Lewis Tan on Coaching Muay Thai and Stepping Into the World of ‘Mortal Kombat’

Martial-artist-turned-movie star Lewis Tan has carried out stunts in a few of the largest blockbusters up to now. You’ll catch him within the upcoming Mortal Kombat reboot, enjoying an MMA brawler by the identify of Cole Younger. It’s a new character that wasn’t within the authentic hit online game sequence, however one he was seemingly born to play. Why? He’s the son of a legendary stuntman and Muay Thai champion. His {qualifications} aren’t purely hereditary, although. He’s studied the martial arts since he was younger, and made memorable turns in revered motion sequence like Wu Assassins and Into the Badlands. However these credit didn’t imply he stepped into the function and not using a little hesitation.

“I knew saying sure meant it was my job to point out that Cole was worthy of being a part of this iconic franchise,” Tan says over Zoom from Bangkok. “Not solely that, however I needed to show to the followers I used to be worthy of enjoying him—standing shoulder to shoulder with these acquainted fighters.”

That duty fueled Tan via his preparation. Additional proving director Simon McQuoid picked the appropriate man: Tan’s first order of enterprise after wrapping the film was touring to a Muay Thai coaching camp on Thailand’s Koh Samui. Males’s Journal spoke with the action-star-on-the-rise about his martial arts background, health routines, and stepping contained in the legendary online game universe. Take heed to the total interview by way of our podcast, One on One, down beneath.

Lewis Tan stands shirtless in a fighting stance as Cole Young in 'Mortal Kombat'
Warner Bros./Mark Rogers

How acquainted had been you with Mortal Kombat earlier than you bought linked to the film challenge?

I picked up Mortal Kombat once more as soon as I acquired the function, however was already conversant in it due to my earlier years. I’ve three youthful brothers, in order that meant a home filled with boys. We had been drawn to all of the combating video games—beating my brothers at residence and enjoying it in arcades. My father was additionally a champion martial artist and a battle choreographer for lots of massive films. We had martial artwork pads within the yard. I should have spent hundreds of hours with [the game]. Now I do know that point wasn’t wasted.

Little do you know it was analysis for a future function. What character did you often play with?

I performed all of the ninjas, so Scorpion and Sub- Zero. I additionally favored Smoke, Kung Lao, and Liu Cling. Then issues modified a bit bit when Trilogy got here out with all of the robots. Mortal Kombat has all the pieces. I keep in mind once I first acquired the script for the film, I might see they’d this nice world to construct on—form of like a darker Marvel Universe. The R-rated model of what Marvel is—much less CGI, extra sensible stunts, and true martial arts.

How previous had been you while you began coaching martial arts?

My father was a Taekwondo champion, then went on to win the British nationwide Muay Thai championship. So these had been the primary kinds I began to study once I was 5 or 6 years previous. I attempted out just a few different kinds as I acquired older like jiu jitsu, some weapons work, and judo. I finally began to focus solely on kickboxing and Muay Thai. I competed in some newbie circuits at totally different gyms in Los Angeles. They’re known as smoker classes the place you do three, three-minute rounds. As soon as I began my movie profession, I used to be lucky sufficient to start out studying from all these totally different masters—like Iko Uwais from The Raid, arguably the perfect martial arts film of present day, and Andy Cheng and Grasp Dee throughout Into The Badlands. They’ve a few of the greatest credit on the planet, working with [actors like] Jackie Chan and tasks like Kill Invoice and The Matrix. These had been all rising experiences, and I’m nonetheless rising.

Is there one fashion you end up going again to and feeling essentially the most comfy with?

Muay Thai, no query. I’m 6’2”. I’ve these long-ass legs and arms, so I feel it’s a great match for me. It’s important to discover what’s good for you, and the place you will have the benefit, then construct from there.

What had been your first ideas about enjoying a brand new character?

