Imagine holding the world-record for the fastest kick on the planet, at an astonishing 76 miles (122.3km) per hour? Well when Hollywood actor and stuntman Alexander Wraith wakes up in the morning, he doesn’t have to use his imagination – he’s the record holder who actually pulled that incredible feat of speed off!
In between setting records that most martial artists would die to achieve (and claiming said record for the legendary Bruce Lee, no less!) Alex has also lent his talents as a martial artist to the film industry, with appearances in everything from Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” to “Taken 3” and the upcoming “Kilkick”. His latest project, the ensemble action-comedy “Fury of the Fist and the Golden Fleece” sees Alex not only jump headfirst into the action, but also step up to the plate in the dual roles of director and co-writer, as well.
Today, Alex sits down with KFK to share a behind-the-scenes look at “Fury of the Fist”, the experience of making the film with its immense ensemble cast, as well as offering some tips for developing the kind of lightning-fast kicking skills that carried him into the record books!
Hi Alex, thank you so much for your time today. Hope you’re doing well?
Hi Brad, I’m doing great, thanks. Glad to be speaking with Kung Fu Kingdom today!
Fantastic! Well, let’s kick off with how you first got started in martial arts? How old were you and what different arts have you studied and trained?
I started when I was about 8 years-old in Taekwondo, in which I was a junior Olympian. Later, I got into Kung Fu, Jeet Kune Do (JKD), Savate, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Eskrima, and Western Boxing. I wanted to study and learn everything I possibly could, and I became a huge sponge for martial arts.
Sounds like you’ve done the rounds! So, who would you credit as having most influenced you in the martial arts and who would you consider your heroes or inspirational figures?
There are so many, but the biggest one for me would be Bruce Lee. Everything from his philosophy to his physique to his energy, he was just one of a kind, and his level of mastery of martial arts was what inspired me to shoot for the world’s fastest kick.
Bruce will continue to inspire. So, what can you share about getting started with “Fury of the Fist”?
Well, I also love martial arts films from the 70’s and 80’s, and I’d kind of missed that style that they had. And, when you go back and revisit them now, its a very different experience than when you’re younger. I also had an image of this character, who eventually became The Fist, who was like a combination of different action stars like Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Patrick Swayze (see our “Roadhouse” review) etc, and I thought, “I really want to do a movie about this guy, but as a comedy!” So that was the beginning of “Fury of the Fist”.
In addition to appearing in the film, you also directed and co-wrote it with Sean Stone. What can you share about the experience of working alongside Sean on the film and the process of creating it?
Oh, I can’t tell you how much fun it was creating “Fury of the Fist”! To me, Sean is The Fist, just the way he looks, the way he walks, he just really embodies that quintessential 1980’s action star, so writing the film and developing the character with him was a blast. And, of course, it was such a dream come true to get to make the film with people like Michael Dudikoff, Cynthia Rothrock, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, and so many people who were the actual stars of action movies of that era. Everyday on set was so much fun!
Indeed, “Fury of the Fist” boasts a huge ensemble cast, including Gene LeBell, Gokor Chivichyan, Danny Trejo, Bill Goldberg, Bianca Van Damme, R. Marcos Taylor, Taimak, and many others. What was the experience like, making the film alongside such an amazing round-up of martial arts masters?
The whole cast was great to work with. One of the really cool parts of it was that they were all in their element, but because it’s a comedy, they got to have a lot of fun exaggerating their element, in both the action scenes and the acting. One of the major influences on the film was “The Street Fighter” movies, and if you watch the way Sonny Chiba acts in those movies now, it’s almost like watching an anime character in real-life. So that was what we wanted, to bring that kind of craziness to the screen with “Fury of the Fist” and with the sequel that we’re working on as well.
Look forward to seeing that! So, what were some of the more memorable experiences of making the film for you in the position of writer, director, and actor?
Well, it’s a difficult thing to wear all three of those hats. Just like with martial arts, your mind has to be completely focused, so you have to find a way to channel your focus into each one individually. Probably the most memorable experience while we were shooting was when a gigantic explosion went off in downtown LA near our set. We saw all these helicopters, police cars and fire trucks headed towards where the explosion happened, and we were right in the middle of shooting, and we decided, “Let’s just keep shooting, it’ll work for the scene!”, and that made it into the finished movie.
