Below is a brief excerpt I made from a transcription of director Antoine Fuqua’s commentary from The Replacement Killers. Fuqua was a big fan of the work of John Woo and Chow Yun Fat, and this movie was Chow’s first role in an American movie. Fuqua’s commentary is candid in its description of what it’s like to incorporate Asian style action into a movie made by an American crew and, significantly, with American producers and marketers.
Casting Asian actors as opposed to American actors – I think it’s difficult. I believe that there’s a lot of people who don’t believe that they have the star power to bring people into the theatres which I don’t find true. I think that people will respond based on the film itself and not because the guy’s whatever he is, you know, whatever nationality. Chow Yun Fat, if you look at Chow Yun Fat, just his presence, his physical presence – it’s stronger than a number of American actors that are big movie stars today making 15, 20 million dollars. Just his face alone – the expression and the emotion in a simple scene – gives you so much more than what some of these guys give you and I think that if he wasn’t Asian and had the exact same presence the guy would be as big as Clint Eastwood or anybody, you know. There’s no doubt in my mind.
I honestly believe that once that there are certain prejudices and there’s a certain thought pattern that a lot of people have that I think if we can at least invest in the film and the story and cast whoever’s right, whoever’s right and not take a great script that’s meant for Chow Yun Fat and make him American because you think it’s going to be better at the box office. I mean who’s to say, really. If it’s done well people will enjoy it, I believe. But obviously there’s a certain star power. There’s a certain marquee name value and all this kind of stuff but… and it’s a business, I understand that, but at the end of the day if you’re gonna do The Killer in America then do it with Chow Yun Fat. He’s The Killer. Don’t put an American actor in it. I think that’s a mistake. I think that’s wrong and the audience that loved that film and what they did with the film will probably be turned off by that. They don’t wanna go see some American star in the role of the killer. They want to see Chow Yun Fat come over here and be the killer, you know. So I’d like to see us get past that soon and just cast the right person and give the audience the chance to decide.
I’m sure that somebody’s going to say ‘Well they’ve decided many times’ and they’re going to have some examples; but just as many examples they have for it there’s probably more against it as well but no one really wants to deal with that right now, you know. And that’s just ignorance and I think this country’s still young. I think we’re still young and I think we’ve got a lot of prejudiced qualities that we need to let go and I think because it’s a new wave of young kids coming up those sort of opportunities will present themselves.