To millions around the world, Jet Li’s mysterious final enemy known only as The Stranger in 2005’s “Unleashed” is one of his greatest opponents to give him arguably one of his most memorable martial arts showdowns.
The man in question, Mr. Mike Lambert, has since gone on to be a fight coordinator on numerous major Hollywood blockbusters. Of course, for Mike Lambert, either endeavor is just an extension of his lifetime of martial arts training and his long career in the film industry.
Hailing from the U.K., Mike Lambert took up martial arts as a child and would go on to become a Taekwondo champion before heading to Hong Kong to dive into the local action movie scene.
After appearing as henchmen and evildoers in fights from “Black Mask”, “The Quest”, the aforementioned “Unleashed”, and many other movies, Mike would move into fight choreography on many Western movies and TV shows.
With Mike having a grounded perspective as martial artist, his love of anime and manga has led him to design fight scenes that push the action he designs to superhuman levels!
KFK sits down with Mike Lambert to talk about his life as a martial artist and fight choreographer, his incredible fight scene with Jet Li in “Unleashed”, and his work applying his skill at designing electrifying fights for superhero movies like “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” and the upcoming “The Flash” and “Kraven the Hunter”!
Hi Mike, welcome to Kung Fu Kingdom! Great to speak to you today. Have you taken a look at our site Kung Fu Kingdom.com?
Hi Brad, thanks a lot, I’m doing well, and yes, definitely, yes! You guys have been around a while!
Yes, and on that note, our mission is to encourage 100 million people around the world to get into martial arts for all the positive benefits that it brings to individuals, physically, mentally and socially – what do you think about this goal?
That’s cool, absolutely and watch as many martial arts films as possible, too!
Mike Lambert’s Early Life and Background
Totally! Okay, so, why don’t we start off with where were you born Mike?
I was born in West Yorkshire and moved to the Rotherham area, and I lived there till I was 21, then jumped on a plane and went to good old Hong Kong!
What is your height and weight?
I’m 6’1 and about 90 kilos (198 pounds, 14.1 stone)
Okay, so, what can you tell us about when you first became interested in martial arts? What different disciplines or styles have you studied?
I did Shotokan Karate when I was about nine, but that didn’t last too long, then I started doing Wing Chun when I was 13, which I really loved.
The Bruce Lee Influence
My sister always had Bruce Lee posters on the wall, and she always used to get these things – I think they were called Kung Fu Monthly – which were very thin magazines that opened out into giant posters, and they had Bruce Lee from “Enter the Dragon” with the three scratches on his cheek.
I also started reading manga when I was about 8 or 9, and I was fascinated by all the cool artwork. I think I was just always interested in Asian culture through my sister.
My big passions are video games, Hong Kong cinema, hip hop, and anime, and through my sister, I got into Bruce Lee, and I found out there was a Wing Chun school near me, and I thought “Oh, I’ve got to learn this, it’s Bruce Lee’s first martial art!”
Wing Chun and Taekwondo
So, I started doing Wing Chun for about a year and a half, and Ip Chun actually came out one time and I got to do Wing Chun sticking hands with him. The teacher was also under Samuel Kwok, who is well-renowned for Wing Chun in the U.K.
So, when I was about 14, I started in Taekwondo, then throughout the years, I did various forms of movie kung fu fighting. Being on set with Hong Kong guys, you learn various things, and as long as it looks cool, for me, it’s great. I also boxed for a few years and did kickboxing. So, I would say primarily, my three arts are Taekwondo, boxing, and kickboxing.
So, who are your top 3 biggest martial arts influences?
Yeah, I’d say Bruce Lee, 100 hundred percent! I’m a massive Bruce Lee fan, and while I’m not a massive fan of MMA – no disrespect to anyone who’s into it – but for me, open-minded martial artists have been doing MMA for years anyway.
Look at Bruce – he’s wearing the gloves that are like MMA gloves, he gets Sammo Hung in an armbar and he taps out in “Enter the Dragon”.
So, back then, in the ‘60s with Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee was already saying “Look, take hands from boxing, take grappling from wrestling and jiu jitsu, take low kick and elbows from Thai boxing, take kicks from Taekwondo, and just use what works.”
