This is one of my interviews
from 2002. I suppose I`ll need to do another one when I can
actually find the time to do so as much of this information
is either way too outdated or has changed. I`m a lot older
and more matured now as well so my outlook on some of these
things may have shifted as well. Will update it when I have
time but for now will leave everything as is. Enjoy!
Peking Man 1/02
If you were keeping contact with martial
arts films in the early 90's you probably know Loren Avedon.
While Van Damme and Seagal were breaking box office records
on the big screens, Loren was nearly breaking every bone
in his body delivering "Hong Kong-style" action films to our
local video stores. Starring in classics such as Corey
Yuen's "No Retreat No Surrender II" and Lucas Lo's "King
of the Kickboxers", it obvious that Loren was ahead of
his time and very underrated.
Enjoy the interview!
Q.) Tell me about your martial arts
background and how you got into it?
I was about 11 and was living in England... I saw Bruce Lee
in "Chinese Connection" as it was called in Britain. I was
hooked. It wasn't 'til 6 years later that I started training,
after I graduated High School in the Summer of '80 I walked
into a Dojang and signed up and started going everyday. I was
fortunate to have great instructors like Simon and Phillip
Rhee as well as Bill Wallace teaching occasionally as well
as the Master of that Tae Kwon Do School. I am currently a
4th dan in Tae Kwon Do and 2nd Dan in Hap Ki Do... I am awaiting
a 5th dan certification after I test in January '02.
Q.) Who are some of your idols in
the martial arts community and film?
Hwang Jang Lee, Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and
Q.) What got you into
I was a commercial actor when I was a kid because my Mom was
a Commercial Producer and Director... so I was always doing
the commercials she directed if there was a kid needed. I blew
my big chance to really capitalize on that when I was 5...
the Ad Agency told me I would have to do the commercial live
in front of millions of people... that's not what you say to
a 5 year old... so I turned it down. The early films and acting
came from people calling the Dojang looking for fighters to
do scenes in a movie they were shooting... back then the stunt
men didn't have a lot of kicking skills so they'd call Karate
schools for talent. "Ninja Turf" (1985) was produced by my
Master and starred Phillip Rhee... I got into acting on a lark
when I was 21. I was invited to an acting class and asked to
perform a scene. I didn't like it that I was so nervous in
front of only 12 people...so I started taking the class...
I loved it and the challenge... I figured I could use it in
whatever direction life took me....
Q.) Describe to me how you got "discovered" for
your first starring role in Corey Yuen's "No Retreat, No
Actually Van Damme had turned down the film so they chose
Matthius Hues for his part. I replaced Kurt McKinney...I was
at the Karate School at about 9:30 PM on a Friday night. I
had just come back from Africa where I had been on Safari with
my Dad for 8 weeks. I was broke and had a job selling used
cars at a Dodge dealership in town. I hadn't sold a car all
week and was at the school beating the ^%$& out of the
heavy bag to take out my frustrations when the phone rang.
The Latin guy who answered the phone did not understand what
the caller was saying, the caller turned out to be Roy Horan
from Seasonal films. A week later and after he had seen about
75 other candidates, I signed a 3 picture deal and was on a
plane to Thailand.
Q.) What was is like
working with the legendary Corey Yuen? Is he demanding? Tell
me some of the experiences you've had with him on the set.
Did you expect you'd be doing some serious HK-style action
or did you have to pick up on this while on the set?
I had not seen the original "No Retreat, No Surrender" so
I had no idea what to expect. All I knew is that I could do
it... whatever they wanted, I could do it. The first thing
they did when we got off the plane was set up a meeting. Roy
Horan seemed very serious....then an audition there with Corey
Yuen took place to test our reactions and the next day I [had]
a screen test... with me and Matthius, Roy Horan was pushing
for us... we passed the test... then they took our passports.
We had no choice... The American crew and everyone there other
than the Thais and Chinese had turned over their passport to
Ng See Yuen, the Exec producer... He was a tough task master
and I could go on and on about the experiences... just the
journey every day to the jungle set was an adventure... the
Chinese stunt men are great people... they are so tough...
so dedicated... they really motivated me... so did Corey Yuen...
he is a great director... he yelled at me several times...
