In 1987, “Street Fighter” debuted in arcades and quickly became a cultural phenomenon with its vivid characters and unique fighting technique abilities. The videogame has since spawned sequels, spin-offs and two films based on the game – one in 1994 that starred Jean-Claude Van Damme and now 20th Century Fox’s Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, which is rather different from the previous movie.
The story centers on Chun-Li (Kristen Kreuk), who gives up her privileged life to become a street fighter, helping those who can’t help themselves. Her main focus is to stop Bangkok’s most feared crime boss Bison (Neal McDonough), who has not only harmed her family, but has created a wave of unstoppable violence in the slums of the Thai capital. Throughout the course of her mission, Chun-Li meets Charlie Nash (Chris Klein), an Interpol cop who has chased Bison all over the world. The two combine forces to bring down one of the most wanted and ruthless criminals of his time.
ComingSoon.net chatted with both Kristen Kreuk and Chris Klein as well as the producers, Ashok Amritraj and Patrick Aiello:
Q: Are any of you gamesters?
Chris Klein: I’ve been known to play some videogames. I started my “Street Fighter 2″ on Super Nintendo. That was the first “Street Fighter” that I played outside of the arcade. I wasn’t good at it, not nearly as good as my peers, but I liked it. I remember it being the first one-on-one action fighting game that I really liked.
Kristin Kreuk: I’ve never been a gamer but I’ve seen a lot of “Street Fighter” and it was really popular when I was in late elementary school into high school so I’m very familiar with it. I’ve seen a lot of people play it.
Q: How did you approach the tone of the movie? How seriously did you take it?
Ashok Amritraj: When you have a franchise like “Street Fighter” which is kind of iconic and it’s the 20th anniversary, the game company’s very protective of the characters, so when we were developing the screenplay, Justin Marks was writing the screenplay, we chose the Chun-Li character to start what will hopefully be a movie franchise of its own. We had to be very careful and go back and forth with Capcom quite a bit to make sure that we were separating the game from the movie, and wanted to make sure the movie was really grounded, the characters, like Bison was from Bangkok originally, the legend and history of the game was kept intact.
Q: For the actors, how seriously earnest were you with your characters?
Kreuk: I think it’s really important, at least in this story, to be earnest with the characters because you want people to relate to them while they go through the movie. I think it’s really important that the fighting is really good. You want to be able to root for the individual and that means the character has got to be relatable in some way. If they’re really over the top, it’s harder to relate to them in this style of a movie. If it was something else, I think it would be different.
Q: Kristin, your character embarks on quite an emotional journey. Can you talk about that aspect of her?
Kreuk: Of course. She starts off in the movie very young and she loses both of her parents. I don’t know how old she is when she starts as an adult. She’s like 20, so she loses her mom around 20 years old and becomes very angry and wants to go and get revenge on the guy who took her father when she was just a young girl and then ends up on this spiritual path where she seeks out a master and she learns to let go of her attachments so she can see a greater good because her attachments are blinding her sight. That way she can go out and actually fight for something and understand what it is she’s fighting for.
Q: Talk about your weapons training for this movie?
Klein: I guess the only way to ever know that is to actually participate in some form of the military which I never did. The only training that I had up until rehearsals for this picture was making “We Were Soldiers” a couple of years ago where I played 2nd Lt. Jack Geoghegan, but this was totally different. Charlie Nash is a run and gun guy, and I have very limited experience with handguns. I don’t own a handgun and it’s not a hobby of mine personally, so upon arriving in Thailand, I started training with some Thai and some Australian special forces that the guys brought in to teach me the appropriate way to use a handgun. We went from Glocks and Walther 9mms all the way through the arsenal to grenade launchers and stuff so we had a real ball doing that. For any dude to do something like that is pretty darn fun.
Q: When you have a franchise like this that has so many supporting characters, how do you decide which ones will be in the cut for the movie?
Amritraj: That was a decision we made that this is the direction we wanted to go in. We of course then talked to Capcom about it and they went along with the decision, and then as we came up with the outline and started flushing it out, they were involved with us at every step of the way. Luckily, we also had a writer who’s a total “Street Fighter” aficionado. He was terrific and so he knew the background of every character. The Capcom guys were fabulous. They went along with a lot of the stuff we wanted to do.
Q: You didn’t have Ryu and I know that’s mentioned at the end. Was that ever a problem with Capcom?
Amritraj: No, we specifically decided on this character and it being her journey and so Ken and Ryu who were the other two characters were sort of left for another day.
