The first weekend of April this year was an excellent time for me. I got to meet up with a fellow movie friend to see Furious Seven on opening night, and what’s more, I got to meet up with two of the most awesome people anyone could hang out with, and it’s definitely another milestone I’ve set for myself as a film enthusiast.
Jonathan Eusebio: It’s good! I’ve actually been out here before so it’s nothing new but, we’re coming to the tail end of the cold here so any time it’s warmer I feel a little bit better.
Can Aydin: Yeah, we’re training a lot together, they’ve shown me around and I like this city. It’s good! I love it actually. New York is a great city and it’s my first time, and I thank my big brother, Daigo (points at Jonathan) [everyone chuckles jokingly] for showing me the city. It’s great!
JE: I’ve been in the business for about fifteen years.
JE: I grew up doing martial arts and training among guys I came up under with who did martial arts in movies and performed stunts as doubles. As soon as I graduated from school I went to them and said “Hey, I wanna do what you do!…”, and I just kinda fell into it at that point.
JE: In terms of stuff I could watch all the time, I’d say I could watch Raiders Of The Lost Ark over and over again. In terms of martial arts movies, back in the early 90’s and late 80’s I was also into John Woo, as well as Jackie, Sammo and Yuen Biao movies. I’d wait for those every week at the Chinatown cineplex.
JE: Well, you know when I was younger, I mean, you knew who Bruce Lee was, and then of course you had the Bruceploitation era. To be truthful, I never really saw the ‘real’ Bruce until I was maybe eight or nine when I saw Enter The Dragon and I was like “Holy cow!” because you could tell this was the real Bruce Lee. But…you know? I love his movies too. It really depends on my mood at the time. I was really into Bruce, as well as John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat when they were making movies together, and I was really into Jackie, Sammo and Yuen Biao movies, as well as Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest.
JE: It just depends, really. Any film that can tell a good story with action that compliments it really well will do. We’re actually working on some movies of our own, actually. Hopefully some comic book movies.
CA: I think for about ten years. And for pretty much the same reasons as Jon. I grew up watching martial arts movies, I’m a big fan of Hong Kong action cinema, and I also grew up watching all of Stallone’s movies – Rocky, Over The Top, Rambo, etc. So those gave me a lot of motivation to train and to be a better person. So, one day I said ‘You know what? Let me try this, you know?’ [laughs].
CA: Well, I’ve known Phong for ten years and we trained at the same gym, and I thought he was pretty talented and felt we should do something together. I told him one day I’d create a group and mentioned that I’d love for him to join, and he obliged. I also met Cha six years ago at the same gym in Germany, actually, and especially in Berlin – we have a gymnastics gym there where people train. I noticed Cha had the same spirit and passion, which is important to have in order to click, and that’s pretty much how it started. And now…
CA: Yes, and we have a name for it: Plan B!
CA: It was good! It was stressful at times, but simultaneously it was worth it. We worked a LOT – it was crazy but we were all disciplined. It was good, and I’m happy although from a filmmaking point of view, generally you know it can always be better.
CA: [nods] Exactly, exactly.
JE: Well, I did extra work to get my SAG card, and the first movie I did to get my card was Kung Pow: Enter The Fist.
JE: Yes! I was like, Henchman #4 or something.
JE: [laughs] No, I wasn’t the cow.
JE: [laughs] Those effects looked so good at the time and now you look back on it and it’s like, ancient. [laughs] But yeah that was my first time on a real movie set. It’s a big difference, like when you’re training all the time and practising reactions in the gym, and when you get on set feeling confident and you’re asked “What reactions can you do?” and you’re like, “I can do a back 3/4 on the stomach, I do it in the gym all the time!”, and then when you do it ten times on a REAL floor with a hard surface, it gets different when you’re under pressure. So that’s the first thing I learned when I was on set between doing it in a gym as opposed to doing it on the spot under pressure.
