Similarly, there wasn’t a question in director Cohen’s mind about who would play the Emperor. “Jet Li was always the one and only choice,” he states. “He was going to play the villain for me in Sinbad, so we already knew each other.”
As the international action star wasn’t available for the entire duration of the lengthy shoot for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Cohen suggested that the script explain that the Emperor had been cursed and turned into a Terracotta Warrior. The director recalls, “We had the idea that a terracotta CG character walk and talk like Jet; then, at a certain point, he comes back as the flesh-and-blood Jet. He loved the idea and so did the studio.”
For his part, Li was impressed with fellow Buddhist Cohen and his deep love and understanding of Chinese culture. He appreciated his take on the project and signed on to portray the Dragon Emperor. Comments the succinct Li, “His shooting style is like a Hong Kong director’s: full of energy and change, and very fast.”
Oscar® winner Rachel Weisz decided not to reprise the role of Evy, the character she had portrayed for the first two films. The film’s long production schedule and overseas locations would be a burden for any actor raising a young family. Therefore, the search began for her replacement.
“After many casting meetings, we did screen tests with five actresses,” recalls Cohen, “and the one that blew us away was Maria Bello. She has such strong chemistry with Brendan that it wasn’t much of a decision. She had the beauty and precision, humor and inner fire that have always propelled her in such films as The Cooler and A History of Violence.Maria had already mastered the English accent and brought freshness to the role, which added to my hopes to reboot the franchise.”
Bello was eager to take on the role of a heroine in whom she found a kindred spirit. “I related to Evy as an adventurous soul,” she tells. “I always considered myself a bit of a gypsy, and I jump off a lot of cliffs. In second grade, I read romance novels; I was addicted to them. They were always about some woman who dressed like a man and snuck onto a ship, and a captain fell in love with her. She was a great swordsman and a greater fighter. I just always wanted to be that heroine.”
“Maria had such fortitude when she came in to read for the role,” Fraser remembers. “She is a great actress who has done a host of diverse roles, but if you ask, she’ll say, ‘All I ever want to do is be in a movie where I crack a whip, fire a gun and chase around on a horse.’ We find Rick and Evy have, respectively, hung up their guns and archeological digging roles and become a bit sedentary, and basically she is bored. She takes to going back into the field with great moxie and enthusiasm.”
Fans of the series will be happy to know that John Hannah returns to the role of Evy’s brother, the bumbling Jonathan, who is as much hindrance as he is help to the O’Connell family’s missions. Says producer Ducsay: “I remember when we approached John about his role in the first picture, he couldn’t figure out why we would want to cast him in a comic role. He just doesn’t see himself as funny, but of course he is, and I think that’s been borne out in the series.”
Offering much of the comic relief in the film, Jonathan reminds audiences what we would likely do when being chased by the cursed undead: run like mad. Laughs Hannah, “Jonathan’s always looking for a way out first. That’s always been the kind of everyman approach if some immortal, 2,000-year-old guy is coming at you to slap your head off. My first instinct would be to get out, not to stand and have a fight with him.”
Casting the role of Rick and Evy’s son, Alex, was a challenge. The character had to be young and exciting, physically credible, and, at the same time, present a feeling of vulnerability to the events that were about to transpire (which he helped to bring about). Alex needed to show the strength, brawn and heroism of his father, combined with the brains and curiosity of his mother. After an exhaustive search, the filmmakers met with charismatic Australian actor Luke Ford, a performer who suggests a rare blend of innocence and power. He offered the perfect match for Cohen’s series of “old bull/young bull” confrontations scripted for Alex and Rick.
Cohen recalls his first meeting with Ford: “I was screen-testing several young actors; some of them were famous in the United States. When I looked up, they were all standing around looking at Luke and talking to him, but he was clearly the dominant one. For young males to like another young male, he has to be cool, not threatening and not full of ego—because young men know how to push back against an actor who thinks he’s too cool. I remember thinking, ‘Here are these stars standing around; they’re talking to this kid, and he’s very natural with him and accessible.’ Plus, he was the best actor.”
For his breakthrough role, Ford found a young man making many of the mistakes his father had. Too, his father was reluctant to lay down his guns and pass the mantle along to his son. “Alex has always been in the shadow of his father,” Ford states. “Rick made such an impact in the world of archaeology, and Alex wants to do the same. By discovering the Emperor, he is trying to make his mark. There is some conflict between Alex and his parents, because they still think of him as an eight-year-old boy. It’s very frustrating to him because he wants to be treated as part of a team fighting adventures together and not be overprotected.”
