How Tekken cast real martial artists as its stars

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Kelly Wagner, casting director for the movie adaptation of the video game Tekken, told SCI FI Wire that she sought actors who could legitimately fight and also act.

"One of the most frustrating things is when you're watching a movie, and it's so obvious that your actor's not doing the physicality," Wagner said in a phone interview last week.

The lead, Jon Foo, comes from Thai martial-arts cinema. Foo plays Jin Kazama, the young fighter who could bring down the Tekken corporation.

"We found him in Thailand," Wagner said. "I think he found us. He sent us a tape, and, honestly, on a lot of mainstream movies that are just run-of-the-mill horror movies or Hollywood movies, there's not a lot of time to sit around and look at all the tapes that people send in. On a movie like that, we had to. People from around the world were sending us tapes, and we took that very seriously, because we didn't know where we were going to find this guy. There didn't need to be a precedent to who he was before. He didn't need to be a name. He just needed to be right for the role. So John Foo sent a tape in from Thailand that he had filmed of himself, and then we flew him out here for a screen test."

For some of the supporting roles, fighting trumped acting, but Foo had to be a black belt in both. "We used a lot of real martial artists in that," Wagner said. "We used Cung Le, who's a UFC fighter. We used a bunch of martial artists that didn't need to have as much of acting roles as they did, but our lead, Jin, had to be able to do both. That movie was pretty tough to cast because there was a good five or six roles. The leading roles needed to be really stellar actors, because it's a drama piece, but at the same time, we wanted to find people who could legitimately do their martial arts."

Tekken is scheduled for release later in the year.