Fight choreographer, stunt coordinator, and film maker, Tony De Leon talks about his upcoming film, and the cast he has assembled from the worlds of martial arts including Bolo Yeung, Cynthia Rothrock, Matthias Hues, Richard Norton and Oleg Taktarov.
Normally, if one has been on the bad side of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bolo Yeung, Sylvester Stallone, and Will Smith, you would consider that most unfortunate. For Tony De Leon, that has actually made for some very fortunate circumstances because the bad blood was only on screen: in the world of film, as on screen villlain, fight choreographer, and stunt man, it is one powerful resume.
Tony De Leon was born in Chicago, Illinois, where his parents had immigrated from Puerto Rico. De Leon began his martial arts career young, beginning with Tae Kwon Do initially. As he grew and experienced other styles he soon found himself liking and disliking elements of what he was learning on the basis of real-life applications, and he found himself developing his own style based on what he percieved as strengths in other styles, Tada Ken Do, translated as 'way of the free fist'.
De Leon has contributed his fight and stunt skills to such blockbuster hits as True Lies, The Specialist, Bad Boys, and to the enduring popular rentals, The Substitute and Shootfighter 2. He was fight choreographer and stunt coordinator on the fan acclaimed To Kill A Killer (2007) and Day Of The Dead (2007), both films from Ricardo Islas. Tony De Leon's current film project, Trigger Reaction, is one that he is well invested in, as an executive producer and the man who came up with the story. Trigger Reaction is the story of two detectives from Cicero, Illinois, who think they are going to break up a drug smuggling ring, but soon find it is something far more insidious -- organ trafficking. Caught off guard, they are shot and left for dead, but one of them lives, for awhile in a coma. He has partial amnesia when he comes out of the coma, but the criminal conspiracy of organ trafficking isn't going to wait and see if he recovers enough memory to be a threat, so he is "marked" for death by the head of the organization. As he recovers his memory and takes the fight to the traffickers, he is assisted from the inside by an undercover agent who has worked his way into the criminal network. Along the way, he has to deal with an investigation into what procedures he and his deceased partner did or didn't follow by the State Attorney's Office, and a reporter who is chasing the story to its end.
Much of the news surrounding Trigger Reaction is being generated by fans as much as any promotion from Inter Choice Productions Inc. There are many fans who are referring to the upcoming film as another "Expendables" based on the fans' knowledge of the cast involved. The cast features a number of luminaries from the world of martial arts film, martial arts competition, and some who have been part of both fields, in the USA, Hong Kong, or Europe. In addition to De Leon being featured in his story, he is supported by Cynthia Rothrock, Matthias Hues, Richard Norton, Bolo Yeung, and Oleg Taktarov. Joining them are a dozen or more, including Nelson Ricardo, Robert Berneika, Silvio Simac, and Todd Senofonte.
In addition to Tony De Leon as a producer of Trigger Reaction, there is producer Stefano La Gotti, co-producer Gauri Artist,associate producer Michael A. Davis, and associate producer Pavel Nyziak. Both Gauri Artist and Nyziak have roles before the cameras as well.
Knight: Hello Tony, I have been following the news of your film project, Trigger Reaction on the internet...
De Leon: Thank you so much for the fabulous opportunity to be interviewed. It is really an honour to be 'here' with you!
Knight: The idea (and in some parts of the world a very real reality) of illegal organ harvest isn't one that gets reported often, but it always seems to be there in that dark corner the news media sometimes doesn't venture. What inspired you to use this issue as a main element of Trigger Reaction?
De Leon: That is a great question; one that I get all the time. The idea for the movie came up from an experience that I had while in a routine check-up at a Hospital. I went in for check-up and some tests, the Doctors ran me through every possible one that the insurance would cover, including Electrocardiogram (EKG). My wife was with me. We noticed that there was some kind of commotion going on concerning my EKG results, so a second one was performed with several student Doctors attending it. I kept my cool, but was starting to feel unease. After the test was conducted, The Doctors came to see me with the final results. They congratulated me and said that I had a very powerful heart. They were all impressed to see just how healthy my heart was. One of them even asks if I was an Organ Donor.
