Hey, hey everyone,
In this episode, we discuss the action film Die Hard. We also have a cool chat with Al Leong! Al, who played the candy bar-loving thief “Uli.” Al is an actor, stuntman and all around badass. He has been in a ton of great films including Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Big Trouble in Little China and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. We talked about Die Hard, dying onscreen, beating cancer, stuntmen and Oscars and more!
You can read some of the interview below or listen to the whole thing by pressing play!
-Dan & Nick
Dan: Our topic today is Die Hard and you played Uli, a bad guy with a taste for candy. Many people consider Die Hard to be a Christmas film, what are your thoughts on that?
Al: Well, if you like action, then it would definitely be a Christmas film. I was also in another film, Lethal Weapon, which would also be considered a Christmas film.
Nick: Now we can add “Holiday Movie Star” to your credits! So you’ve been known to die a lot on screen.
Al: Yes, I’ve died a few times (chuckles).
Nick: Which death was your personal favorite?
Al: The one I like is Rapid Fire, with Bruce Lee’s son. The reason being is because they allowed me to fight. A lot of films, it’s not your choice on what you get to do. On that film, they allowed me to do a longer fight. Jeff Imada who was the stunt coordinator was great. I’ve worked with him many times. The director, Dwight Little, was great, Brandon Lee was great, and everybody in the film did a great job.
Dan: That’s awesome.
Nick: Yeah, Rapid Fire is a solid flick.
Dan: You got to work with Brandon there. But you’ve worked with a lot of great people. You worked with Bruce Willis in Die Hard. Kurt Russell in Big Trouble in Little China. Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon. Keanu Reeves in Bill & Ted. The Rock in Scorpion King. And so many others. Anyone in particular was your favorite to work with?
Al: Well, what I do, which is different from a lot of other people, is pick out what I wanted to do. If there were a film I was working on that I didn’t like, I would leave the film. So pretty much everything I’ve worked on in the last however so many years I enjoyed because I got to pick and choose what I worked on. The Rock was great. Everyone on that film was great. That was a fun film to work on.
Nick: We recently spoke to Gedde Watanabe who is known for his comedic, yet controversial depictions of Asian characters. You yourself were often cast as a villain. What is your opinion of using racial stereotypes in film?
Al: You know, I wouldn’t know if I would call that a racial stereotype. First of all, what I have to say is this: Asians, for some reason, don’t seem like they support the movie industry.
Dan: You continued to learn new things as it pertained to martial arts and stunt work. For example, you learned how to master a switchblade. In your book you made mention of the sloppy switchblade work in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. When you see bad stunt work or choreography, does it piss you off?
Al: I’ve seen directors tell the stunt coordinator what to do and what not to do. But I figure if you hire a stunt coordinator, hire someone who knows what they’re doing and let them run their part of the business. But yeah, I’ve seen movies where I thought it would be better to put a fight in here or there.
Nick: So Al, amazingly, you are a cancer survivor.
Al: Yes a cancer survivor and a stroke survivor. The strokes have totally torn me apart. It’s crippled my right side. I only have one hand I can use. The strokes have really slowed me down. The cancer? Yeah, it slowed me down in the beginning but I got back to work. After I had the strokes about 11 years ago, they told me that I couldn’t work anymore.
Nick: When you were initially diagnosed with the cancer, what did you think?
Al: Well, I thought I was dead. I was in the final stage of brain cancer. They said you have a 50/50 chance of beating this. We’re going to give you chemo and radiation at the same time because we have to try to knock this out. Luckily, I had a friend who hooked me up with a great doctor and I got through it.
Nick: That’s amazing. You’re a real-life tough guy. A real-life bad ass. I know I’ll always remember you as one of the big badasses from the movies I loved growing up. What would you want to be remembered for?
Al: I don’t think there is anything I want to be remembered for. I just wish I could get back to work. There is just so much more that I could do.
Dan: For almost 25 years now there has been a movement to get stunt coordinators recognition in the Academy Awards. What are your feelings on this?
Al: There is this thing called the Taurus Stunt Awards, which are given out by Taurus. And I think actors don’t want to be known for being doubled. I don’t think the actors want the stunt guys at the Oscars. It makes it known that the actors didn’t do it all. It’s an action movie but the actors weren’t the main ones doing the action.
Also check out his book The Eight Lives of Al “Ka-Bong” Leong.
It’s a great autobiography that Al did after his strokes. It contains great behind-the-scenes stories and pictures.