Malaysian actor Michelle Yeoh was asked to play ageless sorceress Zi Yuan, the woman responsible for transforming the Emperor into a terracotta prisoner after he destroys her happiness. Yeoh’s grace and beauty entranced both cast and crew. Fraser sums the admiration for her: “There is a regal quality she brings to Zi Yuan—the wizardlike ephemeral keeper of the fountain of youth. Michelle has such dignity that you really believe she is a serene beauty who has been waiting thousands of years to pick a moment and seek her revenge.”
The role of Zi Yuan was one that instantly attracted the international star, lauded in such films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha. “I was very excited about the character because she is magical,” Yeoh explains. “In the story she meets the love of her life, but she is thwarted by the Emperor, who wants her for himself and asks her to bestow on him the secret of eternal life. She refuses to and uses her powers to curse him. It’s a wonderful role.”
To play Zi Yuan’s daughter (and Alex’s love interest), Shihuang’s immortal tomb guardian Lin, Cohen found young Chinese actor Isabella Leong, while casting in China. The actor was eager to break into English-language films and would not only be challenged by the dialogue, but also by the martial arts movements required to play an assassin who is sworn to keep the Emperor Mummy forever locked away.
The production chose Hong Kong actor CHAU SANG ANTHONY WONG—known for breakout roles in The Painted Veil and Infernal Affairs—to play the character of General Yang. The actor, who had previously worked with Michelle Yeoh on two films, was cast as the merciless second hand of the Dragon Emperor, the man who believes mankind must be ruled by force.
Finally, Irishman Liam Cunningham was cast as Rick’s old partner-in-crime and flying buddy Desi “Mad Dog” Maguire; British actor DAVID CALDER was selected to portray fellow explorer Wilson; and American performer Russell Wong was chosen to play Ming Guo, the Emperor’s loyal servant and love of Zi Yuan’s life.
Cast locked, it was time for the production to begin traveling across two continents to shoot the exotic world of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.
Two Continents Over Two Millennia The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor filmed over a five-month period in North America and Asia. Montreal, Canada, and Beijing and Shanghai in China served as host cities as the production built worlds that crossed 2,200 years.
Shooting in Montreal
With a powerful sequence set in the Shanghai Museum, principal photography kicked off at Mel’s Cite du Cinema in Montreal. Rick and Evy O’Connell have been convinced to take the Eye of Shangri-la back to China, but with grave consequences…
The scenes were shot on a magnificent set imagined by production designer Nigel Phelps. Of course, there would be an intricate stunt pivotal to the scene, and the designer would need to coordinate around it. Explains Phelps, “We had to design a way into the space for Alex and Lin to arrive without being seen. That was a hard set to design because we had to incorporate all of that, and the chariot [driven by the Dragon Emperor Mummy] had yet to be designed. So, we were pulling and stretching and reshaping everything to accommodate.”
Production next moved outside to shoot on the stupa (gateway to Shangri-la) courtyard set, constructed next to the linking set of the Gateway, an enormous section of mountains that represented the Himalayas and sheltered a hidden gateway to the mysterious pool of eternal life in Shangri-la. The courtyard was dressed with fake snow, created by SFX supervisor Bruce Steinheimer’s team. “Rob was very specific on the snow he wanted,” explains Steinheimer. “We used 160 tons of magnesium sulfate for the ground snow.”
The fall weather in Montreal is very unpredictable, and, one night, a huge storm hit the set and washed away all the snow. In a bit of its own magic, the set dressing team was called in during the early hours to repair the damage; when the crew arrived at 7:00 a.m., there was no sign that anything damaging had happened.
Again, designs from the script would be adjusted once Phelps, DP Duggan and Cohen had regarded the model sets and discussed the best way to shoot the action. In scenes with the stupa as backdrop, the O’Connells, Jonathan and Lin confront the Emperor Mummy, and a rip-roaring gunfight, followed by help from some Yeti, ensues.
Action unit director VIC ARMSTRONG orchestrated a complex sequence on the Gateway set, but he needed to allow for hero Yeti and mountains of snow to be strategically placed in later. In the scene, the O’Connells have been pinned down by General Yang’s army, but they are rescued by ferocious saviors. “Yang gets kicked out onto the rope bridge, and a big avalanche is formed,” recounts Armstrong, “which is actually caused deliberately by one of our heroes to wipe out his army. The avalanche rages through and collapses the bridge.”
