NB: This interview was originally done way back in the early 2000s, so stuff like contact info is probably not accurate any longer.
In an act of almost mediaeval torture, a series of grueling, torturous questions were put to Steve Wang, who rose to the challenge of answering them and went above and beyond the call of duty in dispelling the deepest (and not-so-deep) mysteries of Kung Fu Rascals for your reading pleasure. Read on, and enjoy-- and as always, thanks Steve for your answers!
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN INTO FILM?
I started making super 8 films at the age of 18. My first film was Kung Fu Rascals : "Monster Beach Party", or "what's love got to do with it." I did it to prove to a filmmaker friend of mine that I could make a film too.
I really wanted to know what the big deal was. At the time when I made Monster Beach Party, I had no interest or aspirations to be a filmmaker. After 6 months of pure hell, I realize why most people talk about making films but never do it. I, on the other hand, got bit by the bug and wanted to do more.
WHAT OTHER PROJECTS HAVE YOU WORKED ON THAT ARE PUBLICALLY AVAILABLE?
I've directed 4 full-length feature films to date. They are: Kung Fu Rascals, The Guyver, Guyver 2: Dark Hero, and Drive. I've done some short films, 2nd unit on other films and promo stuff, but none of them are commercially available.
I also have been doing makeup effects for about 18 years, 13 of which are in L.A. You can see my work in films such as Predator, Batman Returns, Alien Resurrection and Devil's advocate.
IF YOU CAN TALK ABOUT IT, ARE YOU WORKING ON ANYTHING NEW RIGHT NOW?
I co-wrote a script with Scott Phillips (Drive) for Steven Seagal called "Blood on the Moon"-- an action/drama. I was supposed to direct it this year, but the project got shelved for reasons that were not made clear to me. So for now, I'm hitting the streets again.
For the last couple of years, I've been doing effects work. It pays the bills. Every year, it gets progressively harder for low budget films to get made. The market is constantly changing. Right now, it's very difficult and time consuming to get movie projects off the ground.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU'D LIKE THE WORLD TO KNOW ABOUT STEVE WANG?
I DID NOT DIRECT ‘THE DAUGHTER IN LAW'-- that's another Steve Wang. Ironically, we were both from Taiwan. Also, I am a big fan of the martial arts, sci-fi / fantasy genre and am constantly trying to make movies that the studios are afraid to make. Nothing controversial, just ideas too cool for the mainstream dirtributors but which the general public would dig, but will never see if the money guys don't open their minds to new ideas!
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO FILM KFR?
It took about 10 months-- mostly on weekends, to shoot KFR. After I wrapped principal photography, I went on to co-direct the Guyver with Screaming Mad George. The Guyver took about 8 months to complete. I took a month off after that to get married and reorganize my life, then spent the next 6-7 months to do post-production on KFR. So, all in all, it took about a year and a half.
WHAT WERE THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECTS OF PRODUCING THE FILM?
Everything was challenging. It was a project that I had to pep talk my friends into helping me. In hindsight, my friends really busted their asses for the film. Granted, a good majority of the volunteers left early in production, but a small group of "core crew"-- AKA actors-- all stuck around to finish their parts.
KFR was my first feature film. Prior to that I had shot 3 super 8 shorts. None of my previous projects were anywhere near as ambitious or as complex as KFR. I financed ½ the film with my own money and my dad loaned me the other ½. The total I spent was a little over $40,000.
Imagine having to design all the sets, the costumes, location scout, plan all the shots and props for the weekend shoot-- the list goes on-- during the shoot, when I called lunch, I had to rush to the ice chest to make sandwiches for everyone. It was nuts. Thank God I had friends who could take some of the load off me.
But the most challenging [aspect] had to be acting in the movie. I am NOT an actor nor have I ever wanted to be. I started shooting KFR as a trailer first to sell the idea to make a full length feature film. I ended up playing Chen because he really didn't have much dialogue in the trailer. But once it turned into a full feature, I got stuck playing the part. It was both scary as well as difficult because I had no one directing me. Hell, it was my first feature, I just beginning to learn how to direct!
DID YOU GUYS HAVE PREVIOUS MARTIAL ARTS EXPERIENCE, OR ARE THE FIGHT SCENES JUST EXTREMELY WELL CHOREOGRAPHED?
Thanks for the compliment! Johnnie Saiko (Reepo), myself, the Sheriff (Les Claypool) and one of the ninjas who keeps getting killed (Moto Hata) had previous martial arts experience. But none of us were near Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan caliber. Everyone else just faked it! Troy Fromin (Lao Ze) got the part because he didn't know martial arts.
FROM A WRITING STANDPOINT, HOW DID YOU SCRIPT THOSE INCREDIBLE FIGHT SCENES? WAS IT MOVE BY MOVE OR JUST SOMETHING LIKE "CHEN AND THE SHERIFF FIGHT?"