He was doing MMA back then, and Jeet Kune Do is essentially MMA. People were so set in their ways back then. Karate guys would say “No, Karate is the best!”, and Taekwondo guys would say “No, Taekwondo is the best!”, and Kung Fu guys would say “No, Preying Mantis is best!”, and it’s like, it’s the singing of the song, and it’s not the art, it’s the person doing it. Bruce was so innovative and far ahead of his time, and that’s why I like him.
Another influence is Jackie Chan. I loved “Armour of God”, “Police Story”, “Project A”, amazing films, and as mentioned, Hwang Jang-lee, another big inspiration of mine. So, I’d probably say Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Hwang Jang-lee. Also, Master Hee Il-cho, I got both my black belts under Hee Il-cho, and I’ve got a lot of respect for him, he’s such an amazing Taekwondo expert!
Action Movie Career
Oh, absolutely, he’s a Taekwondo legend! Looking into your career in the film industry now, one of your first roles in Hong Kong was in Jackie Chan’s “Thunderbolt”, and you later worked with Jackie again in 1998’s “Who Am I?” What was it like working on those two Jackie Chan movies?
Working with Jackie Chan
It was good, but there was also quite a lot of politics with some of those teams. Although it’s a dream to work on those teams with Jackie, to be honest – and I don’t want to put down anything – but there’s a lot of politics, and at times, it was a little bit like two teams. So, I was a little bit disappointed with the experience, not the talent or the skill, they’re all fantastic, but the overall experience just had a lot of politics.
When you work in another country, and I’ve worked in Germany, I’ve worked in the Czech Republic, I’ve worked in South Africa, I’ve worked all over the world, and for me, when you’re making movies, it’s a team effort. I’ve never liked any kind of divide, but that’s what it is sometimes.
And listen, it was an honor to work with Jackie, but I was meant to have this big fight with Jackie at the end, and basically what happened there – and again, not naming any names – but I was meant to have a big fight with Jackie, and it got all planned out.
I was talking to the script writer, and it got scrapped, and I remember, back then, I was only getting paid per day, so if I wasn’t on set, I wasn’t getting paid, and I was pretty new to the game, so I was like, “Oh, it’s cool”. But without going into too much detail, there was just some politics, and I kind of got pushed to the back of the queue, and it is what it is.
How was it meeting Jackie himself on “Thunderbolt” and “Who Am I?”
He might still remember me, but a few years afterwards, I went to Hong Kong, and Nicky Li, who is one of Jackie’s top assistants and fight coordinators, he’s a great guy. I bumped into him, and he remembered me, and I’m a white guy who speaks Cantonese, and weren’t many 6′ 1″ white guys named Mike who spoke Cantonese in Hong Kong back then!
But Jackie, he’s good with his team, and at night, he and his entourage will have a few beers together. He was great to work with, but just the whole experience, politically, just wasn’t what I expected. At the end of the day, I’m not into politics, I just want to go to work, hopefully do a good job, go home, and just enjoy working.
Working with Jean-Claude Van Damme
You also worked with Jean-Claude Van Damme twice, on “The Quest” and “Knock Off” specifically. What do you remember best about working with JCVD, and how was it to work on these two movies with ‘The Muscles From Brussels’?
Yeah, I’m a big fan of Jean-Claude, and that was great. Another funny story, on “The Quest”, originally, I was going to have a much bigger fight, but there were just time restraints. So, it was a knock-out tournament system, like a pyramid system, and we were deciding who fights who, and I think my fight scene was originally a 50 or 60-beat fight scene, but it was cut down, so it’s basically a couple of jabs, spinning kick, I went for a high kick, and then I got a fist up the kilt. My crown jewels got taken that day!
(Both laugh) Were there any standout moments on those two movies for you?
On “Knock-Off”, I didn’t have too much, I was basically sort of a general utility stunt guy, so I was just running around as a Russian thug.
On “The Quest” though was a great experience, because I think they did, if I remember right, about five or six major castings all over the world in Paris, L.A., Hong Kong, and I had three or four callbacks before I got it. So, it was a pretty big deal to get to.
