Ray Park could not have been a better choice to play Snake Eyes in the G.I. Joe movies. He first appeared as the character in G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra and has returned to the role in the sequel, now out on DVD and Blu-Ray, G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Simply watching the G.I. Joe Retaliation trailer and it's easy to see that Park was born to play Snake Eyes... it is a case of destiny meeting dreams.
See, Park is used to letting his action do the talking as both characters he is most known for are covered up by a mask (Snake Eyes) and face paint (Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace). We caught up with the action hero for an exclusive chat about how being Snake Eyes was a lifetime dream and how he is as surprised as anybody as to the reaction the world had to his turn as the evil Darth Maul.
Movie Fanatic: Playing someone like Snake Eyes, who existed before in G.I. Joe mythology, did you feel free to develop your own persona for the character that millions adore?
Ray Park: With the first movie, I was pretty open and free to come up with it on my own. I did a lot of research from the comic books and the animated TV series from the past. I was looking for anything G.I. Joe that I could get my hands on. I just found my Snake Eyes and carried it on through the movie. What I like about the character is I was allowed to use my martial arts as well. I channel the character through my body and once I get the suit on, then it really just falls into place.
Movie Fanatic: When were you first aware of the character of Snake Eyes?
Ray Park: I actually loved this character from my childhood and always imagined who he would be, so to be able to play him in G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra and G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a dream come true. I thought about that from the very first fight scene with Snake Eyes and I don’t take this opportunity lightly. When I found out they were making a G.I. Joe movie, I thought to myself, “Who do I know to call to get a chance to play him?” I really chased after it, and I’ve never really done that before. I really wanted to play Snake Eyes.
Movie Fanatic: Given that fans have such an affinity for that character, what has the reaction been like from them and what has it been like for you to play a character you idolized since childhood?
Ray Park: It’s been great, the reaction from the fans. They’re the ones whose opinion really matters. When the first movie came out, they had only known me from The Phantom Menace as Darth Maul and I just hoped they would appreciate what I brought to Snake Eyes. To see their reactions all over the world has been a true gift. It really hadn’t sunk in at the time, but it has in the time since.
Movie Fanatic: What do you like most about playing Snake Eyes?
Ray Park: It’s great to play Snake. I get to do all these fantastic stunts and martial arts sequences. I grew up watching martial arts and action movies, so to get to do so much of those scenes with Snake Eyes is amazing and honestly so much fun. I wanted to be a ninja as a boy, I had a ninja suit and everything [laughs].
Movie Fanatic: You were at Comic-Con, what is it like for you to see so many people dressed up as Snake Eyes, but also Darth Maul, your character from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace? Is it surreal?
Ray Park: It’s actually fantastic. People dressing as Snake Eyes really stand out for me in the crowd. But, people who dress as Darth Maul truly impress me because of all the effort it takes to get into that costume and the makeup. I always make sure to walk up to both those dressed as Snake Eyes and Darth Maul to thank them for their devotion. Because that’s what it really is, they’re devoted to these characters that I have played. Those are true fans. I met somebody who actually had a Darth Maul tattoo on his body! I was impressed. He said he had waited 10 years to meet me. You hear things like that, and it just means so much.
Movie Fanatic: One thing that has struck me about you and playing Darth Maul -- is in the span of the Star Wars franchise, your appearance is actually quite short. But, he quickly became a huge fan favorite. Did you have any idea when you first started putting on that red face paint that he would resonate like he did?
Ray Park: I had no idea at all. I had no idea of the gravity of it. I was, honestly, concerned about playing a bad guy. I thought I’d be booed and hissed at and people wouldn’t like me. I grew up, like so many, loving the good guys. I wanted to be the hero. When I landed the role, I remember thinking, “I wish I was a Jedi.” Then, people saw the movie and just became fascinated with Darth Maul. People are telling me that Darth Maul is their hero. It’s kind of blown me away. To me, it was all about having a platform to showcase my martial arts. I just wanted to make my mum and dad proud and my masters proud as well. If I can show as much martial arts as possible in these characters I play, like Snake Eyes too, it is a huge achievement for me.