James Hong is best know for his role of Lo Pan in “Big Trouble in Little China” and Hannibal Chew in “Blade Runner”. Kids might know him as the voice of Mr. Ping from the “Kung Fu Panda” series. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with James about his classic roles as well as what he is currently working on.
Mike Gencarelli: Did you enjoy voicing Mr. Ping in “Kung Fu Panda” series?
James Hong: Yes I did, very much. There is one scene I liked the most where Mr. Ping says to Po, that “You will be gone, you will go to a place with strange noodle, strange people…don’t go”. He encourages him to go and then names a whole bunch of circumstances not to do. That was funny scene.
MG: You are also reprising that character again in “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness”, what can you tell us about that?
JH: I am working on that now. I just finished three episodes. They are all very good. I think people are going to be very pleased. Some of the episodes has a lot of Mr. Ping in it which I am very thankful for.
MG: You are no stranger to voice work, you also voiced Chi Fu in Disney’s “Mulan”, how was it voicing a character for Disney?
JH: I am another kind of crabby old guy, who is very fussy and so forth. I actually saw some of it throughout the drawings. I thought it was some of the best graphics I have seen in animation. Each frame was like a painting. They incorporated a lot of the Asian feeling as well. I am very appreciative that I was involved with that project.
MG: You are known best for your role of Lo Pan in “Big Trouble in Little China”, can you believe this film is still around and finding new audiences?
JH: I just has this huge cult following. Lo Pan still lives. Never dies! [laughs]. He is still floating around in the universe…looking for the girl with the green eyes. When I find her I shall marry her! [laughs].
MG: What was the best part about working on that film?
JH: One day I was walked on the set and I saw the underground tunnel set with the water channel running through it and the monster jumping out. It was a fantastic set. In those days, it wasn’t popular to use a digital sets. That set was an actual set and what amazed me is that each arch that was in the tunnel got smaller and smaller and smaller so that it looked like it went really long. Actually though it was a series of hand made smaller arches leading into the distance. I was amazed at the wonderful work the set director had done. I said to (John) Carpenter, “Wow, this set should win an award”. He said “Well how about you”. I was very impressed what he thought of my acting as Lo Pan. Of course none of us got any awards from the film [laughing]. But the award I think is with the appreciation of the fans. The fans somehow latched onto that character and the whole film. That has rewarded me 100-fold for my performance.
MG: You are in another cult classic, “Blade Runner”, playing Hannibal Chew, can you reflect working that film?
JH: It was a totally different feeling working on this film. To me that was a memorizing film. It just hypnotizes you. You watch each frame and you get drawn into it. Ridley Scott has that know-how of just sucking you into his film. People really got into that film, almost like its part of their souls belongs to that film [laughs]. My character created the replicants in the film. To make the eyeballs was something the character dreamt of doing. Once he saw his children wearing his eyes, he was flabbergasted. Even though he dies at their hands, still they were his creation. He died in his glory in a way. I enjoyed working on this film for sure.
MG: What other projects do you have planned upcoming?
JH: I just did another film called “Safe” with Jason Statham. That movie is being released in October or November, I believe. I am the head of the mafia in the film. It is all done in Mandarin. It is a fun evil part [laughs]. Another film I did, is a younger teen adventure called “The Lost Medallion”, which is going to also be released really soon. In another month I will also be on “Funny or Die”. That is really cool, you will love it. It is a segment called “Fleshlight”. Of course I also have the TV series “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness”, which should be airing in November. I am actually looking to produce my own films. I want to produce an anthology series called “Dark Tales by James Hong”. If you or any of your readers have any good stories feel free to forward along a synopsis and we will go from there. I would even encourage any filmmakers if they would like to make their own short film, I would consider incorporating it into my series. So that is pretty cool! I will be sort of like the Asian Vincent Price [laughs].