They were trying to get really proficient martial artists, and that’s me just saying I’m a proficient martial artist, but to be honest, compared to people like Scott Adkins and some of the Hong Kong guys, I thought I was a good martial artist, and then I went to Hong Kong and I was like “Oh, actually, I’m pretty average!”
I think I was thinking I was going to get off the plane in Hong Kong, and suddenly be a big martial arts movie star or stunt actor, and I was like “Yeahhh”. But working on “The Quest”, when I was called back, I worked with so many great martial artists on it.
There were a couple of egos – again, not naming any names – but overall, it was great, and it was great to work with Jean-Claude Van Damme. I must have seen “No Retreat No Surrender” easily 100 times growing up!
Working with Jet Li on “Black Mask”
Oh, it’s an ‘80-s classic! Moving ahead now, you also fought against Jet Li in the 1996 Hong Kong superhero movie “Black Mask”? What is your fondest memory of working with Jet Li on this movie?
Oh, that was great! For me, that was a proud moment, because the fight was cool, and for a couple of those shots, Andy Cheng actually doubled for me a couple of times. That was where I first met Andy Cheng, and obviously, Master Yuen Woo-ping is a legend.
It was great, and working back in those days in Hong Kong, was a lot of fun, and I wouldn’t work on films now for free – I wouldn’t then either – but it was a passion and it wasn’t “Oh, how much will I get paid?”
I didn’t even think about that, and like I said, I still didn’t want to do it for free, but it was just a passion, and working with all these Hong Kong stuntmen, it’s just a dream come true, it’s just fantastic.
Working with Benny The Jet & Shannon Lee
Yeah, that was great. I wanted to talk to Shannon Lee so much about her father Bruce Lee, but obviously, I wanted to give a lot of respect. “Enter the Eagles” was done by another great action director, Corey Yuen, and with Shannon, obviously, I talked to her, but I didn’t mention Bruce Lee once.
Then, right at the last day of shooting, I said “Shannon, just a quick thing – I know Bruce Lee is your dad and I want to respect that, but I wanted to say thank you very much, because through your Dad, that’s the main reason I started martial arts, and for that, I’m forever grateful.” And she said “Oh, thank you very much, that means a lot”, and that was a nice goosebumps moment.
Michael Wong was also in it, as well, and I used to do a bit of training with him. I didn’t work with Benny much on set, but I did go out for dinner with him a couple of times, and back in the day, he was one of the top kickboxers in the world.
I remember there was me and J.J. Perry – and he’s doing great in big budget American Hollywood films now, and he directed “Day Shift”. He’s one of the OG members of 87 Eleven – me, J.J. and Benny, we all went out to planet Hollywood in Hong Kong, so that was cool.
Working with Jet Li on “Unleashed”
Yeah, J.J.’s really breaking out now after directing “Day Shift”. Looking now at perhaps your most well-known on-camera role, you later had an amazing fight scene with Jet Li in his 2005 movie “Unleashed”. What was it like working on arguably Jet Li’s best English-language movie and doing such an incredible end fight with him as The Stranger?
Again, another fantastic experience, and to this day, if I ever get attacked in a bathroom, I’m down and ready to defend myself! It was amazing because the thing with Hong Kong action, which is different from Western action – that fight scene I think we filmed in two weeks- and Yuen Woo-ping was action director, and in a Western film, you might only have a couple of weeks to rehearse that choreography.
On “Unleashed”, we’d work out the choreography just beforehand, and Tiger Chen would be in my part in rehearsals, and we’d basically go through it all right before we’d shoot it. If you can’t keep up with that, you ain’t going to get a look in, so you’ve got to be on point with that kind of stuff, but fortunately, because I’d worked in Hong Kong before, that’s the name of the game out there, so that’s pretty standard for what they do.
Jet Li is great, a very respectful, and very nice guy, and it’s pretty cool seeing him work, because he’ll literally just come on set and just casually go through everything like “Okay, boom, boom, boom”, and then action, and he goes “BAM!”, and just springs to life! His timing is impeccable, he’s fast, and he’s a kung fu legend.
To be honest, I never set out to be an actor or anything, I’m a stunt guy first and foremost, and now I’m an action designer and fight choreographer, but “Unleashed” is the one that I’ve gotten the most recognition from.
