Chinese film industry continue turning their most beloved martial arts historical figures into pulp characters, sometimes even bordering on the superhero genre, but overall looking to exploit this figures beyond of what they really were, to bring them to the olympus of legends, where the wide variety of possibilities is unlimited, and all them stop being historical figures to transform into fictitional characters that inhabit universes that those kung fu masters could never imagine, bringing to moviegoers around the world endless hours of evasive entertainment.
Prequel to the Chen Zhen played by Jet Li, in the essential 1994 classic that shares the same title in English with this production, that tells the story about the early adventures of Chen Zhen in Japan, during his days as student in the university of Tokyo, giving us an insight look of the beginning of his love relationship with the Japanese girl who gave him so many headaches in Jet Li’s “Fist of Legend” and making him, once again, the banner of the rights of the Chinese people against the evil Japanese empire, whom are again the villains in a plot loaded with that stale nationalism that looks so good in this type of movies and that positions the audience next to the hero.
At the end of the Warring States period, seven states fought for dominance. The nobles from each state sent brave warriors to duel in the Tiger Arena to resolve various disputes. The warrior from Wei was the minister of war and gained his reputation for defending his country against invaders. However, after he is framed and the country falls in ruin, he picks up with weapons and armor to fight again.
“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.”
It was back around late 2012 or early 2013 – likely the latter – that I began following actor and martial artist, up-and-comer Emilien De Falco. By then to my knowledge I had spotted him in at least one action short with a group of stunties out West while in actuality, he had already accrued some notable TV and film credits.
I’m pretty sure as others may have felt that there was more waiting in store with De Falco and I have to say, I’m glad I kept up to some degree. It’s not easy working the field he works and a lot of rare and rich opportunities involve a lot of waiting, and staying productive in the course of that period, and surely enough, De Falco has.
He’s become something of an internet sensation for martial arts aficionados alike who get a kick out of seeing great people do unbelievable things on viral video. His training methods are high in caliber and have all but preserved his readiness even more for film opportunities, among which include none other than the chance of a lifetime to be on set with filmmaker and producer Isaac Florentine.
Boyka: Undisputed 4, the latest installment of the fighting/prison sports saga that evolved into a full-on vacuum for martial arts action fans fond of its current star, Scott Adkins, has already had its share of screentime around the world and is now readying a U.S. release next month. Despite not having seen the movie myself, I’ve had my eye on De Falco for an interview for a few years now and with Boyka: Undisputed 4 having stirred even more buzz in Shanghai ahead and a premiere this month at Fantasia Festival, I decided to strike while the iron was hot.
Without further ado, here is my interview with Emilien De Falco.
Photo: Rogue Headshots
Film Combat Syndicate: Greetings Emilien and thank you for taking the time to talk with us. How has your year been for you?
Emilien DeFalco: Thank you for having me! This year has been great – I just got back to California after a two month trip overseas mixing work and vacationing. Apart from that, I also spent most of my time training and focusing on both my personal and professional goals. I can’t talk more about it now but some good stuff is on the way.
FCSyndicate: Well that last part peaks my curiousity some!
I’ve been following you since I started my site and I was connecting with a lot of folks I had known of on the West Coast. I’m curious about who you are and I’d like to help readers and moviegoers get to know you a bit more. Please tell us about yourself.
EDF: Well to be short, I was born and raised in the small town of Millau in the south of France. I started practicing Taekwondo when I was 7 years old and it quickly became my passion, and to this day, I have never stopped practicing.
I grew up watching martial arts and action movies starring Bruce Lee, JCVD, Schwarzenegger and Stallone. They all had a huge impact on me. Very early on I dreamt of coming to America and starring in action and martial arts movies. A few years later, I dropped out of college and decided to move to Los Angeles without any connections nor papers, and I was barely able to speak English.
The initial years were kind of rough, but eventually due to my previous work in movies and entertainment back home, I was able to get an artist visa. After I moved to L.A. and booked different kinds of gigs, I worked as a sports and fitness model, a TV host for a martial arts channel and as a stunt double for JCVD. In the last three years I finally got to work more and more as an actor and specifically as action actor first getting a small but recurring role on a Crossbones. More supporting roles came after that on action and sci-fi movies like Titus Paar’s The Perfect Weapon, V.R. and Boyka: Undisputed 4. This has now become my main focus and working on getting bigger roles.
