Kung-fu Kingdom brings you the second of our three-part exclusive interview with Bey Logan (read part one here). Having spoken with Bey in part one about his background, passion, and ideas about the martial arts we now turn our attention to more of his views on well-known martial arts performers, from the likes of Jackie Chan to Gary Daniels, Mark Dacascos, Cynthia Rothrock, Scott Adkins and more!
We took the opportunity to get his take on some eminent martial-arts teachers, his commentary-features, stunts and his own favourite kung-fu movies! We at KFK were really intrigued and delighted at the level of depth and breadth on some hitherto unknown background that Bey afforded us!
Raj: Hi again Bey! Great to speak to you again!
Bey: Same here, same time, same place!
Now, last time, we were talking quite in-depth about some martial artists and about your background and how you became inspired and started training, riveting stuff!
I’m glad you feel that way, I’d hate to bore everybody! It’s interesting, because, career wise there was always this through line from when I was very young until now. I suppose there’s certain strength to it. You focus on one thing and you’re still doing it by the time you get to your middle years, that gives you an edge.
Indeed! Now we’ve got a quick-fire round of variety questions for you: What other hobbies do you have aside from martial arts/movies?
I read a lot! Recently I’ve been reading a lot of biography and history. My first attempt at writing a novel is based on the original script for our film Shadowguard. It was published last year, and is available on tour www.reeleast.com website. I’m actually very interested in Shakespeare. I also memorise poems and Shakespearean speeches to keep my memory sharp. I don’t talk about that very much, talking to you about it is the first time! But I think it also enhances my appreciation of the genre that I work in. I think having an appreciation of the narrative literary art form beyond just Kung-fu movies is a good thing!
Could you tell us some of your top martial arts movies?
I have a ready-made list, I think I can recite it by memory!
- Fist of Fury
- The Prodigal Son
- Magnificent Butcher
- Drunken Master
- Ip Man
- 36th Chamber of Shaolin
- Iron Monkey
- Fist of Legend
- Writing Kung-fu (with Bolo Yeung)
As for Bruce Lee I think he’s great in those movies he stars in but as movies I think only Fist of Fury really stands up. Enter the Dragon is a great movie but I don’t count it as a Kung-fu movie, it’s produced by an American Studio. Then there’s Jackie, I always say Drunken Master 1 and 2 but really just Drunken Master 1.
Yes I like to put one cat among the pigeons! It’s amazing, it’s directed by Bolo It was shot in Thailand and it’s really funny!
I’m intrigued and keen to see it! So in terms of for example Magnificent Butcher with Sammo Hung (by the way, the commentary you did for that was umm…magnificent!) would you say that was like a showcase of sorts for Sammo Hung just as Drunken Master was for Jackie Chan?
Yes, I think so. I mean obviously I have a soft spot for the films in the Hung canon!
So would you say Yuen Biao’s best vehicle was Prodigal Son or would you say perhaps Knockabout?
Well I think Prodigal Son, if push came to shove. Physically, Yuen Biao’s really amazing. What is even more interesting is how he came into his own as an actor -really quite late. Did you see Hero, and the re-make of Boxer from Shantung? He was so good in that. I think Dreadnaught, was quite an ensemble because you had Leung Kar-yan, the great Kwan Tak Hin, Lily Lee, etc. I think that that particular skill of doing those Chinese-opera-meets-kung-fu-movie acrobatic fights in character, where you can do a sequence that long in one take is one of those skills that’s gone now.
Good point! In connection with that, we just wanted to talk about something close to the heart of many an aspiring stunt player and those with a strong physical action orientation. What can you say about the most daring stunts or fight scenes you’ve seen?
Well, sometimes it’s the ones that are almost incidental! I looked very closely at a lot of Jackie’s stuff when we were doing Jackie Chan: My Stunts. The things that you normally see, for example Jackie sliding down the pole and falling through the awnings. When Jackie did a stunt in Yugoslavia (for Armour of God) the world held its breath! However, there was a scene in City Hunter where he’s on the boat and he’s running just ahead of the explosions and he leaps into the abyss and lands…Now if you know anything about pyrotechnics there are so many things that can go wrong, if he trips and the guy sparks it off at the wrong time, that to me is a much more scary situation with explosions and shrapnel and staying one jump ahead of these explosions than sliding down the pole in Police Story. Actually the slide is not dangerous, the jump between the landing and the pole is. Then for example, you’ve got Michelle Yeoh going through the glass panel in Yes Madam, that’s amazing, that’s incredible!
She really goes all-out!
Yes! There’s also a stunt that really makes your jaw drop in Fatal Termination that this bad guy’s driving along and he holds the hero’s daughter out of the window of the car. It’s a real car and a real girl and you look at that and you go holy sh*t! What were they thinking? Especially now I have my own little daughter, Taia, I have mixed feelings about that scene. But in terms of stunts, you really think: Wow! that’s Hong Kong going one step beyond anything! That really stuck in my mind. The only other dangerous stunts that make me go, ‘WOW!’ are high falls. In the 80s, it seemed that people are going higher and crazier! Maybe its because the budgets were quite low, and someone jumping from height is quite cheap to shoot.