I couldn't understand him... but in the end... he would crack
a charming smile, scratch his head and say "Jesus", but he
would say it really fast and it was really funny... his way
to break the tension... he would always gamble with the crew
when it was per diem day... he always won!!! Then he would
give them their money back by taking them to dinner that night
or somehow he would lose it all in one hand on purpose. I was
so lucky to work with him. He would always tell you exactly
what he wanted, even without speaking the same language...
Q.) You've worked with many well-known
martial artists on and off film, tell me about some of your
experiences with stars such as: Simon Rhee, Phillip Rhee,
James Lew, Roy Horan, Hwang Jang Lee , Billy Blanks, Cynthia
Rothrock, Keith Vitali, Jalal Merhi, Don 'The Dragon' Wilson,
Keith Cooke and Carter Wong.
Wow...all of them great people. Don't forget about Karen Shepard...
I can't say enough about those people. I have been lucky enough
to meet and work with them. I have been really blessed... can't
say enough good things about all of them!
Q.) Since you've worked
with Billy Blanks, how many copies of Tai Bo videotapes were
you forced to buy?
Actually none... lol... I still go by Billy's School in the
San Fernando valley once in a while. He always stops what he
is doing to say hi to me. He is the salt of the Earth... a
great man... a great martial artist... a great motivator...
I can tell you this... when we were shooting in Thailand...
the book by his bed was the Bible and all he wanted to do was
do a good job and get back to his wife, family and his School...he
kicks like a mule!!! but has a heart of Gold... His brother
Michael is really something special too... he can jump higher
than anyone I've ever seen... just like his brother.
Q.)Out of all your films you've done,
which is your personal favorite and why?
My personal favorite has got to be NRNS II ... that is the
one that I spent 4 months on and was only 23 at the time....
It changed my life... that is why it is my favorite. Not because
[of] the fact that it was released in 1400 theaters around
the US, or because of the action or the great fights. I've
had many great fights in my movies, such as the one with Matthius,
which is the second favorite fight I ever did .. my first favorite
is the Billy Blanks fight in KOTKB... that took two weeks to
shoot and just about every part of my body was bruised or battered,
cut or scraped.... Imagine fighting 4 different karate tournaments
in one day, round robin all the way to Gold medal... then doing
it again, and again, and again... for 14 hours a day, 6 days
a week in 100 degree heat with costume, smoke and plenty of
impact.... Talk about a character building experience!
Q.) Speaking of NRNS II, that's gotta
be your most "involved" movie
as far as overall action goes. I've tried to catch body doubles
here and there but couldn't. Either the production did a
really good job or YOU are the 'gwailo' version of Jackie
Chan. So, how much was you?
Most of it, except for the hard falls and flips... but the
Snake Market... all me... The stunt double "Rocky" that did
the jump from the top of the doorway to Matthius' chest ...
he was paralyzed in a film shortly thereafter... the other
stunt men were so cool... they are the best!
Q.) What was it like traveling to
all those exotic places like Thailand ?
Wonderful... to be an emissary of my country ... I always
tried to behave like a gentleman. Even in Lebanon while at
gun point at a Syrian checkpoints in Beirut... with Russian
tanks and itchy trigger fingers... I loved every minute of
every place I ever went... not knowing what was around the
corner... going into a cave opening no higher than my waist
on the River Kwai, and finding a 30 foot Buddha, covered in
a long monks cloth with flowers and candles everywhere... One
thing I can say is that people are the same everywhere... everyone
in whatever culture can share a smile... a gesture of kindness
or friendship... everyone from every land wants the same thing...
to be accepted... to be understood... to give love and to receive
it... to share... whatever is there... I have been to many
poor places... even though I am not a millionaire nor wealthy
by any means monetarily... I am rich beyond my dreams in experience
with people and places... not just from movies... but from
my childhood and even now in my fatherhood... we all go [to]
many places... sometimes exotic... but always interesting...
life... any life is what you make of it... I am very fortunate
for my experiences and hope to have many, many more before
Q.) In the beginning of "King of the
you change your mind about your mission, you do a "Sly Sallone" type
yell. My question is, how many takes did it take you to get
it down right?
You mean how many did it take to make me not laugh... just
kidding... I was told by the director what to do and I did
it I think 4 or 5 times... I hated that ... I thought it was
not the right choice... I wanted to take the tape and pull
the video tape out and throw it into the fire... then call
the captain and have my moment after the phone call to be pensive,
a stroke of the cheek and then I fall apart knocking over some
furniture... it was a rented house ... no props for that....
they didn't go for it... they wanted the scream... so I did
the best I could.... The scene with Richard Jackel was shot
completely independently, on another day... neither of us knew
how the other played it... you can kinda tell can't you?
