SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS Interview With Stunt Coordinator Andy Cheng (Exclusive)

SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS Interview With Stunt Coordinator Andy Cheng (Exclusive)

Ahead of next week's Blu-ray release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, we caught up with stunt coordinator Andy Cheng to talk about choreographing the film's killer bus fight!

With Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings due out on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray next week, we were recently able to sit down with stunt coordinator Andy Cheng (Rush HourShanghai Noon) and get some insight on designing the film's killer bus fight sequence, which sees Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) take on a variety of henchmen before squaring off with Razor Fist (Florian Munteanu).

Cheng was also famously Jackie Chan's stunt double in the Rush Hour films, so we made sure to ask for his thoughts on any similarities he may have seen between Chan and Liu. He also spoke on his inspirations and how they wanted to make this film feel as authentic an experience as possible. 

SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS Review: “A Genuine Triumph For Marvel Studios”

Check out the interview below, and keep scrolling for the full transcript!


ROHAN: Since the bus fight is such a lengthy sequence with so many cuts, how long did it take to choreograph and then shoot everything? Did you end up splitting it up into different segments?

ANDY: The whole process takes a year, to prepare the whole sequence. My first scene, we start prepping in Los Angeles, the bus sequence, and then we create a whole thing. Then, when we do the choreography and based on Destin’s script, he has storyboards, so based on what ideas he has and then we incorporate everything into it. The process is long, it takes forever. When we’re shooting, we were in Sydney for about half a year, so we’re still doing choreography and we’re doing many different versions. The version you see is like Hour 20 on the last one, but then also we had a longer version, we kept cutting stuff, it’s a lot of changing parts.

The structure is very similar from the original idea, so how he gets into the middle of the bus and how it was cut in half and he jumps out the window and goes back into the front door and then kick everyone in there and then break the bus in two pieces. This whole structure was almost the same from the very early choreography. I remember the window, when I did that, with him catching the hand, and sliding and going up, everything was the same, but inside, the fight scene we choreographed, the movement, fighting the henchmen, fighting Razor Fist, there were a lot of adjustments there, a lot of changing, taking off the jacket, putting the jacket back on, there are many, many versions of that scene. How they stopped the fight, there were many different versions. So, it’s a long process. This sequence was the longest sequence I’ve ever worked on.

ROHAN: Since Simu and Florian both had prior fight experience, did that make your job easier when it came to training them for the sequence?

ANDY: Yeah, of course, when they have experience with the action, like Simu, it’s good because he has done some stunts. He’d trained in tae kwon do, so he had the kicking skills already, very athletic and then, Florian, he had boxing skills, and did a movie about boxing, but he didn’t have weapon skills, so when we said, ‘your hand is is like a knife, like a blade,’ those movements were a little hard for him to adapt to because sometimes you’re thinking this (motions right hand like a blade), but he forgot that the other hand also has to move, so those things for Florian took lot of practice time and then we slowly build into it. Then, also one of the other challenges for him is that he’s so big, he’s standing inside a bus and his head almost touches the ceiling, so he’ll hit everything, he hit the bar, the roof would hit him, and his shoulders are so wide and the aisle is so small, so he’s always hitting something. So, that for him, is a big guy in a small box, that is tough for him, but they did a good job. I think people liked it.

ROHAN: You’ve famously worked with Jackie Chan, one of the most iconic Asian actors of all time, and now you’re working with Simu Liu, who is on his way to becoming a huge star after this - did you notice any similarities between the two?

ANDY: Yeah, for sure, they’re both great talents. They’re similar, they’re both Chinese. *laughs* And, they’re good action actors. I never thought about it, but that’s a cool idea to talk about because I always remind myself with my brother Brad Allen, who passed away, when we first started Shang-Chi, we don’t want people to say, “Oh, he’s another Jackie Chan,” so that’s why in my head, it’s hard to see it.

To me, he’s Shang-Chi, he’s Shang-Chi. He’s more his own self. So, I never really compared them because I wanted to avoid that comparison. Of course, people when they’re watching the bus scene or when they’re watching the movie, say they feel like he’s a little bit like Jackie Chan, so that’s very hard to avoid. We tried to not create another Jackie Chan, but when we do this kind of action, not very isolated or grand master or something, when people are fighting in real life with different objects, you right away leap to Jackie Chan. You cannot avoid it, he has such a huge legacy and image, people think when you’re running around and fighting, you’re Jackie Chan.

ROHAN: You’ve done a lot of great stunt work throughout your career. What did you want to achieve in Shang-Chi that would help set it apart and bring us such an authentic experience?

