Eastern Film Fans is proud to present our exclusive interview with the Brit Kicker Mr Gary Daniels.
So a bit about yourself, we know your proficient in Tae Kwon Do and Kickboxing but a journey starts somewhere in an Martial Artists life where did the journey start for you ?
As a boy of 8 I started in a system called ‘Mongolian Kung fu’ which was like a systemized form of street fighting which was being taught by Lajos Jakobs and Jim Russell.They combined Karate, Aikido and Judo. It wasn’t pretty but focused on effectiveness using hair pulling, eye gouges strikes to all vital areas and bone breaking techniques. Because I was young I was very flexible and particularly enjoyed the kicks so at the age of around 13 I moved to a Tae Kwon Do school under the I.T.F banner being taught be Raymond Choi. I quickly moved up through the grades and was a blackbelt within 3 years. I competed in TKD tournaments and was disqualified from 3of them for excessive contact. At that time I decided to go into kickboxing with the P.K.A . I had already been training with a gentleman by the name of Mickey Byrne since the age of 14 who was a P.T.A (physical training instructor)in the British army and a 9 year boxing champ in the army so he trained and guided me into the world of full contact kickboxing. When I moved to the states I started training Muay Thai with Benny Urquidez and Peter ‘Sugarfoot’ Cunningham at the Jet center, and at the same time I met and incredible Chinese man by the name of Winston Omega (or Sifu Ooi or Wong Sifu as he is known in different parts of the world) who was teaching his art of Sillum Wong Ka Kune privately, so he became my sifu and I stayed with him for the next 18 years.
Over the years , especially in the film business, you travel alot and learn bits and pieces from a lot of teachers so even though you have your root systems you tend to develop an eclectic system that fits you as you evolve as a martial artist and as a human being. Nowadays I still train 6 days a week with weights, cardio, running, jump rope, heavy bags, Mook Jong e.t.c. Since 2004 I have been going to Thailand regularly where I stay in Muay Thai camps or train with Stephan Fox (vice president of the WMC) when both of our schedules allow.
Speaking of Kickboxing you trained with the late and great Joe Lewis any thoughts on the great man ?
I trained with Joe Lewis many years ago for a short time. I had been training and teaching with John Graden in Florida for a while when Joe came into town. Joe was already a little older at that time. I was interested in meeting him to discuss the theories of attack that he had developed with Bruce Lee. The highlight of that time was having a private sparring session with Joe which lasted about a half hour which is a testament to what good condition he had kept himself in.
Back to you, I hear a rumour you a big fan of Hong Kong films ?
Well yes i am a big fan of Hong Kong and Chinese cinema and have been since the late 70's, of coarse Bruce Lee was the main inspiration that started me on my martial path but there are are actors such as Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung , Yeun Biao, Whang Jang Lee, Tam Tao Liang , Casanova Wong and Lau Ga Leung that have also been an inspiration to me. And I have to mention the great work of the action directors such as Yeun Woo Ping, Corey Yeun Kwai and again Lau Ga Leung. They know how to shoot fight action there like no others.
When was your first break in movies how did that come about ?
Well I studied acting in Florida when i first arrived i the U.S back in the mid 80's with a very charismatic coach by the name of Kathy Laughlin for almost 2 years. I got a few small gigs like some work on the original Miami Vice t.v series and some commercials but of coarse i was unknown, very young and naive back then. I went to the Philippines back in 86/87 and signed a 2 year deal with a local film company named ‘Solar Films’ Which lead to me starring in a couple of films there, 'Final Reprisal' and 'The secret of King Mahi's Island', both pretty bad but a great learning experience and a lot of fun. I then came back to the states; moved to L.A and that when things took off. Van Damme had just come out with 'Bloodsport' , Segal had 'Above the Law' so martial arts movies were hot at that time and a lot of smaller independent companies were casting for 'real' martial artists for their films. I had just won a WKBA light heavyweight title and was asked to audition for a role in 'Ring of Fire' for a company called 'PM Entertainment'. I was hired , got my S.A.G card and then they offered me a 3 picture deal so my career just picked up pace from there.
Working with Jackie Chan on City Hunter must have been a real treat?
Yes , working with Jackie Chan was definitely a highlight of my career. 'City Hunter' was a great experience which came early for me in my career. I would love to have worked with Jackie once I had become a little more seasoned. As it was I had been a huge Jackie Chan fan since I was about 15 or 16 years old so when I got the call to work with him I was thrilled. We spent almost 2 weeks shooting in Japan on a cruise Liner and then about 3 and a half months in Hong Kong and the whole experience was very positive. For me it was like going to film school, even the days I was not working I would go to the set to watch and learn. Doing the fight scenes were very physically demanding as they demand perfection so you have to do so many takes until they get the shot they want. My opening scene where I had to do the splits in slow motion took so many takes I could hardly walk for 2 days afterwards. The `Streetfighter' scene was a lot of fun but a lot of hard work. When they put me on the machine that spun me around I almost threw up. And I saw other Chinese stuntmen get carried of the set after the physical demands of some of the wire work. But as i say , a very positive experience, educational as well as enjoyable.