Ray Park on Snake Eyes, Wushu, and G.I. JOE: RETALIATION

G.I. JOE RETALIATION movie posterRay Park has brought Wushu to the attention to the world like no other, and yet most people don't even know what he really looks like. He brought Wushu to the World Wushu Championship in Kuala Lumpur in 1993. He brought Wushu to Darth Maul in STAR WARS in 1999. He brought Wushu to Toad in the X-MEN in 2000. And in 2009, he brought Wushu to the Ninja Master Snake Eyes in G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF THE COBRA. The second installment of that franchise, G.I. JOE: RETALIATION, comes to Blu-Ray Disc DVD Combo pack on July 20th, 2013. In celebration, Ray Park is bringing Wushu to Major League Baseball by throwing the first pitch at the O.Co Arena when the Oakland A's face the Toronto Blue Jays. We caught up to Mr. Park in honor of another conquest for Wushu.

GC: We've been following your career quite closely, sir.

RP: Thank you. I appreciate that.

GC: When you first started training in Kung Fu and Wushu, was your goal to get into movies?

RP: You know, when I first started training in Kung Fu, when I was seven, I had been jumping around before that whenever I had the chance. I was a huge Bruce Lee fan. So I'd copy anything that I'd see on TV. Like I was a big fan of MONKEY MAGIC, the TV show, so anything with a bo staff or anything like that. As a kid, I was always punching a bag and always watched Jackie Chan movies too. I had a punching bag at the foot of my bed because there was this one movie I saw with Jackie where he jumped up and started practicing with a wooden dummy and did hand sets. So I wanted to be like Jackie. I wanted to flip out of my bed and punch the punching bag, and then go to school. So as a kid, I just loved watching Kung Fu movies.

And then, I started practicing at Chin Woo - Chin Woo Kung Fu - with my teacher, and he brought his master over and his master's son. His son was jumping, trying to slap his hand, and doing these big kicks, which turned out to be Wushu. So I thought, "Why aren't we doing that?" I thought we were doing the same thing. It opened my eyes. There was more out there that I could learn. And then I saw Jet Li's first movie, Shaolin Temple, and that just blew my mind. And I wanted to learn Wushu.

At I think thirteen-fourteen, one of my senior instructors, he went to Malaysia to train with one of my teacher's masters. And he went out there and he came back and he knew all these different forms. He learned this and he learned that. It just seemed to open up his world. So I wanted to go to Malaysia and China. I wanted to do that. And I did do that at sixteen. And it just opened up my eyes to everything. I think that's when I found Richard Norton; he was working with Jackie. So I thought maybe one day I could do that. There are reputable martial arts people who get into movies. Just as a kid, it's hopeful. There's a possibility. It could happen for me.

So my teacher said, "Just keep on practicing and win as many championships as possible." I think that's why my instructor said, "You should practice Wushu." If you don't do Wushu, then Jackie Chan, he only works with people who do Wushu. So as a kid, I just believed that. I just practiced Wushu and I fell in love with it. It was so hard but I loved it. Anything I could find on Wushu. Because the kicks were different from the Shaolin kicks we were doing. And the weaponry was different. It just appealed to me. So I just practiced that and I got very lucky.

My dream was to go to Hong Kong and do the Iron and Silk sort of story. Go to Hong Kong for five years and be a stuntman. And then work with a Hong Kong team and learn the ropes, learn everything possible about filmmaking. And then make it come over to Hollywood. Remember, at the time, there wasn't anyone doing decent martial arts stuff in Hollywood movies. If you saw a kick, it wasn't the same. It didn't compare to anything I was watching from the Far East. And then I just got very lucky.

GC: And now you're living the dream. You've even played Chuck Norris! How does that feel?

RP: (laughs) I was nervous. My dad said, "You better find the number for Chuck Norris and you better call him and get your permission first. Pay respects." And I said, "Dad, I think if I call him, he'll tell me not to do it." I was scared and nervous because I like Chuck Norris too. But anything to do with Bruce Lee, and that was the Bruce Lee story. And I was going to go to China, and I hadn't been to China in many years since my last competition. We filmed in Guangzhou and it was just great. I was like a big kid. The last time I was there, I was a teenager, so it was just nice to go back there and just see if it still had the same taste, the same essence. You know, of course, in the first eight hours, I was going for a jog and it turned out to be like the longest jog I ever had because block after block, you went up there and there was gardens. I felt the spirit of Kung Fu and Wushu in me, but I was completely tired when I got back. I wish I hadn't have done it, but it was a nice run, a nice sightseeing run.

Dwayne THE ROCK Johnson and Ray Park as Roadblock and snake eyes

GC: How did you feel about the latest Olympic rejection of Wushu?