Q.) Now that you mention it, yeah,
I can tell...In NRNS II, did you get to try any of those "insects" or "snake's
I passed on the snake blood but Max Thayer drank 4 shots of
that snake blood... God Bless 'em... they tried to put rotten
tofu into the bowl during the scene with the girl in NRNS II
at the floating restaurant... that was Roy Horan trying to
be cute. I caught it before they rolled camera. Funny thing...
Corey Yuen asked me how I thought the scene should be shot...
I told him to run 3 cameras one master two shot and two over
the shoulder so we could get everything in one take if it went
well... problem is that usually on HK movies you don't get
a master... you do everything in pieces... kinda hard to pick
things up in the middle when you haven't shot the beginning...
but that's part of the craft....
Q.) Give us your opinions on some
of the "big" names
working in mainstream martial-arts films today such as: Van
Damme, Seagal, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Donnie Yen and Michelle
Haven't met any of them... they wouldn't want me near them
most likely... competition... I can give you an opinion from
some personal friends and their experiences... Van Damme...
wife beater, jerk... thinks he's all that and a bag of Fritos,
his career has been over for a while now... same with Seagal...
I can't believe the Dalai Lama made him some high priest...
what was the Lama thinking.... must have had too much incense
that day... Jackie Chan I have nothing but respect for although
he is notorious for not liking Guai Lo's... Donnie Yen, Jet
Li I have never met nor Michelle Yeoh although I'd like to
meet her... she is so awesome... I think I might have met her
in Hong Kong at a club... great night life in Asia....
Q.) What do you think of the recent
boom in Asian actors making their crossover into Hollywood
Thought it would happen sooner... you know a lot of those
films that were released with Jackie and also Jet are just
repackaged films they made 5 or 10 years before... just wait...
John Woo is just getting started.
Q.) What do you think of the legendary
Bruce Lee being digitally reincarnated for the new film "Dragon
Don't know... but I won't see it... sacrilege!!!!
Q.) You've mentioned that many things
have changed in the movie industry. Explain some of these
changes and do you have any regrets?
No regrets... but one... the actress Sheri Rose... bad mouthed
me after the "King of the Kickboxers"... I told her to 'shut
up' one day when she was pitching a fit out in the Jungle,
acting like a prima donna... no time or place for that and
I told her... she came back and got a deal with PM who wanted
to sign me for 3 pictures... I should have done it... it would
have been me instead of Don "The Dragon" Wilson... but I was
trying to hold out and she ended up getting the deal with Lorenzo
Lamas who had broken my nose and cheek on the set of a video
he was shooting and I had to sue him to get my medical fees...
can you believe that jerk?... anyway... between the two of
them and those two experiences... my name was mud to producers
after 1991... if I had not done that video and if I had just
let Sheri have her fit and kept my mouth shut, I think I could
have had a much more successful career... but now... it's all
water under the bridge... if I come back... it will be under
different circumstances. I always fought for quality... if
that is wrong... then I don't want to be right... know what
I mean? But the way I see it... everything happens for a reason...
maybe on one of these other movies I didn't get , I might have
been hurt or I might not have my daughter now..I don't regret
... but hindsight is always 20/20 isn't it?
Q.) Tell me more about the "Lorenzo Lamas" incident.
He is Fernando's son... he had a career the minute he was
born. He was a student of mine and I helped him on a Self Defense
Video he was doing... for about 5 minutes 'til during the blocking
of the first choreographed demo he promptly broke my nose and
cheek with an elbow across the face that was supposed to miss
me by a mile. Lorenzo called me crying the next day... I said "just
send me some flowers and come an visit me and we'll call it
cool"... he never called, never visited... and when his manager
called me to say that he would take care of everything... that's
when I got a lawyer... I was born at night... but I wasn't
born last night... know what I mean.... so I took care of myself...
I was paid well for that accident... my girlfriend Christine
Chu was on the set thank God... she took me to the emergency
room and to a great Doctor that same day to have my face put
back. Nice guy Lorenzo... but no honor in my eyes....
Q.) Are there any movies or roles you have
turned down in the past?
Many... I just turned one down that I convinced the director
to put my best friend JJ Perry into.. it's being shot in Brazil...
