Most in the gaming community know martial arts action star Robin Shou from his multiple roles in film adaptations of games like Dead or Alive, Street Fighter and the Mortal Kombat franchise but he has been acting and performing his own stunts in countless films for over 25 years! Today we are pleased to speak with Mr. Shou about his career past, present and future.
BLANKMANinc: How did you first get into martial arts?
Robin Shou: I was dating this girl who was into martial arts, I had always wanted to do martial arts, and she had already started so I went to her school and I saw what she was doing. There were a lot of guys and she was the only girl so I think I kind of did it out of jealousy. That’s how I got started (laughs). I know, that’s not a good story but that’s a true story. I was seventeen years old.
BMi: How did you first get into acting?
RS: I had been working for a year and a half and I hated my job so I quit and went to Hong Kong for sort of a vacation… I didn’t know what I was doing. I knew I wanted to do something but I didn’t know what so I went to Honk Kong and met some people in the movie business and they asked if I wanted to do a film. I said, “sure”. All of a sudden I got this notoriety as this American guy that’s (also) a Chinese guy that came to Honk Kong and is doing martial arts, his own stunts and he’s six foot tall. Word got around and people started hiring me, so that’s basically how I got started.
BMi: You starred as the lead, Liu Kang, in 1995’s Mortal Kombat, which is seen as the first successful film based on a video game, what was your time like on that project?
RS: It was fantastic coming from Hong Kong! In Hong Kong there were no trailers, no service at all. You had to bring your own chair a lot of times so now I’m in this big Hollywood movie where I have my own trailer, I’m asked if I want my own coffee, breakfast, lunch and dinner and then all I have to do is just act. It sounded really ridiculous. It was like a fantasy coming true. I thought, “Boy, if this is Hollywood, I’m never going back to Hong Kong”.
BMi: Had you played the game (Mortal Kombat) before your role?
RS: I did not play the game.I don’t know if you know the guy, Ho-Sung Pak, who played the character (Liu Kang) in the game? I went to China to study Wushu with his brother, Ho-Yung. I was working in Hong Kong and all of a sudden I bumped into Ho-Sung and I said “What are you doing here?” and he said “I’m doing a Jackie Chan movie and then I have to go back to the states because I’m doing this video game called Mortal Kombat. They take stills of our martial arts moves and put them in the game.” Of course, I said “That’s stupid”. (Laughs)
BMI: You also starred in 1997’s Beverly Hills ninja alongside the great Chris Farley, what was that experience like?
RS: Believe it or not, I came back here to the states and I finally had a chance to be in other movies so I was really selective. So, when they said they wanted to do Beverly Hills Ninja I turned the movie down. The title just sounds like they’re making fun of ninjas and I’m a big fan of ninjas. My agent said “You gotta meet with them. It’s not what you think”. So, I met with Chris Farley and he was so genuine. Seeing him so honest and so genuine I thought that this could be a fun movie because he wasn’t really mocking ninjas or martial arts. After meeting Chris Farley I just kind of fell in love with the guy, he’s just so amazing, so kind, so funny. I said “Chris, this is my first comedy movie so maybe you can tell me what I need to do. You have to teach me how to be funny”. And then he said, “Robin, you don’t have to be funny, just be honest” and I will take that to the grave.