I used to be scared, man. I didn’t wish to be the man who tousled Mortal Kombat. At this level of my profession, I’ve made good calls. This can be a enormous franchise, and an extremely alternative. However enjoying a brand new character is loads of strain, and loads of weight on my shoulders. I met with the director, and he performed me a few of the soundtrack they had been engaged on from Benjamin Wallfisch. I used to be blown away. I talked with him in regards to the authenticity of the martial arts parts and the way he was going go movie it. I needed to listen to about all of that earlier than I signed on. As soon as it turned clear he was going to do it proper, I used to be excited. After which I used to be hit with the very fact I used to be going to should compete with these characters which are so nicely established and beloved. That introduced some nerves. After which I assumed, fuck it. I do know martial arts. I can convey one thing particular to this movie. Every time I’m fearful of one thing, that’s a great indication I ought to be doing it.

What had been you doing while you acquired the decision confirming you bought the gig?

I used to be within the fitness center sparring. I answered the telephone with wraps on my palms and no shirt. I feel he was a bit greatly surprised. However possibly that’s when he realized how a lot the martial arts are part of my life.

How did you create Cole’s combating fashion?

He begins off as an MMA fighter, which suggests loads of hanging and floor sport. However as soon as Cole goes on his journey, he begins to study some new expertise. There have been some weapons I hadn’t used earlier than. I really like a great problem, so I used to be excited. I had a few month between once I came upon I acquired the function to after we began filming. Regardless, preparing for this isn’t one thing you are able to do in only a few weeks. There’s no battle double. That’s 100 p.c me each single day, each single second. I’ve been coaching exhausting for 20 years, so I didn’t should do something particular. I had all of the motivation I wanted. Up till this level, I’ve solely been the lead in tv and accomplished some small elements in large films. That was in my head as nicely. Not only for myself, however as an Asian actor. There’s no selection however for me to be the perfect I will be. This isn’t a time for me to be lazy. We don’t get these alternatives typically.

Actor Lewis Tan grapples with another fighter in 'Mortal Kombat' movie
Warner Bros./Mark Rogers

Outdoors of martial arts, what does your coaching seem like?

I do loads of rope skipping. I’ve a weights routine, in addition to a full-body calisthenics and plyometrics program. After I’m doing a combating function, I don’t wish to be too large and too jacked. I don’t suppose that’s the appropriate search for me. I can placed on muscle, however it’s extra essential for me to have the ability to transfer, be highly effective, and be exact. I prepare for endurance, and I be certain that to combine it up. I’ll do hill sprints, leap rope, rounds on the bag, and rounds with a sparring associate. For the burden coaching, I’l have random heavy days, however for essentially the most half I’m doing medium weight. I goal to do 12 to 15 reps of no matter train I’m doing whether or not it’s deadlift or bench press. I’ll by no means carry any weight I can solely do two or three reps with, as a result of that doesn’t assist me for what I wish to do.

Had been you completely spent after a days on set?

This was the toughest challenge I’ve ever accomplished. I used to be usually sore throughout after our working days. There’s a battle towards the top that I feel was someplace round 180 totally different beats of battle choreography. And we did that for six or seven days straight. There wasn’t loads of dialogue in any respect, simply combating for 12 hours a day. There have been loads of ice packs, followers, electrolyte drinks, and nutritional vitamins. You lose a lot water and salt throughout these sequences. To not point out a few of the guys I’m combating are carrying these loopy outfits, so once I’m blocking them, their steel armor and spikes are digging into my pores and skin. I acquired ripped within the arms and ripped within the neck. I perceive why loads of motion films don’t do their battle sequences in lengthy takes. Initially, many of the actors don’t really know these combating kinds—and even if you happen to do, it’s so exhausting to coordinate each component. So I get it. However while you get it good, it seems to be particular, and that’s what we needed.

I nonetheless hit the fitness center whereas we had been making the film, despite the fact that filming was very demanding. I did two days per week, with someday absolutely dedicated to restoration. Throughout that day I might see do cryotherapy, magnesium salt baths, and see a bodily therapist, who was all the time stunned at how a lot harm I’d accomplished to my physique. There was a bench press on set. We’d must do a scene and look over to see Sonya Blade pumping away. I’d be like, ‘Alright, your biceps look good. Can we movie now?’ ”

Did you are taking any dietary supplements to enhance the exercises?

