As 2017 came to a close, the new year felt ripe in its approach with the number of projects – particularly coming out of Southeast Asia – that were slated to arrive at forthcoming dates. It all stems from the kind of residual energy and excitement that has been percolating since Gareth Huw Evans put an unknown in the spotlight with Iko Uwais in Merantau, just several years before an already world-scale famous Tony Jaa would segue into more flexible auspices of management ahead of Furious 7, among other regional entities such as in Singapore, India, the Philippines, Cambodia and the like.
It’s not without its show of struggle though, given the well-documented hurdles faced by aspiring artists toward the action genre in most of these territories – a reminder that the renaissance we’re now seeing has been, a continues to be one that is long and hard fought for. Undoubtedly, Indonesia stands to gain plenty from this growth – a fact that producer Mike Wiluan is fully aware of in the wake of his first feature film, Buffalo Boys, a period action film stylized with the excitement of a fun, thrilling western judging by the footage we’ve already been offered in the most recent teaser and as of today, the brand new trailer now online. It also stands prospective for its raft of leading regional talent headlining the spectacle – a milestone proving even more auspicious for up-and-coming film and TV star, actor and stuntman Yoshi Sudarso in his feature film debut.
“Acting was my initial goal, but stunts ended up being a more realistic goal for the time being.” says Sudarso, who grew up in the city of Jakarta prior to moving to Los Angeles, California near the turn of the century. Acting pursuits notwithstanding, the years that followed would see Sudarso also expand his horizons, accruing opportunities in stuntwork, and then dabbling in stunt coordinating.
“I sort of fell into it, get it? [laughs], but in all seriousness, that’s pretty much what happened.” he says. “I did a video for someone because I could do flips and from there, other people on set asked me to do something for their next project, and so on. That’s just the nature of the business, word of mouth, and you keep training and collecting new skill sets.”
Surprisingly, Sudarso wasn’t allowed to learn martial arts during his childhood, while he would later grow adept in his athleticism through other means. His father’s old martial arts books would serve as the basis for learning stances and other step-by-step mechanics, prior to the fruition of YouTube and the aid of friends which would further grow his curriculum. Of course, as one would have it, the proliferation of action star Jackie Chan would also prove influential for the aspring film professional.
“I watched a lot of television and movies when I was younger, so there are countless shows and movies that have shaped me, I think.” he adds. “But I was a huge geek in fantasy, comics, anime…I still am, actually. Jackie Chan was a huge influence though, as cliché as that sounds. His movements, comedic timing, ingenuity, range of acting, etc.”
Even so, as much as it was a matter of time until he’d make it official with the goal of eventually taking on acting, Sudarso was still busy figuring things out for himself.
On the set of THE MAGICIAN
Photo: Amy Sturdivant
“I wasn’t really sure of what I wanted to do in life, let alone in film.” he tells us. “I tried it all and one day someone told me that I should try getting into stunts and then years later I was doing stunts for films and TV, eventually that led me to acting.”
Having become a self-taught martial artist, his efforts would eventually land him several years later networking with other L.A.’s burgeoning stunt talents, eventually landing him a career on the big and small screen between acting and stunts. Our own coverage has seen him weigh in with his talents for several prolific independent martial arts actionistas such as Noah Fleder, Bryan Sloyer, Dennis Ruel, Shaun Piccinino, Vlad Rimburg and the immersive stylings of independent film group, Epic Rival.
“I was splitting my focus on both acting and stunts.” he says. “When I made up my mind to pursue stunts and only stunts, I went to an audition and booked Power Rangers Dino Charge, my first major acting gig. I took that as a sign to continue to pursue acting and now here I am. I was in college when I decided to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Majoring in Math at the time, I switched my focus and finished my degree with Theater, no focus on acting, just general theater. I took acting classes in LA after Dino Charge, but most of my training comes from auditions and on-set experience.”
Such an experience would also be the crux of Sudarso’s most recent film adventure upon being cast in Mike Wiluan’s Buffalo Boys last year next to Java Heat actor Ario Bayu. In the week that followed since accepting the project from his management and phoning in with Wiluan, it was a pretty brisk process and therefore, not without its fair share of challenges, principally including readapting to Bahasa dialect which the actor describes as “a welcomed challenge”. The action itself was less so a hurdle given his own familiarity, and so as it stands and despite time being of the essence, working with noted Hard Target 2 action director Kazu Patrick Tang certainly stood him on green pastures.
“I came into the project pretty late, so by the time I came in, the choreography was all set and done with.” says Sudarso. “I would ask for little tweaks here and there during our training, but that was the extent of my involvement with the choreography.”
“…It was a bit of a whirlwind. I had to refresh my knowledge of the Indonesian language quite a bit, but it was a really fun challenge.” says Sudarso, who is also expressedly enthusiastic, as well as adamant about his motivation for claiming the role of Suwo – a Javanese cowboy who partners with Bayu as older brother, Jamar, on a mission of vengeance during Dutch colonial reign in 19th century Indonesia.