You are frighteningly close in your description. It was actually, "Sheriff gets ass kicked by Chen".
Much like "Atlanta Burns" from Gone with the Wind (An industry in-joke describing how a 'two word scene' could take a month to shoot and a lot of money.)
DID IT TAKE LONG TO DEVELOP THE SCRIPT FOR KFR?
As I said earlier, I was shooting the trailer first-- when I decided to turn it into a full feature, I knew that if I stopped production for a month to write, I would never be able to get my crew back. We were on a roll, so Johnnie Saiko and I spent 5 days (during the weekdays) to write the screenplay and we incorporated most of the elements into the script.
I had to drop some of the characters altogether because we couldn't get it to work within the 100 minute format. The script was actually only 30 pages and was written in short form.
The beach of the Wargod sequence was originally only 1/8th the final sequence that I ended up shooting. One of the key elements to KFR was ad-libbing. We ad-libbed quite a bit of the film.
FROM AN MAKEUP FX POINT OF VIEW, WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF PRODUCTION?
No money! What we did in KFR makeup-wise was nothing really challenging. If it was a movie with a real budget, it would actually be considered a "small" show. But because we had no money, everything became more difficult.
WHAT INSPIRED THE NAME "KUNG FU RASCALS?"
I actually wanted a name that had a ring to it, so that when you hear it, you would automatically know that it was a martial arts comedy.
Also, "rascals" is generally a term issued to juveniles, so it added a mischievous tone to the film.
CAN YOU GIVE US ANY BACKSTORY FOR THE KFR CHARACTERS? (e.g. HOW DID THE GANG FIRST GET TOGETHER?)
You'll have to wait for the TV series.
There is a back story as well as a cool setup, but I don't want to spoil it for anybody. I will say that in the TV series there are 2 more Rascals! And a better story.
So when's the TV series you ask? It'll probably be a long time from now. I want to make it right and not let some "old suit" tell me what kids like. I KNOW WHAT KIDS LIKE!
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE PREQUEL, "KUNG FU RASCALS: MONSTER BEACH PARTY?" IS THERE ANY WAY DIEHARD FANS COULD SEE IT?
It was 30 minutes long, featuring around 30 of my friends in monster masks and sneakers.
Its a very rough version, an early prototype if you will. The basic premise is that in the beginning, the Rascals destroy a town and are being chased by hostile villagers. They kick the villager's collective asses and then get arrested by the authorities. They come face to face with the Judge Regent (An old wise man type with an overly large and deformed cranium, who yells a lot too!) They are sentenced to die on Monster island and are sent on an aerial trip via the transporter, (basically they get kicked in the asses by a giant samurai type and 3 little GI Joe dolls dressed as the Rascals get tossed into the air.)
Once there, they are chased by Bondo, Messenger from hell (a furry demon with a major under bite.) The Rascals are about to lose when Chen has the obligatory flash back of when he was a kid (Me with a funky kids hairstyle and standing on my knees to look shorter). Chen remembers his uncle giving him the amulet of their God, but warns him not to summon him unless it's an emergency because he's a very busy God!
So. Chen calls for divine intervention, and the Wargod shows up via forced perspective and crunches Bondo. From that point on, which is only half the movie, an endless horde of goofy demons and mutants attack the Rascals, and it's just another day of kung fu fighting.
As far as seeing it. I'm really embarrassed to even show it. It was soooo amateurish! Although, everyone who's seen it tells me they think it's funnier than the full length feature version. Maybe if there is enough interest, I can make copies available for a small fee. I also have a lot of behind the scenes footage on the making of KFR. Again, if there is enough interest, I may edit it together and make it available to the public.
DO YOU HAVE ANY BEHIND THE SCENES STORIES ABOUT KFR YOU CAN SHARE?
It was so long ago! I shot the film from fall of '89 to summer of '90. I don't remember much of it anymore except it was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. One thing I remember is when I shot the 'sticky flypaper scene' I had to scale the wall. Everybody thought it was a camera cheat, that it was a wall panel on the floor and we just tilted the camera sideways to make it look like I was climbing. Well, the wall was real and it was around 3 ½ stories tall. It was slightly slanted so I could actually scale it.
When I came up with the scene, everybody thought I was crazy! But I told them I would be assisted by a wire to pull me up, of course it had to be a very THIN wire so the camera couldn't see it. That morning, I got there before everyone else and I actually scaled the wall without the wire just so I could get over the fear of falling 3 ½ stories.
It got hairy at one point, [I] almost didn't make it, but I did finally reach the top. When we did the scene later that morning, it was obvious to the crew that I did not fear death! Ha ha ha...
IF YOU WERE ABLE TO DO A KFR SEQUEL, CAN YOU GIVE AWAY ANY TEASERS AS TO WHAT IT MIGHT INVOLVE?
