Bao Tran‘s exhilarating 2015 kung fu proof of concept in The Challenger is taking shape at long last with its current evolution, The Paper Tigers, already underway in Seattle, Washington.
The official headline casting for the film has also been laid out as well with Dino-Ray Ramos at Deadline confirming actors Alain Uy (The Morning Show), Ron Yuan (Blood And Bone) and Mykel Shannon Jenkins (Undisputed 3: Redemption).
The trio will star respectively as Danny, Hing and Jim – former kung fu prodiges now working as middle-aged men one kick away from pulling a hamstring. When their master is murdered, they must quell their differences in order to seek justice.
The actors are joined by 102 Productions’ own Phillip Dang along with sibling martial arts duo, YouTubers Andy and Brian Le (Unlucky Stars, Luc Van Tien: Kungfu Hustle). The three will play a gang of martial artists who come from social media fame with Dang in the role of Chief Punk, and Andy Le as Punk Fu and Brian Le as Punk Boi; In real life, the Le brothers are members of sensational martial arts stage and film stunt performance and lifestyle troupe, Martial Club, which they founded in 2011 with Daniel Mah. The team is heavily interactive with followers on Instagram.
Also starring is Tee Dennard (East of the Mountains, Sadie) for the role of Leroy Booker, coach to top-ranking MMA fighter and nephew, Ray, who will be played by LaTevin Alexander Ellis.
Jenkins’ Jim is partner to Booker and BJJ coach to Ray who finds himself trapped between differing philosophies of both mentors.
Rounding out the cast are actors Raymond Ma (Always Be My Maybe) and famed “Master Ken” persona Matt Page (Enter The Dojo webseries, Sicario), and actress Jae Suh Park (Friends From College). Young actor Joziah Lagonoy (SEAL Team) will tackle the role of Ed, beleagured son to deadbeat father Danny whose parenting skills are tested when Ed, battered and bruised after defending a friend from a bully, asks him “When is it ok to fight?”.
With The Challenger, Tran saw opportunity to purport better representation of Asians in an industry that’s been rife with hurdles amid statistics illustrating diversity and equity woes for Asians in film and television.
The hit director of award-winning shortfilm, Bookie, and protege to kung fu cinema legend Corey Yuen, Tran pounded the pavement with up to eight years of development, pushing this project as his feature debut.
Traction gained from The Challenger (led by Andy Le and Ken Quitugua) hailed another milestone with funds raised via tax-deductible donations at Fractured Atlas for a ten-minute prologue to The Paper Tigers which he also presented at the Frontieres Market in Cannes last summer (actors Yoshi Sudarso, Peter Sudarso and Gui DaSilva portray the younger versions of the three aforementioned kung fu masters cast with Uy, Yuan and Jenkins as their middle-aged selves. Shanghai Noon actor Roger Yuan plays their Sifu).
October saw Tran launch an official Kickstarter page to raise critical funds and help turn the lights on for a 2019 production start. Cameras officially started rolling on August 1 with Quitugua co-starring, and who will serve as action director next to stunt coordinator Kerry Wong; Quitugua and Wong are two of the foremost leading figures of the online stunt and independent film community through the pre-millenium birth of their old team, Zero Gravity, among the likes of Aaron Toney (Black Panther), Reuben Langdon (The Medallion) and Lateef Crowder Dos Santos (Falcon Rising).
Michael Velasquez, Al’n Duong, Yuji Okumoto, and Daniel Gildark are producing The Paper Tigers. XYZ Films’ own Nate Bolotin is repping U.S. sales with AMP International serving global.