Speaking of continuation stories, Karate Kid II famously began with the ending they cut out of the first movie. If there had been DVD and deleted scenes back then, would they have put that on the DVD and removed that option for you to begin the next movie?
You know what, they very well might have and there might have been an outtake reel. Who knows? Who knows what it would have been but those were the dark ages before we had all this stuff. That was the end of the first movie. The coda was [Miyagi] confronting Kreese outside. The image of Mr. Miyagi’s face and Daniel being lifted up and Johnny saying, “You’re okay” and Mr. Miyagi’s face at the end was so moving when we saw it, that we just chopped it off. It just didn’t feel right. Seeing Mr. Miyagi’s face at the end was so cathartic that we just let it go.
Was it then harder to make Karate Kid Part III a continuation?
Well, the truth will now be told. I turned down doing Karate Kid III because I wanted to do something different. I wanted to have them flashback to 16th century China and do a historical flying people movie. I wanted to do a Hong Kong Kung Fu movie. That’s what I wanted to do. Guy McElwaine, rest his soul, refused to do it. He wouldn’t do it. Jerry [Weintraub] wouldn’t do it. They didn’t want to mess with the franchise and I felt very strongly that doing the same story all over again was f***ing boring so I didn’t do it and they hired somebody else to do a draft. Somebody else could not write Mr. Miyagi and Daniel, couldn’t write them. So Dawn Steel took over the studio from Guy McElwaine and she was a good friend of mine. She said, “How much would it take for you to do what they want to do?” I was very flippant and I threw a number out and she said okay. I didn’t really want to do that one but I ended up doing it because first of all, they appealed to me. They said, “What, do you want somebody to f*ck up Mr. Miyagi? Because we’re going to make the film.” And I said, “Okay, I’ll do it” but I wouldn’t do the fourth one, the one with the girl with Hilary Swank.
I actually quite like The Next Karate Kid because I thought doing a Karate Kid with a girl, but you never thought about going in that direction?
I didn’t want to do it. I had had it by then. There were no more lessons to be learned. If it was going to be with a girl, it had to be completely, completely different. I would have done it if they would have done my Kung Fu sequel. If they would have done my flying people movie I would have done it but they didn’t want to do that. So I didn’t. I wanted to do the third one with a girl and get rid of Daniel, but they didn’t want to do that. Enough already. I was so tired of The Karate Kid. There’s only so many things Mr. Miyagi can say that sound great.
It’s funny, Karate was so huge in the ‘80s and now they had to change it to Kung Fu, and they were even going to call it The Kung Fu Kid but they ultimately had to stick with your original title, even for the remake.
Yeah, they did. Taking it to China was smart but it was also a total rip-off of what I wanted to do. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted them to go to 16th century China and be involved in a flying people movie.
How would you have done that with Japanese Karate and Mr. Miyagi?
Well, he wasn’t Japanese. He was Okinawan and originally Okinawan Karate came from China. And it came from China by Okinawan fisherman going there and by Chinese traders coming to Okinawa to work. The real Mr. Miyagi, Chojun Miyagi, founder of my style of Karate was from Chinese ancestry. My weapons teacher in Okinawa was of Chinese ancestry and a lot of Okinawan people are very proud that they come from Chinese people and especially the martial arts community. A lot of the guys who were founders of martial arts styles in Okinawa, it came from Chinese martial arts and they just adapted it. So it was very easy to reverse it. As Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel in the first movie, he said the first Miyagi was a fisherman, he got drunk and he fell asleep and his boat drifted to China and he spent 10 years there and learned Karate. When he came back, he knew Karate. I was going to tell the saga in reverse. Daniel and Mr. Miyagi are in a boat. It all happens when Daniel gets hit on the head and he has a dream. He’s in a coma or something and they see a boat in the mist. It docks and Mr. Miyagi and Daniel follow the first Miyagi ancestor into China and then they get involved in this thing. It would’ve been really cool but nobody wanted to do it.
That’s a fascinating “what if.” And in the last few years, they would have done that.
Yes, they would have and CGI and flying people. I predated wanting to do it because I grew up on these Kung Fu movies in the ‘70s in Chinatown, New York. I predated all this stuff by 15 years by the time they got around to doing The Matrix and Crouching Tiger. I had wanted to do that in 1986.
I’ve got to know, in Transporter 3, did you write the line, “I want to feel sex one last time?”
