By Martin Kudláč.
Marko Zaror, Chilean-born martial artist known from the films of Robert Rodriguez, stars as the nemesis, Rastingac, to Scott Adkins’s hero Martin Tilman in Jesse V. Johnson’s latest action film, Savage Dog. Tilman, a former champion boxer, fights for wealthy criminals to bet on while he is imprisoned somewhere in Den-Dhin-Chan Labor Camp in 1959 Indochina. He is soon sucked back into the whirlwind of violence after his release driven by lust for revenge. Johnson, who has made a name as a stunt performer and coordinator on big productions, revives the 80s and 90s action flick genre while preserving its vintage vibe.
You are originally coming from the film background in Chile. What is your takeout from your experience working in Chilean film industry?
We, me and Ernesto, went back to Chile to produce Kiltro since there has never been a production of this type down there. So basically we had to apply all what I learned on my work with Andy Cheng and utilize it but on totally different budget and reality. All that gave me a different view and a deeper understanding on how to create a fight scene from selecting the people to post production. I think this has help me a lot when I am working on the set because it gives me a better understanding of what the director wants with a specific action.
What was your transition from Chilean working environment to American working environment like?
It was fun. They are so different in a way that I enjoy different things. In Chile, I have the opportunity to create and work on my own projects but my work is much more than just to play a role so the work and responsibility is much bigger and sometimes even much stressful. In American productions, everything is so well organized that I just have to worry solely about my role and have fun.
What were the major obstacles and what do you find better in U.S. industry than in Chilean industry?
I will say budget is also a big difference. In my movies in Chile, we were always trying to solve problems and make the best we can with the budget we had and many times we had to just finish the scenes finding solutions that were not 100% what we wanted just in order to finish the project. And because I am also a producer, all these problems come to me instead. When you are working as an actor like I had here in the USA, you really don’t deal with all those decisions and just focus on your role.
What was the first thing you thought when you read Savage Dog script? What part or element of the project stood up so that you became engaged into it?
I like the character [of Rastignac] and that it was a totally different character from those I have played before giving me the opportunity to have fun with it and also working with Scott [Adkins] again was really cool.
Why did you take up the role of Rastignac? What drew you to the character?
I like the fact that Jesse V. Johnson [the director of Savage Dog] let me play and come up with lots of ideas to give the character a nice background. The ritual before the fighting and the meaning of dead made him a really special character to be able to explore and have fun with.
Actors usually say they prefer to play bad guys since those type of characters enable much more possibilities for actor to embrace the character or push it. Do you share this sentiment and how was the role of Rastignac different from your other roles?
Yes, the bad guys I played so far have been really fun but I also like some lead roles like Mandrill that was really challenging. Rastignac was special because he was just a guy that after having been an assassin was just trying to have fun. Although, the only way he knows how to deal with problems is just eliminating them. The passion for fighting really was cool and let me explore and find cool things like the Matador passion he had.
What was the collaboration with Scott Adkins like? What do you most appreciate from the work between you two?
It was great. He is an incredible martial artist and it will always be fun to work with him. He really likes to give the 100% so we get the adrenaline going and make some contact to make the scenes look the most realistic possible.
How hard was it to shoot the final showdown between your character and Adkins´s and were there any particular situation you had to specifically tailor or come up with for the battle?
We did some rehearsals to try different ideas and on the day off the shoot it went really good.
What was the hardest thing you had to face on the set of Savage Dog and how did you deal with it?
What was new for me was shooting from a machine gun. That was cool. Jesse is an expert on weapons and showed me a couple of times how to do it and then I was able have some fun, for sure you can feel the power of the machine gun when you shoot!
Was the shooting of Savage Dog demanding in some special way to you compared to your previous films? You mentioned you did two scenes at the same time at Robert Rodriguez´s set, did something similar happen on Jesse V. Johnson´s set?
I think every movie is demanding, especially when you want do a fight scene and make it look the best you can. In this case, the weather was a challenge because it is easy to get dehydrated in the middle of s scene, if you are not drinking water all the time and paying attention to staying hydrated.
Jesse V. Johnson wields a long track record is stunts. Did he project this experience into his directing on the set of Savage Dog? How?
Yes! When he wanted a specific stunt, he just hit the ground and show you how to do it.
Savage Dog seems to light up the vibe of 80s and 90s action films and bring a sort of nostalgia spell. Did you also perceive the film in this perspective?
Of course, that was really one of the reasons why I got involved in this project.
As a regular in action films, what do you most appreciate about this genre, personally and from professional point of view?
I like the challenge of finding different ways to do cool action scenes even considering how hard it is because when you are dealing with small budget films and you don´t have millions to spend, it is all about being creative and using actors and stunt abilities to create something entertaining.
You will be working again with Robert Rodriguez on Alita: Battle Angel. I gather you two have a respect for each other´s work. What it is that clicks between you two and how or in what way was collaboration on Alita different compared to previous projects with Robert Rodriguez?
I already did Alita and it was awesome. Robert loves movies and you can see that when he is on the set. He is just having fun. I am the same way, I feel so happy every time I am on the set doing what I love to do. I think this is what we have in common. We share a passion for making cool stuff.
Savage Dog will be in theaters on August 4th and on VOD and iTunes on August 8th.
Martin Kudláč is a PhD candidate in Aesthetics and a freelance film journalist based in Slovakia.