Mike Leeder Interview, the walking Encyclopaedia of Asian cinema
Budomate: How hard is to find a real deal for a role? It’s a lot of guys over there but not everyone can get a role. What do you need to have or say if you hear the call from Mike Leeder?
Mike: It’s a combination of things, the look, the skill and just as important THE ATTITUDE! There are some incredibly talented people out there, unfortunately there are also a lot of people who seem to think that opportunity should just be handed to them, same way there are some incredibly talented people out there who just have the wrong approach, attitude is just as important as your skill set! I still can’t get over the attitude, be it arrogance or disrespect or just short-sightedness of people.
There’s an actor I worked with on Man of Tai Chi that I had always wondered why isn’t this guy more successful, great look, great skill set and then I worked with him and it explained everything. He hadn’t worked in a couple of years on anything that wasn’t a backyard project, and his first response was “oh I’d better get paid well for this” which didn’t inspire confidence.
He was a pain through negotiations, including breaching his NDA immediately as I found out when a documentary team contacts me to tell me how they will be following him to China and shooting interviews with Keanu and key members of cast and crew about their experience working with him, I did him a favour by talking to the fighter first and telling him this stops right here, or production would have shit canned him then and there.
In the long run I wish I had just let production shit can him, the drama continued with him not catching his planned flight as he didn’t actually have the China Visa he told us he had, but eventually he got to China and did his scene adequately, and then posts pictures on Facebook of himself on set, in costume and had an attitude when asked to remove them, then after he gets back to UK he tells us how he is expecting to be paid for the week he wasn’t there (due to not having the Visa he told us he had!) and generally being a douche.
Albert Pyun and Mike Leeder” width=”300″ class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-13251″ />The ultimate coda being last year he sent me his stuff for a project I was supposed to do with one of my friends and cinematic mentors Albert Pyun (get well Albert!), he sends me his stuff and I politely responded that he had to be kidding after all the bullshit he pulled on MOTC, his response summed up his attitude perfectly, “Oh I hoped you’d forgotten!” No apology, just an assumption that I’m stupid. There is a reason why people don’t succeed!
I’ve had people tell me they are the lead in movies that have never been made, tell me they’ve had supporting roles in movies only to talk to the director or cast who assure me the person never turned up, and telling me “oh yeah, but I was supposed to be the lead!’ doesn’t cut it!”
If you’re being considered for a movie, keep your mouth shut until the deal is done! When we were casting True Legend, one gentleman sends me his showreel and days later is announcing on his website how he is being strongly considered for a starring role in the movie (no he wasn’t, he was being considered as a fighter but the ego killed that!), there are the misguided moves such as last year when one actor was being considered for the Bruce Lee movie, and announces it online and in interviews with several websites and asking fans to show their support for him. All it did was make him look unprofessonal and prove he could breach an NDA.
There’s an ahem Western Actor in China, who has added himself to the IMDB listing for countless movies both Chinese or Western with “uncredited” as a supporting actor or military consultant to a whole bunch of movies he had nothing to do with, ignoring the fact half of them were shooting at the same time in different parts of the world, and talking of how Jackie Chan created a role for him on Dragon Blade because he’s so great, he’s one of the many Western background guys on the movie.
Or the gentlemen who came to a casting with me for Fearless and in the course of the audition, told me he was in the Power Rangers series, then it became he’d been in the live show, then something else, and a year later comes to another casting and tells me he was not only in Fearless as the British Boxer (he wasn’t! That was JC Leuyer who did a great job!).
He was also one of the choreography team and then when I told him he wasn’t and I had never seen him on set during the entire shoot, the story changed again.
There’s people doing interviews claiming they worked on The Matrix series, have negotiated a co-starring role in Monkey King 2 (neither of which is true, but they assure me “I was misquoted” but never tried to clear up the matter) and end up shitting on their real credentials with all the bullshit.
There’s a young guy in Hong Kong who has done interviews about his many co-starring roles that don’t exist (nothing wrong with being an extra and in Asia especially being an extra can lead to bigger things, but don’t imply you’re a major player).
Even met with some of my stunt team on Pound of Flesh and told them he was part of the stunt team and was recording the music for the movie, “it’s a misunderstanding” he later tells me, one of far too many that make anything he says or does questionable! It’s worrying that they are lying to themselves?
Hype is one thing, sheer bullshit and downright dishonesty is something else! I’ve had people who have shot a friends audition for a movie listing themselves as Casting Director for projects they have nothing to do with, I know which projects I’ve done casting for and if I was to list all the times I’ve shot auditions for people as a favour I could add everything from Green Hornet, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Almost Human and much more to my resume, it wouldn’t be entirely false but it wouldn’t be true either!
Then there are the people who are there whenever you need them.
Conan Stevens from Game of Thrones and The Hobbit, who I used on True Legend, represents himself the right way, its easy to find him, his info, his showreeel, his pics, his resume, his contact info its all easy accessible. He knows what he can do, what his strengths are, and markets himself the right way, he came in on True Legend and did great.
Darren Shahlavi” width=”300″ class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-13254″ />The late great Darren Shahlavi, when we were casting Ip Man 2, he sent me his stuff and he could have quite easily gone, ‘I sent you my stuff, look at my IMDB’ etc. But he didn’t, when I asked for more material, for photos of him with a look that fit the character as the production team felt his photos and look might be too modern, he went that extra mile and took photos that fit the look. Putting in that extra effort got him the job, he came did a great job and impressed everyone on the production.
They originally had written a cameo for his character to return in Ip Man 3, because they liked him and the effort he put in.
Same for Pound of Flesh, he brought a lot of ideas to the table for his character, he brought some costume dressing for himself that he felt suited the character. He was always willing to bring something to the table, to change his look, to train, to try something new, never rested on his laurels. If you offered the challenge, he’d rise to it!
There’s Brahim Achabakhe based in Thailand, same thing phenomenal skill set and attitude. Brahim I’d been aware of for a few years, and he’d sent me his showreels and resume and asked about working in Hong Kong etc, but nothing had come up. He’d auditioned and anytime I had asked him for a showreel, a resume etc, he would send it, never the “oh I sent it to you before” mindset.
When we were prepping Man of Tai Chi, Keanu wanted to change up a few stereotypes, why did the TKD necessarily have to be a Korean, I showed them Brahim’s work as he’s a hell of a kicker, asked him to send some more TKD styled kicking and boom they liked it, he got the job, came in and did a great job. Same for Pound of Flesh, came in and was a team player all the way, as part of the stunt-team, as Nardo, doubling Jean-Claude and its great to see him getting more opportunities as a choreographer and actor himself.
I was so disappointed a few years ago, when they first announced the Michael Bay produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and one would-be action choreographer presented a montage of action clips from various HK, Korean & Thai movies as an idea of the kind of choreography he could bring to to the table. When it was mentioned that none of it was choreographed by him, his response was why would he be expected to do anything to show them what he could do without pay! I completely understand not wanting to be taken advantage of, or to have someone use your work without paying, but make the effort, show people an idea of what you can offer.
If you’re the biggest name in the business, maybe you don’t need to show people what you can do, but even then I am sometimes very pleasantly surprised when we are casting or putting something together, and big names come in and audition or present themselves without ego and attitude.