We’re proud to present a 3-part interview with renowned action Asian cinema expert and writer, Bey Logan! Bey’s lifelong passion, knowledge and continued fascination with everything related to action movies and the kung-fu genre in particular, is impressive and has brought him worldwide acclaim. He has worked alongside onscreen luminaries such as Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen and Maggie Q, just to mention a few and has completed well over 125 audio commentaries to date, for East Asian DVD releases!
We caught-up with Bey recently so we could share something about his own training in the arts, his unique, behind-the-scenes insights into the action movie world, including his take on some of the most famous martial artists!
Raj: Well Bey, really great and very exciting to be speaking with yourself as the action movie storehouse of knowledge and prolific martial arts commentator! Feel free to add anything you want. I’m expecting that you’ll have a lot of interesting things including anecdotes to mention!
Bey Logan: Why thank you! Most of the people who know me in Hong Kong are tired of the sound of my voice, so to hear someone say how happy they are to hear it is a welcome change! So you’re a long time fan of these movies I take it?
I am indeed. Every day pretty much I’m seeing something from the kung-fu or martial arts genre, including your commentaries and, you know, the Hong Kong Legends series, I’m a huge fan of all of those.
Great! We had a moment with Hong Kong Legends when it was really the top brand, then the company was sold and there was this extraordinary mismanagement by the guys that took it over and then this decline. Then we were doing these on the other side of the Atlantic with Dragon Dynasty which I think had a moment when it was really extraordinary, then, the same thing happened, and then I came back to England again and contributed to the Cine Asia label.
Fantastic, sounds great Bey! Are you doing the commentaries again for the latest releases on DVD?
Well, I was, but now it seems even that era has come to an end, and Showbox, the parent company of Cine Asia, has decided they don’t want to go to the effort and expense of generating these kinds of bonus features for their DVDs. I’ve already recorded commentaries for ‘1911’, ‘War of the Arrows’ and ‘Legendary Amazons’, and I guess t-t-that’s all folks!
I’ll tell you a really interesting thing. It seems it was a uniquely UK phenomenon, England, Great Britain has long been an extraordinarily great market for Asian action movies. I don’t know why, it always has been. North America, is kind of, I guess commercially it has great potential because it’s so big. But this whole phenomena of commentary and special features, apart from what we did with Dragon Dynasty, the other labels who are doing releases now, like Well Go and Media Blasters, have no interest whatsoever in commentaries, in that sort of stuff. Definitely not!
Yes. I spoke to various of them in the past and they’re like, no, it’s just not something they think people are interested in. Maybe they’re right – maybe it was only the UK, and now not even there!
How curious, could well be!
It’s not that big of a deal, luckily, because I’m crazy busy anyway. It was not so much me touting for work! I’ll tell you the two titles that came up again and again and again re: Ip Man 1 and Ip Man 2! This was before I was back with Cine Asia as I remember, I wrote to Wellgo and said: you know fans have been asking about doing those commentaries, then a woman wrote back saying, who are you? What have you done before? Can you send us a sample of your work! I should never assume people know who I am! Anyway, in the UK it used to be that they they really want every title to have bonus features
Not surprising! I enjoy the commentaries often as much as the movies themselves! You watch the movie, enjoy it, then you watch it again (maybe a couple of days later) with the commentary and get the feeling of the whole experience, behind the scenes etc. It really builds appreciation of what it took to bring it to the screen and who was involved in that!
Yes. I particularly felt for the fans this was certainly an opportunity to enhance the experience. Our thing during the glory days of Hong Kong Legends was to find ways to interview people, shoot featurettes then we’d have a commentary. My feeling was you watch the movie, maybe you already watched the film 30 times and you never knew who that guy was, or where that scene was shot and I would try my best to fill those parts in.
There’s always something extra to fill-in! Bey, I was thinking, for this interview, because there could be such an enormous amount of things we could potentially cover, we’re thinking of maybe breaking it down into two parts or more. We’d cover a bit about yourself, you know, your background, how you started in the martial arts, where your interests came from, because obviously you’re very passionate about these things, you have an enormous knowledge! Along the way you can feel free to add any special anecdotes or anything else!
You often speak about all these martial artists and all these stunt actors and so on. I’d like to know a little bit about how you became so passionate about the martial arts, how did it begin for you? Did you begin to get inspired like Richard Norton for example, i.e., did you see a magazine and see some images of how the martial arts can transform you or was it from a philosophical side or an energetic angle, how did it start for you?
