(This post originally appeared on the Angry Asian Man blog.)
Dreams come true. Seriously. This past June, I had the unbelievable privilege of collaborating with several of my childhood heroes while co-directing and co-starring in the forthcoming action comedy web series Awesome Asian Bad Guys. How and why did this all magically happen? Well back in 2011, my National Film Society filmmaking partner Patrick and I made a video celebrating the kickass Asian actors who played bad guys in countless action movies we watched growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. These actors were cool as hell, but we had no idea who they were or what they were like. Their characters rarely had any dialogue, and they usually ended up maimed, beaten to a pulp or dead.
Patrick and I wanted to make an Expendables-like project that called these Asian badasses out of the shadows and placed them front and center. Thus was born Awesome Asian Bad Guys.
The incredible trio of classic Asian bad guys we recruited for this project are Al Leong, Yuji Okumoto and George Cheung. Al is widely known for his roles in Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Big Trouble in Little China and of course Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Yuji tormented Daniel LaRusso as the venomous Chozen in Karate Kid 2. George’s most iconic bad guy role was in Rambo 2, where he is literally blown to smithereens by Sylvester Stallone. Bad ass.
When we first dreamed up the idea of making this web series, none of these actors knew Patrick, me or any of the projects we had previously done. But we didn’t let that stop us. We tracked each of them down, expressed our total admiration for their work and somehow convinced them that we weren’t (too) crazy. Miraculously, they all agreed to join us. After raising funds on Kickstarter, working on the script with our writer Milton and producer Diana and coordinating all of the actors’ schedules, we shot the entire first season last June.
Working alongside these actors who we had grown up watching was absolutely surreal and totally awesome. Al, Yuji and George have all been working in Hollywood since I was a little kid. They’ve been on tons of big budget jobs and each have an impressive list of credits that any up and comer would kill for. Yet they treated our low budget web series with total respect and gave their best each and every day. And these guys can still kick ass. Oh yeah.
Yuji showed up to set in incredible shape. With some seriously bulging biceps, he made it look easy beating the crap out of two guys at once during our climactic fight sequence. Likewise, George was as imposing as ever as he repeatedly delivered a flurry of combinations and tossed bad guys aside like rag dolls. Cast and crew members who were watching couldn’t help but burst into rousing applause after each take. And while Al impressed us all by expertly tumbling onto the hard concrete ground for several stunt scenes, what really wowed us was his acting. A perennial strong and silent type, Al may have delivered more lines in this web series than in anything else he’s ever worked on. One of my favorite moments from the entire shoot was seeing him toss in some improv jokes in the scene where we first meet him. All of these bad dudes fully committed to the material and more than lived up to their awesome Asian bad guy reputations.
Thanks to our amazing cast (which also includes Tamlyn Tomita, Dante Basco, Aaron Takahashi, Randall Park and Jasmin Currey) and extremely dedicated crew, filming Awesome Asian Bads Guys was a dream come true that I’ll never forget. As our team now dives into post-production, I know we still have a long road ahead of us. I hope you’ll join us for the ride.