It's called "Sunland Heat" ... boy did they made a mess of
things... even though we had talked about the film for years
and they raised the money with my name... the director/producer
put his girlfriend in it as the female lead (the producer is
married)... and also made many more really ridiculous mistakes...
so I turned it down... cause I know it will be chaos down there...
I'd have loved to go to Brazil for a month ... no matter what...
but I thought ... do I want my last film to be a piece of $#@*
even though some of my films are pretty close... I can afford
to be a bit picky now... especially when I know they are going
to make money and have already from my name...! and I won't
see any of it.... Not fair... We'll see what the future brings...
I'm not out of the business by any means.
Q.) In the late 80's/early 90's, your
films dominated the martial arts video market. You have fans
all over the world. Did you ever have "higher" expectations
of becoming a "household name" like Norris or Van Damme?
Or appearing in bigger-budget martial-arts films like "Mortal
Kombat" or "Universal
Soldier" just to name a couple.
Of course... but because of the reason above and lousy representation...
I never made it... not to say that I still can't ... who knows...
maybe some big producer/director will read this article and
decide that it's time to bring back the Clark Kent character
and have a star that can really kick ass that is just a regular...
guy... I'm a Keanu Reaves without the "dude" quality... now
more mature and seasoned... I'm ready ...
Q.) You are
definitely "more mature
and seasoned" and
it shows in 1999's "Manhattan Chase". That film has awesome
Hong Kong action written all over it. It's pretty much a
modern day chop-socky movie. What was it like working with
Mr. Chopsocky himself: Godfery Ho? How did you get hooked
up with him?
Thank you Jeff... you are definitely paying attention... despite
the low, low budget we made a cool movie... it's cause of my
friend Steve Tartalia that was a producer on this film in New
York. I met him in HK in '90 when making "King of the Kickboxers"...
he and Vincent Lyn and Mark King were all in the first scene
of "King of the Kickboxers" with Jerry Trimble... Vincent was
in "Armor of God II" as well as Steve... Mark King has been
in countless HK movies... we still stay in touch through Steve...
Steve is a good friend and called me when he was getting together
the cast of what was then titled "Dying to Live" ... Cynthia
Rothrock was slated to star in the movie... she told me about
the film and I found out later that Steve was the producer...
I sent my head shot/resume and demo tape to NYC and about 2
weeks later we had made a deal. Godfrey was cool... he is a
very creative man and has the patience of a Saint... we had
no money but a lot of talent. I had a lot of fun working on
that movie during the summer of '98 in Manhattan... we did
it down and dirty... I was my own stunt man... know what I
mean.... Working in NY was great... the people are great...
my half-sister lives there... so I stayed with her after the
shoot... I got to see some friends in NY... let me explain...
see, when I was a kid I'd go back to visit my Dad in Manhattan
over the summers or for Christmas... so I have friends in NY...
I had a great time working there.... I love that city but I'm
a Cali boy... I go crazy if I'm in NYC for too long... I can't
see the Sun, nothing but concrete. Great city for movie making
though, plenty of production value everywhere you go.... My
heart is there everyday. After the horrible events of 9-11-01...
I pray for the city... I know 4 people that were on flight
175... God Bless 'em & rest their precious souls...
Q.) Do you have any intention to make another
HK-style martial arts movie if the opportunity came?
Not much opportunity. The HK guys are all trying to do it
big here since '97 or just keep doing it there... the producers
and market have changed... I have stepped away a bit so I can't
say really ... but I can tell you I think the timing is good
for an old fashioned reluctant hero movie... with action that
is not so far fetched that it is believable... know what I
mean? HK's magic was doing it before computers... people want
to see that again... I know I do... use the wires and the gags...
just loose the CGI and morphing and cheat camera angles and
tight shots to make up for lack of perfection ... and go back
to the technical ability of a great martial artist and stunt
team... the choreography of a creative masterminds action with
flesh and blood as the canvas.
Q.) Tell us about some of your future projects
I've got re-release on amazon.com right now of "Silent Force" other
than that I have no upcoming projects... I have written some
of my own scripts and have ideas and a lot of potential...
in all honesty what I need is about $850,000.00 and I can make
a film like "King of the Kickboxers" and make the investor
rich... the problem is where I live... anybody with that kind
of cash in Hollywood has heard it all... I would just be another
person knocking on their door... I have tried... the numbers
are there, the possibility is there... I tried with two films
to start my own production company but on both occasions the
greed of one of the producers ended up railroading the project
into legal situations or worse.... Next time I want to do it
clean... I will not have that power entrusted to any third
party again... fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame
on me... fool me again... I don't think so... not in this lifetime.
