Games etc, but it wasn’t until Ip Man came out that he really got the attention again.
Vincent Zhao is another man who should have been and could have been a much bigger star, he was so young when he did the first Fong Sai-yuk and Once Upon a Time in China 4 & 5, and the subsequent TV series. If I was going to make a Chinese James Bond movie, he’d be my choice, I was really hoping True Legend was going to be the movie to break him out again, but it wasn’t to be and then the Special ID debacle messed things up again. He’s an actor waiting to find the role he needs, that once character that you can identify him with, great skills, great look and great presence.
Kitty Jiang, her skill and courage during the making of CoWeb helped get her the attention, but the movie did not showcase her in any way, she’s had moments in a lot of films but she hasn’t broken out the way I hoped she would.
Brahim Achabbakhe, the man is a beast! Hell of a kicker and tricker, but real deal martial artist, trains his ass off, works hard, great work ethic and attitude, very talented choreographer, puts in the hard work and another really good guy. You ask him for a showreel or to audition, he’ll deliver! Had the pleasure of working with him on a few projects including Pound of Flesh & Man of Tai Chi, and great to see him getting more exposure as an actor, watch out for him in Undisputed 4!
Mike Moeller, I might be biased as I’ve worked with him on three projects now that I’ve produced, but he is so talented as a screen fighter and choreographer, he has so many ideas and so much energy, and is genuinely a good guy, he’s a real fan of martial arts movies and really want to see him move forward. On Pound of Flesh originally he was supposed to play a bigger role, and we didn’t really get to show what he can do, he put so much into One Million Klicks and Ultimate Justice, I really hope these projects open more doors for him.
Kane Kosugi, another man who should be a much bigger star, exceptional skills, great look, good actor and fantastic work ethic, Muscle Heat/Blood Heat should have opened more doors for him, and while he’s had great cameos in projects like DOA, Choy Li Fut and was great as the bad guy in Ninja 2 with Scott Adkins, he just hasn’t had the right projects as a leading man.
Had heard nothing but good things about him from everyone I know who had worked with him, from stunt-guys to costume people, to production assistants to everyone and he more than lived up to it when I met him. Have come close to working with him a few times, he was originally going to come in on Man with the Iron Fists but we had scheduling issues, and been trying to find a suitable project to collaborate on.
Jess ‘the Joker’ Liaudin, he’s the real deal from the ring and the UFC, he has been doing some small roles and stunt work for the last few years, I met him for the first time when we were casting Fearless, and thought he had a great look and something about him. But he’s had some nice little roles in projects like Sweeney and then a much bigger role in Anti-Gang the French remake with Jean Reno, and he’s got a hell of a role in Julien Seri’s Night Fare. I really think he has the potential to go places, very good physical skill set and really works at the acting side too, and a hell of a look.
Also a big admirer of Celine Tran, she’s a very interesting woman. Industry, she has a unique look, and great onscreen attitude and presence, seriously impressive martial arts skills, she’s done a couple of projects including Heart-breaker, Bladed Minds, and Burst that really show her potential. She looks good doing action, she’s gutsy, she’s not afraid to get bloody or dirty, and I really want to see her step up to the next level.
Taemi from the K-Tigers. This talented beauty is currently famous in Korea for pulling ridiculous stunts using her Taekwondo skills and is a part of the famous K-Tigers Taekwondo team. She’s done a few movies including The Kick with JiJa Yanin in Thailand, but I don’t think we’ve seen a glimpse of what she’s really capable of, great looks and skills, have a lot of respect for the whole K-Tigers group, used Taegu on Peter Pan, very good skill set too.
Helene Tran had the pleasure of meeting her when I was shooting the Shaolin Apprentice for French TV, really good attitude and skill set. She’s been doing stunts and smaller stuff in Europe but need to find something bigger for her. I also use her reel as a perfect showcase for solo skills, when people tell me they don’t have a stunt team or something to work with. Shoot something that showcases what you can do, just as she has.
Vi Dan Tran is multi talented in front and behind the camera, very skilled fighter and choreographer and half of the team behind the recent Darth Maul fan film, he just worked with Jackie Chan’s team on The Foreigner. Great guy someone to watch out for.
Max Huang, another member of Jackie Chan stunt-team. Exceptional skills and attitude, great look and I really think Jackie is grooming him to step up as an action actor, he’s got the looks, the moves and the potential.
Zhang Lanxin, the beautiful tall high kicking girl from Chinese Zodiac. She should be a star. She’s got classical model looks, and is a world class Taekwondo fighter and looks great on screen. Zhang was serving in the China National Taekwondo Team before she entered the entertainment industry. Zhang won the champion in the National Taekwondo Championships in 2004.
Maria Tran, long been a supporter of the work Maria does both in front and behind the camera. Genuinely talented, great skill set both in front and behind the camera, she acts, she writes, she produces, she choreographs, I think her role in Truy Sat/Tracer will make people sit up and take notice. One of the good people in the business.
I also think Nui Kessarin, the Taekwondo champion from Born to Fight, she is someone who hasn’t been given a proper breakout. She made such a great debut with that film, she’s got the look, the moves and they just don’t seem to know what to do with her.
Mayling Ng, met her during the shooting of Lady Bloodfight, and despite all the issues on that movie, she didn’t let the bullshit affect her work and she delivers as a screen fighter and memorable villain. World class athlete and fitness expert, yet open to direction, always looking to improve her skill set as a martial artist and as an actress. Definitely someone to watch!
Jean-Paul Ly, very talented screen fighter and actor. Great martial arts skills, humble, easy going and enthusiastic. He’s been doing stunts and supporting roles and now he’s going to get a proper leading role in the Cambodian action project Jail Break.