*Interview* Jeff Pruitt: Part 4 – Cynthia Rothrock, Ice Cube, Bruce Willis & Michael Jai White
You starred alongside Cynthia Rothrock: What was it like go toe-to-toe against her?
She was so sweet and kind to me, and I’ll never forget that. Although I’d done many stunts and choreographed countless fights before, my first on-screen fight in Hollywood (where I was the sole baddie) was with Cynthia in the first Martial Law movie. I was so nervous, because she had worked with some of the Hong Kong greats that I admired! I choreographed a little fight between us, and the director asked me to show off some fast kicks… before she decked me!
Did you enjoy the making of the ensemble movie ‘The Bad Pack’? It looked fun to be a part of!
My friend, John Stewart, (the director that brought me to Power Rangers) was the stunt coordinator for that movie. I stunted a couple of scenes: I was a soldier; I did a flip on the countertop; and I doubled for Robert Davi’s slide-for-life at the end.
Was Bruce Willis hard to work with on ‘The Whole Ten Yards’?
I only rigged a stunt in one scene, and Bruce wasn’t there. I’ve never met him, however the crew said I was lucky to shoot my bit without him. I have heard that he’s not that easy to be around, from the guys in The Expendables who worked with him. My wife worked with Kevin Smith, who seems to be a straight shooter about these things, and his story sounds familiar to others I’ve heard; I’d trust Kevin on that. I’m looking forward to Bruce playing Mike Tyson’s coach, Cus D’Amato, though — He’s a very watchable actor.
Action movie ‘xXx State of Union’ was fun; I’m sure you had a blast working on it.
I was in one scene, and I was in the worst shape of my life! I was a bloated mess — having lived off ice-cream for months — so I didn’t want to do it at first, but the guys wanted me to. Then the stunt coordinator told the other guys not to make faces like me; he said my facial reactions were “too Hong Kong-y” and “too over-the-top”. Later though, the editor used a variety of my face shots to replace another guy who looked bland in the movie. So, my advice: subtlety is good for acting, but not for action; overacting actually works best in fight scenes.
How would you describe your experience guiding Ice Cube and Samuel L Jackson through sequences?
I was only in one scene with Ice Cube and his stunt double as a soldier, with Cube beating us up. I wasn’t the stunt coordinator on it though, and I don’t remember Samuel Jackson being there!
You had the pleasure of working with martial artist, Michael Jai White, on Black Dynamite. For a dude so big, he can sure move, right?
He’s really great, as both an actor and a martial artist. When I first saw him, he was playing Mike Tyson and he was impressive, to say the least. For Black Dynamite, I rigged some stunts for him, and I was in multiple scenes. I loved that film; I was a seventies kid, so I watched those movies back in the day. When they told me the Blue Ranger was Richard Nixon’s stunt double for the final fight, I laughed so hard pee came out! Those guys are crazy.
You helped Michael Jai White on his short film, 3 Bullets. Was that ever to come to light as a feature movie?
My pal, Ron Yuan, directed 3 Bullets and several other shorts for his directing reel. He was friends with Mike, and he got him to play the lead. I rigged wire stunts and things for them. Later, when Ron worked on Black Dynamite, I came in and did stunts all throughout the film.
You also did stunts for Straight Outta Compton. How did you land that gig?
When I coordinated Timecop 2, I had a stuntman to double Jason Scott Lee, and he went on to coordinate Straight Outta Compton. He asked me to come down and join a bunch of veteran stuntmen playing uniformed cops. One of the lead actors was a former stuntman of mine from the Sheena T.V. series, so it was great to see him again. Also, Ice Cube came down when we were shooting the concert scene and did a set on stage; the crowd went nuts. Dre came down that night too, but I never saw Suge Knight… Thank God!
As you know, the action scene is constantly changing: who are your top three martial arts/action stars that attract you to watch their movies?
It’s hard to say; I can’t pick a top three. There is so much talent out there nowadays, so you never know who could make great action scenes. I will say this though: I prefer seeing real stunt people perform, rather than C.G.I. characters exclusively. Whenever anything is all C.G. I., I lose interest. The newer equipment makes everything so much easier now, so when it’s real people doing real stunts and action, I’m impressed. Also, many things that I started back in the day, and many things that originated in Hong Kong, have become the norm now.
Recently you were involved in stunts for Greenland. Can you tell us about that?
A buddy of mine was coordinating it and when he heard I was in Georgia, he asked me to come down and play for a few nights; I just ran around and got shot… the usual stuntman gig! (ha!)
I noticed your stunts credit for an Action Man animated series. Can you tell us more?
It was a Saturday morning cartoon with live-action, and I directed the live-action for every episode. The producers were worried about violence complaints because kids all over the world were fighting due to the influence of the Power Rangers, so I had to tamp everything down. The cartoon could do anything, but the live-action had strict rules to follow. We still had fun and didn’t take it too seriously; it was just a good time for us. This was in Florida, where I met many of the guys I would later use for Buffy.