Interview with Marko Zaror: John Wick 4 and Fist of the Condor

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of Bruce Lee’s untimely death, and as it has been repeatedly said, his influence lives on. His passion for martial arts, Zen philosophy, and training hit every country on each continent, even as far as Chile where a young boy from Santiago inspired by the great man’s teachings began his own martial arts journey.

Actor, action star, and choreographer Marko Zaror more than made good on his passions, training hard as a martial artist and building a strong cinematic body of work in action movies.

He enjoyed success in both his native Chile where he frequently collaborated with writer / director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza and as well renowned Hollywood filmmakers Jesse V Johnson, Robert Rodriguez, and Peter Berg.

When the global Covid-19 pandemic ground the wheels of movie production to a halt, Marko’s rise was stalled, but not for long. Since the movie world resumed ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ exploded onto the big screen, and in amongst the giants of action film – Donnie Yen, Hiroyuki Sanada, Scott Adkins, and of course Keanu Reeves – Marko stood tall as one of the film’s best fighters and most memorable villains.

Now Marko gets to realize a dream come true, a project born out of the pandemic that pays homage and thanks to his inspirations. “Fist of the Condor” is a celebration of the best martial arts movies, training, and spiritual philosophy. Fans have already had the opportunity to follow this esoteric action adventure courtesy of Hi-YAH TV, and it’s now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital thanks to Well Go USA. We sat down with Marko to talk about his incredible year.

It’s been quite a busy, busy year for you with the release of “John Wick 4” in the cinemas recently and now “Fist of the Condor”, how are you keeping?

Man, I’m excited. I’ve been training my whole life for this! It’s like this is a life journey, getting busy and getting to a point where you just need to enjoy, work and give your best. You know what I’m saying? So I’m excited, man. I’m very happy.

Marko Zaror on KFK’s Mission

That’s really great to hear, really. I’d just like to get your views briefly on Kung Fu Kingdom’s mission. It’s to encourage 100 million people around the world to get into martial arts for all the positive benefits it brings to people physically, mentally and socially. What do you think about this goal?

It’s awesome. For me, martial arts is a part of myself, and not something that I do to be cool or have fun, it’s the way I see life. I see life through martial arts.
I believe that the more people get in touch with this discipline, the movement, with the understanding and what is around the world of martial arts, they’ll have a better and happier life, and they’re going to be better human beings. I believe that the more martial artists there are in the world, the better our world will be.

Dealing with Change and Covid

We do too. Do you think that after COVID it’s even more important for people to take up martial arts?

Definitely, because martial artists have the psychological benefits, the philosophy, and the discipline, but also it’s very good to keep moving and to and to make sure you stay healthy. COVID was very big proof of that, where you had 80% of the people going to emergency rooms with previous health problems mostly because of being inactive, having a bad diet, and bad habits.

I think martial arts will guide you on the right path that will give you that discipline and understanding of how important it is for us as human beings to keep moving, to express ourselves through the body.

I agree. As a practicing martial artist myself, I really do experience those benefits. Before we get to “Fist of the Condor” I’d like to ask you a couple of questions about “John Wick 4”?

Of course. Everything’s connected, you know?

Battling the Baba Yaga in “John Wick: Chapter 4”

Agreed. We all know full well that Chad Stahelski and the team at 87Eleven like to put their action stars through their paces, in terms of training and shooting for the film. So when you were cast and you showed up on set, what if any special training or preparation to perform some of the action in the film did you have to undergo?

I’ve been training my whole life so I didn’t need any specific training, per se. But what I do is, I work with the action team, and adapt my abilities or discover what this character’s fighting is going to look like, what style, and what the type of moves I’ll be doing and then we do some rehearsals.
We get into that kind of discovering and adapting the choreography for my character and that’s basically the training for me in movies like that. Chad is someone that will always prioritize the training and bringing on board the skills from the performer and that’s a luxury for me, for everybody, for all the martial artists, and the actors around.

Chad Stahelski is Helping Action Stars Find their Place

Finally someone is giving us a chance to do what we love to do. Without hesitation, I believe that’s why he’s really changing the game and opening doors for more stunt people, and second unit directors to get better, bigger work in the industry, to have more respect from the industry.