On set I’ll take amino acids, BCAAs, and magnesium. I lack a few of these minerals that stop you from getting stiff. That helps lots while you’re filming motion reveals. For Mortal Kombat, I had a protein isolate I used three or 4 occasions per week. It may be a pleasant factor to have obtainable while you’re on the transfer—like after we’re on set and also you don’t essentially wish to eat a meal, then should battle or run round.

What was it wish to see everybody in full costume?

Joe [Taslim] and I are actually shut pals. He’s not simply an unimaginable actor, but in addition an unimaginable martial artist. The primary time I noticed him within the Sub-Zero costume I used to be similar to, ‘Holy shit.’ His physique language when he was within the outfit simply remodeled; it was actually unimaginable. Hiroyuki Sanada, who performs Scorpion, is a consummate skilled and doesn’t actually goof round on set. He was very critical, and I feel that works nicely for the character, as a result of when he’s there, issues get intense. That’s why the film goes to be so nice, as a result of the fellows they acquired for these roles are simply unmatched. Everyone seems to be taking these characters to new depths. That’s what this franchise wanted.

There’s a fairly brutal MMA battle we see within the trailer. What was it like filming these scenes?

The identify of the man I’m combating in that scene is Ian Streetz. He was knowledgeable Lethwei fighter, it’s a method of martial arts from Myanmar—like Muay Thai with out gloves. They only put wraps on their palms, and also you’re allowed to headbutt. You’re additionally not allowed to win by submission. You’ll be able to solely win by knocking the opposite individual out. He’s an incredible fighter, and we went in on one another fairly exhausting. By the top we had been each beat up and bruised.

Did you watch any UFC fighters and research anybody’s fashion particularly?

I took a bit inspiration from just a few of the UFC guys. I’d say most significantly Jorge Masvidal. He reached out to say he was a fan of the sport and advised me to hit him up if I wanted something. That flying knee knockout he acquired on Ben Askren was epic, and proper earlier than that match began he leaned up in opposition to the cage very casually, like he was chilling. I straight up jacked that from him. I do this within the early scene the place I battle Ian Streetz.

How have you ever loved enjoying the sport since you bought the function?

We really performed it on set. Joe Taslim is definitely actually good. He would play as his character, Sub-Zero, and I performed as Kung Lao. He’d simply beat everybody, so I began to get pissed off and needed to step away a bit bit. I hate shedding. I’m secretly coaching now, and as soon as I get higher I’m going to problem him once more. Taking part in the sport helped me get via quarantine whereas we had been filming really. I used to be in quarantine at my lodge, enjoying Mortal Kombat, in order that I might end the film.

You’re coaching Muay Thai whereas in Thailand. What’s it like to coach on the mecca?

Going to Thailand to coach is definitely a part of a ritual I’ve. Usually after I end a film I am going to this a part of Thailand known as Koh Samui. I’m there just about each December, and I prepare at a coaching camp known as Lamai Muay Thai. It’s precisely the way you’d image a fitness center on an island. There’s no air-con, no fancy Equinox towels, or lotions. It’s sizzling, it’s sweaty, and it’s filled with actual fighters. They’ve baggage throughout the fitness center. You do your work, then you definately go to the seaside to eat a coconut. There are loads of fighters who fly in from all around the world to review and stay there on the premises. They get a cot—nothing fancy—however they get to stay and work there without cost, and do fights at night time the place they provide a part of the purse to the fitness center. That’s the form of coaching expertise you need. I imagine the grit from these exercises goes into your fashion. I introduced that into what I did within the movie.

How did it really feel to look at the film for the primary time?

The model I noticed wasn’t actually accomplished, however it’s nonetheless exhausting to explain the way it felt. I used to be speechless for just a few days. I feel all of us had been. I’m watching one thing iconic, but in addition iconic for me and Asian folks. My father began with Warner Bros., as many individuals know, and to be part of this movie felt like a little bit of a full-circle second.

Would you do a sequel?

I might do one other one in a second, however it must be with the identical folks and the identical director. Regardless of the very fact he hasn’t made his personal film earlier than this, he couldn’t be extra calm or ready. I feel he’s a genius. The forged and I’ve gotten very shut as nicely. All of us went on this loopy journey collectively. We beat the shit out of one another and almost killed one another.

Mortal Kombat premieres in theaters and on HBOMax on April 23rd.


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