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 HKCinemagic 2

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Interview with Jonathan Isgar, a blunt gweilo
Overview of your work 2/7 - Page 4
Author(s) : Arnaud Lanuque
Date : 10/1/2010
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
Jackie Chan
Sammo Hung Kam Bo
Jet Li
Louis Roth
Tsui Hark
Yuen Biao
Movies :
Armour Of God
Mr. Nice Guy
Once Upon A Time In China
Undeclared War
Companies :
Golden Harvest
Lexic :
Wong Fei-hong
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HKCinemagic: Once Upon a Time in China is clearly the work who made you famous in the eyes of Hong Kong films fans. As it was a big production and the part of Jackson was bigger than the average westerner part, I guess there was quite some competition. How did you get chosen to play it?
Jonathan Isgar: Jackie Chan got me on it. Look, my action was just OK, I wasn’t much of a fighter, but I’m a pretty good talker and had been doing the HK actors gym with Louis Roth (Undeclared War) and had developed good, improved skills, and that’s what got me work, writing my own dialogue, camera awareness, hitting the spot, we didn’t waste much film stock I can tell you. I had a bit of a rep for wantinng better terms, being able to act, I’d had a fall out over not being paid for Armour of God with Golden Harvest, but never came to bad terms with Jackie, so when I was put up for the gig Jackie was asked about me, I ran into him after the audition outside, and he told me.

A good bloke, Jackie, I worked for him again in Australia on Mr. Nice Guy, I got to punch Sammo Hung (laughing).

HKCinemagic: Didn’t you find it ironic that you, an Australian, was chosen to play the American part while Mark King who was really American got to be the English general Wickens?
Jonathan Isgar: Never thought about it to be honest, all of it was dubbed anyway. Man, we had some fun on that set upsetting Steve (tiger) you should have seen his wig at the start, (laugher), and one of the makeup girls tried to pull off my sideburns at the end of shooting one day….
HKCinemagic: Your character was purely evil, a westerner just wanting to make money in China and taking advantage of the local weakness. As an actor you played it very well, but as a westerner yourself in a Chinese environment, did you feel embarrassed the way westerners were portrayed?
Jonathan Isgar: It was a proper grander film, Jet Li just coming out of China, HK going back into Chinese rule, they didn’t like us much then and that film was made for a mainland audience. And let’s face it, historically we weren’t very nice to them to say the least.
HKCinemagic: Was there any change in your character between the script you had been given and the final product (scenes never shot or cut from the final movie for example)?
Jonathan Isgar: I don’t know I just do what I do, if I got more air time it’s because they liked it, simple.
HKCinemagic: How would you describe the relation you had with Tsui Hark while making the movie?
Jonathan Isgar: I don’t think he ever talked to me.
HKCinemagic: Same question about your "bodyguard", Steve Tartalia?
Jonathan Isgar: Stevo at that time was driving himself mad looking to prove himself, and we didn’t help, but I believe he has gone on to really good things back in the States, all due respect to him, but he did make us laugh over the wig and the eyebrows.
HKCinemagic: Did you get along well with Jet Li and Yuen Biao?
Jonathan Isgar: Jet Li didn’t speak English but is a gentleman, he would always give you a nod or a smile. Yuen Biao had worked with foreigners before and was always at ease.
HKCinemagic: Are you surprised by the cult status the movie has now?
Jonathan Isgar: No I’m not. It got Jet out into the international audience, moved Mr. Hark up the ladder, and did have something to say. Historically we didn’t colonise the world with kid gloves, we still don’t, Wong Fei-hong is Asia’s Robin Hood.
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