Incredible. So, did you experience any accidents or mishaps making the film (other than that one)?
No accidents or mishaps, but it got a little dangerous when Bill Goldberg and Don Frye were fighting in the car wash. The car wash was on, but they were both game for doing it, and that was the first time in film history that a fight scene was done in a car wash that was running.
To tie in with that, what’s the most daring stunt you’ve ever done and what’s been your most serious injury and how did you fix it?
One of the biggest stunts I ever did was on a zip-line on a U.S. special forces training center, its actually right next to Area 51, and one of the longest zip-lines in the world. I was on the zip-line, and there was another stuntman in front of me who was holding the camera operator, and they were filming me zip-lining towards them while they were zip-lining away from me. However, we ended up smashing into each other at about sixty or seventy miles per hour, and were about four hundred feet off the ground. Our cords got tangled because we were spinning around each other from the impact, and I thought I was going to die! Luckily, we had the truck underneath us and they threw us a rope, so we were able to repel down. We were really, really lucky, because two months later, somebody died on that very zip-line doing the same thing.
As far as injuries, I was doing a TV show called “The Runner” for Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. I was doing so much running on the show, I blew out both of my hamstrings. I have really high bone density, which is part of why I can kick really fast, but because of that, my endurance isn’t that great when it comes to running. I was really determined to keep going, so we put cream on my legs, and between every take, I’d just say to myself, “one more!”, and I’d just go for it, but man! was it painful.
Ouch! way to go, plowing through the pain like that. So, what other projects do you have in the works after the release of “Fury of the Fist”?
Well, as mentioned we have the sequel to “Fury of the Fist” in the works, and I’m also working on a boxing film right now. I also have a project in the works called “KilKick”, which is a throwback to movies like “Fist of Fury“.
Well, on that very topic, what are a few of Alex’s favourite martial arts movies of all time?
Most definitely! Looking ahead now, you’re known for your very fast kicks, and in fact, you hold the record for the world’s fastest kick. What is a typical workout for you these days? What are some of your favourite exercises, and what would you recommend for those reading who want to develop lightning kicks like yours?
Well, we have documentary coming out called “Killer Legs”, that shows when I hit the world record for the fastest kick which goes into a lot of that. I hit 76 mph, and to put that into perspective, you can easily pop your knee cap out at 50 mph, so in the three months I spent training for that, I saw just how hard it is to get your kicks to that level, and not hurt yourself doing it!
As far as training, I like to mix a lot of bodybuilding techniques with martial arts. One thing I really like to do is an explosive movement routine, like going into a horse stance and doing explosive sidesteps, and from there, I like doing squats and stretching exercises. From there, I go right into martial arts, mostly things like kicking drills, forms, and sparring.
As far as developing speed in your kicks, one thing I’ve found really works is to wrap an elastic band around your ankle and throw your kicks. Then after that, remove the band, and do your kicks again. That’ll really enable you to develop a lot of speed and explosive power.
There you go readers, if you want to make it into the record books for kicking speed, that’s how to do it! So, if you could be a superhero, who would you be and what superpower would you most like to possess?
I’d want to be The Fist! (both laugh) Actually, I think I’d want to be Captain America, and as far as superpowers, I think I’d really want to have telepathy.
So, Captain America combined with Professor Xavier’s powers, good choice…Well, as we prepare to sign off Alex, what message would you like to share with Kung Fu Kingdom readers and those who know you around the world right now?
To everyone around the world who’s a big fan of action movies and fan of martial arts, get ready, we’re making some great, old school martial arts films that you’re going to love!
Well, we absolutely look forward to seeing what you have in store Alex. Thank you so much for the privilege of this interview today.
My pleasure Brad, glad to share the tale of The Fist with Kung Fu Kingdom!
Who would you like to see interviewed from amongst this stellar cast, what question would you ask them, and which are your go-to kick-flix?
Let us know in the comments below, join in the conversation, share this on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. (Check out our other interviews to keep YOUR FU on!)