By: John M Jerva
In the realm of the martial arts, the name Mark Dacascos is legendary to say the least. Born Mark Alan Dacascos In February of 1964, he is the son of pioneer Al Dacascos who blazed a trail in the arts that have laid a foundation that is as strong as ever to this day. Mark Dacascos In his own right has become an icon in the arts as well as the action genre having starred in such classic films as Only The Strong, Crying Freeman, Brotherhood Of The Wolf, and Drive which is considered by many to be the best martial arts action film to come out of the west. Dacascos has been revving it up lately as he has recently been seen in the Netflix series Wu Assassins as well as the instant classic John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum where he went one on one with Baba Yaga himself Keanu Reeves in one of the best action films to be released this year.
In this exclusive interview with ACTION-FLIX, Dacascos talks about his newest film The Driver which brings him back into the zombie genre where he stars not only with his wife Julie, which he met on Crying Freeman, but also his daughter Noelani who is following in her father’s footsteps. Dacascos also chats about working on John Wick with Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski as well as preparing for action movie roles. In the world of action, this man needs no introduction but he’s getting one anyway because legends like him deserve it. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the one and only
- Hi Mark, before we get started, I just wanted to say that I’ve been a big fan since American Samurai so I’ve been there since the beginning. It’s a real honor to talk to you.
Mark: Wow! John I appreciate that so much. Wow, that was a long time ago so thank you so much.
2) Now let’s get right into it and talk about your new film The Driver. This is a return to the zombie genre for you. You already did I Am Omega so what made you want to revisit this particular subgenre?
Mark: Oh, well I love the genre you know. It’s scary, it’s exciting and there are so many elements to still explore and what I loved the most about The Driver is that there are so many of us zombie fans out there so we know the world and I loved that our film was very intimate and personal with this very tight family unit and you got to see all the quieter moments along with all the chaos. Of course, the special joy for me with this project was that I loved the character I played but I also got to play it with my actual daughter and wife and I would like to think that we brought a lot of heart to it as well.
3) Now were they involved from the very beginning or was this something that came about further along or were they involved from the get go?
Mark: It kind of came about that Wych Kaosayananda, our director on the film, already had the script written and I was shooting a Hallmark movie in Vancouver and it was right before I started John Wick 3 so there was this window of opportunity and I said that I would love to be a part of this. I then said would you consider my actual daughter for the daughter role and my wife. Initially he had other talent lined up for those roles, but by the time we had gotten to start shooting, he agreed that it made sense on so many levels and my wife and daughter agreed to play those roles. The great thing about that, and there could be a lot of challenges, but the benefits of accessing your real life relationships and have that chemistry and bring that to the screen, it really felt like to me that I was cheating. I could just look at my daughter and look at my wife and I could go there with my character. It was really fun.
4) Now your daughter hasn’t been working for too long in the business so what tips did you have for her when you started shooting the movie?
Mark: I love that question thank you. This was her second movie but it was here first lead. She did another film for a couple days on a Josh Hartnett movie where she played his daughter but now cut to The Driver and she’s one of the leads now and there’s a lot of intensity in the film. There was one particular day and you know the film is emotionally loaded and there was one day where she said to me, “Dad, I don’t feel like crying today or working today” and I said no, no I get it, I get it but that’s why it’s called work and you have to do it anyway, you signed on to this. She was just really, really tired and she had been doing a lot of crying so I get it. So I said lets not stress over this, let’s go have a nice breakfast and get you a coffee, because she likes coffee (laughs) , and we’ll go to work and Wych said we can do close ups with somebody reading the lines with her off camera and I said to Noelani no expectations and think about what you have to do and need to do and just relax right now and when we get on set we’ll talk it out. So when we got on set, I said Noelani you know the words, you know the lines, you know the situation and all I want you to do is focus on my eyes and make sure your breathing and take your time and don’t say anything that is not truthful. In your heart, you got all these emotions going on and breathe with me and I promise you that when we lock eyes and we’re breathing together, it will click in I promise you Noelani. We got there and she trusted me and we lookded at each other and we breathed and we started the scenes and she nailed them you know. Just being a father and being a performer, so much of it is trust and confidence and on a physical level so much of it is focusing and breathing and feeling that you’re actually in your body. We have those things happen and when they do, lightning happens.
5) Now a lot of the movie is just you and your daughter in the car after a certain point in the movie so was the movie always going to be this father-daughter relationship amongst the zombies or did it change at a certain point after your real daughter Noelani became involved?
