Exclusive Interview: Pandorum’s Cung Le

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Is he tough enough to survive outer space?

One of the big mystery films of the fall is Overture Films’ Pandorum. It’s not a sequel. It doesn’t feature a familiar bogeyman. And it’s not based on a comic book. Nope, this horror/sci-fi hybrid is an “original” (gasp!) from director Christian Alvart and writer Travis Milloy. And even after two trailers (watch them here) we still can’t get a read on what’s going on outside of the obvious: Two crew members – Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster – wake up on a ship. They’re a bit confused. They meet some other folks. Then there’s skin peeling. And a big wave of water somewhere along the way. And talk of turning into something. And what appears to be vicious humanoid…things. Sounds like the type of ride that would come from the dudes – in this case Paul W.S. Anderson and Jeremy Bolt – that brought us the Resident Evil franchise, right?

Wrapped up in this cinematic puzzle, which we will get to see when Pandorum opens on September 18, is cast member Cung Le. I turned to the world-class fighter-cum-actor (who defeated Frank Shamrock in 2008 and has accrued a number of accolades for kickin’ ass) for some answers about the film and was, thankfully, not beaten to a pulp in the process.

ShockTillYouDrop.com: How did you line up with director Christian Alvart?

Cung Le: My managers introduced me to Jeremy Bolt and he had me down to Universal, where their offices were at. I brought my world title belt, which I had won three months prior, I got a chance to meet Jeremy Bolt and he told me about the script which had an Asian guy in there. He thought I might be good for it. The character was Japanese, but I was willing to learn the language. The next thing you know, I’m auditioning and they said I could read in my native tongue, which is Vietnamese. Not longer after I got the part and next thing you know I’m on set amazed by the spaceship set and being directed by Alvart.

Shock: The trailer is elusive, it doesn’t give anything away, especially with your character – so who do you play?

Le: His name is Manh. He’s an agriculture specialist and he’s been awake for a while. The storyline is two crew members wake up and don’t know where they are at. Or what they’re mission is. I’ve been awake and I know what’s going on and I’ve been surviving on this ship. Over time he’s battle-hardened. He knows what to do.

Shock: I bet. Now, is there a language barrier between your character and the other crew members?

Le: Yeah, and I had to make sure I looked like I didn’t understand what they were saying. Three times a day I would train, put myself on tape a couple of times. And in the afternoon I would read over the lines to memorize them and at night I would just deliver it on tape to be prepared. I did that for a month before I filmed the movie. I would translate all of the English dialogue to Vietnamese which I speak fluently but there were some words I didn’t know like “pilot” or “crew member.” I had to really familiarize myself with that. I think a lot of people who say, “He’s a fighter, can he act?” will be impressed.

Shock: Well, what separates this from some of the similar genre fare we’ve seen set in space, on a ship and with scary shit going down?

Le: The actors in this movie are seasoned, from Dennis Quaid to Ben Foster. Christian is an amazing director with awesome producers. Without giving too much away, you’re going to get a little bit of everything here. You think you’re going to figure something out and you’re going to be wrong. You think you know what’s going to happen next and you’re going to be wrong. I guarantee there are going to be so many twists and turns. And the ending is going to make you think. It’s a mindf**k. For the horror fans who feel scary movies have been lacking, this is it. This is something that is going to appeal to action fans, sci-fi fans and horror fans. Take your girl to it, she’ll be jumping in your lap.

Shock: Since the trailer hit, I’ve been slowing scenes down. If you do that you get to see the threat which comes from…humanoids or creatures?

Le: When I saw those creatures, I was like wow. There are a couple of chase scenes and they’re really coming at you. When you pass the camera, you turn around and you see them coming full steam ahead. It was just really spooky being on the set with them. The mood and the lighting made you just feel you were in that scene. You didn’t need to act anything out. You got immediately into character and you can feel them inching closer to you. The actors in the makeup were amazing. They brought these creatures to life and that was definitely worth it for me. I was blown away.

Shock: What was the ratio of practical to green screen set work?

Le: I’d say about 80% of the sets were practical. There was some green screen stuff. The sets were amazing. I did a full sprint down this long hallway, or ship corridor, jumping over pipes and that was amazing. We’d film different pieces of the ship, it’s pretty elaborate.

Shock: Aside from the language challenges, physically this film must have pushed you as well.

Le: Oh yeah. I’ve been in the ring and in the cage. Lots of amateur fights and wrestling matches. I’ve got a lot of respect for the stunt men. I did 90% of my own stunts and there were a few times I woke up the next day feeling like I was in an MM fight. Just banged up take after a take. Hitting the walls. Slamming into things. There’s going to be kicking and shin bones flying around. I think the hardest thing for me, when I got on set I was about 193 or 195 pounds. Jeremy Bolt came over and said, “You’re looking great, man, but there’s not much food on this ship so I think you need to cut some weight.” He needed me to cut about 15 pounds. I said I’d get it off in two weeks. It’s not just cutting water weight. I got to cut it and keep it off. Usually for a fight I cut it and put it right back on. Sure enough, it wasn’t that hard, and I got it off quick, but keeping it off for two weeks was tough. Once the food came out…I had a strict diet. I had to work out in the morning and night. I was just exhausted and always hungry. When the German chocolate came out…that is my greatest weakness.

Cung Le will be venturing down to the San Diego Comic-Con this year for the first time, not just to promote Pandorum but to pimp out his action figure which is the best-selling one in its line. You’ll also see him in the upcoming video game adaptation Tekken and Bodyguards and Assassins with Donnie Yen.


Source: Ryan Rotten, Managing Editor