JE: Nah, not really. I’ve been working for a while now…I mean, sometimes you do, like, I met [Sylvester] Stallone and [Arnold] Schwarzenegger on Escape Plan and I grew up watching them. They’re icons, and working with these guys, you do feel a little a little overwhelmed because, well..they’re the biggest action stars in the world, you know? We grew up watching them. But, at the end of the day, it’s a job. It’s all part of the job.
CA: It was really exciting! Jojo was my boss on Agent 47, so really he actually gave me my first big shot. He and the crew really teached me a lot – they teached me the real stuff and these guys, you have to understand…they’ve been doing this for years. They’re the real deal, and the good thing about them is that they’re still REALLY into training and maintaining, they live it, they feel it. It’s not just business, you know? It’s a combination of martial arts and movie making – it’s an unbeatable pairing. Plus, being REAL and being a martial artist and understanding the movie language, it presents an unbeatable formula. And so I appreciate everything they’ve told me and taught me. It’s crazy exciting, and I’m still learning! We we’re training the other day and whenever I train with them, I’m always learning something day by day, especially with them, so I appreciate it.
JE: It’s great! I watched some of their shorts over at Reel Deal before I got to Germany. Usually I work in other countries so I try to find the best team I can find when I’m away. So I kinda go and find guys who have similar attributes and skillsets that I want to see, and I saw their shorts over on their Reel Deal channel and I felt they were really good. We had an audition and Can came in. He was one of the best ones I saw by far and I could tell that he could pick up rhythm and give the performance I want.
JE: It just depends, really. It’s a ton of things; You always want to make something new and fresh, but when you’re dealing with Hollywood pictures in general, you’re dealing with a lot of factors including budget and time constraints. In Asia, you could film a fight scene over five minutes long, right? And you’ll get two months to shoot it, whereas in Hollywood, you’ll get less time to shoot big action sequences. You might get anywhere from two days to a week, you don’t know. So, in terms of big Hollywood features sometimes it’s more about the time constraints that challenge what you’re able to shoot and what you can accomplish.
JE: No, no. I think, well… they’re big budget features for a reason. They have the best crews and the best lighting, they get the best equipment, etc. I think in terms of …well…you look at all the Bourne films-
JE: Yeah, I trained Matt on the first one and I was involved on all of them.
JE: Yeah! Hell yeah! [smiles] I coordinated the last one, I was assisstant fight coordinator on the third one and I trained Matt for the first one so I kind of introduced them to Kali.
JE: Hmmm… I think nowadays in this age of social media, these guys are getting really popular, and they’re getting better with shooting and camerawork, editing and after effects, etc. These guys are making independent movies, and with these guys, especially folks like Can and his team, it’s not so much as the skillset; fights are fights and moves are moves. I could probably go on Youtube, find something cool and copy it, but the most important thing is what Can said earlier. You’re combining real martial arts with filmmaking and what these guys are really good at is they have they’re own definitive filmmaking style. It looks like it’s shot well and its performed, and I could tell everything is thought out as opposed to just being “moves”. Fight choreography is more than just “moves”.
CA: Well, he’s very humble and you can tell. He’s one of the creators of the ‘Bourne’ style. You have to understand, it’s a style that’s lasted well over ten years and it’s still applied in Hollywood movies today, and you’re sitting in front of one of the creators of the ‘Bourne’ style.
JE: It’s a lot of what Can was saying earlier, for some films “realistic” doesn’t necessarily look good on camera. So a lot of it is, well… you have to have the body language. You have to look like who’s trained before. Some you may tell they’ve been in martial arts since they were a kid, or a pro-fighter by the way he/she stands as opposed to being a good athlete, say, a pro-football player or a gymnast. Great athletes. But if you tell them how to stand in a fight, it might look awkward. There’s a certain body language you can read compared to what you’re trying to convey, and it all comes down to ‘Why are you doing this move?’, ‘What’s your motivation behind this move?’, as opposed to just the move itself.
FCSyndicate: Do you see yourself directing and anytime soon?
