Exclusive Interview: RETRO ACTION- Martial Arts Action Star Gary Daniels Talks BRING HIM BACK DEAD & More!

I can officially check this one off my bucket list. As you all know, there’s certain action stars past and present that I’ve always wanted to interview ever since I created my little old website. Well. here’s a big one as my next guest has been consistently in my top 3 of all time DTV action stars from the great decades of the 80’s and 90’s. This man needs no introduction but I’m damn sure gonna give him one as he deserves it with all the years of high-octane excitement, he has given fans like myself.

From the late 80’s throughout the 90’s, British born martial arts icon Gary Daniels has dazzled audiences with his signature skills, most notably his awesome array of kicks and combos that seemed to defy gravity with every hit. Daniels has starred in some of the best that that era had to offer with some of his most popular additions being Fist of the North Star, Rage, Recoil and White Tiger. Each film showcased Daniels’ winning onscreen charisma to go along with his deadly physical prowess and his patented helicopter kick that was a thing of brutal beauty.

After the 90’s, Daniels left the spotlight a little but has still graced the covers of later flicks such as Forced to Fight, Skin Traffik and a role in the original Expendables movie where he took on the likes of Stallone, Jet Li and Jason Statham. Daniels hasn’t missed a step as he is still in incredible shape and his moves are still award winning.

Daniels is back this week in the retro action-thriller Bring Him Back Dead where he plays the wheelman for a gang of thieves who defies his boss for righteous reasons. Now, the people he used to work with want him dead in a big way and with the battle cry of Bring Him Back Dead, our anti-hero will have to use his killer skills to stay alive as the hunted becomes the hunter.

In this exclusive interview with yours truly, Daniels talks about the new film as well as his career, being in The Expendables and life philosophies that serve him well to this day. Without further ado, here is the Action-Flix exclusive interview with martial arts action star Gary Daniels!

Hi Gary! First of all, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to chat with me. As you know, I’m a huge fan of yours and you’re one of the top three all-time favorite action stars for me. We are here to talk about Bring Him Back Dead which is out now on DVD and Digital but before that, I wanted to chat a little about your great career.

 1) First of all, I have my favorite films of yours with Fist of the North Star and Recoil being two of them. Fist is my favorite because I always felt that the finale showcased your talent the best. I wanted to ask you if you have a particular film that is tops in your book and why is it?

I cannot say that I have a particular favorite of any of the films I have been a part of. For me it is all about the experience I had while working on the films. The collective experience of the film as a whole and the individual experiences within the whole, i.e. the people I met, the places I went to, what I learned on the show. I cannot control the outcome of a film as there are so many other people involved in that, but I can control how I react to and what I learn from the individual and collective experience. Of course, some films turn out better than others, but I learn from all of them and often I learn more from the more unpleasant experiences. Either way, every experience points me in the direction of .. and helps me to create who I am and who I choose to be.


2) You have had a great career but your years with PM Entertainment are definitely a highlight especially for us fans of yours. Can you talk about that period of your career and what it was like to film such hyper-kinetic action sequences in them? They certainly showcased top tier action like in the 80’s and they had it all from spectacular hand to hand fight sequences to full on bombastic chases, explosions and stunts. 

Working with PM Ent was always a pleasure for me. They were a very tight knit group of people, and they always made me feel like part of the family. They knew their market and what sold movies at that time, which was the action so that is where they spent their time and money. I was very new to the business at that time and probably at my physical peak (although just developing as an actor), so I loved doing the action. We would often have 3 units running at the same time and I would jump from one to another, either fighting someone, shooting someone or doing a crazy stunt.  They always brought in the best stuntmen, and I got to work on 3 or 4 films with Spiro Razatos, one of the best action designers and action directors in the business along with his team.


3) When I heard you were going to be in the first Expendables movie, I was so excited as I would be seeing you do your thing on the big screen. First off, can you tell us what it was like to be on set with all those action legends like yourself. From Stallone to Jet Li, it was a true merging of action stars. 

I was honored to be a part of ‘The Expendables’ and a part of such a great cast and to be directed by Sylvester Stallone, a true action icon. I will always be thankful to Chad Stahelski for getting me involved. It was a different kind of experience for me playing a stunt / actor role as I was used to playing leads but again, I will say it was a great learning experience for me to see how life is on an 80–90-million-dollar budget film compared to how it is on a smaller independent film.  All the cast were nice guys, there were no massive egos, and everyone seemed to get along. I think that is a testament to how everyone respected Stallone.