I was surprised to hear that kind of question and so was my wife, because it was not the question that surprised me but rather the intent behind it? I looked at her, and said in Spanish, Don’t leave and keep a sharp look at what type of medicine these Doctors are trying to put in me. I told her, I think they are planning to do me in. We laughed after they left, but it did trigger a reaction in me.
I started to investigate the black market of organ trafficking, and after discovering just how real it was, and that perhaps I was a potential target,I decided to write an Action Cop thriller based upon MY EXPERIENCE at the hospital. I called it "Trigger Reaction". That’s how the story for the script was born.
A current promotional poster design for Tony De Leon's film, with stars credited.
Knight: This story seems designed to showcase your cast's talents dramatically and not just in the martial arts. It doesn't look like it is a matter of building a story around fights, but working the fights into the story that you have envisioned?
De Leon: That is correct, David. I have envisioned the story line to be more of a thriller, action packed, rather than 'another Martial Arts film'. The fight has justified the story and not the story the fight, somewhere along the lines like the Bourne Identity and the movie Taken. Plus it will give the All Star Cast the opportunity for them to explore their dramatic side.
Knight: Generally, we know the cast from the film's official website, but are there character roles that can be attached to specific actors at this time? Or, if it is too soon then, less specifically who are the villains and the heroes?
De Leon: That is complicated. If I say NO to you I will be lying, and if I said YES to you than I will be giving up the suspense of the plot. Let me put it to you this way, because of all the unexpected martial arts stars that have requested to be in our project including the ones that we have approached… Now, I am forced to have to rewrite the script 80% and add even more characters and action to it. So, the answer to your question remains a mystery for the time being. However, you will be first in line to know.
Knight: The most obvious question about Trigger Reaction has to be about what it feels like having assembled such an awesome cast -- I don't think anyone listed sofar is a 'nobody' or an 'unknown'. Everybody listed so far seems to have their fan following from their field, and has had some spotlight.
De Leon: I have to say that it’s been a blessing in disguised from (God) up above to be able to have assembled all the star power cast. I have to be honest, special thanks goes to Mr. Pavel Nyziak. He has made it all possible to get our Cast. Everyone has their own facebook and fan following which makes it a win / win situation for all. Thank God!
Knight: To put together such an international cast must have been a lot of work. I see there is Munifa Canterbury from South Africa. How did this all come about? The logistics of dealing with so many diferent actors and agents -- were there challenges there?
De Leon: I have to say NO, not really; there were no challenges. It was not difficult at all, since the word got around that Bolo and I were in the process of producing Trigger Reaction. All the dealing was done with actors and not their agents or managers. Munifa from South Africa approached us from the internet and facebook, and of course, the rest is history.
Knight: So, once it was going around that you had this film idea, and names of actors interested in joining the project got around, that increased the interest of other actors to sort of say, if they are involved in it then they wanted in, as well?
De Leon: Yes it did increase the interest of other actors wanting to join in… Absolutely!
Knight: Big news with Bolo Yeung -- he is in the film with a heroic role? In the last decade or so it seems he has wanted to play different roles than that of a standard villain, or a villain at all. How does his too rare non-villain role work with this case about illegal organ harvesting, a black market underground industry?
De Leon: Bolo will be playing the heroic role all over again. Only this time around he is an undercover agent from China that is also pursuing the black market of organ trafficking.
Knight: It was your association with Pavel Nyziak who brought you back into contact with Bolo after years of different career directions?
De Leon: Yes, that is correct; it is all thanks to Mr. Pavel Nyziak who I consider to be my little brother. Plus he is also my partner.
Above: Pavel Nyziak and Bolo at Budo Gala 2010 (Bolo and Jean Claude Van
Damme were featured guests). Used with kind permission of Pavel Nyziak.
Knight: Todd Sonofonte is on board? He has most often been a stunt double for Jean Claude Van Damme, but is he once again getting to act before the cameras?