JE: I mean, that’s my progression. I came up under my mentors, Chad Stathelski and David Letich and I’m part of 87Eleven with them. But, yeah, I watched them go from stuntmen to stunt doubles, to fight coordinator and stunt coordinator, second unit, and now they’re directing their own movies, and I’m pretty much trying to follow that same progression.
JE: I depends, really. I just got my DGA card so hopefully I’ll get to second unit soon.
JE: No I haven’t, but I met him! We auditioned him for Snake Eyes on the first G.I. Joe, a lot of guys know him. He’s a very nice guy and a good martial artist and I chalk him up there with a whole list of guys I would love to work with, Sammo or Jackie, or even Tony Jaa. I got to work with Chow Yun Fat years and years ago, and when I was in high school I would copy his look or clothes or whatever. I worked with him on Dragonball: Evolution, and I got to meet him. He’s the coolest guy, you know? You get to meet your idol and he’s everything you thought you’d be.
JE: Well they’re gonna do Ghost In The Shell, so I’m kinda curious about that.
JE: Scarlett? Well, I trained her for Iron Man 1 and 2 and then Avengers, so I know she can do it. She can pull it off. They’re A-list actors and she’s a great actress, and some people are concerned about her not looking like the lead from the anime, but Scarlett will make it believable. She’s got the chops!
JE: Of course! Yeah I’m definitely going to see that.
JE: Probably Black Widow. And I like Iron Man too.
[Turning to Can]
CA: I like Hulk. [laughs] He’s stong and he’s straightforward.
FCSyndicate: What were your first thoughts when you learned you were going to work on the Point Break remake?
CA: It’s a classic. Some people have their doubts because it’s a classic and are concerned if whether or not it will be just as good as the old one or better; Kinda like Rambo. But, I saw some of the footage and it looks good.
CA: It was good, it was nice- [I cut him off enthusiastically].
CA: [laughs] He’s a nice person. We didn’t have much time together but he picked up the choreography right away, we had one day for the fight to prepare and got it in just a few hours. The next day we started right away and I doubled his opponent so I got to fight him too. It was fun!
CA: About a year and a half ago, I started writing a script with an action/comedy in mind. We sought after an investor and one person came and left. We kept looking and eventually got in touch with Ufuk Genc and his company, CineChromatix. And from there we began producing, but we had to change it to where we’re telling one story while tellng another to give it some substance. So…we’re very excited about it as it’s the first action comedy in the history of German cinema. There have been martial arts movies but no one’s ever shot an action comedy.
CA: Thank you very much. Yeah, …I guess we’ll have to see. It’s an experiment of our own in the genre so we’ll have to see if there’s…
CA: Yeah, and how we develop it after this one. Especially with the action, you know? I mean, you have to find the balance. There’s a risk in making a fight too long, because today’s audience is not the same as it was in the eighties. For example, like in Rocky IV with Stallone and Lundgren in the final fight, that scene was maybe, twenty minutes. Nowadays you can’t do that.
JE: They’re all pretty much long hours. I remember we worked on Ninja Assassin-
FCSyndicate: [Cuts him off enthusiastically] I loved that film by the way.
JE: Thanks, that one was hard. Chad and Dave were the second unit, so they created and set up all of the action. The last couple of days were non-stop and we were working almost thirty-six hours straight, and then last day was just crazy. That was between the temple fight at the end and at the warehouse. We were all pretty tired… yeah. So it all varies. The hours are generally long and sometimes it can be non-stop.
JE: I came in at the end actually, but my teammates Jon Valera and Danny Hernandez did, and Rain…he worked SUPER hard. He’s a good athlete too, being a dancer and performer himself and in good shape, and he remembers choreography. He picks things up super fast, he’s like a madman. Non-stop.