Patrick Aiello: And this is an origin story so we wanted to start off with a group of people that we could manage, and we begin with Bison’s story as we do with Chung-Li’s as well, and we’ll grow from there. Now we are into the world of Bison and we’ll see what comes of it from that point.
Q: How did the movie rights go from Universal in 1994 to ultimately with Fox now?
Amritraj: Universal did not own any movie rights. Capcom owns all of the underlying rights to the game, the movie, the characters. Universal distributed that single picture. We, along with Capcom, in a joint venture made this film and we have a deal with 20th Century Fox. Under our deal with Fox, the movie gets distributed.
Q: Was there thought about how much time had passed since the last incarnation of “Street Fighter” and that it was time to make a new one?
Amritraj: I think there has been enough time [since the last “Street Fighter”], and that was such a different movie. Jean-Claude Van Damme played Guile, and Raul Julia was a slightly different kind of Bison, and it had all of these different characters that was very close to the pop feel that the game has. This one is quite a lot different–the look, the feel, the visuals–all of it is very different. The cast was so wonderful all through the shoot, and I think they underplay sometimes all the things they went through. Kristin and the training she did, [being] strung up on wires and thrown through doors and windows, and Chris with the guns, and Neil McDonough, Moon, everybody, it was just a phenomenal cast and they went along with what was a very tight shoot and working 90 days in a 45-day period. They were terrific.
Q: Were there any injuries during the gun training or on set?
Kreuk: Nothing serious I don’t think. I got punched and thrown into a couple of things but nothing that was lasting or permanent that I know of. (laughs)
Aiello: No, we had very strict set safety because we had so much going on.
Q: Kristin, I imagine your work on “Smallville” helped you. What additional martial arts skills did you learn on this because you’ve done wirework before?
Kreuk: Yeah, but only minor and I only got seven hours to really practice that stuff on “Smallville” which is nothing and five weeks even feels like nothing for what we did. Doing wires well isn’t easy and I think all the hand to hand stuff is challenging as well but the wirework, to make it look good and natural, it’s a whole different way of figuring out how to make your body move. I learned so much more on this than on “Smallville” where I only got bits and pieces of it. Normally with “Smallville” I get the choreography and they’re like, “Okay, action!” So there’s no time. It’s like, “Here we go!” It was somewhat different on this. (laughs)
Q: For the producers, what did you seen in Kristin and Chris and why were they chosen for the roles?
Amritraj: We saw Kristin on “Smallville,” and then we met, but I think the main thing about this character was that there’s a strength and also a vulnerability, and I think that’s exactly what Kristin brings to the character and the Asian background as well, all of those things. It was just a perfect match. And with Chris, all you have to do is look at him and you can see why. It was love at first sight.
Aiello: Chris is a strong leading man and could handle the character well and really stick out in the group.
Q: How difficult was it to shoot on the crowded streets of Hong Kong?
Aiello: The location was chosen by Ashok on purpose. There’s a lot of activity there and that really adds to the production value of a picture. You really absorb all the grit and grime of that city into the picture and it shows.
Klein: What’s great about it is we had the opportunity to shoot in the actual place that our story is set, and you know how rare an opportunity that is. So you take that and run with it, because it is absolutely the ultimate practice in environmental theater, and you’re right there with the grit, with the grim, with the people of Bangkok, with the food of Bangkok, and it becomes a character in and of itself in our movie. And that is such a special opportunity that so few movies have and it definitely makes it work in this movie.
Q: Kristin and Chris, what about Bangkok was what you thought it would be and what was the big surprise?
Kreuk: I knew Bangkok would be busy. That’s all I knew coming into the city. What was a surprise to me–this seems strange to say–were the size of the malls. Bangkok’s malls are so big and elaborate and there are movie theaters I went to where I was like, “Whoa! This place is crazy!”
Q: We don’t see any of that in the movie?
Kreuk: No, because we stick to the more poor side of things. But the malls there are insane. The food is amazing. I expected the food to be amazing and I thought it was really good.
Klein: I had never been to Southeast Asia before so I was very, very excited to go to Bangkok and to have the opportunity to spend that much time in such an exotic location is a gift for anybody that appreciates traveling so I did my best not to go in with any preconceived notions of what Bangkok was going to be simply so that I could take it in and keep as open a mind as possible. And I definitely have to agree with the food. The food there is absolutely outstanding.
Q: Kristin, what kind of films have you been looking at and was action something you wanted to get into?