It’s like look, this is an action movie. If you want to do good action then this is what you need to do. This is how it’s supposed to be done. And now people are listening and all of this is because of “John Wick”.

So you’ve actually worked with a number of respectable action directors. We mentioned Jesse Johnson earlier for “Savage Dog“, and I think you’ve worked with him on “Pit Fighter” as well some years back. You’ve also worked numerous times with Robert Rodriguez, one of my favourite directors on one of my favourite of his films actually, “Machete Kills”!

Following on from what you were saying about Chad Stahelski, how does he compare to others that you’ve worked with? What distinguishes him from the other directors?

Well, the thing is that Chad started as a martial artist. So he has many, many years being the martial artist in front of the camera, creating choreography, hitting the ground, and he develops a team that is the best of the best.

Chad Stahelski as Martial Artist, Choreographer and Visionary

So now, with all that experience, being able to work on the other side of the camera, he understands what his team can deliver, he understands what you can do, and what you cannot do, even challenging himself trying to accomplish very crazy takes.

But he has that vision because he’s been on the other side. So I think that’s what makes him very different from all the other directors out there, he’s a fan of the genre and is definitely fighting for his people.

Well, it’s the same with Robert [Rodriguez]. Robert is someone that’s done it all; he’s a filmmaker, he started with a little camera, and he’s a big inspiration for me to just get out there and start shooting – just do your movie and that’s how I do all my movies in Chile.

So seeing him work is the same thing. He’s editing the movie in his brain while he’s shooting. He knows exactly what parts of that take are going to be needed for the final cut. You can see how his brain works and, okay, maybe he’s not a real martial artist who wants to go so deep on the action and in the martial arts stuff, but as a filmmaker, he has that vision right?

The difference with Chad is that he is a martial artist, so in a movie like “John Wick” or any movie that is exclusively action martial arts of course, Chad is someone who understands that dynamic in a very unique way.

Marko Zaror vs Danny Trejo in “Machete Kills”

Marko on the Action in John Wick 4

I totally get it. Watching the action. It’s very intense, it’s very frenetic, and can be quite exhausting just to watch. How gruelling was the fight choreography and the fight scenes for you?

I think the hardest thing was not the physicality for me, it was more all the things that were happening that you needed to stay really focused on; because you have a dog that is attacking you, then you have a car that is driving through, then you got a guy doing a crazy stunt.

There’s a lot of adrenaline and a lot of tension, so you need to stay really focused, but everybody is so professional, and it’s so well-prepared it’s amazing how it works. It’s beautiful to see how Chad and his team put things together.

Working with the Real Keanu Reeves

And what are your thoughts on the man himself? Keanu Reeves?

Yeah, he’s the best, man, he’s such an inspiration.

What is it that makes him an inspiration?

Because he’s so human and so normal, and such a passionate guy. You see him giving 100%, even more, and he will try his best. He trains hard, gets ready, he’s there, he even helps to carry your things.

He’s so passionate and he enjoys every moment of it. And that’s beautiful to see in a guy that has such a career. He’s like a kid doing his first movie, that’s the energy that you see, and it’s inspiring.

That’s amazing. Now the film is packed with other big names in martial arts action movies. We’ve got Scott who we’ve mentioned before, and I know you’ve worked with him. And there’s of course, Donnie Yen and Hiroyuki Sanada to name a few.

I suppose there was a risk really that some of you guys could potentially get lost in the crowd yet Chad Stahelski and the team really gave each and everyone a chance to shine. Nobody got missed. So with that in mind, how has this influenced your career in terms of job offers? Is your phone ringing off the hook at the moment?

A Step in the Right Direction

Yeah, well of course I feel there’s a momentum, there’s a hype on this kind of action movie and of course, I’m, I’m one of the guys that is doing this in the industry. So yes, it’s getting very exciting for me.

“John Wick 4” was a big step and I can already feel that, so I’m very excited to be part of that and I’m so thankful to Chad, Jeremy you know, and the people that were there part of the team and the production who believed in me and gave me this chance because in the end that’s what it’s all about.