I’ve been walking down the street in L.A., and a group of Chinese people will be saying in Cantonese “Oh, that’s the guy from Unleashed!”, or I’ve been in a bar in Germany, and a guy’s come up to me and said “Are you the guy who fought Jet Li in Unleashed?” So, I’ve had a few people recognize me from “Unleashed”, so it’s pretty cool!
Working on Captain America & Game of Thrones
Yes, “Unleashed” is unreal, and that end fight is an all-time classic! On that note, since “Unleashed”, you haven’t appeared on camera much and have moved more into fight choreography. What made this career shift for you?
Yeah, I can’t remember exactly when, but I remember I did “Captain America: The First Avenger” where I was doubling Chris Evans. I was the first person other than Chris Evan to try on the Captain America costume, and went for a front kick and the pants ripped open, and I thought “Okay, I need Chuck Norris action jeans!”
But anyway, I blew my knee out, and then I think I worked a little bit later after my recovery on “Game of Thrones” season two, I doubled a couple of the guys on that for some fight scenes. Then, I was like “You know what? I’ve got more and more offers for doing fight coordinating”, and at one point, you’ve got to think “I’ve got to hang up my stunt pads”, because I don’t bounce and recover as well as some of the younger guys now.
So, I’d say it’s more like an age thing, and also, I was losing my passion for performing as well. Although I loved it because I had done it for so long, but I didn’t get that same buzz anymore, so I thought it was time to move on…
Hong Kong vs US Action
Sorry to hear that about your knee injury, Mike, but glad to hear you’ve had a great career shift since recovering from all that. Speaking of which, some of the Hollywood movies you worked on as stunt coordinator and fight choreographer have included “Gladiator”, “Bulletproof Monk”, “Batman Begins”, “Clash of the Titans”, “King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword”, and many others. What are your favorite movies that you’ve done fight choreography and fight coordination on, and why?
Well, I’ve never stunt coordinated, and I’ve got no ambition for that really. For me, there’s too much admin and paper-work, so yeah I’ve really been a fight coordinator, and now it’s more like – and it’s actually a new term that hasn’t been around a long – action designer. So, what I’ll do now on a film is help choreograph the sequence, I’ll normally shoot the stunt viz, edit it, and then I also do a lot of VFX stuff now, so I’ll use After Effects on Unreal Engine Blender and add a lot of CG elements in to tell the story more.
A lot of times, I’ve been disappointed, because when I worked in Hong Kong, the great thing about Hong Kong cinema is that when they do an action scene in Hong Kong, the action director comes on set and he calls the shots. He dictates the choreography, where the camera’s going to go, and the edit, which is so important.
When I went back to the U.K., we did fight scenes where it was more like “Okay, we’ve got that, so we’re just going to stick two cameras on that and do it as a master, and we’re going do it wide, and then do it tight, and then do it from so many different angles, and make it in the edit room.” And I’m just going “No, this doesn’t make sense. Why are you doing it this way?”
Even to this day, I think there are only a few people who know how to shoot good action. Like 87 Eleven cracked it, because obviously Chad and Dave, when they did “The Matrix”, they just copied and pasted what all the Hong Kong guys were doing.
Usually, nine times out of ten, the angle they want is the one they use in the edit. When they shoot drama in Hong Kong, the action director is not going to go the director and go “Could you just say that dialogue a little bit slower and with more intensity?”. And then with the action in Hong Kong, a lot of times, the director doesn’t get involved, he’ll just say “No, you know best, shoot the action”, but here in the West, you’ve got too many chefs in the kitchen.
I’ve been on sets where sometimes you’ve got between eight and ten people going “No, maybe you should maybe do this or do that”, and that’s why a lot of the action turns out to be a trainwreck, because there are too many chefs. Or, we’ll do a really cool stunt viz, give it to them, and they’ll say “Oh this is great, love it, love the angles”, but then on the day, they’ll shoot it completely differently.
Working on “The Flash”
With “The Flash” movie coming out real soon – I take it you’re pretty much into superheroes…!
Oh yeah, absolutely!