Having successfully avoided most of the bad weather, the production moved out to the ADF stage about 40 minutes from Mel’s. There, Phelps’s team created one of the most awe-inspiring sets from the film: the mausoleum. During excavations, Alex has discovered the tomb of the Emperor. Entering the crypt, he stumbles into an incredible mausoleum filled with thousands of Terracotta Warriors. As he makes his way through the ranks, he and his companions find themselves in a series of deadly booby traps.
“When I did the research into the real Terracotta Warriors, I saw that they were all in ranks of four,” recalls Phelps. “Another surprise was that I had imagined they were little people, but, in fact, they were about six feet tall, and every one is different. The set decorator, ANNE KULJIAN, was remarkable with the detail for the soldiers. We made 20 different heads that you could interchange.”
It was up to the team to re-create weapons stolen hundreds of years ago by tomb looters. “We bought one kind of soldier and horse in China, and then we mass produced them in a workshop in Montreal,” explains Kuljian. “I had all the weapons, armor and other items needed—like the horses’ bridles and mausoleum ornaments made in China by a team headed by propmaster KIM WAI CHUNG, and then shipped to Montreal.”
Returning to Mel’s, the production moved into the mysterious world of the Foundation Chamber: the setting for the brutal hand-to-hand battle between the Emperor and Rick O’Connell. This was the first scene to be shot with Jet Li.
“In the script, there is emphasis on the core of the Great Wall,” Phelps recalls. “The notion was that during the construction of the Great Wall, enemies were buried alive in the foundations. It contained a temple at the center, and the ceiling of the foundation room reflects a subterranean world that held all their bodies and souls. That forms the core of the Foundation Army that rises to attack the Terracotta Army.”
From the brutality of the fight, the production moved to the tranquility of the Shangri-la cave. This served as the backdrop for the touching reunion of Zi Yuan and the daughter from whom she’s been separated for two millennia. “Rob nailed it…how he wanted the different facets of our reaction after 2,000 years of separation,” recalls Yeoh. “It was pure joy at seeing my child again. On the flip side, for Lin, it was the outpouring of grief. All those years away of sorrow and fending for herself. She handled it so beautifully.”
The cave shimmered with candlelight that illuminated the magnificent sleeping Buddha that lay along the length of it. The alcoves were filled with beautifully carved statues and a stunning pagoda that stood at the entry. The team’s goal was a simple one: make Shangri-la feel as large, open, lush and magical as possible.
On October 15, production completed filming in Montreal and prepared for an even bigger adventure: shooting in China.
Lensing in China
From the beginning, it was important to the production that period authenticity be maintained. Explains Ducsay, “Even though these movies are great fantasies that take creative liberties, there is honesty to them because we actually shoot them in the locations where they are supposed to take place.”
Fortunately, the move from Montreal to China was quite smooth. Cohen recollects: “Our executive producer Chris Brigham, Chinese producers CHIU WAH LEE and DORIS TSE KARWAI and the China production supervisors MITCH DAUTERIVE and ER DONG LIU actually performed a miracle. To move 200 westerners on a Friday to shoot on Tuesday seemed virtually impossible, but they did it.”
The decision to shoot this much of the movie in China was both a practical one and a creative one. Explains Brigham: “The location at Shanghai Studios, the setting for the incredible chase sequence, doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. Once we made the decision to come here, we also needed to build sets as cover. The Tian Mo location was then added, by default, as we were already going to be here.”
Now in China, the cast and crew required to complete the epic scenes grew substantially. At one point, there were more than 2,000 people working on it. The group was comprised of 200 Americans and Quebecois, 1,700 from Mainland China and 100 from Hong Kong, as well as crew from Malaysia, Croatia, Slovenia and Taiwan.
Though many languages were spoken on set, the director didn’t worry about what could get lost in translation. “I have always felt a brotherhood among international film people,” says Cohen. “Everyone’s problems seem to be the same: money, time, vision. My C-camera operator in China, TONY CHEUNG, has been the cinematographer of many films. When he, Simon and I talk T-stops, filters and lens ratios, the words may be different, but the meaning is crystal clear.”
