Usually, when you hear of a live-action adaptation of any animated property, it’s time to duck and cover. There is the occasional exception, such as Transformers franchise. More often than not though, one ends up with something like Dragonball: Evolution.
Another film proving the exception to the rule is Blood: The Last Vampire. In the role of vampire killer is Korean beauty Gianna Jun (My Sassy Girlfriend). Direction is provided by Chris Nahon (Jet Li’s Kiss of the Dragon). Perhaps most importantly, the action choreography is provided by one of the “seven brothers,” Corey Yuen (some of his other brothers include Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan).
Who could put this kind of talent together? The answer is Bill Kong.
Kong made his name in Asian cinema when he was one of the producers of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which was only the third film he produced. From there, his resume has included Jet Li’s Hero and Fearless, among a dozen other titles.
Even though Blood is only getting a limited release in the U.S., Kong was more than willing to sit down and talk about adapting this classic short feature from anime legend Mamoru Oshii. Here’s what he had to say...
Newsarama: Bill, you’ve obviously done a number of costume dramas. What attracted you to Blood?
Bill Kong: You’re right. I’ve done a lot of Asian/Chinese costumed things. What happened was when I was promoting Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2002, I ran into the anime. When I first saw it, I thought it was really fantastic. I was amazed that it was only 48 minutes. It told so much story, yet I wanted to see more. It made so many things come into my mind, I knew it would be a great movie. So, really it was the opportunity to add to the story that really attracted to me.
NRAMA: Now the film is known for being produced by Mamoru Oshii. Did you deal with him at all?
BK: I only met with him after we made the movie. I showed it to him. After he saw it, he and Mitsuhisa Ishikawa [founder of Production IG] told me they really loved it. They thanked me personally for being faithful to the material. In fact, Mr. Oshii personally asked me to let him direct the sequel. I felt complimented by that.
NRAMA: Well, the opening sequence is straight from the anime.
BK: That was because it was a great scene. Right from the beginning it is such a strong film. We had to include that beginning or we would have upset too many people. The film has a really strong character. Now we did expand Blood from a 48 minute anime to a 90 minute live action movie. What I felt greatly complimented by was Mr. Oshii really liked what we put into the story.
NRAMA: Who did you work with on expanding the script?
BK: Production IG gave us a very free hand to work on the story. The guy that did the most work was Chris Chow (The Eye 3, Jet Li’s Fearless). He is an excellent young screenwriter. He did a good job. He knew we had to pay respect to the original material. It’s so easy to get away from it.
NRAMA: You did do one thing, and that was to replace the Nurse for Alice (Alison Miller).
BK: We thought the Nurse was too limited a character. We needed a character that could be expanded on to help us get that extra half-hour plus. So we thought it would be a lot more interesting to also make the heroes two different girls.
NRAMA: Was Gianna Jun your first choice for Saya?
BK: Gianna was always my first choice. In fact, we would have only done a casting call if we didn’t get Gianna. I thought of her as soon as I saw the anime. I also made her watch the anime before she accepted. I also warned her that if she wanted the role she would have to learn better English and take lessons to be an action performer. She saw the anime that night, and the next day said ‘OK. I’ll do it.’ Believe me, that was a great relief. She went on and trained for almost a year, both her English and learning how to do action. We did a ‘making of’ documentary and if you ever see it you’ll understand she put in a lot of hard work.
NRAMA: Was she trained by Corey Yuen himself?
BK: Corey trained her himself. He trained her for five months, personally. It was also the first time I ever worked with Corey.
NRAMA: How did you find working with him compared to Woo-Ping Yuen?
BK: They are the best there is, you know? Yes, they do different types of action, but both are really fantastic.
NRAMA: What made you choose Corey this time?
Gianna Jun as Saya and Koyuki as Onigen in Pathe Films' 'Blood: The Last Vampire'BK: In this film, we needed a variety of action styles. We wanted both the traditional, historic, Japanese style of action. We also have the bar scene. For the last scene, when Saya goes up against Onegin, we wanted it to be like the X-Men, because in our world Onegin is the ultimate devil. That’s three different action styles.
Now Corey worked on Lethal Weapon 4. He worked on all the Transporter movies. He also did the first X-Men movie. He is fully experienced in different styles of action directing.
NRAMA: How does it feel to see the film finally coming to the U.S.?
BK: We’re very excited. I wish I could come to the States, but I have a couple of other films I’m working on.
NRAMA: In fact, one of those films stars the late David Carradine. Was the shooting completed?
BK: The shooting was completed. It finished three or four months ago. It’s sad because David was a great man. That film is directed by Woo-Ping Yuen, and the two had worked together before, on Kill Bill. Because of that, they knew what to do before they shot the film. For them, it was like old times. We really had a great time with David. I’m really sorry to have lost him. The film will also star Michelle Yoeh and a young star who’s really coming up named Cung Le. He’s a mixed martial arts champion and you should keep an eye out for him.
The live-action Blood: The Last Vampire goes on a limited release schedule starting Friday, July 10th.