ANDY: The first plan when I got the job from Brad Allen, the action director, he passed away, he was like my little brother, but when we started, the very first time we talked about Shang-Chi, we tried to avoid the Jackie Chan comparisons, we didn’t want to make another Jackie Chan, we wanted to make Shang-Chi. We wanted to make a new Shang-Chi style, we wanted to make him special, but for people that know the comic based on Shang-Chi, they know it’s based on Bruce Lee, so the one thing for me, is getting into kicking and having those kicking skills, tae kwon do, and I know Bruce Lee is all about kicking, so we wanted to apply it here.

My pitch when I was pitching about Shang-Chi to Brad, I said out of all the superheroes in Marvel’s universe, nobody is really based on the kicking and everyone’s based on something, the shield, the hammer, everyone has their thing, but no one is really a kicker. So, that’s why I wanted hopefully for Shang-Chi’s style to be more about kicking, so that’s why we did the split Kick in the bus and all the kicking stuff and also because Simu can do it, so we wanted to make sure he would feel different than other superheroes. That’s kind of how we made Shang-Chi have something and then because it was based on the Bruce Lee idea and his title in the comics is, “The Master of Kung-Fu,” so we didn’t want it to be that he only knows kicking, so we wanted him to know everything.

Then, his father and his mother’s side - his father has his style and his mother has more of a tai chi style, so he has everything. He has hard side, soft side, kicking skills, parkour, so we made him in a way where you cannot say, “So, what’s Shang-Chi’s style?” Shang-Chi has no style, that’s his style. He is kind of part of every philosophy. We didn’t want to make him just one thing, like it’s judo or tae kwon do, he needed to have everything. He’s very isolated, it’s like, “Who is Shang-Chi?” Shang-Chi is the Master of Kung-Fu.

ROHAN: How much of the scene was realized practically and did you have to utilize any CGI?

ANDY: Almost everything, almost every stunt you see is all practical. There were no CG people, everything is practical. How he flips over the bus and then he jumps off the bus and hangs off the bus and goes to the top and come back in, everything is practical. We didn’t do any CG outside of Razor Fist’s hand. It was all practical with wires.

ROHAN: The bus sequence did feel like an old-school action film, where the hero takes down multiple henchmen before taking on the boss - were there any movies or fight scenes that you drew inspiration from?

ANDY: For me, I always try to - I am always watching a lot of movies and practicing martial arts or something, but I don’t really do a lot of referencing, like pull up something and then see how it was done or try to do an homage or salute. I don’t do those. Most of the time, I watch movies and it’s all in my head, so it’s all from memory, instead of research. Then, when I do choreography for the sequences, it’s not from any reference, it’s more organic, it’s more feeling it out, like, “Here’s a moment or those two guys doing a free kick,” but that’s all based on the situation. It’s not really based on anything.

When we think about Bruce Lee, we think of his side kick or something, so we try to avoid those things, because we wanted to make everything more original and ideally, even if you feel, like with the jacket, we had some reference about the jacket, but we tried many, many different versions. So, one of the versions, we took off the whole jacket and put it back, but because from the Jackie side, he does everything, so how many ways can you do the jacket stunt where it doesn’t feel like Jackie? He’s already done it in every way, but then we had the moment how we wanted it to be and it fit into the best version because it’s so layered, the guy who grabs his jacket and how he gets it back on. So, it’s not because we want to homage somebody or reference something, it’s all very natural, the choreography, it comes with the development. Like, he grabs the guy’s head and he hits his head with the pole, and that’s because the pole is right there, so you believe it’s real.

So, it’s like that kind of thing, it’s not like trying to reference too much and then, when you do reference something, people can really tell it’s replicated. That’s what we try to avoid and also, this bus sequence has not really been done, you cannot find any reference at this kind of scale. I did the bus sequence fighting before, but it’s not like this, I’ve done the subway fight sequence, but not like this. This is a much, much bigger scale, much, much bigger performance. And, with Razor Fist and his blade, he can cut metal, so it’s much more different than what’s been done, so I think that makes everyone in the audience go, “Wow, this is very cool sequence,” because it doesn’t really have much that you can recall or think it’s similar to something. So, that’s kind of cool, there are some movements where you can maybe tie into Jackie Chan things, but the scale of the whole sequence is really original.

ROHAN: Do you remember if there was anything major deleted from the sequence? 

ANDY: No, we had a lot of cool moments, but then because of the screen time, the length of the movie, so we had to trim it down, so we had a few more movements that I thought were really cool, but we ended up having to cut it out because of the time we had. We couldn’t make the sequence too long, so the director was picking stuff. We had to drop something that were kind of cool, but we’d never see it, and then we also fought with an umbrella, we had an umbrella, and we already shot that, but they cut it out. They left the laptop, but after the laptop, we had a couple more objects, but because of maybe the screen time, they took that out. So, sometimes I do wish they were still there.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is now available on Digital HD;
and out on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD on November 30!

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