It seems like in the last few years, there has been a boom of mainstream shows and movies that center around martial arts that star Asian actors, including HBO Max’s “Warrior,” The CW’s “Kung Fu,” Netflix’s “Wu Assassins,” “Mortal Kombat” and the upcoming “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” to name a few. For “Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins,” the latest edition to this list, the cast feels honored to be a part of this change in Hollywood that is giving proper representation to these stories featuring this art form.
In this soft reboot of the “G.I. Joe” film franchise, “Crazy Rich Asians” heartthrob Henry Golding, plays the titular Snake Eyes, a mysterious fighter who is welcomed into and trained by the Arashikage clan, but finds his loyalties tested when secrets from his past are revealed. As another blockbuster adaptation, the movie is hardly meant to be a page-by-page reflection of the original. “We want to do justice to the G.I. Joe franchise, [to] Larry Hama of course, but also at the same time we wanted to modernize it,” Golding explained. “To still pay respects to that but also move it to this newer generation of fans was really important.”
Part of that update was having the film center primarily around Asian characters in an Asian setting. With “Snake Eyes,” there is hope that the days of “The Last Samurai” and “Iron Fist” are gone, as the movie’s producers made the conscious decision to cast Golding instead of continuing the comics’ depictions of a white man learning the ways of martial arts. It offers hope to the Asian community that these are stories that will accurately represent them.
Andrew Koji agreed with this sentiment and did additional research for the role. “If I wanted to play Storm Shadow, I wanted [to do it] right,” Koji said after describing his childhood habit of pushing his Japanese heritage away. “Asian kids growing up who are going to watch this … I wanted them to be proud and feel like they’re seen and heard and hopefully empowered. That’s why … I went to the basics, the foundations and the history of Japanese cinema and culture [to] learn as much as I could.”
There’s a fine line between honoring the craft and playing into a stereotype, but the cast tries to pay tribute to the art as authentically as possible. The cast had the pleasure of working with legendary stunt coordinator Kenji Tanigaki, who is revered as Donnie Yen’s “right-hand man,” to perfect the fight scenes in the movie. “Each character has a unique fighting style and that’s something you can’t fake,” said new character Akiko actress Haruka Abe. Baroness’ actress, Ursula Corbero also mentioned how it was easy to feel the character’s power while prepping for the film.
“I think it’s taking [back] ownership of [the martial arts genre], especially for the Asian community,” Golding concluded, discussing how the Hong Kong movies helmed by Sammo Hung, Chow Yun Fat and Jackie Chan influenced western cinema. “And to see that … taken and adapted and, for lack of a better word, stolen, I think it’s only right that we put our Asian stars at the forefront of these movies and reclaim the joy and amazement of what we can achieve.”
Watch the full interview above to hear more of what the cast of “Snake Eyes” had to say and watch the movie out now.