It definitely makes us appreciate more what we see on screen! What about the top martial artists that you idolise, people that you really truly respect in terms of their skill, their longevity?
I would say, my stepfather Tino Ceberano, Benny Urquidez, Danny Inosanto, Steve Morris, Joseph Cheng, Mak Chi Kong, my own teacher who I think, of course!, is amazing, the late, great Steve Cattle, Terry O’Neill, Paul Donnelly, Nino Barnardo, Sammo Hung, Donnie and Jackie Chan. For the girls, Angela Mao!
For the ladies, how about Cynthia Rothrock?
Yes Cynthia Rothrock, who I knew very well. She was really great with Chinese weapons and the forms which you didn’t expect from an American woman. She’s been a really good friend. We just got in contact the other day after a long time. I sent her some stuff from her movies from Reel East. Through the Eighties we knew each other pretty well, she’s really nice, a real fun lady.
And would you say Michelle Yeoh?
Michelle’s great, I mean Michelle herself would admit that she’s not a martial artist. She’s just somebody who is very physical because of her dance background. She learns martial arts specifically for the films and she’s definitely one of the bravest women that I know!
We have a tremendous admiration and respect for them too! We’d welcome their insights and contributions too, I believe it could inspire another generation of female talent! So if Cynthia or Michelle or any other female action/martial artists are reading this, please get in touch, we’d be honoured!
Bey, another on-screen presence I’m sure many of our readers are really positively into is Scott Adkins, any interesting insights you can share about Scott?
As for Scott, I felt like I had an important role to play in his early career and then when he started getting parts, I asked him to work on my movies. Scott was a guy living and growing up in Birmingham. He was already a good looking guy, very gentle, kind and pleasant to be around. I said to him if you want to do martial arts, you’ve got to be really flexible. You’ve got to learn how to kick like a madman. So then he sent me a tape and it was him, splits, kicks and everything. I said this is good, but a lot of guys can do that, you’ve really got to learn gymnastics to be in movies. So then about three months later I got another tape. It was him doing gymnastics. Then I was like, that’s pretty good, but you need to be really bulked up (because he was skinny) you’ve got to have a Van-Damme physique! Six months later I got another video and he’s got all these muscles! I was like, that’s great but you’ve really got to learn how to act. Then three months later I got a video of him doing Shakespeare! To my mind it took a while for him to really gain some traction as a leading man, but I’ve seen the movies that he did like Ninja etc. The stuff he can do is phenomenal and I saw the movies that he did with Van-Damme. I think that Scott’s a great martial artist, a great actor and a great guy, I would love to work with him!
I think one of the most incredible action movies for me -for that visceral, raw on-screen energy and presence- has to be Undisputed 3: it was just packed to the hilt with well-choreographed and distinctive fight scenes, simply awesome!
The Undisputed movies don’t get much credit because they’re B movies. The drama, the ideas, the performances, they’re great and all valid. They’re all very sincere, played very straight, and they have amazing martial arts. But often the attitude is like, oh another “chop socky”! Scott’s got the part in Expendables 2, but you know, I think actually, the question is: are you going to be a leading man? He needs to do a bigger picture where he’s the lead. Mark Dacascos has had the same problem. He’s been great for the longest time, but where’s the successful film that’s his movie?
Coincidence or what Bey, I was just going to mention him! So, your views on Mark, if we may?
He was on the shortlist for a show that I’m working on. Donnie Yen and I did a TV series in Germany called The Puma. It came down to two guys, Mickey Hart and Dacascos. Mark speaks really good German, but I think his agent wanted too much. Mickey prior to that was very good at martial arts, good actor, lovely man, but really just a model before he did Puma, whereas Mark, he had done a bunch of movies and some really good ones, like Drive and I think already Brotherhood of the Wolf so it was like is it a bit of a step down to be doing a German language TV series so we didn’t do it. I have great respect for him. I’ve spoken to him on the phone and my father knows his father, so there are these connections and I just think he’s really amazing, and he is another guy who unfortunately never quite got that leading role in a hit film. He could have starred in ‘The Matrix’.
Another exceptional hardcore talent we’re huge fans of is Michael Jai White! What’s your take Bey?
I’ve met Michael a couple of times, I have a script for a movie called Harlem Goes East which I’d love to do with him. I loved Black Dynamite, it should have been a bigger hit. He’s an extraordinary guy, so talented, he can both act and write. I saw Never Back Down 2 which he wrote and directed. He is a very competent person, very smart, to do a movie like that, even just a straight to video feature, to defy the expectation and have some fun with it. Terrific actor! He’s been doing this TV series for Tyler Perry now which doesn’t depend on him doing martial arts but pound for pound you know he’s one of the best guys out there.
Another heavyweight hero of many including us: Gary Daniels. Any memories? We’re looking forward to perhaps interviewing him sometime!
