Ricky Church chats with Batman: Soul of the Dragon star Mark Dacascos…
The first of Warner Bros. Animation’s DC films of 2021 will be released in just a couple weeks with Batman: Soul of the Dragon. Taking place in the 1970s, the film takes a look at Batman’s days training in the martial arts with his fellow students and how they must come together again to defeat a powerful threat to the world. Starring alongside Batman (David Giuntoli) are Richard Dragon (Mark Dacascos), Lady Shiva (Kelly Hu) and Bronze Tiger (Michael Jai White), some of the most skilled and deadly fighters in the DC Universe.
Soul of the Dragon is a throwback to the 1970s film genre of martial arts action adventure movies, taking inspiration from Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon and other such films in the genre. We spoke with actor Mark Dacascos who voices the Richard Dragon, one of Batman’s fellow students and a very skilled martial artist. Dacascos has an extensive career in film and is an accomplished martial artist himself, showcasing his abilities in films like Only The Strong, Brotherhood of the Wolf and most recently John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. We chatted about Richard Dragon’s heroic nature, the homages to 70s Kung Fu cinema and his own inspirations in martial arts, including his family’s history in martial arts training. Check out our interview below…
Ricky Church: In Batman: Soul of the Dragon you play Richard Dragon, one of the best martial artists in the DC Universe. What inspired you to take on the role?
Mark Dacascos: What inspired me was the script. In just the first few pages I just thought this is so good. Jeremy Adams did an incredible job writing. I find Richard Dragon, he has heart and humour. He’s a martial artist. He’s got an interesting, cool life and the story was so good and profound. I’m so happy and honoured to be a part of it. Yeah. The writing started it.
Richard Dragon is an interesting character because he’s one of the best martial artists, but he’s got a bit of a blend of James Bond to him with his nonchalant attitude. That was a lot of fun to see. He’s like half martial artist, half spy. Was that fun to play there?
It was a blast! And, you know, I have never played a role with a character with a cooler, funnier action-packed introduction! And when he finally announces his name, it cracks me up every time. I mean, it’s so much fun.
For sure! Of course you’re a very accomplished martial artist yourself. What were your first thoughts when you read the script and you were told this wouldn’t be just a martial arts film, but a throwback to the old 70s film genre of martial arts adventure?
Oh, I was thrilled! I was born in ’64. I experienced Bruce Lee movies when they actually played in the movie theatre. My parents are both Kung Fu teachers and I was born in Hawaii and I grew up in Germany. There are so many things that I could relate to firsthand from the script and good writing is incredibly levelled and nuanced and profound and Jeremy Adams gave us that and good martial arts teachers like O-Sensei played by James Hong. What they teach the students transcends martial arts. It goes into life and philosophy and morals. It was all there. I mean, so many aspects of it felt like things that I had actually experienced in my own life. I’m from the heart very much attached to this project.
Now one of the cool things about Richard is that he trained with and teams up with Batman. Is that a bit surreal for you to say you’ve played a character who fought alongside Batman?
Yes! Just saying that you brought a smile to my face, you know! Yes, I can say “I’m friends with Batman!” It’s crazy. I love it. I love it. And, you know, my wife and I, we have three kids, a 14 year old daughter, 18 year old son and an almost 20 year old son. And the boys who are DC fans just thought that was crazy. That, you know, there’s no way I’m cool enough to be friends with Batman. There’s no way.
Did they know beforehand that you had this part in this movie or did they find out at the same time as everybody else and were just like “What?!”
Well, they heard that I was working on it, but they’ve got their own lives going on and, you know, “it’s dad.” (Laughs) But then they start seeing the trailer and they’re like “Wait a minute. Um, that’s kind of cool.” So this job certainly gave me a little bit of respect.
One of the interesting things I found in the story with Richard is he’s got an interesting parallel journey with Batman where Batman obviously goes down this darker path which O-Sensei warned him about while Richard’s got more of a carefree attitude, but acknowledges that he can’t defeat evil, but he can do the best he can. Was there anything in that dynamic you thought was really interesting or tried to play up?
Oh, yes. Well, this is the thing. Again, good writing is relevant and profound. Quite honestly, I would like to be more like Richard Dragon. He understands the plight that evil is always going to be there. In some of the training O-Sensei warned us about that, but you gotta do the battle. You know that black and white, yin and yang is always there day and night. The good thing is that Richard takes up that challenge and he’s able to maintain a sense of humour and open heart with it which I love. I want to be more like Richard Dragon.
Now like I said, you’ve trained in martial arts and you just said that your parents teach Kung Fu?
Yes, my father based off of all of his different trainings and different styles created his own style. And then one of his students was my mom and she became an instructor. The two of them were my first two teachers. I had many other teachers since then, but they were my first two. They gave me my base.
Nice. That’s cool. Aside from like your parents, you mentioned seeing Bruce Lee, were there any other major inspirations that you drew from to learn martial arts?
Absolutely. Of course, in addition to Bruce Lee, most of my teen years were in Germany so I saw Jackie Chan’s first film, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, there in the movie theatres and then went on to see Jet Li’s Shaolin Temple. So on the big screen, martial arts with those three have always been a huge influence for me in martial arts and in life. And then my mother and father were both competitive martial arts fighters. Not only did they do forms, but they actually fought. That had a huge impact on me. I remember some of the fighters they went up against and of course they were all friends. They fought and they were friends. The martial arts has been a huge influence on me in training, but even more so in my life and how I try to handle myself.
If you ever get the chance to play Richard Dragon again, will you say yes?
100%. Yes! Yes!
Thank you to Mark Dacascos for speaking with us!
Batman: Soul of the Dragon will be released on Digital January 12th and on 4k and Blu-ray January 26th.
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.