Someone needs to take that shot and go okay, ‘I want him’ without never having worked with you before, I’m really excited and I’m really thankful. I cannot be more thankful to be able to be part of that amazing team of people.

This franchise, for me, it’s changing the industry, and I wish all the best for Keanu and for Chad. They deserve the best, man, they do because everything is done in such an honest way with appreciation and love for the genre and for the fans. That’s all their motivation, you can see that and that’s nice.

Flying High with The Fist of the Condor

Absolutely. Let’s talk about “Fist of the Condor” which is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital from our friends at Well Go USA. Now, the film’s story is quite interesting it’s almost mystical in its tone. I know you’ve worked with the film’s writer and director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza on a number of projects, and you’re one of the producers of the film, but what was it about this story that drew you to it?


It’s actually the other way around. This movie, for me, happened because of my honest necessity of expressing myself as a martial artist from Latin America, and a way to say thanks to everything that inspired me.

This movie was shot in the middle of quarantine when we thought that the world was going to end, when we thought there weren’t going to be any more movies.

When in Lock Down Just Meditate and Train…

So basically, after meditating for many, many days I went into this state of being an observer. There was nothing to do, everything was closed. It was just me with a beautiful sunset and a beautiful sunrise, and it was just me training and meditating and just not knowing what was going to happen with the world.

It was just a very honest calling of just thinking, “You know what? If this is going to be the end of the world I just want to do something that represents me as a martial artist – a way of acknowledging all the things that inspired me.”

Working with Inspired Filmmaker, Ernesto Diaz Espinoza

I gave all my notes to Ernesto, notes of my life journey, my thoughts on philosophy, nutrition, training, martial arts styles, everything. He then created this beautiful story about this book – ‘The Fist of the Condor’.

This book is basically all my notes that I have to protect, and that’s why you see in the movie references to things about training, about philosophy, nutrition etc that basically represents my journey, and Ernesto’s journey as a filmmaker from Chile that loves the genre.

It’s like our own Latin-American kung fu film, about how we can honour this genre, bring in our culture, our movements, our influences and journey. So the goal with this movie was to stay as honest as possible to who we are as a filmmaker and martial artist.

Marko Doing Some Intense Training at Home

I totally get it and I noticed there were some interesting influences and similarities to work that’s gone before. You’ve got hints of Bruce Lee’s story “The Silent Flute“, as well as the “Kung Fu” TV series and Shaw Brothers’ movies. What is it about these stories and influences that appeal to you both?

Bruce Lee’s Influence + Some Chilean Spice

Well, Ernesto and I saw them and got inspired at some point in our lives. For me, the “Kung Fu” TV series was kind of part of my growing up, but more so was Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee was the one that inspired my life.

He was the one that made me want to follow this journey. So in every one of my movies, I tried to mention him as a way of saying thanks, and for the younger generations that didn’t get to see him or his movies, they’ll see him through my movies, so it’s like a way of saying thanks to him.

That’s really great. So, you don’t just star in it and don’t just produce it, but you’ve choreographed the action as well. So did you and Ernesto sit down together to work out the appropriate action, or was he clear on what he wanted?

Yeah Ernesto wrote the script and the story, and where the fight needed to go.I sat with the different martial artists and we started choreographing the action. We start playing whilst trying to understand the story that we need to tell through the fight scenes. Then we interact with Ernesto, and he gives me his guidance. It’s kind of a co-creation.

Fist of The Condor Pays Homage to an Array of Martial Arts Styles

Now, what’s interesting about this film is that the martial arts you perform is quite different from your usual style and background. It’s very kung fu orientated and there’s even some Wing Chun in there. Did you practise a little bit or study some Wing Chun and other Chinese forms for this role?

Not for the film, no. I’ve been training my whole life in martial arts and in one moment, I did some kung fu because I was a big fan of Bruce Lee but what you see isn’t necessarily kung fu.
For example, my wooden dummy that I use is inspired by the Wing Chun dummy but it’s not exactly the wooden dummy from Wing Chun. I adapted the wooden dummy for my type of training, adding MMA and some boxing.

