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Recent Supa-Star Mark Dacascos is a true legend, celebrated for a vast array of iconic roles in Hollywood and his martial arts prowess that has left an indelible mark on the industry.
During his panel at Supanova in Brisbane, Dacascos brought his unique blend of humour, humility, and martial arts mastery to the stage. From sharing anecdotes about working alongside Keanu Reeves in John Wick 3, to unexpected twists in his acting journey, and even his time as The Chairman on Iron Chef, Dacascos unfolded the chapters of his varied career for Supa-Fans.
EVOLUTION OF FIGHT SCENES
“Fight scenes have changed because technology has made a lot of things possible. Back when we did Double Dragon or Only the Strong, either you could do it or not or have a stunt double do it or not. So we didn’t really have many options.
“When I did my first butterfly twist, which is that move where both legs go up and then once the second leg goes up, you wrap a twist. Boom. I had seen Jet Li do that move in Shaolin Temple and I thought it was amazing. I wanted to do it, but we didn’t have YouTube back then, so I couldn’t look it up. I just saw the movie a few times, had it in my head and then practised for six months straight before I made it the first time, and it was such a great feeling. Now you have the generation after me doing doubles, and some are trying triples. All that plus wire pulling and computer graphics. Hence, you have the Marvel movies.
“I love the present action, but having said that, I also love the old school where what you see is what they actually did, and I think that’s timeless. I still watch Enter the Dragon, and I’m going, ‘That’s Bruce!’ Or, ‘That’s Jackie Chan!’ I love it because they’re really doing it.”
COLLABORATING WITH KEANU REEVES IN ‘JOHN WICK 3’
“I was with Keanu Reeves for three months, and he’s number one on the cast list. He’s leading the show. He’s working more than anyone. And I’m so relieved to say that in my experience, from beginning to end, he was kind, collaborative, humble, funny, intense, and freaking tough.”
IRON CHEF AND CULINARY “SURPRISES”
“Iron Chef was a joy to me. The food was phenomenal. And my wife has gone to culinary school. I never went. I kick, I don’t cook! But she says I’ve become spoiled. And I think she’s right, because phenomenal chefs were cooking with the freshest ingredients right in front of us, and then we got to eat! And the great thing about my job is that I didn’t have to judge. So even after the battles, nobody was mad at me.
“One time, Chef Cosentino brought out this newspaper cone of onion rings, and I love onion rings. I love crunchy, and I love fried. He comes over, and all of a sudden, the fragrance changed to an aroma of dirty bum. He starts explaining what these onion rings are. Well, they’re fried pork sphincter rings! So, you pick it up, and it looks like an onion ring. It feels like an onion ring. It doesn’t smell like an onion ring. And then you bite into it. Apparently, some people like that. No judgment. It was rough for me!”
‘THE CROW: STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN’ AND HONOURING BRANDON LEE
“I saw The Crow, and what happened to Brandon Lee broke my heart. I checked out the comic book, which was beautiful. Cut to a few years later, they were casting for The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. I was nervous because it’s hard to get Brandon Lee out of your head when you’re reading that script. But I did my best to give it my take, at least on the audition, and I got the job.
“And then the pressure really came. Now, what do you do with 22 hours of this story? Brandon Lee was so amazing. That’s why we had the opportunity to do the series. Do you just try to imagine what he would do and imitate him? To take the pressure off and give honour to Brandon and the story, I tried to approach it from my experience, from my heart. I loved every second of it.
‘POWER RANGERS’ ORIGINS
“Two years before Power Rangers was picked up, I auditioned for a show called Bio-Man. That was the predecessor to Power Rangers. We did the pilot. One of the Rangers was Carrie Fisher’s half-sister, Tricia Leigh Fisher. The distributors really liked it, but because there was no show like it on television yet, everybody was a little reluctant to take it.
“Once anime and manga and Japanese TV became more popular in America, they got picked up. Then we have this huge success of the Power Rangers all these years later. But I was the original Red Ranger.”
MARRIAGE, EVEREST, AND THE IMPACT OF ONLY THE STRONG
“Only the Strong was my first lead role as a good guy. I was 28 years old. I’m 59 now. So it feels like a different life, but I have such fond memories. Before I married my wife, I asked her to give me one month of us being apart, where I could just hang out with a bunch of guys, and be a mountain man like Robert Redford in Jeremiah Johnson.
“I decided to go to the Himalayas. I was going to find a nontechnical trek, go as high as I can, make it really hard for myself, and thought, ‘Right, no women, just a bunch of guys talking.’ So I scheduled 30 days in the Himalayas, starting at 500ft, ending up above the camp of Mount Everest, Kala Patthar, 6000 metres plus. And lo and behold, I get there, and the other five trekkers were all married women. So for the whole time, which was actually very valuable, I got the insights of marriage from a woman’s point of view.
“And now I forgot the original question about the impact of Only the Strong. I digressed. One of the Sherpas in Nepal, he says, after a couple days of trekking, ‘You hero!’ I said, ‘Uh, no. Just Mark.’ And he said, ‘No, you hero. Only the Strong man!’ So even in Nepal it resonated with people. And now it’s really cool because I go to different places and there’s capoeira schools all over the place.”
INJURIES IN THE INDUSTRY
“Oh, I’ve had a couple! I had one injury on Drive, because the budget was so small we couldn’t use phony clubs. We had these clubs with little spikes, so they were real, and there’s one move where I go, pop, and I do a little block. The stuntman wasn’t supposed to let go, but I think I probably hit too hard and the club went flying and, bam, it hit me in the head, cut me open, blood. I go to the hospital. Eight stitches later, I came back and we had a dialogue scene the following day, and they had to place the cameras to hide the wound.
“I came into John Wick with a broken finger. I was working with my kids on real fighting. One of them blocked really hard, broke my finger, but I didn’t know it. That was four months prior to me going to John Wick. I didn’t get it fixed because I figure, ‘I’m 59, everything hurts. It’s normal now, right?’ My wife made me go to the doctor, and because I’d waited so long to get it checked, they had to cut it open and put two rods in there to straighten it out.
“Then we do the motorcycle scene, right? And the director could have easily gotten away with just having a stunt guy do my part because I’m wearing a helmet, but no, he wanted the energy of me being there with Keanu, so no problem. I did that whole fight scene on the motorcycle like that, and I’d just had the rods taken out.
“There’s one move where I come in and Keanu grabs my hand and slams it on the handlebar. We’re doing the scene, he grabs me, and we have helmets on. He smacks my hand on the handlebar, but nobody can see that. I think he rebroke it, and that’s why it still doesn’t bend. But I’m happy. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of that.”
Lead Image: Mark Dacascos on stage at Supanova 2023 – Brisbane. Photo by James Presneill (Fotomerchant)