CA: There were many. The whole movie was challenging, actually. Sometimes we were working anywhere from thirteen to sixteen hours and we had to be in shape, and we would only sleep maybe about two or three hours after. That’s how it is. So, above all else, you have to be disciplined and flexible. Things are can change when you’re on set – you have to be able to adapt to that environment with the camerawork, the action and choreography. Nothing is entirely set in stone, so you have to be flexible, as well as fast, and at the same time, relaxed. And that’s what I recognize in people like Jojo and Jon, they’re flexible and fast. We worked on Agent 47 and at times we were supposed to have two days to prep something and it would instantly be cut short to one day. Like ‘boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom’…you know? He and Jon Valera were very fast. In Hong Kong, you would have weeks and months whereas these guys, they come well-prepared under durress. You have to be ready.
JE: Well, if you train all the time an you work that much, eventually you feel the wear-and-tear take shape. Your body can deteriorate and sometimes minor injuries occur.
JE: Well, for me it’s not so much as the “worst”, really. Sometimes, for example, like, with fire stunts there’s always the risk of getting burned. But generally, you can get a lot of knee, shoulder or ankle injuries.
JE: Well, all the stunts I’ve done all pretty much measure the same. I mostly do fight coordination. I’m a fight guy, but I’ve done things like high falls up to thirty feet, a lot of crashes through stuff, getting beat up, thrown head first on the floor, wire stunts, etc. So I wouldn’t say there was one more dangerous than the most. They’re all dangerous if something goes wrong.
FCSyndicate: What is the most important thing a person should remember when considering stuntwork?
JE: Like Can said, you definitely have to stay in decent shape and be able to adapt pretty fast for any changes. It sharpens your awareness in case something goes wrong and you can adjust to it, and neither you or no one else gets hurt.
JE: Well, it’s like you grow up watching Ninja Turtles so you’re excited to be a part of something that’s part of your DNA growing up.
JE: Well, everyone knows their personalities and that the action and fight styles are all based on ninjutsu, and then it came to just putting together those styles with respect to their personalities. The source material is already there, basically, everything. So while working with our turtle doubles, say, I’ll look at Matt (Emig), Jeremy (Marinas), Anis (Cherfua) and Danny (Graham) tricking, and say “that’s the physical manifestation of what I think the Turtles are”. And so they put together what they can do physically, up to a certain point, and then we also have to figure out, visual effects-wise, what can we do to add onto that and hybridize it into the real world.
JE: I like Raph, he’s kind of like… he’s the anti-hero, you know? The loner, one who thinks he’s grumpy but really he has a heart of gold.
JE: Well, we’re working on the Turtles sequel. Nothing’s really started yet as we’re all kind of in pre-production. Nothing eventful just yet so far. Just getting ready to shoot.
FCSyndicate: [Turns to Can] Back on your feature debut, you got to know and work with Heidi Moneymaker. Tell us what that was like!
CA: It was great! Heidi was very capable at what she does. It was easy, she’s very fast. She trains with Jojo and everyone over at 87Eleven.
JE: Yeah, she’s on our team and she’s one of the best stuntwomen in Hollywood. Anything with fights or big stunts, she’s amazing. She trains really hard. And a lot of it is work ethic, so when you see her on screen its a culmination of the hard work she puts into her training.
CA: One day while I was working on Agent 47, Jonathan called me and told me that Heidi was coming and she wanted to shoot a short so make sure she has everything, take care of her and maybe you guys can help out. And Jonathan is “Daigo” (big brother), so I went and took care of her, and we had good chemistry. We worked with Heidi while also working with her sister Renae on The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. It was a crazy schedule too because I was also working on Point Break and we shot BEGM and Bad Choice with Sam Hargrave as well. It was very simultaneous.
FCSyndicate: Both BEGM and Bad Choice have Marvel nods to them. Is this a sign that you’d like to work on a Marvel movie anytime soon?
CA: I wouldn’t mind it! Originally the idea for both shorts came when Sam said we should do a short together, and I had this idea stemming from him having worked on Marvel movies before and thought about how to combine one story with another to form some kind of theme to tell it as our own story; and worked out! It was fun!
CA: [laughs] We’re working on it right now but it depends on the first one. And hopefully there will be a sequel and Jonathan and I might work on it as well. Actually, Jonathan almost worked on Plan B with us but he was busy working on a film.