Was that delivered as scripted or interpreted by the actress?
Delivered as scripted.
Fabulous. Are you going to be involved in the “Transporter” TV series?
I turned down writing it. I didn’t feel like doing television and then they brought me on as a consultant, but that was way, way down the road so I had very little to do with it.
Are you writing the next David Belle movie, Brick Mansions?
Oh, I wrote the English movie of B13. Brick Mansions is B13. I call it Brick Mansions. We were supposed to do it but I don't know what happened. Maybe they couldn’t find a distributor or something. It’s been in preproduction forever and I don’t know if it’s going to get done or not. They were talking to an actor, they have a director and they were talking to an actor and I don’t know what happened. Usually I’ll find out when he tells me which is perfectly fine with me.
With Taps being your first film, did you write that on spec or on assignment?
Stanley Jaffe hired me. That was based on a book called Father Sky which didn’t bear a whole lot of resemblance to the film. It was mostly a story about the kid’s father and the mother of one of the other kids having an affair. I turned it into a siege at the school. I had been in the business all of 30 days when that happened. I had written a screenplay, Warner Bros. bought it, I bought my piece of land that ultimately became my vineyard up here and got a call from Stanley Jaffe who had read my spec script and really liked it. We had a meeting, he told me about this project and I said, “Oh, I would turn it into that.” Before I knew it I got hired. Six months later they made a movie and I was in the business for six months.
I want to be sure to tell you I liked your film Gladiator, so whenever people talk about the Oscar-winner, I think of the Cuba Gooding Jr./Brian Dennehy boxing movie.
In my house we call it Gladiator: The Flop to differentiate it.
Is it true The Fifth Element, the first film you wrote for Luc, was originally a trilogy?
Originally it was supposed to be a trilogy. The first time he showed me something was 180 pages of just stuff. It took us forever to mold it into that film. That’s a very complicated film. Very dense, very complicated. That is truly his vision. I was just the guy who was putting it in structural shape and writing dialogue. It was his vision. It was his vision since he was 16.
Was there a lot of stuff you took out that could have made another movie?
Yeah, we just talked about this the other day. We said if there were two more films, it’d be a 300-page script.
Do you happen to remember any of the interesting visionary things he wanted to do?
I do but I can’t talk about them.
When you got to do Lethal Weapon 3, did they go out to lots of writers on that or did you pitch them?
No, I was Warner Bros.’ script assassin at the time. I was the guy who was rewriting a lot of the stuff that went into production. I wrote large chunks of Lethal Weapon 2 without credit because I was just that guy, and when it came to Lethal Weapon 3, I was writing so much of it that I said, “You know what, I really do want to take credit on this one.” I wrote on lots and lots of films where I took no credit. Lots. But I did this for five years at Warner Bros. On Lethal 2, the whole idea of the South African villains was all my stuff because I had just come back from South Africa researching this film The Power of One that I wrote.
With Lorna Cole, were you ahead of the curve again on the kickass tough woman character? She was kind of a bridge between the Ripley/Linda Hamilton and the current Angelina Jolie model.
Yup. That’s true. I always wanted to write a female action movie, always, and I still do. Luc and I do these characters that are these female action girls. Colombiana was the first time we really did it. We did it with The Professional but that was really a two hander and she was a kid. With Colombiana we had a female action hero, and if it weren’t for the hurricane on the east coast when that film opened, we would have done over $55 million. But so much for the weather.
With the new Bloodsport, Van Damme said he wanted to play the coach and the producers weren’t interested. What do you think? Wouldn’t it be awesome to have Van Damme in the new Bloodsport?
This film resembles the original in title only. It has nothing to do with any Kumite contest. It has nothing to do with Frank Dux. If the title was not the same, you would not associate the two films. To use JCVD would make no sense because the association would be lost as the story has nothing to do with the first one. If anything it would be a distraction.
Are you writing the splits into the script, or will you let the actor decide when to do the splits?
No splits. This is a character driven, politically motivated film. It has nothing to do with splits or muscles or grudge matches and as I said, if the title were not attached to the rights, you would not associate one film with the other.
What are you working on next?
I have something that I’m writing for New Regency and Lorenzo di Bonaventura is the producer called The Sword. Luc and I are in the middle of writing something that I can’t talk about and I’ll bet any amount of money on Monday I’m going to get a phone call and we’re going to start talking about Taken 3.