Well actually there’s a very bizarre potential answer to that question and it involves Richard Norton in a way. Because I was adopted as a child and raised by this very conservative, middle-class English family. My passion from a young age was toward, movies, martial arts, and what’s interesting is that my biological mother was the wife of Tino Ceberano who is the guy who brought karate to Australia! My mother was training with him and she became a fourth dan in karate in Australia. So I was in England with this burning desire to do martial arts. Make of that what you will! So there is some odd connection. When I became aware of martial arts, I was instantly fascinated and I knew that somehow I wanted to be doing martial arts and I wanted to somehow be involved with Chinese culture and the Hong Kong film industry.
So at what age did you start training yourself?
I would say I first got interested when I was seven or eight and I would have started training around fifteen. Now I’m fifty, so you can do the math! I’ve put in the years. I first learned Lau Gar, it’s actually a composite style made of of various Southern Chinese forms of movement.
It’s not mish-mash is it?!
Yeah it’s kind of mish-mash!. I mean the stuff they have in there are kind of like legitimate forms. But it’s not a pure line as you have with Hun Gar and Wing Chun, for example.
By the way, I don’t think all these full-on really punishing disciplines like Boxing, Wrestling, MMA are life-long practices. I think in the long haul you’ll pick up injuries and they’ll damage you. I think with kung-fu it’s basically a long term practice that enhances your longevity. People keep trying to tell me with the advent of MMA that kung-fu is obsolete. Complete nonsense! Traditional martial arts are effective in many ways that MMA is not. It’s got a tradition and an aspect to it that is missing from these modern arts. That is what will help you long term to maintain your health and viability and the overall mental aspect. Mind, body, spirit!
What’s your height and weight currently Bey?
I’m six feet (1.82M) exactly and thirteen stone (83 KG).
So when it comes to the usual weight training side of things, what do you do? Is it like the main core, lifts, squats, bench press, etc?
Maybe it’s not as scientific as people might hope for but when I go in I have an egg timer (not that I’m boiling eggs!) but I set the timer for an hour and I do a set of specific exercises. I go in and I do the hour. I’ve actually found that, (same thing with the kung-fu) I just put the timer on and I do the form for an hour. Or two hours or whatever it is. It’s harder to cheat yourself if you set a specific time to the activity.
In terms of your kids are you passing your full legacy onto them in terms of your knowledge of kung-fu?
I think, you’re absolutely right, that’s my motive! I think if you try to impart it that way in which I have done, they run a mile, so you know I always say to them, I’m going to train and I need you guys to help me! So they come out to the park and we train in the park or wherever we are. For example I’ll be doing like my kicks and so that was part of the workout and then we just test each others stances and things like that. So it becomes more of a play activity. I think if you sell, it as (deep voice): I’m imparting the truth to you, you get rebellion. I try to make it fun.
Sounds ideal! So tell us a bit more about your main teacher and inspirations, you mentioned your mother of course and were there some of the main movie players too?
I have to say first and foremost in terms of my personal training in kung fu now, it’s Mak Chi-Kong Si Fu who is like my guru for kung-fu and he’s my guy. There’s another, I had a teacher for Chen tai chi which is another area I’ve been training in, that I haven’t mentioned that before. Ocean Hou, he’s has gone to pursue a film career in China so it’s tough to get him back to Hong Kong or Shenzhen for me to train, it’s really is a little frustrating, because he was so good, such a good teacher: the best teacher of Tai Chi in Hong Kong!
People that I hugely respect and admire include Benny The Jet Urquidez, and my step-father Tino Ceberano, who is actually Richard Norton’s instructor. They’re such wonderful people and they’re nice to be around.
That’s great, that you’re talking about Benny the Jet! So many excellent things have been said about him and you know him to some personal extent. What can you say about him?
When somebody asks me to judge a martial artist, different people fit different criteria, but I suppose if you were really saying, who is an ultimate martial artist? You’d be technically going on what they can physically do, in terms of their ability, what they know, how well they can teach, all of this, but what I increasingly appreciate is simply being a good sport. So, if you look at someone like Benny, he is all those good things in my view.
Benny gave a couple of really good interviews on the movies you did special commentaries for, the Hong Kong Legends DVD releases of Wheels On Meals and Dragons Forever, anything else you can add?