“I’m very nervous! I’m a bit scared to watch myself on the big screen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very excited, but there is definitely a lot of weight on my shoulders in regards to this film. I’ve always wanted to play a cowboy, it’s only fitting that my debut is me as a cowboy! I’d say it’s pretty perfect.”
“Without giving too much away, Suwo is fun loving, caring, but can be a bit on the reckless side.” Sudarso says in describing the character he proudly plays next Bayu whom he fondly considered a big brother equivalent to that of his role as Jamar.
“[Bayu] knew so much about everything, the culture, the sets, etc. He guided me through it and took me under his wing, and I couldn’t have been more excited to work alongside him. This was my first time leading a movie, and it was an amazing experience, but without Ario’s wisdom and guidance along with that of others, I would have felt lost.“
L to R: Ario Bayu, Sunny Pang and Yoshi Sudarso on the set of BUFFALO BOYS (2018)
Sudarso also injected some more teaser points about the role he plays, penned by Wiluan and scribe Raymond Lee, as someone who “…gets himself and, at times, others into trouble before he even realizes it. He has his own demons to fight, but tries to take care of others before dealing with his own problems. This movie shows his journey in maturing and learning to think before leaping.”
There wasn’t much else Sudarso could delve into for my questions regarding Buffalo Boys. Obviously all else remains under lock and key until further notice, save for what the actor was allowed to share for action fans in terms of what to expect, stating “…Lots of explosions!”
Going a little more into the film and its production and Indonesia as a whole, I was left wondering if this could have been the start of something omnious for Sudarso coming from a region of the world now bustling more than ever in film and entertainment for action fans. I’ve buzzed aplenty about The Raid, its sequel, its star and the current development of its reimagining in the last several years – most recently sifting through WTF Nation Radio’s podcast interview with screenwriter Adam G. Simon. Sure, Sudarso’s screen caliber deserves measuring upon the release of Buffalo Boys, although headlining a popular TV series serves as a nice preamble in my view, and as eager as I am to see him collaborate with some of today’s stars like Joe Taslim, Yayan Ruhian and Iko Uwais, I’m fascinated at his interest as well.
“I never say no to opportunity, also, travelling is an added bonus. I’d love to see more countries and most of all, working in Indonesia, specifically, I’d get to learn more and more about my culture.” As for working with Wiluan, Sudarso was complimentary in his reply in stating how fun and productive it felt between star and director, adding “…Mike was very receptive to any changes and ideas I had. It felt like a collaboration, that is, whenever those changes made sense.”
The proliferation of Asians in cinema strikes as nothing short of opportune these days for Sudarso. Next to Buffalo Boys he also recently wrapped up key introductory filming for Bao Tran’s upcoming feature film, The Paper Tigers which is still in flux as an independent production. Sudarso says he’s “Extremely” excited for the project specifically because of the cause at hand when it comes to Asian representation in film and television, something Sudarso himself has even engaged in with fans from one time to another on social media. Sudarso is joined by sibling actor and fellow Power Rangers franchise star Peter Sudarso, and actor and martial artist Gui DaSilva for their portion of filming as we await further news on The Paper Tigers which began several years earlier as an electrifying proof of concept kung fu shortfilm.
Yoshua and Peter Sudarso on the set of THE PAPER TIGERS (TBD) – Photo: Al’n Duong
As for what lies ahead for Sudarso when it comes to stunts and acting, personally (and while always and forever a Power Ranger in the hearts of fans). He’s got some “maybes” waiting in the wings until the i’s are dotted and such, while I certainly hope he continues his collaborative measures with independent folks. Much is ado with the work he’s done as shown a time or two in The Hit List and other articles, and in the five years that I’ve been active here at Film Combat Syndicate with many of the revelations and updates about the stunt community, the one thing I will always admire is the spirit of collective creativity and camraderie.
It’s especially what got me following folks like Zero Gravity in their heyday, as well as The Stunt People, VJ Films, Jabronie Pictures, Rising Tiger and anyone or other group or individual I myself have kept tabs on since around 2004; Thousand Pounds Action Company is certainly another entity in that regard as well as its subsequent evolution, Epic Rival, who has Sudarso set to star in another high-concept offering with Final Fight-inspired The Broken Gear, which arrives later this year following a screening a few months ago at MagFest. For this, the online independent film scene is one Sudarso is certainly tethered to and, understandably, for good reasons across the board.
“They all have one thing in common, they’re all very hard workers and incredibly creative. I guess that’s two things! [laughs]” he iterates. “I love moments where these guys push me, they ask me to do things that I’ve never tried before and they have way more confidence in me than I do. It’s how we level up, and I’ll never take that for granted.”
Indeed, it’s given way to the game changer that has been the past year for Sudarso, who hasn’t forgotten how fast time flies by in the course of things. Sure, I have some high hopes and expectations for him, but the key to succeeding in anything is loving what you do, and the budding action star is definitely biding his time and savoring it per his own philosophy going forward.
“Enjoy the experience as it’s happening,” he tells me, “…because when it’s over, you’ll miss it.”
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.