Yeah, to be honest, I love working on fantasy things, because I don’t want to watch a fight scene that I could do really! As mentioned, I’m really heavily influenced by Hong Kong cinema, I love Bollywood as well, and the action is creative and over-the-top, and anime, video games.
I want to see fantastic action and not just stuff I can do, so I love superhero movies for that. When we did “The Flash”, I was lucky enough to be in charge of choreographing a lot of the fight scenes.
There’s a cool scene where Batman takes out some guards, and when we did it on set, they did most of the stunt viz, and there’s also a couple of the Supergirl sequences, as well. It’s not a spoiler, because it’s in the trailer, but there’s General Zod, as well, played by the great Michael Shannon, who is such a cool guy, he’s a legend.
When we did “The Rise of Skywalker”, I was the fight coordinator, and we did some epic fight sequences, but in the end, they were just too cool for school.
If you watch any of the cinematics on “Force Unleashed” and “Force Unleashed 2” or “Knights of the Old Republic”, the cinematics on the “Star Wars” video games are amazing, and if you look in the comments, people are like “Why aren’t the films like this?” And it’s like “Yeah, they could be, but there’s too many chefs”.
Designing Action in the Multiverse
Well, on that note, you’re taking a deep dive into the DC universe – or rather multiverse – as fight coordinator on “The Flash”, as you said. How has your experience making the movie with multiple Flashes, multiple Batmen, Supergirl, and designing the action of so many DC superheroes from throughout the DC multiverse in the film been for you?
Oh, it was great, because when I’m doing a lot of the stunt viz now, what I’ll do is shoot guys on green or blue screen and put them into a CG environment. Say if they’re in a CG church, you can see the altar’s there, the window’s there, the exit’s there.
A lot of times when you shoot stunt viz, there’s just a lot of cardboard boxes, and you try to work out “Where’s the tank meant to be?”, or “Where’s the alien spaceship?”. But, when I’m doing it, I can put them in a CG environment, so there’s no sort of guessing where things are.
In the trailer, there’s a scene where Batman [Michael Keaton] swoops down and takes the guy out, and then picks him up and smashes him down. Basically, me and the stunt coordinator, about three weeks before I started working on “The Flash”, did it as a full CG pre-viz with a mo-cap suit on in my office here!
Tom Cruise Loves “The Flash” Movie
I played all the guards, I played Batman, did the whole fight scene, sent it to the stunt coordinator Eunice Huthart, she sent it to the director, Andy Muschietti. He thought it was great, then we did a live-action stunt-viz of that. Then, we basically translated and more or less copied and pasted about 90 percent of it on-set, so that was pretty cool.
I’m definitely looking forward to seeing it!
Did you see the Tom Cruise comment?
Yeah, I did, where he said he saw “The Flash” early and really loved it! That was a pretty good endorsement to get!
Yeah, that’s the real deal, because I heard about that probably two or three weeks before it hit the internet, and I was like “Really? Tom Cruise called up the heads of DC and wanted to see it?”, but that’s supposed to be legit.
Yeah, that kind of came out of nowhere, but after “Top Gun: Maverick”, that’s a pretty good thumbs up to get!
Yeah, exactly, so I’m really excited. I think the director Andy Muschietti, who’s great, is also in talks to do “Attack on Titan” in live-action. I’d love to work on a live-action anime that pulls it off.
A lot of people say you can’t do it, but you can do it, you just need the right team. You need a great stunt team and great VFX, and they can do it.
For me, the person that pulls as near to live-action anime is Zack Snyder. I mean, “Sucker Punch”, “Man of Steel” – “Man of Steel” is basically more or less “Dragon Ball”-style fights, and “Sucker Punch”, but the fight with Baby Doll and the giant Samurai and the robots on the train, that sequence is straight-up live-action anime, and they nailed it with punching and the slow-motion and the camera work. Apart from speed lines, it’s got it all.
Working with Zack Snyder on Justice League
Oh, absolutely, and speak of the devil, you were also fight coordinator on “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”. How was it working on the movie about DC’s premiere team of superheroes? With the behind-the-scenes situation of the movie, what were your thoughts when the Snyder Cut was finally released in 2021?
