Interview with Ip Man 4: The Finale star Chris Collins
by Bobby Blakey
In 2008 martial arts star Donnie Yen brought Bruce Lee’s legendary master Yip Man to the big screen with Ip Man. The film has not only become a classic as one of the best martial arts films in years, it spawned a franchise including a spin off and three sequels with the final film in theaters now aptly titled Ip Man 4: The Finale. Throughout the series there have been numerous great martial artists and fighters in the cast to add to the already great action including Sammo Hung, Max Zhang, and Mike Tyson as well as Tony Jaa and Dave Bautista stepping into the spin-off. This final chapter not only brings in Scott Adkins, but also up and coming martial arts action star Chris Collins who has already been making his mark in the industry with appearances in Wolf Warrior alongside Adkins and the third chapter of the SPL franchise Paradox with Tony Jaa. I had the chance to sit down with Collins to talk about joining what is easily the best martial arts franchise of all time and his life in martial arts.
Bobby: Before getting into the movie, being a martial artist myself I love learning about peoples own martial arts journey. Can you tell us a little about how you got into the martial arts?
Chris: I began boxing at age 5 with my older brother, John at the Ray Mancini boxing gym in Youngstown, Oh. Our dad insisted on us learning to box. I continued when we moved to Pensacola, FL at the Roy Jones Jr. gym on LaRua into my high school years. At that time I was also wrestling in school. In the early 90’s I took up Brazilian Jiu-jitsu at the bequest of my dad. He was in the Navy and introduced me to an instructor at NAS. The Naval Air Station. While in the USMC I started to find interest in Wing Chun Kung Fu and Filipino KALI. After completing my necessary schools to become a RECON MARINE I wanted to become a Scout Sniper. However, I felt strongly about hand to hand combat and CQC. I decided to follow my gut instinct. So I requested to be stationed in South East Asia in order to focus on bringing these systems back to the USMC. I believed it to be a way to improve my MARINE CORPS that loved so dearly. Granted permission by my C/O, I began my martial arts journey in Asia. I’ve now been training wing Chun and teaching it for over 20 years, as well as the Pekiti Tirsia Kali. I’m a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Clark Gracie and I continue to run my academy and affiliates around the globe.
Bobby: Did you always want to be an actor or was it more about getting into the martial arts side of the action in films?
Chris: No, I was only interested in teaching the actors at the time. I loved watching them perform but I thought my opportunity has passed. Then one day my manager, Paco Wong told me he believes I can be an action star. With his support that’s the goal now. It’s extremely difficult, but I love the challenge.
Bobby: How did you get involved with Ip Man 4: The Finale?
Chris: Wilson, the director and I really got along while filming Paradox. He is a wing Chun enthusiast and we spoke a lot about my background and my goal of integrating wing Chun into the USMC. So when he sent me the script for Ip Man 4, I was so excited to see my life story mixed into the movie. Vaness’s character would have been your truly. Mine and Scott’s character represented the obstacles I faced in returning to the states to bring the wing
Chun into the program. So, needless to say I’m over joyed and honored to be a part of this film. Donnie, Sammo and Wilson created a franchise that will be remembered forever as the greatest martial arts franchise.
Bobby: Stepping into what has become such an iconic franchise, did you have any nervousness or reservations about finding your place in this world?
Chris: To be honest, I don’t get so nervous because it’s right up my alley. The action is what I do every day. Instead, I get really excited like a kid. I get the chance to learn from these legends. It’s priceless. As an actor not classically trained, I try to pick up as much as I can from them all.
Bobby: Did you get to have any input to your fight sequences or style of fighting in the film?
Chris: Absolutely, I always try to add my two cents. I wish I could do it again though. There is always a way to make it better. Donnie and Yuen Woo Ping were very open to any suggestions that I had. That felt really fantastic.
Bobby: With any martial artist working on film I always like to know what is your most memorable fight moment that really left an impact or had you the most excited?
Chris: If I had to pick, I’d pick two moments. The first was my jumping spinning back kick to Donnie. I’m not a karate man so it was difficult to do for me. Donnie pulled up a chair to watch me prepare. He trusted me enough to do it himself without the stuntman. I was really happy with that part. He said, I did that really good and was impressed. The second was when he strikes me down at the end. He asked if I needed to rehearse or wear padding. I said no need. Let’s just shoot it, I’ve got the timing. We nailed it in two takes. I personally liked the other take not used, because I’m in the air as he hits me. Donnie was super cool the entire time and had really great things to say about working with me. I felt good about that.
Bobby: You’ve now worked with Scott Adkins a couple of times, Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa. This is a dream come true for most, but I have to know is there any other specific martial arts actor that you are hoping to work with in the future?
Chris: For me, I’m just happy to be working and getting the chance to perform on the big screen. I’d really like to work with Donnie again but this time with us using all of our martial arts skills. Not confined to wing Chun and karate. I think it could be one of the best fight scenes ever made.
Bobby: You are already racking up an impressive resume with not only this film, but also previously Wolf Warrior and Paradox. What do you look for when choosing a project?
Chris: Just an opportunity to perform martial arts, expand my acting ability so I can improve. Of course fighting the leads is always a bonus.
Bobby: Of all the films you have done so far which fight scene stands out as the one you are the most proud of or enjoyed the most?
Chris: I’m never completely satisfied with any of the fight scenes I’ve done. I enjoy them all to be honest. It’s such a great time on set. But when I watch them I’m always thinking I could have done better.
Bobby: Is there anything else you have coming up you can tell us about?
Chris: I’m currently working on the storyboards for my next project. It’s called RUCKUS FACTOR. I will play the lead role. It’s loosely based on my life in Hong Kong when I opened up my academy. Lots of challenges. I’m so excited about this project. It’s a dream come true.
Bobby: I loved the film and thought you were great in the role. I really look forward to seeing you kick more ass in the future and appreciate you taking the time to speak with me.
Chris: Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk with you.
Check out Ip Man 4: The Finale in select theaters now.
You can check out our review of Ip Man 4: The Finale here