JE: Yeah, and I also wanna do a shortfilm with Can and his guys as well. Unfortunately not here in New York City because of our schedules so we’re just trying to figure things out as time passes.
JE: Yes, I was the fight coordinator on that one as well. That movie was was awesome, I mean if you wanna talk about getting starstruck, he’s one reason why you would be!
JE: Yeah, I mean Chad and Dave already have a good relationship with Keanu, and Chad was Keanu’s double for a long time, so yeah. You’re with a guy who is an action icon, pretty much. And he’s a really nice guy and he works really hard. That guy will train every, EVERY day, and it shows on camera.
JE: I liked the house and the red circle stuff. But that movie is cool altogether, because it’s all an 87Eleven production, and all the fights and all the stuntwork and our guys, we worked together for so long. It shows on screen pretty well.
JE: It depends in terms of scheduling, so we’ll see what happens. But yeah, they’re getting ready to prep that as well as Turtles 2.
JE: Same, it depends. It’s early so it’s all up in the air at the moment. But it’s nice to be a part of those things with the people you train and came up with, so we’ll see.
JE: I went to school for Bio and then I wanted to work as a criminalist. But nowadays…it’s weird. I can’t imagine myself not being a part of anything with film. Either way, I will be involved somehow. You kinda feel where you’re going in life and you drift toward it.
JE: Nah, just me.
JE: Both my parents were nurses, so when I told them I wanted to do stunt work, they weren’t sure why, really [laughs]. They questioned it and were worried at first, but I just kept working and kept at it. After a while they were really proud of me.
JE: Thank you [smiles]
CA: Exactly the same. My parents were exactly the same way. I started at mechanical engineering and had a safe job, but yeah…for them it was “safe” job and “safe” income. But at the same time I wanted to be in movies. So I got an opportunity and quit being an engineer and started doing my own movies.
CA: You have to train and you have to push yourself. There is no end, like for example, meeting these guys, Jonathan and Jon, they are always teaching me something. You never know every single thing as you are constantly learning and working on yourself as they are. Which also brings me to this – You have to be humble. I’ve seen some examples nowadays for myself where people were not humble and you HAVE to be. You have to appreciate what you have, which is why I hold people like Jonathan and Jon with high regard. They’re role models.
JE: [Nods jokingly] Nah, none of us are, really.
CA: But I’m saying, Jonathan Eusebio, he created the ‘Bourne’ style, he worked on the Avengers movies and tons of other (Marvel) movies like Iron Man – he’s done so much. John Wick is a huge success, that movie is everywhere, but he’s one of the creators. It’s going to be a classic from here on, and he’s a part of that DNA and pioneering that style of action. And even with that, he’s STILL humble about it and modest about it. Same with Jon Valera, they’re both down to Earth and you can talk to them and learn with them and train with them. And that’s more important aside from just the business end of it. You have to be humble, train and work on yourself and be reflective on these things.
JE: That’s why I like these guys. The way they are with each other like our team, they have the same attributes. You know? Like attracts like. Birds of a feather flock together.
JE: Well, generally, I hope people like it. I hope everyone who enjoyed the first one will enjoy this one as well.
JE: Yes I’ve seen that, I read that also.
JE: No I haven’t. I’ve watched Arrow a couple of times. I liked the Flash a lot, and there was a crossover episode as well.
JE: Favorite TV show…you know what? I was a weirdo growing up. It was a show called Kage No Gunda (Shadow Warriors) with Sonny Chiba, it was a ninja series.
JE: [laughs] Yeah I watched it on Channel 18 on an international channel… that was my favorite.
JE: Yeah, I grew up in California. But yeah, I would go crazy to watch that show waiting for it to come on on Sundays. You had a bloc of Japanese programs but I used to watch that…and I also watched Robotech.
CA: There were so many I used to watch growing up like He-Man, Bravestarr!