Well, first, I’ve got to say, for me, the first version of JL, I’d say it was five out of ten, six out of ten. The Snyder Cut, for me, was a masterpiece, ten out of ten! I thought it was amazing, and I just love Zack Snyder’s work. He’s one of the best and nicest directors, and people you could ever meet!
I’d also like to give a shout-out to the stunt coordinator, Eunice, who I’ve worked with a lot. She’s one of the U.K.’s top stunt coordinators, and she brought me onto the movie.
It also wasn’t just me as a solo effort, we had a great team, and I worked alongside Freddy B and Matt Rugetti, who are two great fight coordinators. Matt Rugetti is also one of the OG 87 Eleven members, so we had a great team.
Basically, me, Freddy Bouciegues, and Matt Rugetti, we can all do kind of the same things, so we choreograph, we shoot, we add VFX, so what we do is almost take turns. So, we’d work out a scene together, and maybe I’d shoot it and Freddy might edit it and Matt might add VFX, and then the next time, we might switch, so we’re kind of piggybacking.
Zack Snyder, seriously, is one of the nicest people, and so talented! He does so much with storyboarding, he’s like a professional storyboard artist, he’s great. I think he came from a music video background, and I was a massive horror fan years ago.
I used to love all the Italian horror movies and George A. Romero films, and the O.G. “Dawn of the Dead”, and he did the remake of “Dawn of the Dead”, and that’s the one that sort of kicked him off into the big time. But yeah, great guy, great experience, great fun to work on, and as mentioned, I just love the combination of – and going back to what I was saying before – the fantasy sort of fights.
For me, live-action stunts mixed with VFX to enhance it is the perfect marriage. Look at “John Wick” – they’ll do stuff where they have a guy pulling 10 feet into a blue crash mat, but it looks like he’s been pulled 30 feet into a wall, because they replace it with CG.
I like the combination of VFX to enhance what we do, and something like “Zack’s Snyder’s Justice League”, I love all that stuff, I love watching superheroes blow s**t up and just smash things. Steppenwolf, when he just smashes up the Amazons, he punches a horse, throws another horse, that’s what I want to see! Actually, what’s the Netflix movie he’s supposed to be doing that’s like his version of “Star Wars”?
Yeah, it’s called “Rebel Moon”, and it’ll be out in December.
Yeah, originally, he was in talks to do “The Force Awakens”.
Brandon Lee said that Richard Cetrone was as Fast as His Dad, Bruce!
Really? I didn’t know that!
Yeah, Richard Cetrone, who played Zeus in “Army of the Dead”, he’s a great stuntman, and he was on “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” with us as Ben Affleck’s Batman stunt double.
Really great stuntman. He trained alongside Chad Stahelski in Jeet Kune Do, and he told me that Brandon Lee had once told him that Cetrone is the only person he’d ever seen who was as fast as Bruce Lee.
To get Brandon Lee to tell you that you’re as fast as his dad is pretty cool. But anyway, Richard Cetrone told me, and I’ve heard this from a few other people, that originally Zack was in the running to do “The Force Awakens”. I would love to have seen Zack do his take on “Star Wars”!
Yeah, and that’s pretty much what “Rebel Moon” is going to be. It was originally conceived as a “Star Wars” movie by Zack, and now he’s reworked it to be a new sci-fi universe. I’d love to see his “Justice League” sequels too, because we have the general outline of what he intended for them, and I really hope the stars align in the future that that could happen. But also, very glad we got his true version of “Justice League” out and really looking forward to “Rebel Moon” too.
Yeah, same, same!
Working on Marvel’s “Kraven the Hunter”
Looking at some other superhero stuff now, you’re also fight coordinator on the upcoming Sony Marvel movie “Kraven the Hunter”. What tempting insider glimpse can you give us about this movie – and how was designing the action for Marvel’s famed hunter?
Yeah, that was cool, and he’s a bit of an obscure one. I used to read Spider-Man comics back in the ‘70s, and I’ve always known who Kraven the Hunter is, but he was a little bit campy with leopard leggings, and he was one of the villains I wasn’t that big a fan of compared to someone like Electro.