The Asian portion of the shoot began in the desert of Tian Mo. “We have made the move to China. Hundreds of our Chinese art department have labored for months to prepare the site for this day,” marveled Cohen on his production blog. “The dawn is breaking over the Great Wall, the original wall made of tamped earth that towers over the horizon. The sun is real; I had the wall built. The Dragon Emperor himself will mount a 50-foot-high colossus to wake his 5,000 Terracotta Warriors from 20 centuries underground and lead them in one final battle against the O’Connells and the mystical forces of his ancient enemy, Ming Guo, who has been raised by Zi Yuan. Armies will clash. Good vs. Evil. The Living vs. the Undead. In other words, it’s Monday on the set of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.”
The Tian Mo locale hosted multiple scenes, including the stunning sword fight between Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh and the film’s climactic, epic battle sequence between the armies of the undead. “To create the battlefield, it was necessary to design something graphically recognizable, so you would instantly know which side the Terracotta Army was coming from and which were the Foundation Warriors,” explains Phelps. “Basically, it was just a big empty space; we created the ruins to add interest.”
The Great Wall could not have been constructed without the instruction of Chinese art director MR. YI, both a historical and technical advisor to the production. This marked the sixth time the artist supervised a build of one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Other scenes shot in Tian Mo were of General Yang’s camp, constructed in a Ming Dynasty village located in a complex of caves close to Tian Mo, and the interior of the black tent in which the Emperor meets with his generals.
While at Tian Mo, the crew was housed approximately an hour’s drive away in the city of Yanqing. The area roads were heavily congested with transportation trucks, so the production and transportation teams devised a support system of staff stationed along the way—directing vehicles along the best route for the particular time of day.
Save an occasional sandstorm, the production was fortunate with the weather. Toward the end of the shoot, however, temperatures dropped rapidly and the team retreated south to Shanghai. Shooting continued at the famous Shanghai Film Studios, which lie approximately an hour’s drive outside the city.
The studio has an enormous set devoted to the streets of Shanghai in the 1940s, filled with full-size churches, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as houses and a trolley bus. These streets provided the backdrop for the chase sequence between the O’Connells and the Emperor Mummy set during the Chinese New Year. Between the main unit and action unit work, the night shoot took three weeks to complete. While the main unit filmed in inner Mongolia, action unit director Vic Armstrong and team shot the bulk of the SFX work, plus some of the stunts, before the main unit arrived.
The chase through the streets of Shanghai offered a complicated sequence that married physical action for the actors and stunt team with CG. Bronze horses pulled a chariot with the Terracotta Emperor at the reins (as Alex and Lin hung on underneath). Hundreds of extras in period costume ducked around art deco buildings as Rick, Evy and Jonathan maneuvered a truck loaded with fireworks to stop the Emperor.
Cohen recalls filming a section of the chase with no less than eight cameras: “Vic Armstrong blew up a trolley on the main street in the Shanghai Bund section. Rick and Jonathan took the mother of all rockets and aimed it right at the fleeing chariot. Jonathan lit the fuse with his Dunhill lighter; the rocket ripped down the boulevard, and the mummy deflected the rocket straight into the trolley. The trolley blew 10 feet straight up into the air, with a fireworks display that could be seen from outer space.
“R. Bruce Steinheimer had designed the event with an extensive team of American and Chinese fireworks experts,” Cohen continues. “The concussion was so intense that it broke every window in the street and the rocket’s red glare set the third story of the set on fire. It was glorious!”
Shanghai Studios also housed several other sets, including the Emperor’s Throne Room, a testament to craftsmanship. A team of Chinese cultural advisors aided Cohen in understanding the complex Qin Dynasty language, ceremonies and behaviors. He relates, “This film has been packed with new knowledge: art and intellect people would stand at the Emperor’s left, military at his right; musicians were not allowed swords; no one was allowed to turn their back to the Emperor. The film gods dwell in the details; even if it’s a world that you are not familiar with, it feels true.”
The final scenes of the shoot took place in Jonathan’s fantastic 1940s Egyptian-style nightclub (in a nod to the first two films, it was named Imhotep’s) on the Bund run. It was created to be a believable hot spot one might expect of Shanghai in the era—glamorous and larger than life.
While the main unit finished its work at Shanghai Studios, the action unit took a four-hour drive south of Shanghai to shoot a dramatic battle sequence at Hengdian World Studios. One of the largest studios in Asia, Hengdian offers complex environments that showcase different periods from Chinese dynasties. These include life-size replicas of Emperor Qin’s palace, Qing Ming Shang He Tu, the palaces of the Ming and Qing dynasties and the Grand Hall of Dazhi Temple—complete with a figure of Sakyamuni 28.8 meters high, the tallest indoor figure of Buddha in China.