[crosstalk with Jonathan and Can/laughter]
JE: Bravestarr!? [laughs]
CA: Yeah, that one, and also. I even watched Knight Rider and Hulk. But He-Man I still watch to this day.
CA: Yes, yes I do! I had a good time watching TV growing up. I was never bored.
CA: Best scene ever in the movie.
CA: Forget about my reaction, everyone at the cinema was in an uproar!
CA: [laughs] Yeah, but I had a lot of fun TV shows growing up. Ghostbusters and even He-Man, which I would still watch sometimes. That’s it, really.
JE: Whatever influences you I guess… These are all American shows!
CA: [sings the He-Man theme song, laughter in the room, crosstalk]
CA: No, that one was ripped while fighting my co-star, Aristo Luis Altobelo. He rips it off during the fight.
CA: Well, that was pretty much the hardest fight. Remember, I had to lose weight and get lean for my character. He and I train in the same gym and I met up about four months before we started shooting. I told him he had to lose weight and he actually gained weight instead, and so I was somewhere around 79 or 80 kilos and he was close to 95, maybe…which I think is about a thirty pound difference. Anyway, I remember telling him “Go for it!” because energy is very important to me on set in becoming a part of what is happening on camera and making it real to you through performance as much as possible. And Aristo is a real fighter, a K-1 fighter. He WENT for it as I told him to and of course, I regretted it [laughs], he hits real hard. But like I said, energy is important, and I like the end result despite being short on time.
CA: Thank you so much. It was my hardest fight but it was worth it, so whenever he would kick me or throw me or punch me, it was tough indeed. He’s a heavy-hitter. But it was worth it, because this is our living, our passion, our art.
CA: Yeah it’s at home.
CA: [laughs] Actually one other thing about the jacket is that we’re all representing our cinematic heroes.
CA: My jacket represents Stallone as Cobretti from the movie ‘Cobra’, Phong’s jacket resembles Marty McFly from ‘Back To The Future’, Cha-Lee’s jacket has the classic colors from ‘Game Of Death’ with Bruce Lee, and U-Gin’s jacket is attributed to MJ from the music video, Thriller.
CA: No, he’s an actor and a dancer by profession. But he was great to have as well. Again, these jackets were iconic as tributes to our role models, so I thought it was kind of a good idea to put those ideas in the film. I hope it catches on. Let’s see.
CA: Of course, because you always learn. Because like I said earlier, timewise, budgetwise always having to “go-go-go-go…”
CA: Yes, it’s like this: If you ever watched that one Jackie Chan interview, you hear him say ‘I’m not the best. I have time.’ You have to undersrand – Everyone knows on Drunken Master 2, he had the final fight in the factory: Five months. Donnie Yen’s end fight for Flash Point: One month. I mean, you can ask Jonathan what it means to have a whole month for a fight…
JE: Yeah, most of our constraints are budgetary and with time. Hollywood fight scenes have very truncated schedules.
JE: Well, I guess it’s like whatever is new at the time. Silat’s been around forever and it’s nothing new, and even the rhythm is based on Jackie Chan’s style, kinda like Police Story, for example, only it’s Silat. They’re Indonesian martial artists and their techniques are based on Silat, but even the rhythm is pretty much the same nowadays. The only thing really is to figure out where the acting beats are throughout that rhythm.
JE: Well there are a lot of factors involved, like whether or not there’s too much blood or if it looks cartoonish…I think it just depends on the story. Just because, say, a fight scene has more gore, doesn’t make it a better fight-
JE: It’s really just whatever the story calls for and trying to be inventive and staying relevant or whatever that boundary calls for. I mean, it’s always nice to have less limitations, so R-rated movies are good in a way because you’re not too limited in terms of violence where you can show it, as opposed to PG-13 where you have to be a little more creative and you don’t have as much freedom to throw the kitchen sink out there.
|From L to R: Jonathan Eusebio, myself (cheezin’ it as usual) and Can Aydin|
*Partial Photo Credit to photographer Jacob Seifert who has more photos of Reel Deal Action at the team’s official Facebook page.