RP: Disappointed, because when I was younger, that was my goal as well. In 1993, we competed in the World Wushu Championships in Kuala Lumpur. And they talked about it then, that it might get into the Olympics. So it gave me a taste, because I always wanted to go to the Olympics. I always wanted to compete. So I thought Wushu to be in the Olympics was awesome. To be held in Beijing, I thought it's gotta be in the Olympics, even if it was a demonstration sport. It had to be. And then in 1995, I was eager to get into films. I was like twenty. I was ready to live in Hong Kong and just go.

And then when I found it wasn't in the Olympics, I was disappointed. I think at that time I would have been thirty years old. I'd be doing Taiji or something, not Changquan or Daoshu.

Ray Park as SNAKE EYESGC: Well, Modern Wushu Taiji is really difficult now. I'm going to take you to task on a comment you made in a previous interview we ran about your role in HEROES. You said, "I never got into Martial Arts for self defense or to learn to fight, I always did it because I really enjoyed the art of it." Might you elaborate on that?

RP: Yeah, I was just a big Jackie Chan fan. So in a way, I wanted to learn how to do gymnastics and acrobatics. I just found this club that did different styles. It seemed famous, like what I watched on movies. So I was just waiting to learn a form that I had to learn a backflip, or a flip. I just wanted to be like Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan, to be able to flip throughout the moves. And then I just fell in love with it. I was a very active boy anyways. I was climbing everything. And I went there because I had this secret love for the Kung Fu movies I didn't express with anyone at school when I was ten or eleven years old. I didn't want to get beaten up for anything like that, you know.

I found another group of friends that were into Kung Fu movies and I thought, 'Wow, it isn't just me,' because I thought I was the only person ever. And my friends all said the same thing, so we started to go. We ended up at the Kung Fu class together and there was about eight of us. And it was one of those things. We all got together, and if we got there earlier, we would have this like battle royale thing. My teacher actually told us off because we would get there really early and we'd spar. It would be all against all, but it was fun because we would pretend to be characters from Kung Fu films. And I was Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. We'd do the whole noise and bringing our orange plastic numbchuks. It was fun. One by one, they got bored and didn't keep it up. I was left by myself. I just enjoyed it. It's always a challenge for me. I knew I didn't even scrape the surface of what I saw in Kung Fu films. I knew there was so much more to practice. I could see it in my head. I'd practice the forms and do it well, but even though I was practicing all the time, it still seemed like I could be so much better and conscious. You haven't just finally arrived. There's always something to learn. I think that was always the challenge. It took the fight aspect out of it and just calmed me down. It just changed me as a person and I loved it. To this day, I'm starting to teach my kids now. I bought some pads and stuff, because they always want to fight me. They always want to beat me up. So it's my way. I sort of teach them in an old break-dancing Kung Fu drunken master sort of way because it's the only way I can block and defend myself with my two kids. They just want to beat me up all the time, so I thought if I teach them lightly how to throw a punch with control, they're not going to hurt anyone or hurt themselves by accident. They won't hurt me.

GC: Let's get back to Snake Eyes, arguably the most popular character in the G.I. Joe franchise. Doing Wushu for a ninja , what went into developing the character for you?

RP: Yeah, I always wanted to have a ninja sword, a katana or a samurai sword. It was something we never practiced. So a lot of the sword techniques and basic training I had comes into practice because I'm used to handling a weapon. So then I have to go into that mindset of non-Wushu. But the Wushu flavor still pops out, I think - with the attitude. I've had time to play around with it at home in the last few years, play in the garden with swords and style. It's different than Wushu, but then as I start getting into more moves, the Wushu stuff comes out and I do spins and jumps. There's nothing wrong with that. And I love doing it.

Ray Park and Dwayne THE ROCK Johnson as Snake Eyes and Roadblock

GC: Does it bother you that some of your most iconic roles are masked?

RP: No, not at all. In the beginning, when I first played Darth Maul, my reps were trying to get me into these big roles where I'd show my face and more talking and more this. And I knew as a beginner that I still have a lot to learn, so I didn't mind being a little independent, just being part of the movie and learning. It's not the least bit unfair in doing it. As I get older, I find I like it. I look for roles where I can play. I'm not afraid of showing my face. I just want to play a character where I can just do something and be a big kid.

GC: So you've brought Wushu to the Sith, the X-men and Ninjas now. When are you going to bring it to a Scottish Highlander?

RP: (laughs) You know, a couple years ago they were talking about THE HIGHLANDER, and you know, I'd love to be part of HIGHLANDER in any way. It'd be nice to use a different type of sword. I'm sure the Wushu and Kung Fu will come out of me somehow. Give me a kilt and a big Claymore and it's gonna happen. They're hard swords to swing around. I was hoping to play Danny Rand for a while. That was going to be my Snake Eyes in a way, where I get to be Iron Fist, be the superhero by night and a normal person by day. And get back into my traditional martial arts, try and show some stuff that you've never seen me do before. That was quite a few years ago.

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