The filmmakers were duly impressed by propmasters such as Chueng Kim Wai, who managed a crew that replicated the mystical world in which the Emperor lived. For example, it wasn’t unusual to find a master craftsman carving an intricately-detailed altar for the temple square on a massive block of polystyrene—with only a small, out-of-focus, black-and-white photo of the altar as reference material.
The production designer was stunned to find that many of the Hendigan props were actually real. Remembers Phelps: “The weapons for the 500 figures in the Terracotta Army were all made of bronze, and all the crossbows had working mechanisms. A lot of things get lost in translation, but no one expected bronze weapons, because it would be crazy in a budgetary sense. However, the way they do it here…it is actually cheaper to do it for real than to make it out of fiberglass. It adds another level of believability when the actors touch the swords and they are cold.”
Creating an Epic Backdrop:
Production Design When Phelps first met with the director, he knew they would be embarking on an immensely challenging creative journey. It was vital to Cohen that The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor have an epic look and feel to it, and that meant Phelps would need to give the production a unique and mythic visual canvas. A lifelong dream of the director’s—to share the fantastic culture and heritage of China in a film with the scope of this picture—the shoot was a challenge like nothing the two men had ever faced. And it all started with the design.
“When you begin a project like this and everything has to look huge, you have to decide how much will be physically built and how much will be digital,” explains Phelps. “That’s the equation you work out with the director. Going to China completely opened up the world to do a lot more physical scenery than we could have done anywhere else. When you conceive sets like a mausoleum that contains the Terracotta Army, it’s obviously not going to be an intimate little set.”
The style of the film naturally evolved from Cohen’s lifelong passion for Chinese culture and his Buddhist studies. He was concerned to make everything as true as possible, and the partners in design depicted a good deal of spiritual scenery in the film—particularly in the Himalayas and the stupa courtyard. For Cohen, the film’s design informed a world that reflected “Chinese history in an unusual way, and had a lot of fun with it as we explore two periods: the true history of 200 B.C. and the state of affairs in China in 1946.”
While collaborating with Phelps for the film’s look, Cohen voraciously read of the stories of the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an, the Warring States period before the unification of China, the First Emperor’s immortality quest and the Great Wall’s construction.
The director and production designer agreed they did not want to be restricted in camera moves when it came time to lens the world’s most powerful emperor roaring across the continent (within two periods of two millennia), so the majority of the sets had to offer cinematographer Simon Duggan and his crew “360-degree shoots.” To create these enormous set pieces in Canada and China, Phelps began study that continued throughout the production. A team of Montreal researchers assisted him as they all worked at a rapid pace to design; it continued as they moved from set to set, followed by hundreds of construction crew workers to manifest their sketches.
Form would not always follow the original screenplay’s function; Phelps and Cohen remained open to expanding upon the script as they scouted locations. The designer gives an example that altered the film’s original beginning: “When we first came to China to scout, we traveled to Ningxia to look at these sand dunes the size of Denmark. I was flipping through a hotel brochure, a sort of ‘What’s on in Ningxia,’ and I discovered these pyramids that were absolutely phenomenal.
“The landscape is very similar, geographically, to what we had in Tian Mo [a desert area north of Beijing]—the foothills, the mountains and everything surrounding it,” he continues. “The shot was unscripted, but I knew Rob would love it so I brought him the idea and we decided to use it at the beginning of the film. People will look at the pyramids and think they are CG…you just don’t expect to see these things in China.”
The massive pyramids reside in a valley of hundreds of tombs that contained the remains of a race of Chinese annihilated by the Mongolians—because members of their tribe shot the arrow that killed Genghis Khan. It has only been a couple of hundred years since the Chinese began uncovering this land that had been completely forgotten. These tombs are the last vestiges of the culture of a people who killed the terrifying ruler.
The designer, veteran of such epic films as the blockbuster Troy, explains his unique take on imagining a film: “When I read a script, I look at the story and I see everything in terms of light and shape. This is light, and that is dark; this is tall, thin and that is short, fat. You want a variety and balance that goes with the way everything works with the script narrative. It’s a bit like music; the same principle applies to color.”
