In the second part of our interview, action legend Mark Dacascos talks to Flickering Myth about his career to date…
Brotherhood of the Wolf was a big hit and brought you back with Christophe Gans. How was your experience on the film?
I was in France for 6 months. Some prep before and then the shoot(and a week for some shooting in Great Britain). This is one of my favourite projects I’ve worked on. Incredible cast. It was 16 production locations. It was a massive cast and crew travelling across the country. It was all on location except for one day. I love that you get the spirit and the character of the land. Christophe was obsessed with everything down to the colour and texture of the costume fabrics and the ‘right’ type of horse. I loved how he took a big chance in combining all these genres together, all based on a true story. One of the actors asked me one day, ‘Why doesn’t Christophe say anything to me about my performance?’ I guess as I’d worked with Christophe before, he asked me. Christophe in my opinion did most of his direction in the casting. If he wants something changed on set he would say, but really he was giving us the liberty to find the character ourselves. So if he hasn’t said anything, he’s happy with what we’re doing.
Did you expect the film to offer more of breakout for you, or were you happy with the offers which came after? How did you find working with Jet Li, on Cradle 2 The Grave?
Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassell and I were at the Toronto Film Festival. The film was really well received. We were then a day or so away from travelling to New York for the Premiere, when 9/11 happened. That really spun the whole world differently and that affected our movie as well. It was pushed back until the following year. I was hoping it would bring some big things. I mean it did, and I got the call from Joel Silver to do Cradle 2 The Grave. It was an honour to be able to work with Jet Li, an icon I idolised from a young age. He was so professional and positive to be around. He was, in my estimation, even faster than I even expected him to be. With his training he didn’t even have to rehearse. He’d watch me rehearse and we’d shoot, and he’d never make any mistakes.
You also had a role on CSI as a Monk. Did that just happen by chance? That’s an interesting co-incidence given your early aspirations.
Yeah I shot that shortly before Cradle. I told the producers I loved the role and told them about how I wanted to be a monk when I was younger. In preparation for that I spent a night at one of the local Thai temples in L.A. I ate what they ate, spent the morning sweeping the streets outside. It was completely different to my role in Cradle 2 The Grave, which I loved. My martial arts background has meant I can bring that knowledge into my action roles, but equally I love roles, like the one in CSI where I’m just acting. I feel very blessed. I love telling stories so I’m comfortable doing action or just playing a straight character with no fighting.
How do you find the production process of TV compared to film?
It’s exciting because you work a lot faster and you really have to come to prepared. It forces you to zero in and focus on making decisions before you make the set. Sometimes you may get a little time to play but mostly the clock is ticking. Whereas on John Wick 3, with the couch scene, we did a rehearsal before film. Chad asked Keanu and myself to run through how we wanted to play out the scene and we experimented. So you have a little more time and freedom to do that.
John Wick: Chaper 3 – Parabellum must have been a dream project. What was your experience on the film and working with Chad Stahelski and Keanu Reeves?
I hadn’t done a big movie for the cinemas with such big action in years. I was coming off a Hallmark movie and Iron Chef America when I first got the call from Chad. It felt unreal. I had no prep time but fortunately I stay in consistent shape, so I’m always prepared physically. I met Chad initially in a meeting. He offered me a featured fight with Keanu. I was honoured, but I asked if had the possibility to act too, because I’m an actor and not just a stunt man. He said sure. You’ll do a cameo, get one fight scene and one acting scene. I didn’t hear from him for another four months then I get a call from him. ‘Hey Dacascos…’ Things had changed and he then invited me to play the lead villain Zero. I said ‘yes please.’ He said ‘well, read the script first.’ I read and loved it and again, ‘yes please…when would you like me there?’ ‘Come tonight!’ So I leave that night and a couple of days later I meet Anjelica and Keanu and then a few days later I’d had my head shaved and I was on set. I just dived straight in. Keanu is everything you expect him to be from what you read. He’s mindful, kind, humble, witty and incredibly hard working. Chad as well, he’s a true artist. Everything is hand picked and he has a certain sensibility. He shoots things beautifully. He had Dan Lautsen on board to shoot this and he of course shot Brotherhood of The Wolf as well as The Shape Of Water. I love all the different elements of John Wick.
Do you think we might see Zero return for another round with Wick?
Oh I’d love to find out that Zero caught his breath. Whether Zero comes back is a big question. I’m still in contact with Keanu and with Chad, but they keep their cards close to their chest. But with Zero being a ninja, I can see Zero slowing his breathing, saving his life-force and making it out.
The Driver seems an interesting film. It’s very much a family affair, and has you pitted against zombies too. Was casting your wife and daughter something you had suggested?
The Driver was wonderful from beginning to end. Wych Kaosayananda is a director from thailand and a good friend of mine. I’d worked with him before. He sent the script to me, which I loved and I thought of my wife and daughter for the roles of my family in the film. It’s a deep story but fun to play. It was a really nice shoot and gave me the opportunity to work (Again) with my wife and my lovely daughter. I’m really proud of the work that Julie and Noe did. It’s not a typical zombie movie, it’s a slow burn. I like it.
Are your kids looking toward a career in acting?
Yeah well my daughter who co-starred in The Driver, her first audition was a film called Oh Lucy starring Josh Hartnett. She got the part and she played Josh’s daughter in the movie. She loves acting and there’s a good possibility that she pursues it.
Are you still getting a kick out of making action films?
Pun intended? Absolutely, I love it. John Wick was the reentry into that genre for me and refuelled my appetite. But the disclaimer is; with a story. As an actor and a human being, I need a story. I appreciate the action but I need to feel a story with it, compelling characters. I’d love to do more action, just as long as it’s story based.
What’s the craziest stunt you’ve ever done in a film? Anything you look back on and think ‘I must have been nuts doing that.
I did a movie with Coolio and Aaron Kwok called China Strike Force. I was fighting Aaron Kwok on the roof of a Rolls Royce which was cabled to a helicopter which was 120ft off the ground going at 120 knots. We were safety cabled but he and I actually did it ourselves. That was crazy but the stupidest thing was doing the close ups for that scene. They took the car up on a crane, 50 feet, but no safety cables that time. We had to let go off one of the cables holding the car, to grab another, so for that moment when we move, we’re not holding onto anything. When I got down I thought, ‘I’m an idiot…’ and I can’t tell my wife. Of course later she saw the movie, and said ‘yeah, you’re an idiot!’ It was my first project in China, so I had my ego, saving face and felt like I had to. But I survived.
Any directors you’d love to work with?
Yes. I’d love to Christophe Gans, Steve Wang and Roger Avery again. I’d also love to work with Taika Waititi, I saw Jojo Rabbit which I loved. I love his sensibility. Also James Gunn, Guillermo Del Toro, Greta Gerwig, Patty Jenkins, Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.
What have you got coming up that you can tell us about?
I’ve got One Night In Bangkok coming out soon. Another film with Wych Kaosayananda which has a cameo from Julie. I was supposed to be doing a film in China before lock-down, and then another in Burma/Thailand, but they’ve been delayed indefinitely. I’ve been in contact with Donnie Yen recently too. He may have something in mind for us to do together. I’m also writing and developing a TV show with Julie too. I’m also working on a one man show that will feature martial arts and some Shakespeare, so I’ve been keeping busy during lock-down.
We’d like to thank Mark for graciously sharing his time with us.
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due in 2020/21, including The Witches Of Amityville Academy (starring Emmy winner, Kira Reed Lorsch), Tooth Fairy: The Root of Evil and the star studded action film, Renegades. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see here.