Forbidden Kingdom's Jade War Lord talks to reelz.com.
With over forty movies on his resume, Collin Chou has been working consistently since his debut nearly 20 years ago. Stateside, he's best known as Seraph from the two Matrix sequels.
Now Chou stars opposite Jackie Chan and Jet Li as the villainous Jade War Lord in The Forbidden Kingdom. Chou has worked with both Chan and Li separately in the past and more than manages to hold his own sharing the screen with both of these screen legends at the same time.
The soft-spoken, enthusiastic Chou sat down for a chat with reelz.com recently to discuss his role as the Jade War Lord, his future projects and why he thinks he could take Jackie Chan and Jet Li in a fight.
Jeff Otto, reelz.com: How did you come up with the look of the Jade War Lord?
Collin Chou: They tried different things. Before, they didn't want a beard and then they did. The make-up, [they tried] more and more. This Jade War Lord is so powerful so they wanted to try [different things]... He's [got] fashion... Especially the costume - it's so elegant.
JO: Did you have a hand in creating the essence of the War Lord, the way he looked and fought?
CC: At some point they give you a freedom... The drama and the action style all depends on the character...and then they choreograph. If you are not familiar with those actions, you can change it a little bit, but normally we will do our best to fit into a character... As an actor... You [cannot] play yourself. You are playing a character... That action moment or that choreograph is for that character... We do this hundreds of times, so we are very familiar with the action...
JO: Did you have to get in shape for this role or are you always training?
CC: Always, always. But I'm not a crazy Kung Fu geek. I'm just ready. Whenever I receive a role, I [decide], "Okay, this role is more physical and then I prepare..."
JO: Jackie Chan said earlier that he didn't necessarily understand these American movies, even the ones he is in. Do you have similar feelings?
CC: I don't feel the same way because these are the cultural differences. I think he's trying to say, we've seen this kind of movie a lot, but he's forgetting that this is the combination of Western and Eastern. The whole point is telling about the character Jason. He is trying to free the Monkey King, but he needs to free himself first. It's like a teenager [learning from] life experiences... If you want to pass through this period, you've got to learn something. Don't give up. Never surrender. At some point, you will hit the wall, but it's okay. Just learn it.
This movie is so great for the whole family... Each character is so closely represented nowadays in society... I always say, my character is not a bad guy. He's just doing his job - protect the kingdom and not allow anyone to disrespect or break the rules.
JO: Is it fun to play the villain?
CC: As an actor, I don't really care than much whether it's a good guy or evil. If the material is good and I'm into the character, I will just portray him the best I can... I always think, if Robert DeNiro was doing this character, how would he do it? Al Pacino, how would that be? You can never imitate someone's style until the moment and then the style becomes yours.
JO: This pairing of Jackie Chan and Jet Li has been rumored for years. What do you think finally made it happen?
CC: Good timing and good script. The budget is good, so it brought it [all] together.
JO: You've worked with both before separately. How was it to work with these two big stars together?
CC: I have been working in this industry for so long... I worked with them both before [and] they always have something to [teach you]. They are so passionate.... They give their real heart to their work... I [try to] always have that attitude.
JO: Was it a playful atmosphere on set when the camera was off?
CC: Always, especially Jackie. Jet Li is more serious because he has religious beliefs. He's more serious, like a monk.
JO: So who would win if you fought Jackie and Jet?
CC: (Laughs) I think I would win because I am the youngest...
JO: Have you sparred in training?
CC: No. When we're doing this kind of movie we will just choreograph on set...
JO: Do you do your own stunts in this?
CC: Mostly. We still have stuntmen but because the budget is so big [that] even though you know how to do it, you still need a stunt double - Things that do not require martial arts skills, just let the stunt double do it... That kind of unforeseen danger, you never know?
JO: So you stick to the bigger stunts?
CC: Yes, but when you see the fighting skills, that's our specialty and no one can stunt double us.
JO: What's next for you?
CC: There are a couple of projects and one will hopefully start in June.
JO: Are you doing Ninja Assassin?
CC: I just turned down that project. Unfortunately, the character they were trying to offer me is not what I'm looking for at this stage in my career. I don't know where that news [came from]... After I read [the script] I said, "Sorry, I'm not going to take it." I want to jump to another stage [in my career] so I don't want to play that role, but it's a great script.
JO: Will your next project be an American movie?
CC: It's an American movie, but I don't want [to say what it is yet] because in this business it can change next minute.
JO: Do you want to try to do more American roles after this?
CC: As long as I keep working. The character and material is really why I love it. So no matter from here or China or India or England, I will go for it.