FCSyndicate: You’ve gained some notoriety in the past year having become somewhat of a viral video sensation on social media with some of your training videos. What goes through your mind when you see posts like that?
EDF: I love physical activities and fitness training as much as I love martial arts. To be very honest, at first, I was not into social media at all until one day when I posted one of my training sessions. It got shared by many people and I started receiving messages from both friends and strangers telling me how motivated and inspired they felt to workout and train after seeing it.
I then remembered that when I was younger I got inspired to start training after watching training sequences on TV and the huge impact it has had on me, so it became incentive for me to engage more and post more online. I think having a positive influence on people and showing them that you can really achieve your personal and professional goal if you focus and work hard is one of my main goals in life.
FCSyndicate: What are some effective or more favorite workouts you enjoy? What challenges you the most over others?
EDF: I like to mix it up. I constantly change my work out routines to shock my body. I would work with heavy weights for a while before switching to plyometrics and calisthenics. That said, my main focus is to maintain and improve my explosive power. I weight between 195lbs and 205 lbs (87 kg and 93 kg) which is kind of heavy to perform a lot of gravity-defying acrobatic kicks like 720s, corkscrews and 900s. Most guys who are doing those kicks and tricks are much lighter and you would need more explosive power to perform them at a heavier weight.
Also, to get into shape for, let’s say, a fight scene or a full action sequence, I believe the best way to workout is in the form of circuit training or interval training. It will reproduce the explosive and fast combinations that you will repeatedly perform in an action scene and get your cardiovascular system ready for it. To spice things up and challenge myself, I like to add flips and intricate moves in my circuit training. For example: instead of doing regular burpees and tuck jumps, I would do backflip-burpees, lift a heavier tire before flipping from it and then go to the next exercise. It’s also much more fun and I feel like kid when training like that.
FCSyndicate: I looked at your IMDb page and it said you did some stuntwork for Banlieue 13: Ultimatum with Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle. Was that the initial start of your career?
EDF: Yes, it was my first time on a big set.
FCSyndicate: What was that experience like for you?
EDF: I started following Cyril Raffaelli’s career after I saw him in Kiss Of The Dragon in which he co-stars and also gets to fight Jet li. I was really impressed by the way he was kicking. His videos online were even more impressive and inspired me to learn acrobatics and improve my kicking abilities.
District B13 came out a few years later which was the consecration for both Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle who got their first lead role in a movie. Working as à stunt performer in the sequel of this cult movie felt really inspiring at the time even tho I was only performing minor stunts (getting kicked and punched by Cyril and maybe throwing a kick or two) it motivated me to keep chasing my dreams.
FCSyndicate: What would you say was the biggest or most exciting stunt you’ve done in your career so far?
EDF: I’m not too sure I can answer that question. I see myself more as an action actor and athlete/martial artist than a stuntman who performs crazy stunts -At least that’s not what I am trying to pursue.
FCSyndicate: That’s a fair assessment, and your latest role in Boyka: Undisputed 4 is an attribution of that, I presume? Tell us about it.
EDF: I was really honored to be chosen by Isaac Florentine to play the role of Viktor. I met Isaac in 2010 at an acting workshop. Back then he told me that he was going to call me for the right project and I didn’t really take him seriously at the time. Five years later he sends me an email saying he is considering me for the fourth film and asks me to send some materials. Once I booked the role and got to Bulgaria he said “…You see?! I told you we were going to work together!”. That was awesome and I was equally honored to work with Scott Adkins and Tim man who are at the top of their craft. As we speak they just won best action actor and best fight choreography for Boyka at the Jackie Chan action awards in Shanghai.
FCSyndicate: Yeah I’ve been keeping up with Jackie Chan Action Week out there. Amazing stuff! For those of us who are unengaged, tell us about your character Viktor.