Q.) Since you've worked with Corey
Yuen and Lucas Lo, you might know the answer to this: How
much do those wires hurt your twigs and berries? And what's
the main difference between working for these HK guys and
a typical American/Hollywood production/director?
I'm still fertile if that's what you want to know... and yes
the berries and "log"... It ain't a twig ... hurt... ! lol....
The difference is in creativity and artistry... the Americans
have the money to do it... the Chinese take nothing and make
something out of it... Americans take something and make nothing...
not true in all cases... but look at the action in Lethal Weapon
4... Dick Donner is brilliant to have turned over the set to
Yuen Kwai for the action... literally... whatever he wanted
to do... An American director will do it his way and get the
tight shot to sell it... etc.. and will focus too much on one
aspect... but will not get the coverage and cool angles that
a Chinese director would use to thrill an audience with even
the simplest activity....
Q.) If you ever fought someone like
Van Damme, how many seconds would it take for you to truly
kick his ass?
First as a Martial Artist I would never fight with someone
for ego... only to protect myself and my family and/or the
ones I love... I would rather do nothing and take a punch than
lower myself to battle with someone when I know in the end
it will serve no purpose. I have nothing to prove. However,
if I ever fought with anybody... it would be over before they
knew it... when you fight for real there are no rules... only
a fool has principles in a fight... in a fight, or in battle
you do what you have to do to survive, overcome or to disable
your opponent so he cannot pursue you or continue to fight
you that day or another. Fighting itself is stupid... there
is no art in it... it is pure survival.
Q.) Do you have any
interest in entering a 'No Holds Barred' competition? Do
you study ground grappling?
I have studied enough grappling to know that Bruce Lee was
right... "the toughest opponent to face is a good athlete in
great shape who knows nothing, he will come at you with angles
you have never seen before... born out of the moment, with
no counter but your own instinct in that situation" I don't
see much art in those fights... I do see some great technicians
that are out to prove they are the best. It all boils down
to the man... look at Tank what's his name... that won and
became a pro fighter with his right hand and good timing...
a warrior always knows his weakness... the key is to make the
opponent worry about his... so you can take him out while he's
thinking... I mean really, on any given day ... one man can
beat the other... one day it might be you... the next day him....
The key is to pick the day... the time, the moment... and always
on your terms....
Q.) Loren, I'm waiting for another
hardcore martial arts flick from you, when are you gonna
deliver that to your fans?
Me too... don't know... I'm open to any ideas... as long as
the money is there to make the idea happen... let's go!!!!
Q.) What's the greatest martial arts
flick in your opinion?
The original "Drunken Master"
Q.) And why is that?
I like it cause I first saw it on Kung Fu theater... way back
in the day when they would show HK movies once a week on a
local station... I was amazed at the action... I always admired
the creativity... the story... comic book characters... they
are so charming... I totally get into it... also because of
my friend Hwang Jang Lee... He is a great man... I'll tell
you a little story about him... when I first arrived from America
to Bangkok.... Hwang trained me in the art of film fighting...
Matthius as well... we would meet in the Gym at the Ambassador
Hotel on Sukamvit Road in Bangkok and he taught us over the
period of three days about selling punches and kicks... amazing
the power of that man... truly amazing... I heard stories of
his experiences Vietnam, he was paid to train the Special Forces...
wow.... Anyway... about two weeks into it.. we were in Saraburi
Thailand... a small town at the junction of three major roads
in Thailand... that is where we stayed when shooting the jungle
scenes... I was so sick that Hwang was genuinely concerned
about me... he is such a sincere man... he helped me get well...
he made me drink hot water and used acupressure to help me...
but what really touched my heart was when he asked me while
I was drinking hot water in the cafe of the hotel... "Loren
what did you eat that made you sick...?" he said. "American
Fried Rice" I said... he called over the waiter and he said "Give
me an American Fried Rice" I looked at him... he said... "I'll
get sick too" as if to say and show me that he would go through
hell with me... that is a true account... and he ate all the
Rice and he made me feel better, and he never got sick...!
Thanks again to Loren Avedon for taking the time
to do this interview!
All photos courtesy of Loren
Avedon and Steve Tartalia. Illustration by Dan-0.