If you've read our review of Marvel's Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings, you'd know we're fans of what was done with the movie. From a great plot, killer martial arts moves, and an origin story done right, it's got everything an action movie could need.
Interview with the Cast of Marvel's Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings
I recently was able to interview several cast as well as director Destin Daniel Cretton and President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige during the press conference for Marvel's Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings. and learn more about what it takes to bring a film like this from inception to the big screen.
Moderated by comedian and actor Ronny Chieng (who also plays Jon Jon in Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings), we had a rockstar set of talent for our Shang-Chi interviews:
- Simu Liu (“Shang-Chi”)
- Awkwafina (“Katy”)
- Meng'er Zhang (“Xialing”)
- Destin Daniel Cretton (Director)
- Kevin Feige (Producer)
- Sir Ben Kingsley (“Trevor Slattery”)
Interview with the Cast of Marvel's Shang-Chi: Big Risks, Getting Physical, Casting by Tweets, and more
What is the biggest risk you've faced in building the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Kevin: The biggest risk, which seems outrageous to say now, was casting Robert Downey, Jr. It was both the biggest risk and the biggest, the most important thing in the founding of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Without Robert, we wouldn’t be sitting here today. I really believe that.
He was an amazing actor. Everybody knew he was an amazing actor, but he hadn’t been an action star. He wasn’t a marquis star, necessarily
And we quickly realized the risk—I’ve said this before—was not casting him. And Jon Favreau really had that vision for that movie, and for Robert in that role, and that decision, and the success of that decision, I think, empowered us with further risks and further choices.
Getting physical for stunts in Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings
Awkwafina learned to drift and shoot arrows for the role of Katy
Awkwafina: I actually went to a race track and learned how to drift. Which is really fun, right? Probably not practical in any scenario, like in any kind of traffic, right. But yeah. And then I learned how to shoot a bow and arrow.
Simu has a background in stunts…and he brought that to his audition
Destin: He did a backflip into the Black Widow kneel pose, hair flip up, looking straight into the camera as the closer for his first audition.
With such a star-studded cast, what was it like working with on-screen legends like Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh, Sir Ben Kingsley?
Simu: It was like imposter syndrome every single. Truly, it was such a treat, and it was all I could do just not to mess it up. When I was first cast, I did my final screen test with Nora, and she did such a wonderful job of putting me at ease.
My nerves were sky-high. I was an actor from Toronto, and I really had never allowed myself to imagine being a part of the MCU. It’s the craziest dream that someone can possibly dream.
In the past Destin, you worked with at-risk teens. Does that experience inform your storytelling process?
Destin: That job affected my entire life, my worldview. I feel like the stories that I am drawn to are a combination of humor, optimism [while] also not shying away from the very real darkness and pain that we all experience as humans. I think this movie really does encapsulate a lot of the things that I really believe in.
<h3What was it about the character of Shang-Chi and his world that intrigued you and made you want to tell his story? Did your friend Ryan Coogler have any advice for your entrance to the MCU?
Destin: I personally connect with Shang-Chi’s journey. I love that this is a superhero that doesn’t get splashed with chemicals to get his superpower, that this is a journey of self-discovery, of growing up, of learning how to finally deal with pain that he’s been running away from his entire life.
And that when he is finally able to look inside into his past and embrace good, bad, the joy, the pain, and accept it all as a part of himself, that’s when he finally steps into his big boy shoes. I think that’s kind of what we’re all doing as humans in some way or another. I really connect with that.
I did have a conversation with Ryan Coogler, and I was scared of stepping into a big studio movie like this, and I was scared of what it might do to me. I had a lot of fears. The thing that Ryan said to me, which really eased my mind, was, ‘The pressure is hard. It’ll be the hardest thing potentially that you have done up to this point, but none of that pressure or none of those complications come from the people that you’re working with or for.'
And that’s what I found. This is a very special place to work, where, not to toot Kevin’s horn, but there is an environment of curiosity, of exploration, that comes from the top down. There is no fear-based mentality in his studio, which has really allowed us to take risks and chances and be able to instill that same fearless exploration with everybody involved in this film, and I think that’s a huge reason that the movie turned out the way that it did.
We all want to know…Simu tweeted to Marvel Studios about Shang-Chi. Is that how Simu was cast? Kevin, is that how we should try to get on your radar?
Simu: I would love for Kevin to answer this because you think when you tweet at Marvel it’s going to some 19-year-old intern with acne…
Awkwafina: If even.
Simu: No one is going to read it. No one cares what I have to say. But maybe they did.
Kevin: Unfortunately Simu, it was not your tweeting. It was your acting ability, your constant professionalism, and then multiple reads and meetings that you did that got you the job.
Dang, I guess tweeting @MarvelStudios won't get us hired.
Sir Ben, on the role of Trevor Slattery: You portray a character who has portrayed another character in the past. Can you share how you developed the character and from where you drew your inspiration?
Sir Ben: Kevin came to my house in Oxfordshire to introduce me to the idea that I was playing two entirely different personalities—an actor portraying a master villain, as he put it to me so delicately—and I was so intrigued by that I joined the team gladly.
I did get very fond of Trevor. He has his vulnerabilities. He has his history. He has his issues, and I think he found in himself perhaps moments of empathy and kindness; I think basically he’s a very kind man. I think that shows in our lovely scenes with Nora. There’s a wisdom that he doesn’t believe he has that he does have.
I did base him on one or two colleagues that I have worked with very early on in my career. He’s a composite of several people that I have met along the way and to whom I’m eternally grateful.
I enjoyed working in this film and Iron Man 3 because it is all about potential, and it is about finding the original self that we were born with that gets distorted and tarnished, and then you do this amazing journey, and you get back to your original self.
Meng'er, you were so natural in your debut film. What was it like working on Shang-Chi coming from a theater background? Did Sir Ben give you any tips?
Meng'er: I have been so lucky to work with all of them and Sir Ben, I asked him a lot of questions on set. He said, ‘When we are on stage, we are landscape artists. And when we are in front of a camera, we are portrait artists.' And I think that just gave me a very clear image. I literally took notes every time I talked to Sir Ben.
When we were doing stunts, it was so different from stage acting. I remember the makeup team doing the final touch on my fringe to make sure everything’s perfect. Some people came to tell me there will be some wind, a little bit of water, and so I’m like, ‘Okay. I’m ready.' I'm in character, and ‘Three, two, one, action!,' and the wind was like, ‘Whooosh.'