So I opened the upper hands and I attack the top. As a martial artist, I’ve trained many different styles over the years, but now I just train, do my own movements, and really express myself. I like Taekwondo kicks, I like Karate Kicks, or even Animal Flow. I’ve even done wrestling – at one point of my life I was about to become a fighter, to get into MMA fighting.

So that is all part of my journey as a martial artist. And when you see the style of the Fist of the Condor, you’ll see there’s a little bit of Taekwondo, kung fu, boxing and then you try to figure it out.

Reflections on Marko’s Martial Arts Journey

In the end it’s just my journey as a martial artist and that’s what I wanted to do with this movie, to stay honest to what I am. We needed to create the ‘Fist of the Condor’ style, for a book that comes from Latin America, influenced by Asian styles, but not just merely copying them, so distinguishing those elements was a big challenge.

Marko Zaror Martial Arts Training

You played twin brothers in the film. What was the challenge for you in playing twins, not just as an actor but also as a martial arts actor and the choreographer?

In the choreography we haven’t fought much – yet – so I’m looking forward to that. As an actor, well, the acting is always fun, it’s always fun to explore these different personalities that we all have. We all have a wide range of personalities and so just to explore those extremes is always fun, and I’m looking forward to continuing the story, having fun with it and really making these fight scenes. Hopefully it’ll happen, you know?

Does this mean there’s going to be some sort of follow up, a sequel maybe?

Yeah, that’s exactly what we have planned. We did that movie to continue the story and there’s so much to tell with the past, and the backstory of the two brothers. We then need to know who’s going to be the real warrior of this system, of the ‘Fist of the Condor’, which of these two brothers is going to be the one in charge of protecting the book from people around the world?

Marko’s Zaror’s Message to KFK Followers and His Fans Around the World

Well, we look forward to seeing that continuing based on what we saw in the first film, can’t wait for the next one. So you’ve said a number of times that the film is a reflection of your own journey, your own philosophy and values esoteric, physical and otherwise.

What is your message or warrior wisdom that you would like to share with Kung Fu Kingdom followers and your fans around the world right now?

I will say that you know, if you maybe exercise listening to your gut a little bit more than to your brain, I think your life could take a very beautiful direction. And just believe in that and trust in that.

Well Marko it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with you. We all thoroughly enjoyed the film, congratulations! May your success continue and we really look forward to seeing what comes next…

I really appreciate it! Thanks for the support and thanks to you guys for sharing the love. If your fans are happy to show their support for this movie, we’ll be able to continue the story…

Fist of the Condor is on DVD and Blu-ray from Well Go USA

Fist of the Condor is on DVD and Blu-ray from Well Go USA

You can catch “Fist of the Condor” NOW on Well Go USA’s martial arts streaming platform Hi-YAH! and it’s also available to own on DVD and Blu-ray. “John Wick 4” is now out on digital, and will be on Blu-ray and DVD from 12th June!

We hope you enjoyed our interview with Marko. What insights did you take away from him about training, and martial arts philosophy? Let us know in the comments below; Like, share and join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter & Instagram!

WHAT KINDA FIST YOU AFTER: FURY, STEEL, DRAGON, CONDOR, or ASSASSIN’S? Find it in the KINGDOM of FU, with these Top 10’s, Top 5’s, deep-dive interviews, TURN ON YOUR powerFU in KFK wear, and reach NEW ACTION HEIGHTS on YouTube!

Ramon Youseph

Ever since he first saw the great Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon on the big screen whilst living in Iran, Ramon has been fascinated with martial arts, and at age 6 attended classes in Kan Zen Ryu Karate under Sensei Reza Pirasteh. When he moved to the UK, martial arts came calling in his early teens in the shape of the mysterious art of Ki Aikido which he studied for five years. Since then he has practiced Feng Shou Kung Fu, Lee Style Tai Chi, Taekwondo, Kickboxing before returning to Aikido, studying under Sensei Michael Narey. As well as Bruce Lee, Ramon is a big fan of martial arts actors Jackie Chan, Cynthia Rothrock, Jeff Wincott, Richard Norton and Tadashi Yamashita to name a few. Ramon is an aspiring writer and when he is not honing his craft he likes to go out running, hiking and is still trying to count to ten in Japanese.

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