Mike Leeder Interview, the walking Encyclopaedia of Asian cinema
Budomate: Sure you met Jackie, Jet and Donnie, but do you remember when it happened the first time? And which meeting was the most unpredictable?
Mike: The first time I met Donnie was at the midnight premiere of Skinny Tiger Fatty Dragon, I had only just arrived in Hong Kong a few days earlier and had been fortunate enough to get a ticket from UK martial arts legend Mark Houghton who was fighting Sammo in the movie.
It was a movie everyone seemed very excited about, and all the various action were there to check out Sammo’s latest, I was loving it as I am seeing all these old school stunt guys coming in, there was a lot of Jackie’s team, Yuen Woo-ping and his brothers and various members of their team, and then Donnie and his team which included John Salvitti and Michael Woods who I remain friends with to this day. I think they were all a little confused by this big sweaty white guy who knew who they all were.
It’s funny as while I’ve interviewed Donnie at various times over the years, for Impact, Inside Kung Fu, and other magazines and special features for releases etc, we’ve never officially worked together on a project!
When we did Pound of Flesh, myself and John were laughing about that fact of how long we’d known each other, 24 years at that time but this was the first time we’d worked together! I have a lot of respect for Donnie, many of his team, John, Michael Woods, Kenji Tanigaki are very old friends of mine, Donnie’s sister Chris who is a very talented martial artist and screen fighter in her own right is another very good friend.
It’s great to see Donnie going from strength to strength and breaking into the international market more with Star Wars: Rogue One and now the new XXX: Return of Xander Cage, I have a feeling that things will be handled differently this time with regards to his work in the west.
Mike Leeder and Jackie Chan” width=”640″ height=”430″ class=”aligncenter size-large wp-image-13235″ />
Jackie is now and always shall be my hero, he’s the reason I really got into Hong Kong movies as a viewer, and while I’ve had the opportunity to meet him, interview him and work with him a number of times, I still get the biggest buzz from him, especially when he recognises me or remembers me from some past interview and discussion.
I did some casting for Chinese Zodiac, but then Man of Tai Chi came up and I couldn’t spend much time on the set of Jackie’s project, I was approached about working on Dragon Blade but there was shall we say some very dodgy politics going on and the project was messy to say the least, I was asked to play a very cool role in Skip Trace but I was already committed to Ultimate Justice so had to turn that down, but I just did some casting work on Kung Fu Yoga which was good, as I got to put some friends and very talented performers to work on it.
The first time I met Jackie was on the set of Operation Condor, I went up to Golden Harvest studios as a fan, and they were letting some Japanese and other fans on set for a couple of days, I happened to get lucky and get in on the tail end of that. That was interesting as I got to see how hard Jackie works, and also met Frankie Chan who would become one of my first mentors in Hong Kong, he was co-directing the movie.
Jet Li in Once Upon a Time in China” width=”640″ height=”414″ class=”aligncenter size-large wp-image-13236″ />
The first time I met Jet was when I worked very very briefly on Once Upon a Time in China 1 & 2, I’m an extra on both films, a lot of friends worked on the first one, and it was on OUATIC 2 that I first heard of someone who would go on to be one of my closest friends, Australian martial artist and stuntman Mike Miller who plays the Western Doctor who takes a burning arrow in the chest.
But I didn’t really get a chance to interview or speak to Jet at length until he was making the Dr Wai & the Scripture with No Words movie, I went up to Golden Harvest and spent a couple of days on the set.
Jet is very interesting, he’s not the outgoing enthusiastic one that Jackie is, Jet is much more reserved and somewhat shy I think. He’s very clever and really the Master of Tai Chi for many things including interviews, Jackie can sometimes get himself in trouble as he speaks his mind, doesn’t filter and sometimes says thing that people take the wrong way.
Jet will sometimes answer the questions he wants to answer, but once he gets to know you, and feels comfortable with you, he’s great. On Fearless and on The Mummy 3, we had some very good conversations about film, martial arts and life in general. He’s a good dude!