Interview with One Night in Bangkok star Mark Dacascos
by Bobby Blakey
Through the years there have been a ton of great martial arts action stars, but few that have crossed so many genres than Mark Dacascos. From his debut feature American Samurai in 1992 to his Capoeria action flick Only The Strong and more recently his turn as Zero in John Wick 3: Parabellum he has been racking up the hits. While known for his martial arts mastery he has also crossed into reality TV as the Chairman in Iron Chef and network TV as the reoccurring villain Wo Fat in Hawaii Five-O. I had the chance to sit down and discuss his latest film One Night In Bangkok, that reteams him with his The Driver director Wych Kaosayanada.
Bobby: How did you get involved with One Night in Bangkok?
Mark: I’ve known the director Wych Kaosayanada for a while and right after John Wick I went over to Thailand to work with him on The Driver. We had such a great time working together that shortly thereafter he sent me another script for One Night In Bangkok and I loved it. Fortunately we were able to get together and do that as well. So it was based on our relationship and joy with working with each other.
Bobby: Without spoiling too much of The Driver, I assume that is how Kane Kosugi got involved with this as well?
Mark: Yes. Wych has been a good friend of Kane’s for a while and already had in mind who we wanted as our antagonist.
Bobby: I know this isn’t a martial arts film and more of a thriller, but did you still have input on the action itself with this guy being a more average guy to want to do more martial arts or keep it more in line with this everyman?
Mark: Both my parents are martial artists and I have been doing martial arts myself for a long time like you. So I have that in my back pocket, but the character is not a professional assassin or even a fighter. He has military training so some experience, but he’s not a sharpened professional like at that. So we the filmmakers have to look at it as what the character can and would do. Not what I could possible do you know. We would shoot it from the characters point of and the sensibilities of it. This is not a martial arts film or hardcore action. This is a character driven thriller with elements of action. We have to tell the truth of the character and get to the heart of the story so that is how we approached it.
Bobby: When you see a tag line cast of Mark Dacascos and Kane Kosugi there is already a preconceived notion to what this film is going to be. Do you feel pressure when you have to iconic martial arts actors like you guys, but it’s not really that kind of movie?
Mark: There is a lot of pressure because you’re right that this is not that kind of movie. The challenge is how do we tell the story as truthful, honest and interestingly enough as we can, but still satisfy some of the fans expectations. So yes, we do feel the pressure and we want to give the audience what they want but hopefully in a way that does not skew the integrity of what we want to tell with the story. So yes we absolutely to feel that pressure.
Bobby: I know often times characters evolve in the scripts to the screen. Was this always meant to be a more silent character as he deals with so much deep emotional turmoil or was it something that evolved out of the process?
Mark: We definitely used the script as our bones or road map and then when we got to certain scenes and I, the other actors or Wych felt like this could also be interesting we would try it if we had time with things that might not be in the script. So yes we did use it as the road map but leading into other things that we thought were possibly good ideas.
Bobby: I spoke with Scott Adkins recently.
Mark: Great guy!
Bobby: I agree. When I spoke with him about his recent film Legacy of Lies it is a very similar situation as this film where they are both more thrillers than martial arts films. But looking at himself which I see you the same way as an actor who does martial arts as opposed to just a martial artist who acts, when you go looking for projects are you looking for something specific or just whatever you enjoy?
Mark: Really when I read something or something is pitched its how I feel. Am I excited? Do I get emotional? Am I compelled to ask what happens next? If it can get my heart then I am usually open to possibly doing it. There have been times where I have heard in concept an idea that should be should be enticing or exciting to me, but it was more intellectual in your head and I didn’t feel it. How do you get excited about something you don’t feel? So for me it’s always how I feel and of course if I really like something I don’t have to ask myself I feel it. Whatever that hook is whether it be a comedy, drama or Hallmark movie that’s the first thing for me. Do I feel it?
Bobby: I know the films aren’t related, but The Driver father daughter dynamic and the characters here have a similar dynamic. With that element and tone similar did it help with the performance going straight from The Driver to One Night In Bangkok?
Mark: That’s a very cool observation. I suppose yes and it was a really nice change of speed for me. Coming off of John Wick 3 and how that is so tense and quick. So going from that to The Driver and now this it was a nice change of pace and I would say yes I think it did help going into this. Thanks for pointing that out.
Bobby: I tend to read way too much into this stuff.
Mark: (laughs) Thank you, I appreciate that though.
Bobby: I know you mentioned that when reading the scripts you look for the feeling of it in your heart, but prior to even getting to the script reading do you often just look for a specific type of film that you want to work on at times?
Mark: There have been moments in my life where I thought about that, but for the most part at least right now I am just looking for the material that grabs me. There is another project that I am not at liberty to talk about, but it’s in post-production and I think comes out at the end of the year and I wasn’t really thinking of a project like that. The script was great and I read it and loved it so I am excited about that. Having done a lot of different shows and being 56 now I am really into playing the Mr. Miyagi type of roles. There is so much meat there. There is physicality and back story. I like where I am at right now and like playing the uncle or father and would like to be able to put to use some of my years of experience.
Bobby: I applaud that. It’s hard to let go similar to martial arts whereas the head instructor you step back to teach and do new things. Much like Van Damme taking on the master role in the remake of Kickboxer, I think it speaks volumes to your career to have evolved to the point where you are still doing your thing while now helping the next generation coming up. I would much rather see you being the master leading someone than someone I have never heard of leading you.
Mark: Thank you. I like to go with the seasons. I am getting older and who knows what my life span will be. While I’m here done all this through my 20s, 30s and 40s, now in my fifties I have teenagers of my own and seeing life and traveled I would like to share that. Like you said, we had the time when we were the ones fighting and now we are teaching it. As you know there is so much more than the fighting aspect. That is one part of the martial arts but there is so much more to me. Going into training how much do we learn in that hour or two hours of training? The respect, focus, and discipline. To me it has always been important to bring those elements that we learn on the mat to our daily life. That to me is the big question and really important.
Bobby: As a fan I have to say that always comes out in your performances. I appreciate it and love your evolution. As a fan I can’t lie that I get disappointed not seeing you kick someone in the face, I love seeing any actor of course, but especially someone like yourself that I have idolized for so long evolve into what you want and not just the perception of what you should be. To me that is a true martial artist.
Mark: Thank you for that.
Bobby: I know you mentioned the project you can’t talk about just yet, but is there anything you have coming up you can talk about?
Mark: Oh gosh. There are some fun different shows and characters I am playing coming up and hopefully sequels to things I have already done.
Bobby: I can’t let you go without asking if there is any update on Only The Strong 2 as of yet?
Mark: Thank you for asking. I suppose yes, but nothing set in stone yet. It’s become complicated because it was with 20th Century Fox and then of our producers that wanted to move forward on it unfortunately passed away. Now his brother is in charge of the company and trying to figure out how, when and so forth.
Bobby: I greatly appreciate you as always and it has been an honor to speak with you sir.
Mark: Thank you Bobby, I appreciate it and thank you for continuing to share the arts.
Bobby: Thank you sir, that means the world to me.
One Night in Bangkok is available now on DVD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.