Kreuk: It’s funny, it probably is not the genre that I was going “That’s what I want to do,” but it made a lot of sense for me where I’m at in my career, and coming out of “Smallville,” it was a really good move to move into a character who was very proactive and that’s something I wanted to do. I want to help empower young women and I thought this was a really great role to do that.
Q: Chris, your character has been tracking Bison for some time and it seems personal now. Why is it so important to your character to capture this guy?
Klein: The first thing that I ever learned about Charlie Nash, that Justin Marks, our screenwriter, showed me, was that Charlie Nash, his likes, he’s got two, justice and scotch, and his dislikes, he’s got one, injustice. So that’s where we started with this character and anybody that knows the world of “Street Fighter” knows Charlie Nash’s back story and knows why he’s there, and I love that we pick it up with the energy of Charlie arriving in Bangkok and then explaining to Cantana what he’s doing there, chasing Bison all over the world trying to find him, and at this point it is personal because justice needs to be served, and Charlie Nash is just the guy to do it.
Q: Charlie Nash reminded me of a lot of past action actors. Are there any past roles that inspired you or that you channeled for this?
Klein: As far as other actors? That’s a gift that I don’t have. Channeling another actor’s performance, I don’t even know where I’d start doing that. A lot of the people that I grew up idolizing are in action movies and the men that I grew up idolizing on screen, of course, loving the movies ever since I can remember and this being one of my favorite genres, there’s absolutely no question about it. We can just run down the list of my favorite movies. There are three action movies in that list, one might not necessarily be an action movie, but the first one is “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark,” you know, Harrison Ford. How can you not be a kid growing up and idolize him? “Braveheart,” Mel Gibson, along with any of the “Lethal Weapon” franchise, he’s fantastic. And “Romancing the Stone,” Michael Douglas, bringing a perfect combination of action hero and comedian. I think that performance is brilliant so those are three good examples.
Amritraj: Pretty good examples. I’d throw in a little Clint Eastwood.
Q: With all the fun, over-the-top action sequences you guys had to do, was there a particular one that was the most fun to do?
Kreuk: For me, I think the alley fight sequence was really fun as well as there’s a crane fight in the whole thing that was really scary and fun at the same time for me as well. Those two are my favorites.
Klein: I think my favorite action sequence is when the Port Authority office blows up and all hell breaks lose on the top of the harbor pier. That was incredible. There was so much noise and so much going on. It comes off really good on screen, it was absolute mayhem. I remember right before we did the jump stunt, I looked at Patrick and said, “It all starts right now. This is going to be three nights of mayhem.” And he goes, “Don’t get hurt.” (laughs) I’m blasted out of that building.
Amritraj: He was right in the middle of it.
Klein: You see my face and everything. I’m blasted out.
Aiello: We actually blew it up, but we did it in two steps. We blew him out the door with the smoke and debris and then we did an additional explosion with fire.
Q: Besides possibly more “Street Fighter” movies, what other productions do you have coming up?
Amritraj: We have a movie called “Dead of Night” which starts shooting in April with Brandon Routh. Kevin Munroe, who did “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” is directing it. That shoots in New Orleans. And then we have a festival movie called “Leoni” which Emily Mortimer is doing for us. We haven’t announced it yet.
Q: What is “Dead of Night” about?
Aiello: “Dead of Night” is about Brandon’s character from Chinatown who’s a detective and private investigator for the underworld in the sense that he is investigating werewolves, zombies and vampires in the spirit of “Lost Boys.”
Amritraj: It’s a best-selling comic book from Italy called “Dylan Dog” that’s very popular. Platinum Comics are our partners on it.
Q: How close visually are you going to the comic book and do you have any other cast that you can announce?
Amritraj: Not yet. We’re just casting. We’re going to be pretty close. I mean, it’s going to have that look to it.
Q: The famous outfit?
Amritraj: Yes. And the car.
Q: What’s next for each of the actors?
Kreuk: I’m building a company for teen girls called Girls By Design which is an online social network and content creation site so that’s been my focus. I’ve got a weekend retreat coming up in March here in L.A. so I’ve been prepping for that as well. We’re in the process of building beta right now, so what we have out there isn’t what the site will be, but it’s project oriented and it encourages them to go out in the world and create and then come back together and share those experiences.
Klein: For me, right now, it’s all about getting this (film) out on Friday. I had so much fun on this movie and that’s what I want to talk about. I love “Street Fighter.”
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li opens in theaters on Friday, February 27th.