EDF: I won’t divulge too much but you can already sort of get the idea from the trailers. Viktor is Alma’s husband, as well as a fighter but he is also probably the “nicest guy” in the movie. He is fighting for a cause and to protect his wife. You can already tell he looks different than the other fighters: No crazy haircut or tattoos all over his body. He gets accidentally killed fighting Boyka who himself starts grieving and essentially questioning everything he stands for.
Viktor only appears once within the first act of the movie but also reappears in very short flashback sequences and images. The challenge was to find the right balance between Viktor being a decent opponent for Boyka and at the same time a character that the audience will like and care about. All that without any dialogue and within a five minutes window or so.
FCSyndicate: Tell us about working with your award-winning fight choreographer Tim Man.
EDF: Not only he is a great choreographer but he is Also an amazing martial artist and overall human being. Very humble. He made everything work smoothly and it was very pleasing to work with him and his team.
What makes him different from so many choreographers is that he actually can do whatever he is asking you to do and he will do it on the spot. His work ethic is incredible. I am very pleased he gets more recognition with this award and that’s only the beginning I believe
From L to R: Emilien De Falco, Tim Man, Scott Adkins
FCSyndicate: Were there any time constraints or changes that needed to be made for the fight? Any ideas you three had in mind wherein you might have had to compromise?
EDF: We were actually able to do everything planned within the time frame. All credit to the choreography goes to Tim Man who worked on the beats and techniques beforehand and shot the previz with his stunt team. I just had to learn the choreography and do what I was told. Everything went pretty well.
FCSyndicate: Isaac Florentine has directed two back-to-back sequels in this particular franchise, and presumably someone like Todor Chapkanov is new to a lot of us who have been following the…well…I guess what I’ll call “the Boyka arc”? ?
What does Todor bring to the table? What was it like to work with him?
EDF: Firstly, for those who are worried about the film because Isaac did not direct this time and fear that it might not carry the same spirit, just know that he did not give up on the franchise. I think he loves the character of Boyka and the Undisputed movies which are a great part of his career. He is very much involved in this opus as a producer and he’s put a lot of heart into it. Handing the authority to a younger and upcoming director can be a way to bring something new to the saga. I had a great time working with both and I think Isaac is very proud of this movie, and I cannot wait to hear what audiences think about it.
FCSyndicate: Presumably, you’ve seen the movie already as it has been out in other territories. Granted, there are quite a few stunt professionals who are working their way up the acting ladder such as yourself in hopes of bringing that certified stunt-starpower with dramatic gravitas. Would you call Boyka: Undisputed 4 a milestone of that journey?
EDF: Definitely a milestone. Back in 2007 when I was still in college, I saw Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing and thought that I needed to have a part in a movie like that. And that’s exactly what happened a few years later. It means a lot to me as it shows that I am on the right path and the universe is giving me a positive response.
I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go but I am willing to put in the work and become a better actor, screenfighter and action performer.
FCSyndicate: That, and I understand you also made your second martial arts magazine cover?
EDF: Yep! My second time on the cover of the magazine, Karate Bushido which is the French equivalent of Black Belt Magazine in the U.S.. Karate Bushido is a magazine created in 1974, and is published monthly in every French speaking country.
When I was a kid growing up in France it was one of the only media to stay in touch with what’s going on in the martial arts world, (before the internet became what it is today). Every french martial arts practitioner who grew up in the 80s and 90s know what I am talking about.
For the anecdote, Karate Bushido also gave Jean-Claude Van Damme his first magazine cover when he was still an unknown martial artist. Being on the cover of KB might not be a great deal for many people but it is to me; I remember getting inspired by all the martial artists that I was reading about. Now that Karate Bushido trusts me enough to put me on the cover and share my training knowledge with their readers means that it is my turn to inspire young kids to keep practicing and to keep working on their goals. It is one of the main reasons why I am doing everything I am doing, to inspire and get inspired.
Waking up to being for the second time on the cover of the magazine I grew up reading… Se réveiller en étant pour la deuxième fois en couverture du magazine que je lis depuis l âge de 7 ans.. Thank you to Karate Bushido for the trust and support and @contentbyart @remytortosa for the amazing shot #demystifyingmychildhooddreams #karate @karatebushido #bushido #osu #oss #france #california #venicebeach #summer #fitness #martialarts #artsmartiaux #vandamme #frontkick #kickboxer #childhood #childhooddream #kickpics #gotkickpics #artsmartiaux #edition #inspiration #aptchagui #kickingit #taekwondo #passion #tkd #kickboxing #fighter #spirit #potd
A post shared by Emilien De Falco (@emiliandefalco) on Jun 30, 2017 at 9:31am PDT
FCSyndicate: Do you have any siblings who excel or practice in martial arts?