Mark: Oh yeah so when we got the script, it was really all about family and the father-daughter relationship so all that material was already in there and being that we are really father and daughter, we got to make it specifically our own which was really fun. Alot of those cars scenes, I think one day we shot like 5 or 6 scenes back to back, and it was probably that day where Noelani didn’t feel like working (laughs) so obviously she was able to be a professional and do it anyway. I remember that day after the first take, I think what happens is as a performer you do all these scenes and you feel like your body just can’t do it anymore and I think she was feeling that but once she went in, it just clicked and it’s so funny that what started off as a day that she didn’t want to work, she ended up having a blast that day.
6) Now obviously there’s action in the film and most of it is running and gunning in this one as opposed to actual hand to hand combat but you still get to throw down so after all these years, has anything changed as to how you prepare for the physical aspects of the role in these movies from when you were younger to today?
Mark: You know what, it’s interesting because I’ve been lucky because I think my roles have changed as I have changed and grown older. Way back when when I was Kenjiro Sangain in American Samurai, I think we prepped for six weeks before we started filming so we had a Kendo master from Australia come and work with me so I was able to physically prepare for that sort of fighting. Now for Only The Strong, I don’t know if you know the story but I started with Joselito “Amen” Santo my Capoerira Maestre in November and I think I was 27 at the time and I started training with him in November and I didn’t even know about Only The Strong until January so I got the part and we still had like seven or eight months just to train so I got to prepare specifically for those movies. Now for The Driver let me just say that as an actor, I’ve always tried to prepare like my character would prepare so you’ve seen American Samurai and hopefully you’ve seen John Wick 3…
Yes I have, more than once.
Mark: Ok, thank you (laughs) so the characters that I play are all different and they fight different so that’s what I try to do. I prepare for them as I feel the characters would fight. That’s their physical dialogue as opposed to how Mark would fight. Now the way it’s changed, I think I’ve gotten more to the essence. When I was younger, I figured oh I could do this flip or do this kick and how could we add it in there and there’s still a litlle bit of that element but now I’m really coming more from the character as opposed to Mark now and I’m learning and growing and evolving and hopefully as an actor and performer, I’ve gotten better. I hope I’m progressing and I’m taking my physicality from the character’s point of view and I hope that’s come across and gotten better.
7) Now, of course, you’ve worked on JohnWick 3 and you’ve also done smaller films like this. Do you prefer doing big budget films to smaller ones or doesn’t it matter?
Mark: You know, of course, with a bigger budget we may have more time to prepare and maybe more variety of craft service (laughs) but really the budget of The Driver is probably a couple week’s worth of craft service on John Wick you know (laughs) but what really makes it special for me are the people you work with. With that in mind, I have to say that John Wick 3 was the biggest budget film I have ever been a part of and yet it felt so intimate and so collaborative with Chad Stahelski and Keanu Reeves leading this huge shipe, I have to say that from beginning to end, it was just a wonderful time. I loved every second of it. I can say the same thing with the Driver which was much smaller of a budget and working with Wych Kaosayananda, our director, and working with my wife Julie and Noelani it was just fantastic. We got to do a zombie movie in Thailand together you know and the script was tight and all these human nuances of these human relationships amidst this Apocalyptic time, I loved it. Budget wise, vastly different from John Wick 3 but I loved them both.
8) Now you’ve worked with a lot of directors in you career and you’ve also directed yourself. When you have a director that comes from a stunt and action background like Chad Stahelski, do you feel that helps the action in the film as opposed to a director that hasn’t cut his or her teeth in the stunt industry. Do you feel it makes a difference in the end?
Mark: Oh certainly! That’s what makes the John Wick movies so special. You know Chad, in my opinion and alot of people’s opnion, he’s a wonderful and extrenely talented artist through and through. He’s a martial artist, he’s a director artist. He has a point of view and he has the working physical experience of the fight game without a doubt. Not only does Chad know how to shoot it but he also knows how to execute it as well.
I’ll tell you the story of one day while doing the finale fight scene with Keanu and Chad wanted Keanu to do a particular move and Keanu didn’t think he was familiar with it so instead of Chad asking a stunt guy on set to show him, Chad just takes off his earphones and goes over there and pulls out a matt and does this incredible move with one of the stunt performers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a director go out and do the move and do it so flawlessly. I could not do the move that he did. Keanu then says that he wants to try it and two or three times later, he’s doing it and I was just so inspired by these guys. It certianly makes a difference when your director has actual working experience with action and that’s what makes Chad so special and one of the many things that makes him special.
Well I can’t tell you how much of an honor this has been to talk to you. There’s so many questions and movies I wanted to ask you about and hopefully we can do it again.
Mark: Absolutley John! I appreciate you and all that you do. Thank you so much and good day to you!
The Driver is now available on DVD and Digital from
Lionsgate Home Entertainment!
About The Author: John M Jerva is the owner and editor-in-chief of Action-Flix.com and is a DIE HARD fan of everyhting Action! From the glorious past to the thrilling future, John lives and breathes action! Long live action cinema!