4) Secondly, can you describe how it was to film your climatic fight with both Jet Li and Jason Statham. For me that was a definite highlight and I always felt that you had the best death scene in the entire movie. Ha Ha. 

My end fight with Jet and Jason went through quite a metamorphism. Originally it was created at 8711 stunts back in LA before filming began and then the choreography was changed when we got to Brazil which was changed again when Corey Yeun (Jet Li’s fight choreographer) arrived from Hong Kong. But Stallone didn’t approve of that version, so it was changed once more for the version that was finally put on film. This is not as surprising as it might seem as all film shoots are fluid, alive and grow as the process evolves. It was an easy and pleasurable fight for me to shoot as both guys were very professional and talented.

5) Now let’s talk about Bring Him Back Dead. It’s truly awesome to see you headlining an action pic again. How did you get involved with the project?

I got involved with ‘Bring Him Back Dead’ as I had worked with the producer Jeff Miller previously. When he sent me the script, I liked it a lot and thought that it had a lot of potential.

6) Unlike your earlier film roles, your role of Alex is more of an anti-hero role. He’s a bad man doing bad things for what is revealed as a good reason. Talk about portraying him and talk about why it seems that damaged heroes are the thing in action films these days. 

 Yes, Alex is an ‘Anti-Hero’. I think we all know that human nature is not so black and white. Sometimes we feel that good people do bad things and bad people do good things. For me I do not believe that there is intrinsic good or bad, right or wrong in the universe. Right and wrong are just philosophical / subjective judgements based on individual value systems. When someone says that something is right, basically what they are saying is that they agree with it and when they say something is wrong or bad, they are saying that they disagree with it. We live in a universe, a world that is a contextual field of opposing forces / energies and we all have free will to decide who we choose to be, and this is how we evolve as human beings.  So, Alex finds himself in a situation where he has to do what he feels is right given his current circumstances. You can decide if he is right or wrong based on your perspective. We all see life through the filter of our own experience.

7) Watching you move in the movie; it was like I was back in the 90’s watching you do your signature action. How do you stay in such incredible shape and how is it to train in your 50’s?

Well, I still train regularly, 5-6 days a week, I believe that consistency is the key. And when you work in the action film industry the gym is your day-to-day office. As long as you train your body regularly, eat and drink the right way and focus on meditation / regulating your mind and breathing, then there is no reason you cannot stay active into your later years. I feel it is important to forget the illusion of time and the constraints of age that we set upon ourselves. Let the assessment of your abilities and the setting of your goals have nothing to do with time. We must free ourselves from those artificial constraints.

8) Talk about the fight scenes in the film. I know that David Lavallee Jr. was the stunt coordinator, but did you have any input in piecing together your fights, especially what finishing moves you would do and your patented kicks?

 Well, most of the work of doing the choreography was done by David and his team in pre-production. They put together a great previz which was sent to me. I didn’t know David before this show, but I thought he did a great job with the choreography as well as including important dramatic elements to the fights.  Before shooting we only had a couple of days of rehearsals with the actors where a few things were changed based on their individual abilities. The producer let it be known to me that he wanted more kicks so David and I discussed where we could put some in. David was great to work with. Some problems popped up on set on the days of the shoot when the director didn’t share our vision and the time, we had to shoot was minimal, so we didn’t get all the shots we wanted, and all the choreography didn’t make it into the film.

9) How was it to work with such great actors as Louis Mandylor and Daniel Baldwin? Also how was it to take on Louis in the finale? 

Working with Louis and Daniel was a pleasure as they are both very talented and very professional. As were Katie Keene, LeJon Woods and Ryan Shaw.

10) In this day and age of CGI and superhero movies, I always feel that indie action cinema still has the heart and soul of throwback action films of the 80’s and 90’s. Tell us in your words, how important it is to do practical things like stunts and action. There’s nothing like doing it for real. 