Hopefully, it will be cool, because Aaron Taylor-Johnson from “Kick-Ass” fame was great, and he got jacked for it, he was in great shape. I think they’re doing some reshoots right now, but I’m not on that, but there should hopefully be some cool fight sequences in it. At the end of the day, Kraven’s got to be good, because agility and fight-wise, he’s got to be on par with Spider-Man, and surely, they’re gonna have him fight Spider-Man in an upcoming film.
Yeah, after “Spider-Man: No Way Home” bringing Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland’s Spider-Men together, everybody kind of wants Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man universe to come back into action, including me!
Yeah, when they left him out [of the trailers] in the shot with [Tom Holland’s] Spider-Man flying towards Sandman, that was a pretty cool move to get everybody talking. And then when all three of them appeared, it was like “Oh my God! This is amazing!”
Oh yeah, there were crazy cheers for that!
Training & Diet
Okay, so moving onto training now, what can you tell us what kind of training you do on a daily or weekly basis, is it martial arts routines, stretching, yoga or lifting weights in the gym?
Well, years ago, I used to compete internationally in Taekwondo for about seven or eight years, and I used to have a pretty hard training regimen.
No word of a lie, I used to train three to six hours a day, Monday through Friday. Then, we’d train three hours on Saturday, and normally, I’d compete on Sunday, and if I didn’t compete, I’d teach for three or four hours and then train for two or three hours.
So, I was training a lot, and it took me a long time to get out of the mentality that I’ve got to train like an Olympic athlete all the time and that if I wasn’t dead at the end of a training session that it wasn’t a good training session. So, literally it took me probably until about ten years ago to emerge from that!
Now, twice a week, I’ll do yoga in the morning, I’ll do a couple of HIIT sessions. I’ll also hit Bob – the training dummy, not the real person Bob, if anybody’s offended out there! – and hit the bag a couple of times a week. I don’t go crazy and go 12 rounds, it’ll be more like six rounds, and I’ll also do a bit of weights. So, I’ll do about four sessions a week, and just try to keep my Dad bod to a minimum!
Wow, that’s some hard-core training you were doing back then in your competitive days!
Mike Lambert’s Top 3’s
So, what are Mike Lambert’s all-time Top 5 favorite martial-arts movies?
“Kung Fu Hustle”. Honestly, I think “Kung Fu Hustle” is a perfect movie, honest to God. It’s got a lot of VFX in it, which might be a little bit dated now, but the cinematography and the angles are just fantastic, the choreo is fantastic, the timing, the music, the soundtrack, the characters. Seriously, I love that film, it’s amazing!
As said earlier, I also love “The Last Dragon”. “Enter the Dragon”, of course, and “Drunken Master II”. And “Armour of God”, I must have seen that, “Project A”, and “Police Story” I don’t know how many times.
“Armour of God”, I was in awe of some of the acrobatic reactions, and for me, when it comes to Hollywood stunts, Hong Kong cinema unquestionably has influenced Hollywood action, unquestionably. If anyone told me that it hadn’t, I’d say, “Okay, here’s your red nose and clown shoes, put them on!”.
Back in the ‘60s and ’70s, Hollywood films were really good with car chases, gun shoot-outs, explosions, and set pieces, but fights, not so much. Then, you look at the action of Hong Kong films from the ‘70s and ‘80s, and now, I think with 87 Eleven, I think we’re at the same level or even overtaken them now.
And then Bollywood with the “Bahubali” movies and “Krisssh”, they’re over-the-top and I love that kind of action. Bollywood’s killing it now with movies like “RRR”.
But you watch the fight scenes in Hollywood films now compared to back in the day, they were doing what I call “pin-balling” where they’re hitting one thing and hitting another, but now Hollywood is doing a lot of that, and Hong Kong has unquestionably influenced all of that, and all of Asia.
You look at Japan, Korea, Thailand, they’ve all copied and pasted from Hong Kong. Alpha Stunts from Japan, they’ve copied and pasted the Hong Kong influence in things like the “Guyver” movies and “Drive” with Mark Dacascos.
Some great ones there, and yeah, the Hong Kong influence has definitely made it all over the world! So, which 3 amazing movie fight scenes inspire you to this day?
Oh, you’ve got me there. That’s like asking me my top 10 hip hop albums of all time! Off the top of my head, the samurai fight in “Sucker Punch”, I know it’s more CG than live-action, but that fight’s great.
