Movie Fanatic had the good fortune to visit stars of five new films carrying the new After Dark Action moniker. The company is the product of Joel Silver’s Dark Castle Entertainment and After Dark Films. In a brilliant stroke of marketing, the collective that produces only action films (surprise!) is releasing five films on a single day, May 11. We sat down with the stars of this quintet of action this week to take us inside their brave new world.
The Philly Kid
Stars Wes Chatham and Devon Sawa play best friends who may have lost their way at times and spend time in jail. But they never lose sight of their ultimate goal: To win in an MMA-style fighting circuit. For Sawa, the film was right up his alley, both professionally and personally. “It’s an MMA script with a great story, and the rest is history,” he said. “I’ve been training in Muay Thai and Jujitsu and when my agent showed me the script, I was like, ‘Great!’”
What spoke to Chatham about The Philly Kid was the feel of the movie, something he’s sure audiences will also be drawn to. “The gritty and raw power of the fight scenes without much choreography also attracted me to the film,” Chatham said. He also treasured the opportunity to work on a project that saw its mission to present fighting as real as possible. “You feel every punch -- that’s what we were going for. Yes, some of it is choreographed, but much of it plays out so that the audience believes that this is real.”
Yvette Yates walked into our room and her excitement to talk El Gringo was palpable. She felt she identified with her character who runs a Mexican border town bar. A product of El Paso, Yates felt right at home embodying a woman caught in the drug war. “It’s such a different character,” she admitted. “To have the physicality, emotional aspect to it and the dialogue to deliver it to the audience was challenging.”
The film follows a character named The Man, who wanders into the town of El Fronteras trying to get across the border into the U.S. Oh yeah, he has a satchel with $2 million in it… kind of makes things complicated. “It’s really a story with a lot of surprises,” Yates said. Would she like to return to action films for After Dark Action after her first foray in El Gringo? “Absolutely, I would love it.”
Jean-Claude Van Damme and Peter Weller star with UFC fighter Cung Le (who also choreographs the action) in a story about a character (Le) who must only use his fighting skills for good, even as his town of St. Jude is falling into evil hands. Dragon Eyes allowed Kris Van Varenberg to star opposite his father, Van Damme. “My character is similar to the snake in The Jungle Book,” he said and laughed. Unlike his father, Van Varenberg’s not charged with extolling the action in the film. “He’s all talk. When he’s grabbed by the neck he’s like, ‘Please… No!’”
The film, Le promises, will feature action sequences unlike any you have ever witnessed. “You’ve seen all the Western action filmmaking like the Bourne films and Eastern filmmaking like the Shaw Brothers. You gotta see Dragon Eyes because it’s the happy medium between the two styles,” he said.
As he is new to the acting world, you can forgive Le for being a little giddy. “To work alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme and Peter Weller is amazing.”
After playing inside a courtroom for years on Law and Order, Transit star Elisabeth Rohm quite enjoyed getting into the action film genre for After Dark Action. On the set, witnessing the producer of the Lethal Weapon movies and her co-stars, it truly hit her she had arrived in the world of high action. “Working for Joel Silver and starring opposite Jim Caviezel, James Frain and Harold Perrineau was a dream come true,” she admitted. “It’s nice to be able to kick some ass!”
Actors always extol the virtues of playing the villain. It can be so much fun to sink your teeth into someone who is slightly unhinged. That is exactly how Slash House villain Jon Huetas found portraying Ray Jaffe. “To play a bad guy, you can go to the director and say, 'Here’s something crazy that this guy could do,' and usually the director will be more open to it,” Huetas said. “When you’re playing a good guy, you really have to stick to the parameters of what a classic good guy is.”
For the kid who grew up cheering on Dolph Lundgren’s character in Rocky IV, starring opposite the actor was a pinch-me moment. “Working with Dolph was pretty surprising,” Huetas said. It appears all is not what meets the eye when it comes to The Expendables 2 star. “When I met him, he is so put together and so smart. I found out he was a Rhodes Scholar and a chemical engineer before he got the job in Rocky! He’s a highly intelligent man and he’s a freaking bad ass.”