Cityonfire.com is proud to present an interview with Jason Yee, the charismatic martial arts star of The Girl from the Naked Eye, which will be in theaters on June 15, 2012 and on DVD on July 24, 2012.
Can you tell us about your martial arts and acting background?
I started martial arts at 6 years old, influenced by my grandfather, Bruce Lee and Kung-fu movies. Growing up in the inner-city streets of Boston, I had friends who were falling into gangs and drugs, etc. So, I got serious about my training to protect myself and it was only thing that kept me grounded. I started competing at 19 and from then on I was hooked because it was the first thing that gave me positive energy. My Grandfather who raised me was supportive and happy to see me winning competitions. Long story short, I went on to win several National Kung fu & Kickboxing championships, was inducted to IKF Hall of Fame, was a Team USA Kickboxing coach, competing and teaching became my career.
On the side of competing & teaching my hobby was filmmaking. I was shooting my own 16mm short films, took acting & writing classes. Eventually, I was cocky & naive enough to write direct & act in my own first feature. Took my 3 years to shoot on S16mm film (before the DV craze) the film was called Dark Assassin (aka Dark Warrior), it was my ‘film school’. BlockBuster picked it up in 2005, so I decided to make career change and move to LA to act and produce full-time. Started developing The Girl from the Naked Eye and honing my acting chops with several LA coaches.
Your character comes across like like an Asian Clint Eastwood. Was this intentional?
Yes! It was intentional. I’ve always loved Clint’s bad-ass characters, especially in his early films. I thought it would be a cool twist to see an Asian-American in that light so, I thought of Eastwood when I was in my character, Jake.
Upon your first encounter with the Brazillian martial artist, your character puckers up and starts to walk with swagger right before going at it; it’s so “Bruce Lee in Fist of Fury.” Again, was this intentional?
Yes. Well, kinda intentional, I think Bruce is so engrained in my psyche that when I go into ‘Kick-ass’ mode the dragon in me comes out *laughs* I am aware of my resemblances, I thought that maybe some might appreciate the ‘throwback’.
How did the Old Boy homage come about in The Girl from the Naked Eye?
The Old Boy homage came about because the director, David Ren and myself were struck by the raw emotion that came out in the ‘hallway fight’. We thought it would be cool to do a shot like that with raw emotion but, with more complicated fighting. I kind of see it as anti-kung fu action because fighting is ugly, raw and exhausting to watch. Our scene is not ‘graceful and pretty’ like you expect, we didn’t want to do ‘Superhero kung fu’ like you see in many movies where the hero walks through dozens of guys and never gets hit or tired. We wanted Jake to be vulnerable but, he has the will and heart to survive. The action director, Ron Yuan came up with the main choreography then, other stunt guys and myself added to it.
Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan?
Bruce Lee. He was a huge influence on my life, was a strong Asian male on screen when there was none. But, I also, I love Jackie.
Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal?
Seagal. Swagger. Because he doesn’t give a crap about what anyone thinks about him.
Robert De Niro or Al Pacino?
Hmm… Tough one. I like both but, I’ll say, De Niro because he’s more of a true tough guy.
Mac or PC?
Mac, I hate viruses.
BMW or Benz?
Benz, because of the 55’ 300 SL gullwing.
What are some of your all-time favorite martial arts action movies?
All time.. Enter the Dragon, Fist of Fury (aka Chinese Connection), Shaolin Temple, Police Story, SPL… I’ll stop there.
If you can work with any director/actor, who would it be?
Clint Eastwood, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Donnie Yen, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, John Woo, Justin Lin… I’ll stop there.
Do you have any future projects coming up? (If, so please tell us they’re action & martial arts…)
YES!!!! Action & martial arts! More in our next interview.