I really don't want to say too much, because there may never be another KFR. It really depends on the future climate of the film industry, e.g. can I find someone to finance it?
But I will say that if there is a sequel, it'll probably involve the Su-Warriors. What are the Su-Warriors you ask? Bambooman was once a Su-Warrior. That’s all I can say.
ARE THERE ANY IN-JOKES OR REFERENCES IN KFR WE SHOULD LOOK OUT FOR? (WE'VE CAUGHT THE MONSTER ISLAND/BLOOD TOWN/? SIGN)
There was another sign that read "valley of the Yoko Onis". The Onis are Japanese demons. It depends on which version of the film you saw.
(In the 90 minute version, the one that is on an orange box with Chen and Lao dressed alike, the whole attack of the Yoko Onis was deleted from the film. You have to see the original Filmthreat video guide version to see KFR in its entirety. The original version also does not have the scrolling narration in the beginning. It had a darker and cooler opening.)
In the scene with the old wise guy, when Chen passes a casket, a little creature hand comes out and scratches the lid. That was an actual functioning hand from Gremlins 2. Also, in the beginning of Lao's torture scene-- when he was looking around at all the stuff around him-- there is a shot of a tribal looking face on a stick. That was an actual Waponi torch from Joe versus the Volcano.
WHY WAS THERE NO SHOWDOWN WITH THE BAMBOOMAN AT THE END OF THE FILM?
A showdown with the Bambooman was actually filmed but never used.
Again, once we got out of trailer mode and into feature mode, I decided it would be best to leave the film open for a sequel. According to the film, (at least on my original version) the end of the film is really only the beginning of their quest for the power most big!
Many people thought that Meta Spartan was the power most big-- he is not. He's only a guardian that will accompany the Rascals on their journey. The final showdown with the Bambooman will come at the end of their journey.
IS THERE A REASON WHY META-SPARTAN'S NAME CHANGED TO NEO-SPARTAN IN THE END NARRATIVE?
I would have to speculate that you have the short version of the film, the one with the opening and end narration. I really have not seen that version in its entirety, nor did I approve of it.
Once I sold the film to York Home Video, the geniuses there decided they were going to do their version of the film. Of course, they did not inform me of such-- I found out after it was done. So it was a mistake they had made. They really did not understand what they were doing.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE PARTS OF KFR?
The parts I'm not in.
IF KFR COULD BE RE-DONE, WOULD YOU CHANGE ANYTHING?
Yes. But I don't think it would be the same movie that everyone likes.
WERE THERE ANY SCENES CUT FROM KFR OR WERE THERE ANY SCENES YOU WOULD HAVE LIKED TO INSERT?
There was an extended segment when the 2 Wargods clashed on the beach. Nio Titan used the snake style of Kung Fu and Meta Spartan used Drunken style. In the final version, you could see Meta Spartan strike the Drunken stance, but most of the snake style stuff was cut.
To be honest, in my original version, I would have liked to cut another 5 to 10 minutes out of the film.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE KFR CAST MEMBERS UP TO NOW? (HAVE ANY OF THEM GONE ONTO OTHER PROJECTS WE COULD LOOK OUT FOR?)
I've lost touch with Troy Fromin (Lao) so I don't know what he's been up to. But I do know he was in Return of the Living Dead 3 and Kill, Kill, Overkill (distributed by York home video).
Ted Smith (Dar-ling) is in Guyver, Guyver2 and Drive, which will be out on video in August.
Johnnie Saiko (Reepo) was in Rollerblade Warriors: Taken by Force as well as Cleve Hall (Old wise Guy)
DO YOU HAVE AN ADDRESS FOR FAN MAIL, OR OTHER SUCH CORRESPONDENCE THAT MAT BE MADE PUBLICALLY AVAILABLE?
All fan mail can be addressed to:
I will do my best to forward them to the addressee.
DO YOU HAVE INFORMATION ON WHERE KFR CAN BE ORDERED DIRECTLY?
I believe I came across some websites that sold it. That's all I know.
DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR ASPIRING FILMMAKERS?
If you want to make movies, do it! and do it while you are young!
Once I got married and had kids it just got harder to do anything. The only time I can justify making movies or anything for that matter, was if I got paid. I'm actually toying with the idea of making another home movie. We'll see what happens...
Also, If anyone out there wants to see me make another Kung Fu Rascals- with better everything and twice as funny-- soon-- HELP ME RAISE THE MONEY!
IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE FILTHY RICH, WHO JUST DOESN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THEIR G'MILLIONS, FINANCE MY FILMS! I GUARANTEE THEY WILL MAKE A PROFIT! I HAVE A GOOD TRACK RECORD-- ALL MY FILMS HAVE TURNED A PROFIT!