My weekend has been rather tasking but I’m happy to present my latest interview catching up with Headshot, The Night Comes For Us co-star, Singaporean actor Sunny Pang to start things off. He’s been busy filming a new show and circling other projects while he’s now got two films lying-in-wait: searing heist thriller, Fly By Night, and urban martial arts tourno drama, Kill-Fist.
In this our second interview, Sunny and I talk a bit about both and then some, though primarily it’s more to do with Kill-Fist seeing as it just screened in Cambodia. The film’s director, James Lee of Doghouse 73 Pictures, is currently crafting a brand new trailer which we will proudly present in the coming weeks once all is officiated and legit.
This movie’s got some layers to it! First off, your character is a badass – and yet at first glance, Zhang is just this unassuming forties guy who works in an office. Like, the first 20 or so minutes you forget about the intro and suddenly he’s breaking out mantis frickin kung fu! How did you and James approach this character? Because there’s a backstory to him that doesn’t quite show he has that kind of disciplined experience.
Well, I usually leave the creative stuff to James cause he’s got a unique way of storytelling. Also, we’ve worked together before and I know he will give me a different kind of challenge in approaching a character he’s created, and so of course I’ll have some input most of the time. But usually I can just read what James is thinking, so it’s all good.
Kill-Fist was filmed for thirteen days, and so I can only imagine the scheduling, fight scenes rehearsals and all that effort. How did you guys manage pulling it all together in so little time?
There was little time for us to prepare the fight scenes. We had only one week to do pre-production. During that time, our friend Chee Hong was in charge of fight choreography and he only had TWO weeks to prepare all the fight scenes before I arrived in Malaysia for that remaining week of pre-production, drama and fight scene rehearsal with the cast. It was a pretty tight schedule, but we were fortunate to pull through.
I rarely see Chee Hong in anything, but when I have seen him like I have in James’s 2014 short, Second Life, and then now in Kill-Fist – he goes fucking hard! Your fight scene with him is one of the most electric I’ve watched.
He’s always been awesome to work with. He’s got good control, good precision and strength control. On screen we look like we’re killing each other, but in real life we are definitely friends, we crack jokes and so on. I really hope he’ll get his big break someday cause he truly deserves it.
Talk about working with Alan Yun. Amply-talented actor, and I was enthralled at how you, Chee Hong and James were able to get him to adapt at his own “style” of sorts. It brims with psychological fervor.
He’s fun to work with! It was hard looking at him during our fight scene because his facial expressions were so haunting. It was hilarious, but creepy at the same time which I think a measure of brilliance to his craft. He’s THAT good! [laughs]
Chee Hong and James came in – they knew Alan doesn’t have a martial art background so they invented a style he could adapt to in accordance with his character. He’s a preacher and it turns out he has a sadistic side so when he fights, it’s sort of a mix of bitch-slapping palm strike kung fu. At one point I even said that this, along with his facial expressions was THE selling point right there! [laughs]
Jokes aside, Alan really took the time to learn the action. He runs a restaurant as well and so he was very busy, but he is generally talented and a fantastic actor, and I hope to work with him again in the near future.
Did James keep you in the loop on his construction of the story throughout the production? I ask because some actors don’t always know what will happen down the line with each script as things are usually sort of real-time and I was pretty impressed by the second half. And the story is really intriguing.
In terms of the script or storytelling, I knew what I was getting into. James definitely kept tabs with me in that regard. Also, the budget is very small and considering my experience in independent film anyway, I simply went with the flow and I enjoyed myself. I hope this project can at least help James acquire a better budget for the next film that we plan to work on.
Indeed, and you two have seen your share of hurdles in the industry. And we’re talking two markets – in Malaysia as well as your native Singapore. Can you elucidate for us a bit from your perspective and maybe give some readers something of a visual in terms of this topic and where productions and opportunities like Kill-Fist and The Collector have stood (or maybe stand) going forward?
Honestly, I can tell you this: its never easy in our territory. The Collector never once landed in Singapore theaters, save for screening once at a film festival here. Even Headshot suffered the same fate back in 2016 despite being one of the most talked about action films around the world that year. It didn’t screen at local cinemas in Singapore at all. The Collector did have some local Malaysia releases but it was only a limited rollout. I seriously don’t know what happened at that time, but the audiences loved it and then, it was suddenly pulled. I wasn’t even really upset when I learned Headshot wasn’t even going to show in Singapore locally despite having a local guy like me in the main cast, because I knew it was coming.
With Kill-Fist, James and I knew where we were going. We just wanted to work on the project, as much as we believe in it, and the hopes of getting to sell it overseas where audiences like in North America and UK and around the world share appreciation of our work. We just want to keep working together and keep fighting the good fight.
So it’s still pretty much a crapshoot as far as releases are concerned. I’m eager to see or maybe measure when it could hit the global market floor at some point before it gets some sales news. I have friends who LOVE your work. Our mutual friend, Paul Varacchi? BIG freakin’ fan of yours, so he’s dying to see it.
Theaters and home VOD release, we’ll see. I’m not sure but please tell Paul not to Krav Maga my ass! [laughs] But, I really hope to find out something soon.
Me too. You’re the real deal and a genuine talent. Your screenfighting and expertise is a plus to what you do and your acting is a major centerpiece where and when it counts like in Fly By Night which I got to review last month thanks to some kind folks from the NYAFF. Talk a bit about that one for us. It’s out in Malaysia soon and my friend Eoin Friel is a total fan of your work too, and he wants to see it.
I would like to shout out to Eoin! Thank you for the love and support, I will do my best for my next project! I greatly appreciate it!
Fly By Night is a one my all-time favorite projects, and all thanks to director Zahir Omar for hooking me up to this project. I was lost for words after watching it at Macau Film Fest 2018 and I wanted to watch it again. Zahir turned around and asked me what I thought, and I simply couldn’t say anything. Zahir thought I hated it! [laughs] Thankfully he understands better though. I loved it. Family, survival, crime, circumstance and desperate measures all rolled into one. What more can you ask, right?
So you’d work with Zahir again after this, I’d presume.
Without a doubt. We are planning something but it’s going to take awhile because we don’t like to rush into things. This time it’s going to be a whole lot more different then Fly By Night!
Are there any roles you wouldn’t mind revisiting from previous projects?
I don’t mind at all. As long there’s challenges, why not? But I really wanted to do something like Taken, The Man From Nowhere or John Wick. I know I can only dream of it but until it happens, but it’s like they say: A guy can dream, right?
I still have to pester Gavin Lim about Diamond Dogs. I honestly have no idea what is happening with that one but while we’re at it, any idea on its trajectory thusfar? Is it hiding under a stack of Gavin’s celluloid film collection somewhere?
You’ll have to ask Gavin Lim about that [laughs], sorry man!
So what’s next for Sunny Pang?
I am in the middle of discussions for a project I’m looking to sign on for. The director wanted to work with me and with someone considered to be a legendary producer. I am not saying who yet, but once I am allowed, I will let you know for sure.As for now, I am action directing with my team, Ronin Action Group, doing stunts and a supporting role on a series for a local OTT platform. It’s called The Driver and I’m currently in talks with other production for some action and stuntwork, and I’m also doing a pilot for a TV series pitch. Lastly, I may or may not be in season five of Code of Law, so this year is packed with workload but I am happy.
Thank you Sunny! I look forward to catching up in our future off-the-record chats.
Cool! Thank you for this Interview Lee! Thank you so much!