De Leon: Yes, he would be acting and doing his own stunts in front of the camera.
Knight: From your recent media appearances on the net, as well as Bolo's, and Cynthia Rothrock's too, you all seem to have aged remarkably well. Is this just healthy living in general, or is this another benefit of the martial arts?
De Leon: I think that is a successful combination of both, Martial Arts training with proper diet and a healthy life style.
Knight: One things fans are going to speculate about and wonder. Does the film's story allow for homage rematches for cast that have fought each other in past movies to fight again in the course of this one?
De Leon: Let’s just say that at present time it remains a mystery.
Knight: Do you believe that action films are better when the actors can do what is called for in the scene -- no wires, no CGI?
De Leon: That all depends on the film topic. If one is making a fantasy action film than wire fighting is excellent… If one is making a super hero film than CGI is perfect... But, if one is making a hard tactical fighting film than it won’t fit in. That is why we are going to focus on tactical fighting for Trigger Reaction.
Knight: You have done a lot of behind the scenes work in Hollywood on big budget pictures with big stars. The fact that it is you specifically working on this film, must aid immensely in generating interest. Has it reached a point where there is actually so much interest, that you have had to say, there are no more roles for anyone else to join the cast?
De Leon: Yes, it has reached that particular scenario to the point that I have to rewrite 80% of the script just to fit in the best of the best that we have at the present time. That being said, Trigger Reaction is a 5 thriller action film series with this one being the first. So, I look forward to the near future to have the rare privilege of working with all of them. God willing first!
Knight: Are there any cast changes at this time to update? Are there any new additions, or departures?
De Leon: No, at the present time it all remains the same. Thank God!
Knight: Are there any crew people involved behind the scenes that film fans should be aware of, that you have worked with before?
De Leon: The answer to your question is that is too soon to tell because I do have crew waiting for me to give them the green light, but not at the present time.
Knight: Will there be any other media related products tied into the film, such as a CD or downloadable soundtrack, or comic book adaptation?
De Leon: Yes, there will be merchandising included.
Knight: Is it too soon to ask about future projects for you, or Inter Choice Productions Inc. in the planning stages?
De Leon: At the present time Inter Choice Productions is involved in 4 projects.
1) Trigger Reaction – the Movie, 2) Dracula 2012 – The Movie, 3) All Pro Tae Kwon Do’s – All Star Event at Los Gatos, California on April 28, 2012, and 4) UGF (Under Ground Fighting) Reality TV Show.
Knight: Thank you so much for your time Tony, and all the best on Trigger Reaction!
De Leon: Thank you so much David, for the opportunity and for your warm wishes!
I appreciate Tony taking the time to talk with me about this upcoming action-thriller. There is not much left to say about Trigger Reaction that Tony De Leon did not cover, except that if you care for the martial arts as a competative sport, and / or a film genre, this is certainly a film we would all be best served watching out for. This is an unparalelled assemblage of Hong Kong stars, late 80s /early 90s cable features action stars, and current competition level practitioners of the martial arts.
On the strength of those same interests, I will also suggest that if anyone is at all able to go to All Pro Tae Kwon Do’s – All Star Event, at Los Gatos, California on April 28th, one should do so. The official website of the event lists all the all-star attendees, and it is a most impressive list indeed. While many of the cast members from Tony De Leon's Trigger Reaction will be in attendance, also in attendance they will have the 'legacy' cast of Bruce Lee's Enter The Dragon as well. The list at this time, includes: Cynthia Rothrock, Jim Kelly, John Saxon, Bob Wall, Bolo Yeung, Benny Urquidez, Tony De Leon, James Hong, Art Camacho, Andrew Fanelli, Gary Lee, John Chung, Harry Mok, Alfredo Torella, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Pavel Nyziak, Ron Van Clief, Sonny Sison, Hank Minitrez, Gary Dill, and Mark Gerry.
Above: Film auteur, Tony De Leon. Used with kind permission of Tony De Leon.