THE LATIN DRAGON SPEAKS: An Interview With REDEEMER Star Marko Zaror!
It's been well over a decade since Chilean martial artist and stuntman Marko Zaror transitioned his career, thus landing in our sights with his debut role in the action-packed feature, Kiltro. Billed as the first South American film of its kind, it helped put Zaror and its director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza on the map toward greatness as the two forged a path through film that would ultimately see them become festival favorites by and large.
As it stands, it's quite refreshing to add Zaror to the roster of people I can finally share my fandom with and learn from. He's done more than well for himself in becoming one of the biggest stars of the martial arts movie genre and he's grown a fanbase with an outpouring of support that still remains since his career took off while proudly bearing the nickname, "The Latin Dragon". In addition, he continues to accumulate a wealth of knowledge that further sheds light on the need for film industry growth on an international level for aspiring film workers in South America, which no less qualifies him as someone anyone on their way up should listen to, even as he, himself, never stops learning.
Marko Zaror: Hello Lee and thanks for your support! 2015 started really good for me with filming The Green Ghost in Austin, Texas and it was a really nice experience. I play the main villain and also served as fight choreographer, and I've got some amazing projects ahead. I feel healthy and I'm training good, so I'm really thankful.
MZ: I started martial arts when I was 6 years old. My mother is a Blackbelt in Karate and she used to take me when I was little, but my passion for martial arts truly began when I with my first viewing of Enter The Dragon. From then on, I understood the personal connection there was between martial arts and the direction I wanted to go in life, and I took up several styles thereafter, training in Karate, Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, Boxing, Gymnastics, etc.
It really grew my curiosity on how the human body can evolve and I then excelled into studying high-performance training, learning how athletes train to achieve more speed and power and so on, and I began applying these methods into my own training regimen.
I traveled to Mexico where I trained with José Luís Mósca and Roberto Perez. At the time, Mosca was working on home videos movies and I realized that there was a opportunity for me to contribute to the martial arts genre through film. Afterwards I then began looking into TV acting, and it was not until close to a year later that I had to make the move to Los Angeles.
When I arrived, it opened opportunities for me to begin working on stunts, and I ultimately got to work with Andy Cheng on Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's 2003 film, The Rundown. And my story continued from there.
MZ: I start with general conditioning three times a week, working on the major muscle groups to prep the body for power training. Then, I start working with more heavy weights and combining these exercises with plyometrics. After 6 weeks of this trainning, I start lowering the weights and I begin focusing more in explosive training, using elastic bands, medicine balls, and so on, as well as doing circuit training of plyometrics combined with power training to develope endurance for filming.
When you're filming a martial arts movie, sometime you need to be fighting for ten hours and be able to jump and explode and put all of your energy in, so good training is really, really important.
My diet consist mainly of tuna fish, pasta, rice, broccoli, egg whites, plenty of greens, almonds and honey. In the morning, I have a big fruit salad and I prepare my snacks so I can eat approximately every three hours.
MZ: Andy is the man! Working with him was really amazing for me as I made an effort to learn as much as I could, and he is really clear on how to push limits and make you do stunts that you never knew you could do. That experience and all those memories therin will stay with me as some of the best moments of my career. Andy's a good man and I truly admire him as a person.
That experience gave me the opportunity I needed to apply everything that I learned on the set of The Rundown in Chile. After the movie was released, I went back to produce Kiltro and take on a totally new challenge of making just the kind of action and martial arts movie in a country where this sort of thing did not exist, and it was a nice process. We first hosted a big audition to select our team and then began a six-month training program to teach how to apply martial arts choreography and performance on camera. That challenge in and of itself was also motivational for me.
MZ: Yes, we were friends since high school. He was into film and always playing with a camera and making home movies. At one point, we were given an English class assignment to make a video in English and what happened was that we teamed up and made a martial arts movie. We got an A for it! [laughs]
Ernesto and I have been friends for a long time. He moved to the U.S. when I was there working to work in the industry, and after spending time in Los Angeles, we ended up coming back to Chile to produce Kiltro. And we haven't stopped since!
MZ: It was fun! This is our first movie where I play a character who is so trapped in darkness and delirium. I think MirageMan was also a similarly troubled character, but I think my character in Redeemer goes a little further in that direction. What I liked about it, however, is that we see Pardo trying to free himself of this self-inflicted ritual and set of beliefs to essentially find the redemption and meaning he wants so badly.
MZ: The main challenge for the final fight between myself and Mosca fight was the location. There was plenty of wind, it really cold and the floor was hard as rock, and it was really hard to stay warm during the fight. It took us four-and-a-half days to film that fight due to the scene's intensity and also for the lighting.
I wanted the fights in this movie to be more realistic and raw, but without losing their sense of style. After working with Larnell and Isaac in Undisputed 3 several years ago, I tried to incorporate that experience on this movie, and after seeing the result, I'm really happy to see such a big difference made from previous work with Ernesto.