Well, Benny told me when they were doing Wheels on Meals, Jackie had said half jokingly, you know we should do a charity match in Japan, I’ll train up for it and we’ll just have a match and it’ll be the biggest thing ever -we’ll make all this money for charity! It was never a grudge match, it was just for fun. But Benny told him: if you want to get in the ring with me you’d better really prepare yourself! When Sammo caught wind of this he gave Jackie some tapes of Benny’s fights. After Jackie watched them he was saying, “Holy sh*t!” Suddenly the whole matter was dropped, and rightly so!
Indeed! So speaking of Jackie, you worked with him of course, and how was that?
We did two documentaries. Two films, well there was a whole run because he was the producer on a bunch of films that I worked on, Gen X Cops, Gen Y Cops, Purple Storm, The Medallion, The Twins Effect… I still have a good relationship with him to this day. I just saw a picture the other day of Jackie with Obama at the White House, and I’m just thinking holy sh*t! You know like a kid who didn’t speak anything in a literate, educated way and he’s walking with a king it’s amazing, literally amazing! It’s by his own sheer effort of will and his own nature. It was really amazing to be even a footnote in Jackie Chan’s story. It was certainly amazing working with Jackie, being around him and people always say: what’s he like? He is Mr Nice Guy, he’s a good sport and I’ll tell you what’s interesting about Jackie, I’ve never met anyone who cares for and about his fans more than he does! I think he actually cares about his fans more than he cares about his friends!
That’s really an awesome thing to know! So, as well as working with Jackie, you’re also a long-time friend of Donnie Yen (star of Ip Man 1 Ip Man 2) for example, how has that been?
People always say to me, oh you’re friends with Jackie Chan or you’re friends with Van Damme, or whoever they’re into. Well that’s not necessarily the case but, I am certainly friendly with them! The people who were coming up in the business at the time I’ve been involved with it were Donnie Yen and Maggie Q in terms of people who were my best friends. To me a friend isn’t someone you’ve interviewed or done a seminar with or had a dinner with. It’s somebody with whom you have been there, day and night in the trenches, marriages, divorces, death, life, whatever. There’s definitely a special bond with Donnie, Maggie and myself.
What about Tony Jaa, for example. You did a fantastic commentary for Ong Bak what would you like to say about him?
Tony is a huge natural resource from the Thai film industry in Thailand, who was just mismanaged from every direction and that’s the reason that most fans might feel that his career hasn’t developed in the way they might have hoped, I think it’s a shame. You know partly that can be blamed on his production company Sahamongkol and very much on his family around him giving him bad advice. I was very much involved with the Weinstein Company and we worked on the early days of Ong Bak 2 and I guess these films came out and some people liked them. I feel that they’re not as beloved as the first Ong Bak is and I don’t think they hold up at all. In the sequels, I think he was having a really hard time making them and it shows, so maybe Tom Yum Goong 2 is like a comeback film for him.
Did Jackie have a walk-on role in TYG 1?
It wasn’t him. They wanted to get him, it was a guy from Thailand who looks like Jackie!
He did actually look quite a bit like him!
Yeah I know it was a shame, he was a good look alike, but it wasn’t him!
(Laughs) Right, OK! Quick question in talking of Thai releases, you did a commentary for the double disc of Ong Bak which is amazing, but what about TYG?
I did one! I did one for North America. I was doing the Hong Kong Legends thing and by the time Tom Yum Goong came around I was working for the Weinstein Company so I did the commentary in America.
So it’s not on a UK release?
No, that’s probably why you didn’t know! If you ever find it, it’s on the North American double disc!
Interesting things happen behind the scenes Bey! I really have to find these films with extra features that were released in the US rather than the UK!
One last thing I want to mention is that, given my lifelong devotion to Hong Kong action cinema, I really appreciate the fact that this huge archive of promotional material from the golden era has come under my guardianship, and we are now making genuine items of Hong Kong movie memorabilia available through www.reeleast.com, so please check it out when you can.
Will do. Lets wrap this up!
Sure! You know, I always feel it’s inappropriate of me to go off on a tangent and say what I really want to talk about. But you’ve given me a chance to do that that’s great!
Thanks so much Bey. Looking forward to part 2! Until then. (you can read part two here)
Until then Raj, Thank you!!