By: John M Jerva
(Original Publication Date: July 4th, 2017) To fans of the action genre and just fans of cinema in general, my next guest needs no introduction but I’m going to give him one because if anybody deserves it, it’s kickboxing and action film genre legend Don” The Dragon” Wilson. Mr. Wilson has had a historic kickboxing career and he parlayed that success into the film industry making a host of iconic independent martial arts and action films that began with his first film, the classic BLOODFIST back in 1989, which was the beginning of the VHS action boom that would carry over to the 90’s when DVD first came out. Wilson would go on to star in such great films like RED SUN RIGING, the RING OF STEEL trilogy and the BLOODFIST series of films. Even when the film industry changed after 2000, Don Wilson kept busy with films like Jesse V. Johnson’s THE LAST SENTINEL. Recently, he has changed it up a little, starring in the family martial arts film THE MARTIAL ARTS KID and the upcoming dark action-comedy PAYING MR. McGETTY.
Recently, Don “The Dragon” Wilson spoke to me about his new film as well as others and even gave his thoughts on what has changed in the action genre and what fight film stands out the most to him. He even gave us a little sneak peek of the new Expendables type action film he is working on now that will team him up with some of the greatest action actors from the 80’s and 90’s (Insert your excited gasp here!).
Sit back, relax and enjoy the exclusive Action-Flix.Com interview with Action Icon Don “The Dragon” Wilson!
1) Action-Flix.com: Hi Mr. Wilson. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk. Of course we are promoting your new film Paying Mr. McGetty and I have to say I loved it. I thought it was pretty funny and I thought you were great in it as usual.
Don Wilson: Thank you so much and I want to say that as an actor we get a lot of acolades for films but it was really Michael Baumgarten, my brother James and the producers which really made the movie and I just did what they told me. I hit my mark and said my lines and did the fight scenes the way they wanted and I did my thing but it’s always nice that we are appreciated because no painter paints a picture and wants it hung up in his basement. You know what I mean? When you make something you want people to see it and some people are not going to like it. I don’t ever believe that my movies are going to be satisfying for everyone. There are some people that love them and there are some people that don’t. It’s really weird that some countries love certain movies and some don’t and it’s different everywhere you go. Some people are going to love Paying Mr. McGetty but some won’t. I am very proud of it!
2) Action-Flix: Like I said in my review, I thought it had a quirky 80’s VHS vibe to it where it was kind of light hearted but at the same time it was sort of dark. Could you tell us your thoughts on it?
Don: Well there was some danger that was introduced right away because I kill a guy in the opening scene so you know there is a potential for danger. That’s why that scene is in there, to kind of scare the audience and show that while it’s a comedy, it’s a dark comedy. There was a movie similar to it called After Hours and Martin Scorsese directed it and it starred Griffin Dunne and it was funny and Rosanna Arquette dies in it though so you can have a comedy with death. As a matter of fact there’s the film Tropic Thunder which is very funny and the character of the director in it blows up (laughs). That’s the way we were looking at it. We didn’t want it to be a drama and be too serious and it’s a love story because you find out that the real story was the main character of Tyrell getting back together with his girlfriend. A lot of strange things happen and there is a lot of real danger and it all takes place within one day.
3) Action-Flix: So tell us how you got involved with the film?
Don: Well this is a no brainer for me because my brother James produced The Martial Arts Kid which I stared in also and Michael Baumagarten who wrote, produced and directed that film did this one also so I was more than happy to do it and work with them again.
4) Action-Flix: You play the hitman named Shota in the film. Tell the Action-Flix crowd a little bit about your character as well as R. Marcos Taylor’s character of Tyrell. How are you guys similar to or different from the characters you play?
Don: Well everything starts with a concept and Michael developed the script and when he had everything together they thought of Marcos who had just played Suge Knight in “Straight Outta Compton” and you can’t get any scarier than that but everyone who knows Marcos knows he is actually like Tyrell. He’s a loveable, laid back guy who loves life. He’s closer to that and it’s not a stretch for him because his personality is more like Tyrell. I’m just the opposite because I’m nothing like Shota really because he talks very little and he kills people and he’s got a code and he’s a hitman. I’m more like Uncle Glen in the Martial Arts Kid. I feel like as an actor I had to stretch a lot to be a hitman and Marcos had to stretch not as much to be the romantic lead who is more laid back.
5) Action-Flix: Can you tell us the thought process that went in to the film. What kind of film did you want to make and did you accomplish that? If you had to give the film a title, what would it be?
Don: Well I would call the film a romantic action comedy because there is action in it, there is fight scenes with me and Marcos and there is a level of danger too like I said. Now they are not trying to kill Tyrell in the film. We find out early on that if they were trying to kill him it would be a gun movie and they would just shoot him and we wanted it to be more of a martial arts movie so deep down they are just trying to teach him a lesson. Like the mob boss says in the film, “No guns.’ Besides the plot point and for the production, we did not just want to make a shoot ‘em up.
