Teaser: Chris Yen in ‘Give ‘em Hell, Malone’
By Jean Lukitsh • February 6, 2009
The flamboyantly entertaining teaser trailer for GIVE ‘EM HELL, MALONE released by Hannibal Pictures last fall took fans by surprise, and buzz continues to build about the Russell Mulcahy-helmed production starring Thomas Jane (THE PUNISHER, THE MIST) and Ving Rhames (PULP FICTION, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III). Also in the cast is Chris Yen, sister of Asian action star Donnie Yen, who plays a psycho killer called “Mauler.” Chris discussed her role in MALONE recently with Kung Fu Cinema correspondent Jean Lukitsh.
KFC: How did your involvement in the GIVE ‘EM HELL, MALONE project come about?
CY: My agent got a call from one of the producers about this project. The role was originally written for Michelle Rodriguez - this was a few years back. Then they wanted it to be an Asian American character, and there are only a handful of us in Hollywood, and they wanted someone with an athletic background. At one point, they were considering Devon Aoki, and I think her name was even associated with the project in some of the early coverage, but they offered it to me. I didn’t even have to audition. The next thing I knew, I was off to Spokane!
KFC: So it came together pretty quickly.
CY: Yeah, it all just came together.
KFC: The production company, Hannibal Pictures, has announced a very ambitious slate of movies, including several action films with some pretty big names involved, like Adrian Brody and Wesley Snipes.
CY: The founders, Richard and Patricia Rionda Del Castro, financed MALONE, and they’ve done some direct-to-DVD movies, but when they got Adrian Brody on board for GIALLO, they started to head in a strong direction. They’ve got a few more things in the works with Russell Mulcahy. You know, he’s made some cult classics, like HIGHLANDER and RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION, and he has a very loyal fan base.
KFC: His visual style is still grabbing the fans, because as soon as the teaser trailer for MALONE was posted, people started noticing it and talking about it.
CY: Russell is definitely a very visual director. He sees every shot in his head and he knows exactly how he wants it to look.
KFC: It looks like some great actors are involved in MALONE, and they seem to be having fun with their roles.
CY: I was very lucky to be working with this cast - people like Thomas Jane, Ving Rhames, Doug Hutchison, Elsa Pataky - experienced actors that I really got to learn from. Thomas was very supportive of me. We had this scene in a theater where he was tied to a chair, and he was tied up like that pretty much all day because the scene was mainly on my character. It was a wirework scene for me and a set-up like that, everything takes a long time. Maybe he could tell I was a little nervous, because I had big monologue along with the action…
KFC: And you were literally in his face!
CY: Oh, yeah. It was only my second day on the shoot. So I was trying to relax, and I had to come up with some of the sword choreography on the spot and I was doing all this right in front of Thomas. And he said, “We’re going to do as many shots as it takes until they get what they need. So don’t worry, I’m fine.” That helped me a lot.
KFC: Your character, the Mauler, is almost innocently beautiful but also extremely psychotic. Keeping that sexy/scary thing going means walking a fine line so it doesn’t turn into a cartoon. How did you prepare for the role?
CY: Mauler definitely has a multiple personality disorder, and she’s not your typical cold-blooded Asian female assassin type. One of the movies I watched for research was THE BAD SEED, and then I watched some Takashi Miike movies, and I particularly studied Lucy Liu’s character in KILL BILL. I looked at a range of cool and psychotic characters. From the time I got the phone call, I had about two weeks to prepare.
KFC: How would you describe Mauler?
CY: The way I would describe Mauler is “a sinister Asian Shirley Temple-ish knife-wielding crazy delusional girl!”
KFC: That pretty much covers all the bases!
CY: You know, she gets to do a little crazy sword movement, she has a fetish with knives, and she obviously doesn’t mind hurting people. But she’s also like a little kid in some ways. She sings to herself.
KFC: The sword choreography was something you came up with yourself, right? Were you given any guidance? Or was it just “OK, she’s going to cut him a few times - do it any way you want.”
CY: My only guidance was the script. So as I rehearsed, I figured out how I was going to break this up and incorporate the action. The action is in the script: she pulls out her knife, she teases Malone, she’s almost like a Cirque de Soleil performer coming down a rope in one scene. So I had this visual image in my mind already. If she’s teasing Malone with a knife, I need to do something here that makes sense for the scene. Of course, I ran it by the director first and he loved it. So we worked together, on what he wanted visually and how I was going to break down different beats of the movement so that it would work with the dialogue. We had a great stunt coordinator, Gregg Smrz. But they knew I had a background in swordplay, and I stepped into the role knowing I was going to contribute.
KFC: So what’s coming up next? You’re doing another movie for Hannibal Pictures, right?
CY: Yeah, we’re going to be shooting in Budapest. It’s called THE LAST WARRIOR. It’s a post-apocalyptic film with director John Eyres (RIPPER, JUDGE AND JURY). And MALONE will be screening at Cannes in May. At the same time, I’ve been getting more active as a producer. I have a couple of projects, including a screenplay that I’m showing to Hannibal Pictures. There’s a comic book that goes along with it, so I’m pitching that as a package. I see myself, long term, definitely as a producer.
KFC: If you want to have any control over what you’re doing, it seems like that’s the way to go.
CY: That’s probably one of the most important things. There are money-making producers, and there are creative producers, and I think the creativity is what’s most important to me.
KFC: Anything else going on right now?
CY: Well, I’m in an indie film that went to Sundance last year, A GOOD DAY TO BE BLACK AND SEXY. It had a limited theatrical release and just came out on DVD. And there’s another project I’ve done with TheWB.com, it’s a Josh Schwartz project (GOSSIP GIRL, THE O.C., CHUCK). We shot 20 episodes of a web series called ROCKVILLE CA. It’s coming out in March. It’s about a group of young music lovers, and it’s set in a club. The main attraction of the series is that it’s going to feature a bunch of really popular indie bands like the Kooks and Phantom Planet. I play Annie, the resident photographer, and she’s trying to capture the moment, so that over each episode, you see what’s happening by the pictures she takes. The story kind of unfolds through her photos.