He’s great! Gary he never seems to age, damn him! He’s been one of my dear friends since we met in the late eighties in England and we’re just best buddies and have been ever since. We’ve been through a lot of things individually in our lives, ups and downs, women and wars!, it’s difficult because I’m based in Hong Kong and he’s based in the States. We used to go to the American film market and he would come here to Hong Kong. If talent, hard work and niceness were the keys to movie stardom, then definitely Gary would be a front runner! I think he’s done great work and he still works consistently. He never became another Van Damme, he should have gotten that break. It’s just the roll of the dice. There were films that, had they come together, may have taken him to another league!
You mean like Fist of the North Star?
Exactly, well that was made but it wasn’t the movie it should have been. The thing about Gary is, he’s so nice! For Fist of the North star, obviously the wrong director had been cast. As I’ve learned to my cost, a director needs to be ‘cast’ as carefully as an actor, and sometimes you can be too nice! Of my own films, Shadowguard is a film made with the wrong director and me being nice; Borderland is me working with a great director and being a son of a bitch! But, Gary will not play any political game, he is such a nice man he would never do that because he wouldn’t want to make another guy look bad or feel bad, I think that’s sadly been to his detriment, professionally, as a movie star but, as a person, speaks really well of him.
Now, Sammo Hung! What would you like to share?
Sammo is my earliest idol! I met Sammo first time when I was nineteen or twenty years old. He was doing Prodigal Son and at that time I had no idea who he was beyond that he was the guy who fought Bruce Lee at the beginning of Enter the Dragon! So there I was going, ‘its you who fought Bruce Lee!’. He was so nice about it. I went to see Prodigal Son and I was like; wow! Amazing! Then I kept seeing him in great movies. I kept going back to this Chinatown cinema in London. There was like My Lucky Stars, Magnificent Butcher Spooky Encounters, Knockabout and it just went on and on. You know Sammo can do everything: directing, writing, producing, choreography…Kung-fu! I worked with him on The Medallion, and Dragon Squad. It was a great honour.
He’s also funny as a person right, in real life?
Very funny! He and Jackie together are a riot! Like Abbot and Costello! The guy who’s not funny is Stephen Chow, not off camera, in my experience. I never did a movie with him, but, off camera, he’s not funny, but Jackie and Sammo definitely are. Sammo’s funny in a dry kind of way.
How about Chuck Norris, your views please?
He is a guy who got by on the fact that he had a certain degree, (not a huge amount) of physical skill but he worked. He was such a hard worker, and a good guy. He took a relatively small amount of genetic material and stretched it so he got into amazing shape physically and the techniques he could do, he could do really well. He was such a great all American guy and such a nice man and that comes across. I love the Chuck Norris Facts, they’re great!
Bey, by your own admission, what are your own top or favourite movie commentaries?
The first one, was a movie for Hong Kong Legends called Hong Kong 1941 and the reason I cite that is that I think that film was enormously challenging for anybody, it wasn’t even a hit here in Hong Kong when it was first released! It’s definitely a film with merit, but a hard sell for the UK market so I really went to town on the commentary. I remember Empire magazine singled it out for praise. People said the only reason to watch this movie is for the commentary! I’ve got to say that’s kind of a plus for me and the way John Shum (who produced the film) thanked me very much. So I always feel quite proud of that one.
I did a couple of commentaries with Gordon Chan when we were doing the Medallion in Ireland. I remember he was one of the co- commentators. I would say Gordon for Beast Cops and then my darling Maggie Q for Naked Weapon. Probably those two jointly and then as a third one, a solo commentary by me, the UK release of My Lucky Stars. I would say those three, 1941 because it ‘saved’ the film, apparently, those with Gordon and Maggie because it captures for me those friendships at that time because in the course of it we may mention, oh we’re doing this and we’re doing that. Also with Donnie Yen on ‘Iron Monkey’.
Did he co-commentate with you on Iron Monkey?
He did, we had a video at the same time! It was like a video commentary, it’s on YouTube now! I should be in the Guinness Book of Records, I’ve done more than anyone else, the most commentaries done by one guy.
And the least?
Do you remember one with Mark King on Once Upon a Time in China?
Yes, actually I do!
It was really entertaining because Mark hates Hong Kong movies, he’s never seen the film, I think, by the end of the commentary, he hated me, too, because it was so cold in the commentary booth! You asked me for my three favourites, that one would be my least favourite. I’d love to do a Once Upon a Time in China commentary again, the day may come!
So, to wrap up for this occasion may we end with a little thoughtful reflection – you follow the Buddhist way of life don’t you?
I try to, I basically start with the position of being honest with people about what I feel about my life and the experiences that I’ve had. I think Buddhism boils down to the way you deal with people, the way you interact with people, how to help them,. My feeling from Buddhism is always to try to help people and to try to do positive work. I don’t make any great claims to enlightenment but it’s certainly been like a compass to me in this crazy industry, if you don’t have any spiritual practice in your life, you’re left to improvise. I just think very loudly atheist people must have been born with a set of instructions and a road map for life and don’t need to practice. Good for them! I never felt that wonderful myself, I always thought I needed help!
Sense of humility, always a good sign…Well, absolutely fascinating Bey, you’ve helped make a dream interview come true, I hope our readers will sense that too! Let’s be in touch for the finishing touches in part 3!
Thank you for this great interview Raj, I appreciate it!
Stay tuned for part 3 coming up soon!