When you think of “G.I. Joe”, many people immediately think Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. After all, they’re two of the coolest characters in the “Joe” universe and they have a long history. So when I went to the set of “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” back in May of 2008, one of the things I wanted to know was how cool the Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow fight would be. Thankfully, Ray Park (Snake Eyes) was more than happy to go into detail explaining how hard he trained for the park and how awesome the fights were going to be. And now that I’ve seen the film, I can tell you he wasn’t exaggerating, as “G.I. Joe” is a huge action movie that’s filled with great stuff.
Anyway, after the jump you can read the interview I participated in with Ray Park on set. He talks about training, how the fights in “G.I. Joe” differ from his stuff in “Star Wars: Episode One” (he was Darth Maul), and a lot more. Take a look:
And one last thing, if you’d like to see Ray Park in action as Snake Eyes, click here.
Ray Park: You know, it’s fighting, I’m always fighting anyway. Especially for something like this to come up unexpectedly. Um, but when I started my initial training for ‘GI Joe,’ and Snake Eyes, I’m just, I’m tough. I just concentrated on what I can do on just a skill level with my weaponry, my sword work, and my gymnastics. I’ve been trying for 27 years in martial arts and gymnastics. And really just getting into the character and doing the research, reading a lot of the comics. I looked at as many old cartoons and new cartoons of Snake Eyes as possible and Snake eyes is a character that I’ve grown up with, so it’s something I’ve been very familiar with from the beginning. I wanted to be prepared and be strong for any unexpected challenges, so from the beginning I was doing kick-boxing. I was wearing a sauna suit everyday, I was wearing sea goggles, I was wearing gloves. I was trying to put myself through the worst condition ever and most of the training sessions I was puking up.
So you were doing that during the training?
RP: Yeah, during my training. And I was wearing a few layers and I was wearing a hoodie, so I was like boxers would do. Just wear as many layers, and lean up and wear my vest and make things harder for me. When I came to do the shoot, it was going to be a walking carpet.
Some guy: How different of a fighting style do you want to make Snake Eyes from say Darth Maul?
RP: Well, Snake Eyes is straight up my alley to be honest with you, because I get to use katana swords and I get to play the ninja stars and I used to do that as a kid anyway. I was a kid in the pub thinking he was a ninja. So I got to sort of be that kid again in Snake Eyes. Darth Maul was different because it was the staff…it wasn’t as much of the wushu style that I was showing. Being Snake Eyes and working with the stunt boys, they wanted to show a range of martial arts but use my style as a catalyst to get to whatever we were going to get to. So we combined all types of styles, like a hybrid. So it wasn’t just my style, it was using everything -kicking punching and especially when it came to the weaponry, with the sword work, I did my flare. Because that’s what I love doing. I love playing with swords, spinning swords, jumping with swords. So they just left it up to me when it came to the swords. They knew that I would add a little twist. So it was very different from what I’ve done before.
The fight scenes with Storm Shadow, are they going to be weapons based or more hand to hand?
RP: Everything. It’s everything; hand to hand, weapons. It’s introducing an old traditional weapon but they made it more hyper, more modern. I’m not too sure what I can tell you about it, but I’m sure it’s something you haven’t seen onscreen before with myself and Storm Shadow, and especially with me.
So does Storm Shadow have these as well or what?
RP: He’ll have his own. He has what you would expect Storm Shadow to use. He has his swords.
Are the fighting sequences going to be more flashy?
RP: It’s going to bring out the best in both our character these fight scenes. It’s going to show strength in both our characters and flamboyancy, skill, style and speed. I mean the crew was pumped up when we filmed our fight scenes a few weeks ago. We did a whole five days of fights and I lost about 15 pounds in a few days. It was unbelievable.
RP: No injuries. Touch wood.
One of the things fans loved about Star Wars episode one was the Darth Maul/Obi-wan battle. Can you compare this film to that one and how different are the fight scenes?
RP: The fight scene that I’ve done with Storm Shadow is a lot different than the fight scene in ‘The Phantom Menace.’ It’s two different-I mean you got a light saber in ‘Star Wars,’ but in the fight scene with Storm Shadow of course I’m using katana swords, it’s hand-to-hand, with a bit of gymnastics involved. I even put a bit of humor into it, me being a big fan of Snake Eyes, there’s a moment when I wanted to give something to the fans, and in the cartoon Snake Eyes he does some break dancing I wanted to just have a touch of that, so Steven gave me the opportunity to do that without being too over-the-top, too cheesy. I had a brief moment in the laser room, it worked within the fight scene within that room, I did it to get out of that situation and I wanted to do that. I wanted to do that in a smart way. I hope it comes across with ——-
Do you find it tough as an actor being stuck behind a mask…no dialogue?
