He’s been a Capoeira mestre, a monk fighting for the fate of the realms, a biologically-enhanced super soldier, and a rival for the greatest assassin in the world. Add “The Crow: Stairway to Heaven”, “Hawaii Five-O”, “Iron Chef America” and “Dancing with the Stars” to that list, and one has to ask, is there anything that Mark Dacascos hasn’t done? Naturally, taking on zombies is no sweat for Mark, and he does exactly that in his new movie “The Driver”.
Under the parental tutelage of his parents, Al Dacascos and Malia Bernal, (both highly renowned in the martial world) Mark’s martial arts ability is second to none, in everything from Wun Hop Kuen Do to wushu to capoeira. Audiences have long known Mark to be one of the greatest martial artists in action today, of course, one would surely have to be to go head-to-head with John Wick himself!
Today, Mark sits down with KFK to share a look back over the highlights of his career, his perspective on the value that martial arts brings to one’s life, the making of his latest film venture, a pinch of what Zero’s fate against John Wick might actually be and more… So without further ado let’s welcome martial arts superstar legend, Mark Dacascos!
Hi Mark, welcome to Kung Fu Kingdom.
It’s great to connect with you and we hope you’re doing well in the current pandemic?
Hi Brad, thank you for having me. I’m doing well, but these are crazy times obviously. Fortunately, we’re in the suburbs, so three or four minutes and I’m on the hiking trails, but it’s still crazy times!
When the pandemic started I was in New York in the middle of a 10-day workshop with my Shakespeare teacher, and we had to close it down three or four days into it. And like a lot of people, I was going to be doing a couple of projects overseas during this time, and they’ve been either cancelled or postponed. So, we’ll see what happens…
Yes, it’s unfortunate, but hopefully, everything will head back to normal in 2021. On that note, what do you think of the name Kung Fu Kingdom (or KFK for short)?
Yes, absolutely. You guys are well-known, and you have some great writers!
Thank you, we love giving it our best! Now, let’s warm up with some other action films you’re well known for. In “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum”, your role as ‘Zero’ was one of the best martial arts villains in recent years. What were some of your most memorable experiences in working on the movie, which you had joined on fairly short notice?
Yes, Chad (Stahelski) had a different actor for that role, and something happened where it didn’t work out, this was back in 2018. So, on a Sunday night, Chad texted me from New York and asked me to call him the next day. So I called him and he said the original actor for Zero is out and I’d like to invite you the play the lead villain.
He also said read the script first, and I said “Don’t need to, I’m there with you!”, but he really wanted me to, so I did and said “Chad, I’m honored, thank you for asking, yes.” Then I asked him when he’d like me to come to New York, and he says “Can you come tonight?” (Both laugh) So, I got on a flight Monday, arrived there Tuesday morning, we had a little bit of a rehearsal, figured out my clothing, on Wednesday I shaved my head, and on Thursday I’m on my first scene with Laurence Fishburne and Asia Kate Dillon. So, no prep time, just get up and go!
Well, you’d never guess from the finished product. Going off of that, with rumours of spin-offs such as “The Continental” TV series, and Chapters 4 & 5 filming back-to-back, is there any possibility that Zero might make a return?
I heard, unofficially, there’s a possibility that Zero did catch his breath. I’m hoping man, I’m hoping, because I love the John Wick world, and I really had a blast playing Zero!
That certainly showed, and a few characters in Chapter 2 were left a little up in the air, so hopefully he gets the chance to catch his breath! Were there any injuries during the making of the movie?
Nothing big that I know of. Obviously there were a lot of bruises. We shot the finale in the glass structure over the period of a month, and there were a couple of times after Keanu grabbed me where I had these MASSIVE bruises on my forearms. And I was so proud of that, because it’s like “John Wick gave me these!”
But as far as injuries, I heard a few people hurt some ribs on some of the motorcycle stunts. Keanu’s strong and very athletic, and when we did our final fight, I’m proud to say we did about 95 percent of it ourselves, and fortunately, for some of the hard impact hits, we had some incredible stunt men to take care of that for us.
Mortal Kombat: Legacy
That finale in The Continental was indeed incredible! On the topic of finales, you also played Kung Lao in season 2 of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”. What insights do you have about the unreleased third season of the show?
The last scene I shot was with Brian Tee where we’re facing off and about to go at it – we were hoping to be able to see that in the next season, but we didn’t. And whether we come back to it, I don’t know, but right now, in terms of the story, our two characters are left there in this indefinite standoff…
When is “Drive 2” Coming?
Well, that’s unfortunate that it was left up in the air like that, but hopefully, season 3 will be released at last in the near future. Looking at “The Driver” now, we were excited to see the word “Drive” in the title of a Mark Dacascos movie! Would that be something you’d be interested in revisiting?
Oh absolutely. I talk with Steve Wang and Kadeem Hardison, and we would love to do a follow-up to “Drive”. It’s been well over twenty years, and it’d be really fun to find out what happened to the characters and their relationships.
The kind of flips, kicks and twists that the up and coming generation of martial artists can do today is just astounding, so for us old school guys to have to fight the new models with their bio-engines, now I think that would be really fun and exciting!
Mark Dacascos: On an Emotional High: Working with His Family on “The Driver”
Oh absolutely, if “Drive 2” happens, it’d surely be amazing! So, how did you become involved in your latest zombie action-thriller film, “The Driver”, and how is it different from other movies you’ve made?