6) Action-Flix: Now this is a different role for you. Talk to us about how you felt playing such a different character that you’re normally used to playing?
Don: Well I definitely learned something with this movie. I Always wondered why actors like Clint Eastwood, who is so successful at playing tough guys, would make a movie like The Bridges of Madison County or Every Which Way but Loose. Now I play a certain type of good guy in my movies. I think that after 30 years of playing the same guy, the good guy, I get to play the bad guy and it’s fun. If I had done 30 years of playing bad guys, I probably would have loved to play a school teacher or a doctor or some type of good guy. Now I know why actors do that. It’s the opportunity to play a character that is totally different from all my other ones. That was very enjoyable and that’s why I know other actors do that. I also did a film with Billy Zane which was a Sci-Fi film about these four girls who are super heroes and, this isn’t a spoiler alert, but I get an ax thrown into my back and I die. That’s another thing, I never died in my films.
7) Action-Flix: Now lets go back to your character of Shota. Elaborate more on him. In a sense he is a bad guy but he isn’t because he sort of turns as the film progresses. He almost develops a heart.
Don: Now no, no, I don’t want to say that he has a heart. Shota has a code. That’s what he has…a CODE. If you’re not guilty of what he is supposed to kill you for than he is reluctant to do it and especially Tyrell because he didn’t deserve the beatdown. He didn’t mess with the mob boss’ daughter, he has a girlfriend, he loves her and it was a big mistake. But I know that it’s not going to stop the mob boss from coming after him so than I decide, you know what, I’m gonna stick up for this guy and in the end it kind of makes it a buddy picture but it doesn’t make Shota a good guy. If you watch the movies The Professional and No Country for Old Men, the hit men in those is who I tailored Shota after. Leon in The Professional had a code. He would shoot and kill the bad guys but he would say no women and no children. He only kills the bad guys. Nobody is gonna pay you to kill innocent people. They pay you because some mob guy is impeaching on your territory and you have to teach him a lesson. That’s the kind of hitman he was so I tried to be like that. If this guy had done what he was accused of, he would have gotten the beat down. Shota finds out that he’s innocent so that’s why he doesn’t do it. So I don’t want to say that he’s a good guy because he does get paid to beat people down and kill them so I like the idea that he’s a bad guy with a code. He’s a bad guy who did a good thing, which was sticking up for Tyrell. A bad guy can do a good thing.
8) Action-Flix: This is the second time you worked with director Michael Baumgarten. You also worked with him on The Martial Arts Kid. How was it working with him?
Don: He’s great! Now in my movies, I kill a lot of people. I kill like 20 or more people, all bad guys of course, and they are hardcore action movies and Michael’s sensibilities are that he likes to do comedies and family films and I never did those type of movies. I have worked in some of these types of movies but I never was the star but it was great to work with him and he gave me the chance to do something different. He’s great to work with definitely! I do action movies. That’s what I do so it was great to work with him again and do something different like The Martial Arts Kid.
9) Action-Flix: Touching base on what you said about doing thirty years of action movies, what made you finally want to change it up and do something different like Paying Mr. McGetty and The Martial Arts Kid? Was it because you played the same type of character?
Don: Yes! After playing tough guys so much I wanted to try some other things. I want to stretch as an actor. You know you want to do the thing you have been successful commercially at. I used to ask myself, why do other actors do this? Why do they do these different types of roles? And now I know! After thirty years of being the good guy in martial arts action films now I can be the bad guy, a hitman, in a romantic comedy and I can be Uncle Glen in a family film like The Martial Arts Kid. I guess I could say it’s good for the creative part of my career just trying to stretch in my films and it was enjoyable. Also I enjoyed working with all my friends like Cynthia Rothrock so it was great!
10) Action-Flix: We had mentioned your co-star R. Marcos Taylor who plays Tyrell. How did you guys meet and how was he to work with?
Don: I met Marcos on Facebook believe it or not. He wrote me on Facebook and asked me how to become an actor so I wrote him back and said come out to L.A., lets do lunch and I’ll tell you everything I know. So he came out, took me to lunch and I told him everything I knew. I gave him advice but he did all the hard work himself. He definitely earned his status as an actor. He’s a phenomenal actor and he is just a natural.
11) Action-Flix: Now you have had an illustrious career and you have fought a lot of guys on screen. One of my personal favorites was Bloodfist 4: Die trying where you had two great fights with Gary Daniels who is another favorite of mine. Do you have a favorite person you worked with or a favorite fight scene from all the movies you have done?