RP: This one was tough because with anything else I’ve done you’ve seen my face, whether it’s in makeup or what, so I can show expression and emotion. But this was really about body language and whatever I was thinking and feeling I had to show it through my body. Whether it’ll be small gestures in my fingers or something small and interacting with the other actors, I hope to bring myself into the scene without speaking. It was a challenge. So when I auditioned for this, I sort of cleansed for five days and thanks to Rob here he’s the reason why I found out they were casting martial artists for Snake Eyes, so it brought me on to want to play this character. And because of the fans telling me for the last four years, ‘You’d be a great Snake Eyes,’ it really planted a seed in my head. So when it I heard about it, I jumped on it and did whatever I could to be Snake Eyes. I was able to go down and do a screen test and audition and have a lot of fun with it.
Are you prepared for going to Comic-Con and being the face of a Star Wars character and a G.I. Joe character?
RP: You know I’m really looking forward to it because I’ve met so many fans over the years and some have actually become friends of mine and I actually look forward to sharing my stories.
So when is your next romantic comedy?
RP: I don’t know. (laughter) I’m a boy who doesn’t want to grow up. I love doing these roles. I don’t care I ever speak again in my life, it’s good, because my wife would be happy about that
How restrictive is the suit?
RP: I want to say, to be honest with you, it was really, really hard. It felt heavier than what it is because of how it fits on me. It was hard. But now when I get into it, it’s second nature. I mean at the beginning I freaked out, having something on my face and not being able to see, not being able to move and freaking out going, ‘Wow, they’ve hired me cause I can do this stuff. I’m not going to be able to show this. So they were really trying to let take one to practice with, and get the trainer I used at first with the weight suit on to prepare me for this. I always know that after being on the set and doing what you do at the gym—nothing prepares you for the set. Last week, we did an awesome scene where tons of water being blown behind me. I had to go through rain showers and take out two Vipers, jump down three steps, save Scarlett and run when there’s tons of water around me. I mean, you don’t prepare for that in training. So I smacked it once in rehearsal so I said, ‘All right. I’m going to do that one again.’ And it was funny. But that’s where I really enjoy doing. I get to do the stuff that I grew up watching and I idolized as a kid. I’m getting to live out my dream.
Snake Eyes and Scarlett have a romantic story?
RP: There is in the comics.
But not in the film?
RP: There’s something there but Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow in the movie are very close and in a sense that Rachel says Scarlett is there for Snake Eyes and speaks for Snake, does she not have Snake feelings? So there is a close relationship between the two of them.
But not a romance?
RP: Not in this one.
How many days did you train and how many days were you filming?
RP: The main battle with Storm Shadow took 5 days to film. We did that a few weeks ago. I started training in January with the stunt guys and the fight team. I was training with them on a fitness level, working out the weapons I might be using. The sword work I can do in my sleep. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was a kid. We got into about a month of training with the guys, we had a few sequences tied down, a few fight scenes locked down, and then I had about six weeks of a gap, because I was working on set, I didn’t have time to train so I had to come in at three in the morning before I was called in on set, so I had to train at home at eight o’clock at night, so it was really full-on for me. I wasn’t getting to work with the stunt team so when I came in to go in on set, literally like a half an hour before filming, I had to have a re-cap and a revision of what we had to do. Some stuff had changed, because things evolve and change with the story. I was basically learning some of the stuff as we were doing it. That’s where my training came in handy, basically like remembering your steps with your partner.
How’d you walk across the floor on your fingertips?
RP: My fingers are still killing me and my forearms are still killing me from that. I mean really sore.
So it’s for real?
RP: I can walk on my hands but I can’t walk on my fingertips.
Was someone holding your feet wheel barrel-style?
RP: We had a bit of assistance with wire. The thing I was talking to my wife about, she’s a gymnast, and I said to her, ‘I shouldn’t be in pain at all. I should have let the wire do the work. But what I’ve done, I wanted to do it.’ So I was putting the pressure on my hands to make it more believable that I was doing it. And it killed me, but I’m so glad I did it. And I said to Steven, ‘You know what you’ve done to me? You’re going to make every kid in the world ask me, ‘Hey can you do a finger-walking handstand?” You know I’m going to have to start the handstands with fingertips. And I know it can be done because I saw one of my masters in China do it. He did a two-finger handstand. I know that. He picked up and showed me that he was on his fingers. It can be done. Whether or not I want to break my fingers is a different story. I don’t know if my fingers are strong enough for that. It’s a lot of this type of training for that. A lot of finger press-ups.