Well, I’ve only done one other zombie movie, but what makes this one so special for me is that the daughter in the movie is my actual daughter, and my actual wife also plays my wife. So the three of us are playing a family in a world of zombies, and that was really fun in front of the camera, and then just being on set together in Thailand experiencing the world, and just having this great adventure together of making a movie. And will that ever happen again? Probably not, because it’s hard enough to get a movie going even without your family.
Totally. Relating to that, in “The Driver” you have traumatic, yet touching scene with your real-life wife and daughter when you have to abandon the compound. Was it easier to summon up that genuine emotion with your wife and daughter playing those roles?
Absolutely, 100 percent! To prep for the scenes, all I had to do was make sure I was grounded and grieving, but then I just look into my daughter’s eyes or my wife’s eyes. And because of our relationship and our real life as a family, that clicked me right in, and I think it did the same for them. I mean, how often do you get to have such an emotional and enlightening moment in a movie with people you love?
Truly meaningful moments. Your fight with the highly experienced martial arts stuntman Brahim Chab in “The Driver” is particularly impressive. What can you share about making that fight – how long did it take to rehearse and film?
It was fun, and Brahim is tough and super-talented. We had a couple of hours one day to put the bones of the fight together, and on the day of shooting, we worked it out with the actual logistics of the set and how much time we had.
“The Driver” is a small budget film with a tight schedule, but the advantage of that is the frenetic energy is partially real because we have to get it done. But it was fun, nobody got hurt, and we had a lot going on between people fighting people and the two sides of people fighting zombies, so there’s this chaos of the two of us fighting while we’re also being attacked.
There’s one moment where I’m fighting a couple of zombies and then he just comes up and smashes me through a wall, and it looked painful but it was actually really fun.
Mark’s Secrets to Martial Arts’ Longevity
That it did, and I’m sure it was! We’ve seen you on some of your social media videos being as fit and flexible now as you were in your early leading roles such as “Only the Strong”. What is your secret to longevity in the martial arts?
Water & Sleep
Well, I drink a lot of water. I cannot talk enough about water. I love jasmine tea and coffee, but I would say that room temperature water is probably eighty percent of my liquid intake. I try to sleep more than six hours, ideally eight or nine hours if I can.
I look back on a lot of my life now and I used to stay up so late, and I remember a lot of those moments where I was kind of dragging and I was able to get through that moment, but had I slept more I probably would have been more present.
Move Your Body & Exercise Daily
So water, sleep, and consistent training. Every day I do something, and I’m sure there have been days in my life where I haven’t done anything physical, but it doesn’t sound like a good day to me. Even just walking has been a gift, because I love getting out into the elements and just having a chance to meditate and reflect, it’s one of the most natural things we can do for our bodies.
Never Stop Learning!
I also love to read, and especially now when you can’t travel like normal, I’ll just read about these places and authors from other parts of the world, and I’m always trying to learn. I think that one of the keys to life is to never stop the process of learning.
Agreed, and I think that all probably covers the question about what’s geeky about you that people don’t know!
Oh, once you get me going…! (Both laugh)
Influence of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan & Jet Li
Aside from your mom and dad, can you tell us a bit about your martial arts influences as well as your all-time favourite kung fu films?
I’m a huge Bruce Lee fan, I don’t know if there’s a day that I’ve lived since first seeing Bruce Lee that I don’t think about him or something he said. Also of course, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, and because I was so young when I first saw them, those three just became a part of my spirit.
Mark Dacascos’ Favourite Martial Arts’ Films
One I really loved recently was “Ip Man 4” with Donnie Yen and Scott Adkins. It had fantastic martial arts, and I loved the characters and the relationships of Ip Man and his family. I saw it with my brother and my mom and all three of us were crying.
I love “Enter the Dragon” and “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow”, and Jet Li’s “The Shaolin Temple”. That actually inspired me as a 17 year-old growing up in Germany to go to Taiwan for six months and learn Mandarin in the hopes of someday joining the Shaolin Temple. Good movies are really inspiring, provocative and educational, and Bruce Lee, Jet Li, and Jackie Chan really did that for me.
I think many of us can deeply relate to that, and we’re sure what you’re saying will have a significant impact on an up and coming martial artist reading this! So, if you could be a superhero, who would you be and what superpower would you most like to have?
You know, I’ve always loved the idea of being able to fly. And as far as a specific superhero, man, if I catch my breath and come back as ‘Zero’, I would be so happy. (Both laugh)
Mark Dacascos’ Message to Kung Fu Kingdom Fans & Followers
That probably would qualify – get it on Chapter 4 or 5! Well, as we sign off Mark, what special message would you like to share with Kung Fu Kingdom followers and your fans around the world right now?
Well, first I would like to thank you Brad and Kung Fu Kingdom for having me today. Thank you for supporting the martial arts and connecting us actors and martial artists with the fans, and giving us a platform to talk about the other aspects of martial arts, the respect and the humility that we should have from it and the humanity that we all share.
Martial arts have really given me a base and taught me how to work hard and have discipline. It’s a constant process of learning and evolving and as the Chinese proverb says, “To empty your cup”.
Profound words of wisdom there, Mark. Thank you so much for the pleasure of speaking with you. We wish you all the best of success with “The Driver” and all your upcoming action projects in (hopefully a smoother) 2021 too!
Thanks Brad, very glad to speak with Kung Fu Kingdom today!