Don: Gosh, that’s a great question. Nobody has ever asked me that before. There’s one that I can say and it was more than just the technique of it. It was Red Sun Rising with James Lew. My character is fighting a guy that he knows killed his partner. This partner was a close friend so there was an emotional attatchment with it. When I kill him at the end, I give him the line he used on me when he killed my partner which was “ there is nothing you can do,” because he had paralyzed me. He hit me in all these nerve points, at the beginning of the film and I’m on my knees and I can’t do anything but watch so at the end I give it right back to him and kill him so you 90 minutes before that he killed my partner so it’s my last fight scene with him. I like that one because to me it was a culmination of the story. It just wasn’t a brand x fight. It just wasn’t about punches and kicks and all that. This was a getting even moment with a guy that did a horrible thing. Yuji Okumoto, who played my partner, is a wonderful actor. He built a lot of sympathy in the short time he was on screen at the beginning of the movie to where the audience would feel bad that he died. If he was just some stuntman who came out and died right away, it wouldn’t have worked so to me if you want to talk favorite fight scene, to me that was the best way to do it. It was integral to the story and it was definite payback to a guy who definitely got what he deserved.
12) Action-Flix: Being a veteran of the action genre, how do you feel movies have changed since the heyday of the VHS and DVD boom of action movies back in the 80’s and 90’s?
Don: Most of the change is technical changes which means the way they’re shot and the way they’re cut. They shoot with hand held cameras and its done a lot with just one take. Cameras are no longer on sticks. They are hand held and if you watch movies like The Bourne Identity, the camera is held back and it moves with the actors. The camera moves and shakes and the audience feels the fighters and the action is more real and the fights are more real and I think it’s for the better and there’s more action in one take as opposed to cut, cut, cut. More directors like Paul Greengrass, who directed Bourne, like that up close in your face action. Audiences nowadays can appreciate more realistic shots. They are going for a more hyper realism. They can also chance things with a computer and leave in or take out what they want in a matter of seconds. You can shoot a better movie faster and cheaper, so that’s what has changed and it’s for the better.
13) Action-Flix: One of your more recent films, Death Fighter (formerly known as White Tiger), is finally being released this month. It’s been a long road for the film to reach audiences. What can you tell us about that?
Don: It’s like a Lethal Weapon type movie and it was actually screened here on a wide screen theater a little bit ago and it looked great. I’m not really the star in this film, it’s really Matt Mullins’ film but don’t get me wrong, I share a lot of screen time with him and I do a lot of good fighting in the movie but it’s Matt’s movie and I’m supporting him. He was great to work with and we had a lot of fun in Thailand making it. I think it’s kind of a 90’s version of a new movie with a ton of action and it’s integral to the story. It’s tons of fight action but it’s not all the same and it doesn’t look the same. Matt has a unique style of fighting, my good friend Cynthia Rothrock who is in the film has a different style and I have my own style. We all brought what we do best to the project. You’ll see a lot of different styles which used to be some of the eye candy of 90’s action movies. It’s not just one guy doing all the fighting. Matt has fight scenes, Cynthia has fight scenes and I have my fight scenes. You’ll also get the 90’s over the top bad guy. This guy has no redeeming qualities at all. He’s just bad, bad, bad. He’s nothing like my character of Shota. Shota had a code and this guy is just bad. A different company was going to put the movie out and they had a problem so it was picked up by another company and they changed the name but it’s the same great action film that we made!
14) Action-Flix: Finally, what can you tell us about future projects? What can fans expect next from “The Dragon?”
Don: I’m actually working on an Expendables type action movie that we are going to shoot called Blood Raid and it’s going to be a full blown hardcore action film. It’s about a SWAT team that chases a gang of bank robbers into an abandoned building and we get to the bottom level of it and there’s a den of vampires that come out and attack them so the SWAT team and bank robbers have to join forces to survive. It’s a full on R rated, gory action film. I like the Expendables aspect of it because I’m going to work with all my friends and they are all onboard with it. It’s going to be me , Michael Dudikoff, Billy Blanks, Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton, Loren Avedon and Olivier Gruner. It’s just gonna be everybody! Now some of them are going to be the bank robbers, some of them are going to be the SWAT team and some of them are going to be the vampires. Once everybody is on board schedule wise and we get into pre-production, we will figure it all out. It’s going to be great and it’s like Die Hard because all the action takes place in one location. I pretty much have it planned out in my head and it’s going to look like a big budget picture because now with these High Def cameras, you can run multiple cameras and you don’t have the expanse of shooting in 35 mm like we used to so it’s going to look great.
Thank you so much Mr. Wilson for taking the time to talk with me. Being a huge fan of yours, it was truly an honor and I learned so much!
Don: Thank you John. I hope your readers like Mr. McGetty and all the others that will come out. It was fun and lets do it again!
DEATH FIGHTER will be released on DVD this month on July 25th!
Actors: Don Wilson, Matt Mullins, Cynthia Rothrock, Joe Lewis
Directors: Toby Russell
Producers: Karen Kaing
Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Number of discs: 1
NR: Not Rated
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: July 25, 2017
Run Time: 88 minutes
To follow Don “The Dragon” Wilson and learn about more upcoming projects, visit his social sites!
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