EDF: Nope. My sister is not really into martial arts. I am kinda the martial arts pioneer in my family ?
FCSyndicate: Pioneer?! Somewhere out there is a proud mother and father indeed. ?
As an aspiring actor who can do the action plentily, do you feel closer to earning that debut lead part on a feature project? What do your prospects look like these days?
EDF: I am definitely up for the challenge, but it has to be for the right project. I am receiving more and more messages from “fans” asking when I will finally play the lead in a feature so I want to make sure I don’t disappoint them. I went from being an extra to landing supporting roles in independent features, so a leading role in an independent film does not seem inaccessible to me. I am actually confident that something will happen sooner or later. That’s all I can say for now. ?
FCSyndicate: Awesome! Would that challenge also include taking up other roles behind the camera? Like say, as director?
EDF: Hopefully one day, but I feel I have so much more to learn before I get to that point. I would probably start by directing short movies.
FCSyndicate: Just a few or so more questions and that will be all. So, you have a big reputation for health and fitness being the professional athlete you are. That said, I’m curious…
What is your absolute most favorite cheat meal to endulge in? Whether sweet or spicy?
EDF: [Laughs] It depends of my mood. I don’t eat dairy on a regular basis and I have reduced my consumption of meat. However when it comes to cheating, I admit I love a hamburger/cheeseburger with sweet potato fries… and for the sweets I am a huge fan of Donuts ?
I also love ice cream, so I would have that all at the same time. I know it’s not original and very American.
FCSyndicate: That settles it. Please come by the Big Apple someday so you and I can just pig out on burgers and soda the whole evening. I’m sure NYC has some great spots where this is possible!
EDF: Hahah for sure! I would love to go to New York I have not been in years. I love the energy there. Hopefully work will call me there one day or I will stop by on my way to Europe. Thanks for everything!
FCSyndicate: With pleasure!
I actually REALLY wanted to meet him late last year when he attended the events at the Urban Action Showcase and Expo, only I had approximately zero clue that he was in town and had only found out when he presented a documentary video of his trip on social media. I was a bit floored and a laughed it off; it wasn’t too upsetting, rather just delightful to know that New York City is in Manuel’s purview and that more and more folks like him are congregating to the uEast to present their projects to audiences and people who share his craft.
That stated, I was never personally well acquainted with Andy Long until around my first or second year as a writer here at Film Combat Syndicate. However, the work he’s amassed and contributed to the genre and the people of his field makes him one of the most sought after people to date for a guy that lives so far away from most others, and it’s partly by way of the internet in its evolution for more than twenty years now that his relevance and success keeps him going, having collaborated with numerous teams and filmmakers aplenty, at home and abroad. Independent AND mainstream.
I have to say, it’s been pretty exciting going into the Fall season as I’m looking toward meeting and greeting some great people. In that time, I’ve had the privilege of reviewing some pretty good screeners, one of which recently brought me into the throes of actor, filmmaker and fight choreographer John Soares.
Sydney – This year, the Chinese box office is predicted to surpass the US box office, officially becoming the largest film market in the world. China’s market grew an astonishing 48.7% last year, reaching a record AUD$9.5 billion. This phenomenon has grabbed the attention of filmmakers and entertainers worldwide. Australian actress Jenny Wu, fluent in both English and Mandarin, is catching that wave.
“We want our fans to enjoy martial arts and action films in every way they want to watch, and this is the next step in making sure they get that access,” said Jason Pfardrescher, SVP, Digital & Theatrical Distribution of Well Go USA Entertainment. He continued, “As the distribution landscape continues to evolve, it’s our responsibility to change with it.” The deal between Well Go USA and PlayStation VUE was negotiated by Eric Stein of Impact Global Media, a consulting firm focused on digital distribution strategy and business development.