MZ: When I arrived to Mexico, Mosca invited me to train at his gym. He is from Chile but he's been in Mexico for more than 20 years. He is a martial artist and actor whose work spans between television and movies in Mexico's entertainment industry that have work in television and he was the one that gave me my first opportunity to be in a movie when I was 19. We became good friends ever since, and stayed as such even after I left to the U.S., and we always stayed in touch in the hopes that we would one day film a movie togheter. Redeemer finally gave us that opportunity.
MZ: Yes! Speaking first for myself, I believe that due to the conditions of how we make movies here in Chile with regard to really low budgets, I feel that there is much more we could do if we had the same resources used by other productions. After seeing Redeemer, I'm absolutely happy with the result, but I also know that with more money, the action, choreography, execution and overall performance can reach an even higher level, especially when there's time, more props, stunt rehearsals, etc. But at the end of the day, it's really all about doing your best and expressing your self with what you have. And I do feel that you can see the evolution in Redeemer along with with my other movies.
With regard to the industry, yes, especially with all the new and young talent there is there, kids training like athletes with access to the whole world to learn from the best, and I believe there won't be an end to this trend. Remember, I was raised from a generation that had neither YouTube nor internet. I still remember finding Bruce Lee VHS tapes at the old video stores in town.
MZ: We had an incredible time in Texas, and it was a great opportunity to work as a martial arts choreographer with really talented people and good friends! You guys will see plenty of fighting and a really fun movie. I can't really say much, but I really hope the production will start releasing more info so we can talk again!
MZ: Thats was the best!!! I really love ZAMBO DENDE, and working and seeing the sights in Bogota was amazing! The people were genuinely nice and the production was really on another level, and working again with Larnell was great. We took it to the extreme while filming and was a really intense shoot while fighting with Michelle, Tait, Esteban and Darren. It was an awesome challenge for us and I'm really looking forward for that project so I can go back to Colombia become ZAMBO DENDE for a much grander-scale project.
This is a character that really makes my career something special, everything from the message of ZAMBO, his fight against oppression and the inherent history behind this epic source material is what makes this project so powerful.
MZ: It was fun! The first rehearsal was in L.A. at 87Eleven so that was really cool. We did three ten-hour days to work on pre-viz before arriving to Colombia. Once there, the van picked us up and took us to the gym, and then after the rehearsals we stayed, worked out for an hour and all of us went out for walk around town. Two locals helped us around too, Samara and Juan! They were really nice and took good care of us. I really miss Colombia!
What really surprised me was how nice and passionate everyone was about this project. We had fun and it was very delightfuln and Nicolas is the producer and creator of ZAMBO. He really transmitted his passion for the project to everyone around. I love his energy!
MZ: Darren was an incredible martial artist as well as an amazing person. We did spend a good amount of time talking after the day was over, discussing work, philosophy, life, etc. We shared great levity between us. He was a good friend, and we had a great time working together, and those memories will always stay with me.
MZ: Yes, we talk sometimes. It would be great to fight again in another movie, and I hope the fourth film does great for Scott.
MZ: I'm working on a new project called Torus 64 which is currently in development and there are no shooting dates or names set just yet. It's really a personal project of mine and I can't speak too much about it at this time, but I will keep you posted as soon as I have more news to share. For now though, I'm just training and getting ready for whatever is next!
MZ: There's not really an industry in Chilé, per se. We are a small country and there are really small chances on making a movie that can do good business to keep it going. That's why we try and make movies that can appeal to audiences beyond our borders and be distributed around the world.
In terms of production, Chile is a great place to shoot. You have different landscapes to make any type of movies you want, from deserts and oceans to mountains, everything within only a two-hour drive, and I think we're starting to see that message get across with more people looking to film here, little by little. Nicolas Lopez is a producer and filmmaker who's been teaming up with Eli Roth and they have been doing a really good job on making films with a good budgets that can appeal to markets overseas, but we still need more. We really only ever see ONE film like this per year. It forces people to have to find different jobs because they can't fully commit to a career in this business as much as they would love to.
Mexico has a bit more of a leg up in film production than Chilé and they do have a somewhat bigger industry, but nowhere near the level of what you can see in the U.S.. They have really good tax incentives like those in Colombia who are also coming up, and I think Chilé could use this kind of momentum to really have the chance to grow a lucrative industry here so people can pay their bills and build their livelihoods through film.
MZ: Just do it! Get a camera and go play! I believe that it's all about passion first and foremost. Start small, make good videos and use the internet to your advantage, build your audience as you continue to improve your craft. And also, you have to dream - Not just dream for the sake of dreaming, but dream every step of the way and enjoy that thing that you can do every day to make that dream come true.
MZ: Marko Zaror! [laughs] I know all their weaknesses points!
MZ: Great!! Thanks for all the support my friend! Stay in touch, I will keep you posted! Take care!