PRODUCTIONNOTES by screenwriter Keith W. Strandberg
by screenwriter Keith W. Strandberg

Van Damme losing his control

The first fight scene we had with Jean Claude Van Damme was the scene in the dojo at the beginning of the film, where Jason's father is teaching in the dojo, and the bad guys walk through at the end of class. JC is one of the bad guys, and he goes after the father, played by Tim Baker.

During this fight, Jean Claude jumps off the shoulder of one of the other bad guys and flying side kicks Baker in the face. The kick is a spectacular one, butunfortunately JC hit Baker in the face the first time he did it, cutting his lip and drawing blood. This hindered our filming for the rest of the night, because now Baker didn't trust JC, and didn't want to stay in there when JC was throwing kicks to his face.

It must have been tough on JC, as this was his first film, and he was excited and wanted to do a good job. Certainly, Baker would be jumping to work with him now!


Working with Korean "Bruce Lee"

The actor we hired to play Bruce Lee's ghost was an interesting guy. He had mannerisms just like Bruce's, so when he was in character, it was really eerie to watch him. He also had the biggest knuckle callus I've ever seen. He got it from hitting stones, and he was always walking around the set hitting things to keep the callus up. It was fascinating, but extremely ugly.

In the movie, Bruce Lee's ghost has a good bit of dialogue, so when I first met the actor I was very anxious to go over the dialogue, to make sure there wouldn't beany problems. The first problem was: the actor didn't speak a word of English! How, then, was he to do his dialogue? I asked. The idea we came up with was to hire a Korean dialogue coach, and construct sentences in Korean that matched the English dialogue in timing and delivery, and then dub in the English later. You should have seen Kurt's face, when he was going through a dialogue scene with "Bruce Lee" and all that's coming out of his mouth is Korean! You have to give Kurt credit, though, he came out with a great performance given the circumstances!

The idea, when it finally got down to dubbing the picture, really didn't work. You can tell the scenes where Bruce Lee has dialogue have been dubbed, and they are less effective because of that. Also, many of the sections are shorter than necessary to fit in the entire English dialogue, so a good many of the passages had to be cut drastically -- and that's where the message was being imparted. I was disappointed with that portion of the film, but on the whole the movie did incredible business. It is still one of my best known films.


Kurt not wanting to do the stunt with the rope


During one scene, Kurt was training with "Bruce Lee", and he was to put his foot in a loop of a rope hanging from the ceiling, then jump up and try to kick a bag that was also suspended from the ceiling. Kurt was supposed to miss the bag several times, falling down to the floor each time. Well, Kurt put his foot in the loop, and then balked at doing the kick, saying "It's going to hurt". Now, the Hong Kong stunt directors and fight choreographers don't have a lot of patience for American actors who refuse to do what they consider "safe" stunts.

Yuen Kuai, the director, came up to Kurt and just said, through me (he didn't speak much English), "Do it !" Kurt went back to the rope, looking at it, then shook his head. Yuen Kuai, you have to understand, came up  through the same Chinese opera school that Jackie Chan and Samo Hung came out of, and he was used to doing all sorts of things for the camera, and this was a baby stunt to him. He couldn't believe that Kurt  wouldn't do it.

It got tense in the room, and everyone was waiting to see what would happen. This shot was necessary for the scene, and neither one of them was going to budge.So, Yuen Kuai threw down his cup and put his own foot up in the loop, then jumped up and kicked the bag, then fell down heavily on the floor. He popped up immediately, looking at Kurt and saying, "See, it's not hard. Now do it !" Kurt sheepishly got right into position, and did the shot. It wasn't as hard as it looked, and he did it correctly, first time, without getting injured in any way.


Fingertip one arm pushups

In the film's training scenes, you see Kurt McKinney, who plays Jason Stillwell, doing one arm fingertip pushups. Quite a feat, huh? Well, not exactly...

First off, Kurt didn't know how to do one arm pushups, so I had to show him the correct form.Then, he tried to do it for the camera, and it just didn't have theimpact. So, Yuen Kuai, the director, decided that it would be much more effective for the pushups to be faster, and to be off two fingers. I pulled him off to the side and said, "He can't even do one arm push ups fast enough, how's he going to do this ?" Yuen Kuai just smiled and held up a piece of wire cable.

They affixed a wire to Kurt's back with a special harness, and every time he goes up and down, there are really three Chinese stunt men off screen pulling on a wire that takes him up with ease, and keeps the pressure off his fingers! He looks great doing it, doesn't he?

Why doesn't the wire show ? Because they hid it by having the trees in the background, and what wire did show they spray paint-ed white so it would blend in with the sky.



Strandberg, Keith W. No Retreat No Surrender. (April 12th, 2001).