Much is ado these days for UK director Chee Keong Cheung. His latest segue into action horror with zombie thriller, Redcon-1, is well underway in its campaign after a peculiar PR rollout which, as far as I know, began in Japan (as indicated by a Japanese captioned trailer I learned of over the summer).
A U.S. release still remains pending for the film and time will tell before how much more waiting is needed on that end. In the meantime, the cast has been doing the promo rounds some, including actor, martial artist and producer Mark Strange who, after a heavy week of publicity last week, was able to answer some questions for us ahead of Thursday night’s Raindance premiere.
Greetings Mark and thank you for taking the time to discuss a few things with us. How has the year been for you thusfar?
This year’s been amazing, my best year so far. I’ve been in this industry for 17 years now, working in different roles as an actor, fight performer, fight coordinator and producer, and it feels like everything I’ve done over the years is paying off. It’s been awesome!
Some of us remember your career dating as far back as 2006 – I remember spotting this one trailer myself and your career actually started way before that. Tell us about yourself and how you got into film and movies?
I started out, like everybody else, as a big film fan! I grew up watching everyone from Jackie Chan to Sylvester Stallone, which also developed my passionate for martial arts and competing. The Rocky story, in particular, and that character’s journey, is one that’s always been so inspiring to me.
A long time ago, before working in film, I owned my own gym for 15 years and worked as an instructor. I also competed all over the world, trained in China, and won titles like the Euro-British Full Contact Championship and the MAI National Chinese Forms Championship. But my passion was always to work in film.
Alongside my other early work, I started shooting my first feature, Displaced, which I produced and starred in. Then I took a break to fly to Hong Kong and do stunt work in Twins Effect. Donnie Yen was action directing so that was very cool! Around the same time, they were doing re-shoots on The Medallion so I had the opportunity to work with Jackie Chan which was incredible. Totally inspired, I returned home more determined than ever to finish Displaced and continue my new journey in film. I also did stunt work in Batman Begins which was an amazing, eye opening experience and helped me recruit some of the actors for my next film, 12 (aka Underground), which I once again produced and starred in.
Your latest role in Redcon-1 has you back together with director Chee Keong Cheung again and you’ve been off-and-on for years. Tell us about your partnership.
Before Redcon-1, I made two films with Chee as a director, and those were 12 and Bodyguard: A New Beginning. Each of these films has been bigger and a gradual step up. Redcon-1 is the biggest we’ve done so far and there’s been a lot of hard graft that’s got us to this point.
Chee has an amazing drive as a filmmaker. I’ve never known anyone in my entire life to have his kind of focus. We work well together and have a great partnership in that we both have the same passion. The producing side has been a strength for me because he creates a great vision with what I provide as a producer. He also knows how to get the best out of me as an actor. Playing this character in Redcon-1 is the best role I’ve ever had and I think the film is pretty unique.
Talk about your role in Redcon-1.
My character is Lt. Frank Perez and he is a tough, badass guy who believes he makes all the right decisions. Without giving too much away, he’s not very well liked by the rest of his team but he has a great character arc throughout the story.
As producer, you brought El Mariachi himself Carlos Gallardo and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman aboard. Tell us about working with these two…
I can’t actually take credit for that as I Introduced Chee to my friend, the talented filmmaker and artist Digger Mesch, who introduced him to Kevin and I believe Carlos as well. Both Kevin and Carlos always loved the project and thought it was unique. They loved this idea of mixing martial arts with war and horror and it was amazing to work with both of them and see us all benefit.
This isn’t your first foray into the zombie genre and imaginably it takes a bit of creativity to up the ante with zombie movies beyond blood splatter and gore. You also produced and wrote, as well as coordinated the action with a team on hand. Was there ever an innate intent to sort of re-invent the zombie movie? Or is it mostly just getting your feet in and working with what you have to create something “fresh” and “fun”?
Yes, that’s right, I also fight coordinated a zombie film called World of the Dead a few years ago! When Chee, Steve Horvath and myself set out writing this film, we asked ourselves, “what does well across different film genres?” We thought about the genres of war, horror and action. We wanted to fuse all those styles and make something new! We wrote this Special Forces team who go through this incredibly difficult ordeal, men on a mission in war, combined with mixed martial arts action, and a strong element of horror.
These aren’t “zombies” strictly speaking, they’re infected, more in the 28 Days Later mould than the slow George Romero-style zombies. We wanted to create a new strain that gives them added strength when they become infected. They hold onto some of their human traits and skills from when they were alive. If they can fight, or if they’re a soldier, they’ll still posses that skill set after they’re infected. It’s also very dark in places and violent, which I miss from many action and horror films nowadays.
Would you say that a world like the one introduced in Redcon-1 expands even further? Are there any sequel prospects?
I definitely think it has legs for both prequels and sequels. Like any movie, we’ll have to see how well it goes. As an independent movie that we spent a lot of time and effort creating, we hope everyone will support and enjoy our film. Definitely one to see on the big screen!
What are some of your biggest takeaways and lessons going forward in film after Redcon-1?
For anyone who wants to go out and make a film, it’s war. Doing anything on an indie level, you need to think outside the box. This is important both creatively, because it’s tough to make something different, but also on a production level, since we wanted to make something very big. I don’t like making small, simple movies and I know Chee is the same away, so you need to be ambitious.
I also understand you just wrapped Avengement this summer with Jesse V. Johnson. What can you tell us about that experience?
That was incredible because I’ve always wanted to work with both Jesse and Scott Adkins, and I finally got to do it. Scott is ultra talented and such a nice guy. Jesse is a fantastic director too and they make a great team. Scott and I have a quite a good bash ‘em up in the film. The action isn’t his usual martial arts style and it’s a lot more gritty and brutal, so it was great to be part of the project. I really wanted to give it 100% with my character.
Do you have any projects or collaborations planned that you can otherwise confirm or divulge in some capacity with us going forward be it this year or in 2019?
First I’m going to see how Redcon-1 does as it’s a big stepping stone for me. I’m also developing some new projects which I’ll be able to talk more about soon. At the same time, I’d love to work with Jesse and Scott again!
Thank you again for taking the time to talk about your new movie with us, and that note I just want to ask if you have any closing thoughts you’d like to express for our readers?
Thank you so much for your support and keep up the great work at Film Combat Syndicate!
Redcon-1 is released in UK Cinemas from 28th September
To book tickets visit: http://redcon1film.co.uk/