It's a new generation for the genre, far more different than the glory days it saw earlier in the last four decades, but the love for the craft is still there as well as the fandom, and the continued growth of the connectivity of the audience. U.K. choreographer/actor Mike Fury is no stranger to the voices among the crowd, being a fan himself and having spent close to five years in the field both in front and behind the camera, and now, he's has taken to his new book, Life Of Action, three years in the making with a ton of insightful interviews with some of the most notable action movie professionals in film history.
Mike Fury: I’d love for action cinema fans to become better acquainted with their favourite films and the people who make them happen. There’s a whole world that goes on behind-the-scenes delivering even just a single fight or sequence and, as with most subjects, I believe you appreciate more when you know what went into it. Plus, it just adds to your overall understanding of the art form – whether that’s acting, directing, martial arts, stunts or anything else. I love this stuff and having heard some great stories and anecdotes from friends in the business, I thought it would be fun to chat with them and gain some insight into their work, how they got to where they are, what drives them, and so on. I also felt it was a slightly different way of looking at the action genre and I don’t believe it’s been done before. (PHOTO: I Am Soldier - 2013, CREDIT: Topher McGrillis)
MF: I knew there would be a lot of work involved but what made it easier was approaching each person one by one and kind of segmenting the process. There was a lot of research, re-watching films I hadn't seen for a while, extra reading and making sure I was on top of what I wanted to talk about. Preparation goes a long way. At the same time it's not about me jabbering away to them. My approach with interviews has always been to let them open up and discuss things. I think the conversation is more interesting this way.
MF: Tracking down a few people was tricky but I found the biggest hurdles, by far, were the logistical things like sourcing images, contacting studios and companies to get release forms signed. Not the most fun part but still very important. I was doing pretty much everything myself without a big publishing company behind me so it was a long process at times. I found it very similar to working on an indie film - you don't have the luxury of all the resources or support you might like but you try your best regardless.
|PHOTO: The Thompsons - 2012 with Mark Strange, CREDIT: Mike Oakley|
MF: I'm basically a fan of everyone in the book so it was surreal at times. Some were friends I knew beforehand and others I was speaking to for the first time. I was just fortunate to have the platform of this book to start a conversation and I'm genuinely so grateful they agreed to be a part of it. Everyone brought something different to the table and I tried to get an eclectic mix.
MF: I'm a huge movie geek spanning many, many genres. But of course, much like yourself, I'm sure action ranks pretty high on the list! I love both old and new films but I do feel something's missing from a lot of the newer, mainstream action movies I see. My favourite director is Walter Hill and I suppose his style and sensibilities most reflect what I love about quality action cinema. He builds tension and drama, utilities interesting characters, dialogue, settings and then pays off with epic physical action. In a world of PG-13 action movies, you need to go back and see how these guys did it in their heyday and delivered the goods every time. Or go and revisit the likes of First Blood or Predator for the exact same principles. There's a depth, substance and overall likability in there which, I feel, is lacking in a lot of today's mainstream action films. Fortunately we have guys like Isaac Florentine, John Hyams and William Kaufman delivering real, grown up action which is true to itself. Gareth Evans is doing amazing work too, taking the genre back to its core. I hope these filmmakers get more opportunities and the big studios take note.
MF: My absolute favourite film is The Warriors from 1979. There are so many layers: it's a dramatic action film and has a gripping story, but there are also wonderful characters, costumes, fight scenes, music and memorable dialogue. It's timeless. Other favourites include Rocky, First Blood, Fist of Fury, A Better Tomorrow, Predator and many more. Outside the action genre there's Taxi Driver, Easy Rider, Midnight Express... too many to list! (PHOTO: Mike with action director Joey Ansah on the set of Green Street 3 - 2013, CREDIT: Leon MacFarlane)
MF: When you spend any long period of time on a passion project, it definitely becomes personal. I just hope that action fans enjoy the results! As for my own film work, I can't put myself anywhere on the same level as the guys in the book but I've had the chance to work on a few films and I'm very grateful for that. It's definitely confirmed to me that their knowledge, experience and stories are very valid, not just for curious fans, but also those hoping to follow a career in this field.
MF: I personally find a lot of the interviews really inspiring. The sheer hard work and perseverance it takes to get to a high level in just about anything shouldn't be taken lightly. I also feel there are good life lessons like sticking to your guns and maintaining integrity which are hugely important when you embark on any journey. As well as movie fans, I know young action actors and filmmakers have taken an interest in the book so I hope it can inspire them as well.
MF: I can say for sure there will be a Life of Action 2! There are many people I didn’t get a chance to speak to or simply couldn’t get access to this time around, so that will be next on the cards. I also have a couple of other book projects in mind as I’ve really enjoyed the process. I hope action fans enjoy reading it and get a kick out of celebrating the genre we all love!