Then going old school, stuff like Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris in “The Way of the Dragon”, just the tempo, the timing, everything. Then, Benny vs. Jackie in “Wheels on Meals”, that’s a classic. Also, “Kung Fu Hustle”, the musician’s fight with the traditional Chinese instrument, that’s just a genius fight. There’s just so many!
Fun and Leisure
Oh, totally agree! So, what’s one geeky or interesting thing that people don’t know about you?
I’ve probably already said it! I’m currently on “One Piece” anime, I think on episode 1,052 now. I love “One Piece” and anime in general. I first got into anime back in Hong Kong, not heavily at the time, but my son really helped get me back into it.
Video games, hip-hop, anime, and Hong Kong cinema, I’ve always had that geeky, nerdy interest with all those things. Also, another geeky thing about me, I’m massively in VFX.
I really like the CGI program Blender, and I just love and devour and am thirsty for as much VFX knowledge as I can get. I watch a lot of behind-the-scenes and I’m always doing tutorials and courses. Also, animation, I do a little bit of animation in my spare time, and I use it with my stunt viz, as well.
It’s funny, because about six months ago, I started doing a few courses on CG animation, and I’m just working on a project now which is set in the Sonic video game universe with Knuckles. I’m designing some of the fight scenes for that, which is pretty fun, and Knuckles is a trained martial artist, and he might have a few jump-spinning kicks in there.
Wow, that’s pretty awesome, Mike! So, apropos some of our previous questions, if you could be a superhero, who would you be and what superpower would you most like to have?
Oh, you’ve got me, that’s so hard! You know, I really like Nightcrawler, and “X2: X-Men United”, the White House opening scene, I think Kirk Wetter and Paul Wu and the Canadian stunt guys there killed it.
I’d love to see a Nightcrawler spin-off, but yeah, any kind of teleportation powers so I could just go back to Hong Kong in an instant and teleport back home, that’d be nice. Although flight would be pretty good, as well – you’ve got me there, but there are some superheroes out there who have everything like flight, teleportation and being a trained martial artist!
Insights & Reflections
What is your proudest accomplishment so far?
I think being the father of my kids. Regarding my career, I don’t think I’ve achieved my proudest moment yet. That’s to come, I’m working on that, and hopefully I can get into directing.
The thing is, for anybody who knows me, I’d like to think nobody thinks of me as a hustler. I’ve never hustled in my life, I’ve never kissed a**, I’ve just always tried to get things through people hopefully liking what I do and hopefully people liking me as a person and employing me because they think I’m good at my job, not because I’ve gone the snakey route and hustled.
I would like to get into directing one day, purely just to do things my way. Even if it’s a disaster and nobody likes what I did, at least I’ve done something my way with nobody telling me how to do it, that’s what I’d like to do one day.
So, regarding that, my proudest moment in my career has yet to come, although I’m not taking away from the stuff I’ve done, but sometimes, things come out and I’m not a hundred percent satisfied with them. So, if I have full control over it, hopefully, what I feel like is cool could get made.
Going back to my kids, without sounding corny – when I was young, I wanted people to know me as a martial arts champion and the best Taekwondo champion in the world. Then I wanted to be known as the best stunt guy in the world. And then I thought, “I just want my kids to go ‘We’ve got a good dad, we love our Dad and we think he’s a great Dad”. So, that’s probably the proudest accomplishment for me is having two great kids.
Mike’s Lambert’s Message for Kung Fu Kingdom Fans & His Followers
That’s definitely an accomplishment to be proud of. Well, as we sign off, Mike, what warrior-wisdom quote or philosophical quote has best helped you become who you are today, and what special message would Mike Lambert like to share with Kung Fu Kingdom followers and your fans around the world right now?
That’s a tough one! I’m going go with “Just be nice”. Seriously, just be nice to your fellow person, and just try to do a good deed today. Just think “I’m going to be kind to people and be a better person in everything, both mentally and physically”.
Well said. Thank you so much Mike, it’s been a real pleasure having you with us and we’re looking forward to hearing about your next action projects coming up!
My pleasure Brad and thanks for having me today on Kung Fu Kingdom!