As his team worked on illustrations for The Mummy: Tomb of the DragonEmperor, Phelps was inspired to have gold light serve as the primary influence on the film’s color palette. For example, one of the first sets his team created was the stupa courtyard set, in which they used thangkas (colorful painted scrolls) with frescoes on the perimeter. As the set was in shadow and Phelps and DP Duggan needed a swatch of color to catch the audience’s eyes, a member of the team suggested they use gold leaf on certain sections of the paintings.
“Gold is a great color that goes with everything,” concludes Phelps. “You can take it up or take it down; it works really well with the earth tones and the reds. It became a link in all of the sets—even in Imhotep’s nightclub set, where the color temperature of the lights gave that amber color through everything.”
Battling the Undead:
Swordplay and Martial Arts It wouldn’t be a Mummy movie without intricate fight sequences. Any sequence involving master martial artist Jet Li raises the bar, but add to the film Brendan Fraser’s Krav Maga, Michelle Yeoh’s swordplay, Isabella Leong’s kung fu, Luke Ford’s martial arts-inspired street fighting and Maria Bello’s combination punches and you have a feast for fight fans.
Jet Li commends what was impressive about his director’s grasp of staging an exciting fight: “Rob has a very good understanding of the timing and the fast pace that is so important in a fight sequence, and he uses very interesting angles.”
Key fights in the production include one set in the Foundation Chamber, the subterranean temple in which the Emperor attempts to raise his Terracotta Army. With ceilings formed from the bones of conquered enemies, the chamber is filled with flickering flames that line the walkway as the Emperor weaves his dark magic.
In the sequence, Rick O’Connell confronts the Emperor by throwing a knife into his back. The Emperor, only slightly inconvenienced, yanks it out and attacks O’Connell with a rage pent up over centuries of being cursed. O’Connell races at him, and an incredible hand-to-hand battle ensues.
Cohen came up with the idea that, in the years since we last met our hero, O’Connell had become skilled in the type of practical street fighting found in the short, sharp moves of Krav Maga. “It’s a system of combat defense devised by the Czech Jews during the Second World War,” explains Fraser. “They started fighting back by using a system of body motions based on instinct. Basically, you go to the problem, rather than let it come to you. It’s confidence building and, needless to say, great exercise.”
“Brendan is a fantastic action actor,” commends Vic Armstrong. “He’s really been working out, and he is rock solid. He loves his action and knows what he is good at, so we catered to that in all fights we’ve done with him.”
Asian fight coordinator MIKE LAMBERT, who worked with Michelle Yeoh in her breakout role in Tomorrow Never Dies, was primarily responsible for training the actors and choreographing the fight sequences in conjunction with stunt coordinator MARK SOUTHWORTH. Lambert, who has lived in Hong Kong for years, knew many of the film’s actors from having taught them in that country.
One sequence that fascinated the Chinese press was the sword fight between Jet Li and his longtime friend Michelle Yeoh. The fight takes place in the desolate beauty of Tian Mo desert and represents the first time Li and Yeoh have been on opposing sides of a film fight. “It’s funny,” says Yeoh. “If you looked at our shooting schedule, it said, ‘The fight that the whole of Asia is waiting for.’”
Of the duo’s fighting sequences and trainers, Yeoh offers, “Jet’s fight coordinator, DE DE KU [affectionately known as Master De], is a longtime collaborator. He is so brilliant…we just stand there and let him weave his artistry around us. Jet and I understand each other. We are on the same beat and just doing the best we can.”
Jet Li agrees: “When you find a good player to fight with you, it’s like having a good opponent at tennis. You have to be on the same level to play well. I very much enjoyed working with Michelle, and I hope to do so in the future.”
Other actors also had their fair share of the action. Maria Bello lived a childhood dream in a fantasy sword fight sequence—an homage to swashbucklers—as Evy. “Maria’s character is a lot more refined,” explains Lambert. “She is a little more expert in martial arts, but she has also picked up Rick’s street-fighting style. Alex is a bit of a stylist, but again with a little bit of his father’s raw, street-fighting style mixed in.”
Luke Ford prepared for almost three months before production began. Necessary, as he would have to dodge a barrage of booby traps to awaken the planet’s newest threat. “I spent five days a week working on the fight training,” explains the actor. “I began with cardio, weights and stretching. Then I progressed into training for the fights; there were some martial arts, but also a lot of swashbuckling, punching and kicking. It was pretty intense.”
Ford’s sparring partner, Leong, also spent much time training in martial arts. Adds Lambert, “Every spare opportunity Isabella had, she came to train and stretch. She put in a lot of hours and it really inspired her to do more.”