5 March 2009, 2.30 PM at Cathay Cineleisure Orchard
Never in his career has he done martial arts but that did not stop Edmund Chen from gamely doing most of his own stunts in his latest movie, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, the most recent film adaptation of the popular videogame.
“Most of the roles I’ve done in Singapore are police-thief crime fighting but never like the sort of fighting here,” he said. “I’ve haven’t done it before, and not at this level too, so I never expected myself to be able to do the kind of stunts that I did in this movie.”
Indeed, the five days of shooting that scene was no easy feat for the 5-feet 11’’ actor. As title character Chun-Li’s father, he had to duel with his 6-feet 5’’ co-star Michael Clarke Duncan who plays Balrog, evil henchman to ultra-baddie Bison.
He recalls vividly how he had to fly up, or rather be pulled up, almost seven feet just so he can hit Michael’s face- and for many takes too. “What’s more when I kicked from the side, the cable would swing across the right side of my body. And after several takes, the skin on that side of my body was so chafed that a whole piece actually fell off!”
And he actually needed two injections because of how strenuous filming was. “My muscle was so tense that I lost any feeling from my waist down. I felt as if I was paralysed,” he said. Still, Edmund Chen gritted his teeth and went on with shooting non-stop throughout the five days.
What a relief then it was for him when he sat down to watch the final cut of the movie and found out that the scene was left intact. Not only so, his is in fact the first action scene in the movie. Truth be told, he counts the experience as the most memorable one he has filming this.
“I am really very grateful to the stunt master, Dion,” he said. “There were many times when I gave up and I told him to go ahead and use the stuntman. But he (Dion) kept encouraging me and telling me that I had to do it. If you want recognition, he said, you have to do it.”
One other person he is full of praise of is his co-star, whom he calls the “gentle giant”. “Sometimes when you fight, it’s easy to get carried away. And there were a couple of times that we actually had contact and he felt really bad about it,” he added. “In fact, every time after a scene, he will come and check if I’m still intact.”
In the film, Edmund Chen also got the chance to act alongside Smallville star Kristin Kreuk- who plays the titular character Chun Li. And no kidding, the actor will attest that Kristin Kreuk is as stunning in person as she is in pictures and on screen.
“I was drooling,” he laughed. “But yes she’s really beautiful. I didn’t realize it when we were filming because I was so focused on the acting. It was only after filming when I saw the playback then I went ‘Wow!’”
Although the actor has had bit roles in other movies such as The Eye and Turn Left, Turn Right, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li is, in Edmund Chen’s own words, “a very different platform” for him. In his 20-year plus career, “this is probably the largest-scale project that I’ve ever been involved in,” he said.
He firmly credits his long-time manager, Andrew, for this golden opportunity. “He’s always looking out for any kind of openings for me, and he knows that I will always try to produce my best. That’s the kind of relationship that has kept us going all these years,” he said. “Getting this role is actually a great recognition of my effort so I know that hey I’m not heading in the wrong direction.”
And certainly, when you watch in awe his thrilling fight scene in the film’s first few minutes, you can’t help but agree that this has been without a doubt one big step forward for him.
"Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-Li" opens on 19 March and is reviewed