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14 THE lIST 8—22 Jul 1999
‘ was a big fan: Jackie Chan, Jet Lee. Bruce Lee. I saw Jet Lee using the Wushu style and I thought. “If Jet Lee can get into movies, then I’m going to do it.” I kept on practising and entering competitions, because you hear stories that someone gets noticed at a competition and then they are doing a movie.’
Park’s first foray into the entertainment business was to provide the body for CGI work on the PlayStation game, Saboteur. His work in film began as a stunt double in the martial arts/sfx extravaganza, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Now The Phantom Menace provides him with his
sabres, I still felt as though I was a martial artist doing my stuff.’ says Park. ‘Darth Maul is very confident and so his fighting is very stylised. I tried to use all my Wushu spins and twirls. All the moves are just a fraction of what I do, but there’s a danger of it becoming too “martial arty” and not Jedi.’
There’s an old story about the actor Basil Rathbone, who was widely regarded to be the best swordsman in Hollywood in the 1930s and 40s. Unfortunately, he was often cast as a villain in swashbuckling epics, which meant that, although up against lesser fencers such as Errol Flynn
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'I lost my Scots accent when I was a
kid. I was bullied at school because of my accent. That's when I started doing martial arts.’ Ray Park
first acting role. It’s the achievement of a life-long dream, but the experience clearly hasn’t gone to Park’s head.
“Nick Gillard [the stunt co- ordinator] asked me to come and work for him for a week on a fight for George Lucas. I said, “Yeah, sure”,’ he says, without boasting. ‘We got on really well and, as the days went on, my Wushu style came out. I started using more spins and twists and jumps, and .N'ick really loved it. At the end of the week, they got me to make up 118 Darth Maul, just to show George what it would look like. George got very excited and then I got a call from Rick McCallum [the producer] saying, “You’ve got the job”.’
Not an easy job, as it turns out. The climactic fight between Darth Maul, Obi-Wan and his master, Qui-Gon Jinn (played by Liam Neeson) took five weeks to film. Park, Gillard and his team of stunt people were in preparation for two months prior to going before camera - much of the time in the heat of the Tunisian desert location which doubles as Tatooine. Neither was the use of martial arts straightforward; rather it was a combination of combat and acting.
‘Although we were using light
in The Legend Of Robin Hood, he invariably had to lose his duels. Was this the case for Park with his fellow Scot. Ewan McGregor?
‘I was used to working with stunt guys and, working with them for six weeks, you get up to speed,’ explains Park. ‘Then working with the actors, it was semi-dangerous for a while. We didn’t have much time to work with Ewan and Liam. Nick would work with them and I would help out if they needed it. But I didn’t want to look super-duper good next to these guys — I wanted them to look good.’
Despite his newfound role as The Phantom Menace icon, Park is cautious about the future. ‘I don’t think I’m established as either a Stuntman or actor yet. I want to try and break free as an actor.’
Meantime, Park is stunt doubling for Christopher Walken’s headless horseman opposite Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. Not bad for a 24-year-old from Glasgow. You can’t help but wonder what those school bullies are thinking now.
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace goes on general release on Thu 15 Jul. See review, page 21.