I feel that if CGI is done right, it can really enhance a film. If you look at the top 5 grossing films over the past decades like ‘Titanic’, ‘Avatar’, the Marvel films they are all heavily dependent on CGI. But I feel that it is heavily overused in a lot of action films nowadays. I feel it is important for an audience to be able to associate with their heroes but too much CGI and wire work has made the action stars so ‘untouchable’ so impervious to obvious danger that they no longer retain a sense of vulnerability. The sense of danger has been taken away when they can survive anything, a plane crash, a million bullets fired at them or a building falling on them. I think there is a sense of honesty that an audience can appreciate when they see an actor getting himself out of a dangerous situation. But this is just my opinion.

11) One thing I liked about Bring Him Back Dead is that the action was shot clearly and coherently. With a lot of films using shaky cam and quick edits, give us your thoughts on shooting action the right way. 

Again, we go back to this question of what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’. It is subjective judgement. I am a fan of Hong Kong action from the 80’s and 90’s where action was shot very clearly so that has influenced me, but sometimes tighter shots and shaky cam can be used to cover up a performers inability to execute proper technique or to add a sense of realism. It all depends on a director or an action directors’ specific style and what he wants to convey.

12) Of all the action stars like yourself that you’ve faced in your movies, who is the one that you always look fondly on fighting in a movie and who would you, if any, still like to take on if you had the opportunity in an action movie? 

Well, I have to say that I really enjoyed working with Jackie Chan. It was another job that came early in my career, so it was a massive learning experience. When it comes to doing fight scenes, I would say that I often prefer to work with experienced stuntmen over actors that just learned some moves for the film. Stunt guys are training in film fighting all the time so they have the best reactions, a greater sense of timing, they can use hands, feet, weapons equally and have no egos. So, you can get a better end product. There are a few action actors I would like to work with, Donnie Yen being one of them but for me it is more important that I get to work with top quality action directors and directors, guys that want to work with me and can help to bring out the best in me.

13) I follow you closely on social media and I love your posts about life and martial arts. Can you tell us how you’ve changed since you first started in the industry? 

First of all, thank you for following my social media posts. I have been in this business for around 35 years now so of course there have been many changes in my life in that time. The only thing in life that does not change is the fact that everything in life is always changing. The purpose of life is to evolve, how we evolve is a choice, that we evolve is not. As human beings we are creating and re-creating our lives on a moment-to-moment basis with every thought, choice and decision that we make.   As actors we are professional experiencers, we try to remember every experience and how it made us feel so that we can use it for our characters. So, I definitely feel that I am a much better actor now than I was 35 years ago thanks to many life experiences, the good ones and even more so, the not so good ones. 

14) Looking back at your life and career, what are you the proudest of in terms of life itself and the films you’ve done? 

 Well, I have to say the things that I am the most of are my 4 sons and how they have all grown to be good boys, all independent thinkers. I am happy that for the most part I have managed to live a life of choice through conscious action rather than a life of chance through unconscious reaction. At the age of 8 I saw Bruce Lee for the first time, and I knew what I wanted to do with my life, and I have to say that I pretty much followed and stayed true to that path. Of course, there have been surprises and curve balls along the way, but it is important to realize that, whether consciously or not, everything that happens in our lives we have created with our thoughts, words, choices and our actions. Everything is perfect in our own creation, none of us are victims. As for the proudest moments in film I would have to refer to my answer to question #1. I still feel that there is something that I need to accomplish, a message that I would like to express so hopefully the best is yet to come.

15) Looking at the future, what would you still like to accomplish before all is said and done? 

For me there is no past or future, there is only the moment of now. Every single moment of life carries the power of creation and every single one of us has the power of creation. We are not just physical beings; we are beings being physical. We are not just our bodies, our bodies belong to us, but we are so much more, what we are is limitless and without end.  My journey is more of a spiritual journey nowadays, a journey within, if you do not go within .. you will go without. I spend a lot of time in meditation and contemplation, and I hope that I can find a way to marry that with my career.  I am working with a company in England on a project called ‘Rivals’ and if that comes to fruition then I may get that chance, fingers crossed.

Thank you, Gary, so much for taking time out to talk with me. I can’t tell you how much joy and excitement you brought to my life. I told myself that if I ever got the opportunity to talk with you, I wanted to share that you were one of the main reasons I started in the martial arts myself and have continued with it for over 30 years now.  I look forward to seeing you in all future projects. All the best from one of your faithful! 

Thank you for your questions, your interest in my career and your continued support!

BRING HIM BACK DEAD is Out Now on DVD & Digital from Uncork’d Entertainment!

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