Welcome to Part 2 of the Marcus Shakesheff interview. If you missed Part 1, you can read it by clicking >here<
CMA News interviews Newport born stuntman, writer, actor, director, Marcus Shakesheff in the garden of his Welsh home. Here are some more questions I put to him;
On being Batman in the Arkham Asylum computer game;
(Laughs) “I fell in to that by pure chance because at that time I wasn’t doing that many stunts. I did all the motion capture as Batman for the game. It is obviously recognised all over the world. That was my little foot in the door. I’ve been a big fan of Batman since I was a kid and I’ve got all the comics, so when I was asked to do the motion capture I was ‘Yes!’ I don’t think I will ever be asked to play Batman (in films), I’m too small, so I was really chuffed.
I went in for a meeting initially and they showed me the game they had. They had Batman doing these fighting moves already but it wasn’t very organic and they asked me what I could do. I said, ‘Yeah, I can do this move, yeah, I can do that.’ I think that they were a bit shocked that it was possible. I went in to a gymnastic club, set up a camera from different angles and just done a bit of free running. I gave them two days of reference footage that they could look at. Even though it wasn’t motion capture, they used it as a reference to see how the body moves. They were happy because they now had an organic.
When I went in to the (Rocksteady -UK) studio, I’d done about four days of every move I could possibly think of. Every fall. Climbing, walking. Even the thing with the gauntlets, where he looks and adjusts his gauntlets. If you go on YOUTUBE there is a little comparison video that I did.
I had to wear a black suit with all of the balls on it. With the reference footage and everything, all in all it took about two weeks. They were not really sure on the fighting style at the beginning and were thinking more along the lines of Jujitsu. They wanted a lot of locks and grabs. I can’t remember why, but they wanted a lot of Jujitsu. Ong Bak had just come out so I just referred a lot to that. I could do the locks and all of that but I thought I could add a bit of flair as well. A bit of mixed martial arts, a bit of XMA. People think it’s a certain style that Batman does. I can tell you the style now. I’m Kyokushin, I’m Wushu, I’m Jujitsu. Wing Chun, boxing. It’s a mix of all that because I used all of my knowledge but that is what Batman is, he has mastered all styles and uses the bits that work for him. For the game I tried to keep it as broad as possible.
I think the guys at Rocksteady had done a brilliant job. The problem was that I would do set moves but a lot of it would be one punch or one kick. They would then put it all together. I would do a lock, then they would link it with other moves to make it more dynamic.
I worked with another stunt guy called David Newton. He does a lot of the motion capture for the games now. He played all of the bad guys in the game and gets beaten up a lot. I would grab him and head butt him and he would react.
(GD-The Batman swagger – is that you?) Yeah. Really, I was thinking that this is awkward but yeah, that’s me. It was a very small area we had to work in. They did contact me for the second game but obviously they had all the stuff from the first one. By the time the second game came about I was working in films so it just didn’t happen.
When I played the first game, less than 10% of the capture was in it. So in the later games, they have added some of the other moves that I had already done (on capture) and just tweaked it. I remember playing and thinking, ‘Hang on, I recognize that move!’ One that you don’t see very much is called the ‘Dog Flip’ that Tony Jaa does in Ong Bak. I copied that for the game. Initially they dismissed it thinking it would look a bit stupid but I insisted and they capture it, then I saw it in there!”
On starring, directing and producing Kamikaze;
“It was made through my production company is ‘Beat em up films’. Kamikaze is all Welsh based. All Welsh actors except for the main actress, she’s French. Even the government agents are a Welsh branch. It’s all based in Wales and shot around Cardiff and Newport.
It is about a guy who is retiring from being a mercenary. Like an assassin. He used to work for the government, then he went free lance. Typical cliché 8o’s, he’s doing his last job and it all goes tits-up and he has to rescue his girlfriend. He’s sort of trying to get out but can’t get out of what he’s been doing for so long. We’ve got martial arts, guns, The Ginger Ninja Trickster! He’s in there as a henchman. DIlu, even though you can’t see him, is in it! I tried getting Abbas but he was off. It’s just been picked up and should be released very soon. It’s being released in America first but I don’t know what the release date over here is yet.
Originally it was meant to be a short but every one who saw it thought that it was that good, that we decided to turn it into a feature. So, we got a bit of money and turned it into a feature. It was shot a long time ago now but with such a low budget, things move a lot slower unlike the bigger productions that have a team of people pushing it forward.
Even though it is set in modern day, the action has that 80s feel to it. I’ve done all the films that I have grown up with and put them in to this. I’m worried that people may think that the action is outdated but the action is supposed to be from the 80s. It’s based on the Jackie Chan Police Story /Meals on Wheels era. The dialogue, the shooting, I’ve kept it very 80’s, so I pay homage to those types of action films.
We had a director initially, but it just didn’t work out and as I had a commitment to other films, we had to (carry on and) shoot. Stupidly, I said ‘I’ll do it!’ (to also directing). I won’t be doing that again! I like directing and I like acting but both together? That’s hard. It was so difficult to concentrate on certain things, so for people like Stallone do it, then hats off to them. I think you’ve really got to know your industry and your art.
The whole thing was a success in itself
I’m really proud of this film especially because if you put that up to a multimillion dollar film in the cinema, then it can’t compete, but if they had our budget, our time and our resources, then as far as I am concerned it would smash them out of the water. We had nothing. No prep, hardly any staff. The whole thing was a success in itself. What we had to work with was very, very little.
I got angry because the trailer came out and there was some website that dissed it straight away. I don’t know of any critic that would diss a film just based on the trailer but this guy seemed fit to. I know you’re going to get critics, it’s like anything. You can watch something and rip it apart against what you want to see but I thought ‘Hang on. We haven’t got millions. We had less than ten grand that that film was shot on. It was about seven grand. If we had a million then fair enough but for the money, you’re dissing that? I thought that was a bit unfair. Kamikaze does what is say on the tin! It’s a fun ride, that’s what it is. I really enjoyed making it. It’s a bit of a shame that I didn’t have a budget to do more with it. I wouldn’t re-make it now, but it would have been good to have more money to put in to it.
You know, it’s a low budget fun ride.
David Newton was the only stunt guy I had and he doubles everyone! He…….got……spanked…to….shit! He got smashed up. I was doing it by the book and getting (professional) people in. I couldn’t ask people working for more or less free to hit the ground and take a spank, I just couldn’t do that.
Ginger Ninja Trickster, he’d done a good job. He was a goon and did a lot of his signature kicks. The main bad guy is a straight up actor, Lawrence Patrick. He plays the guy pulling all the strings called Markham. He is also in the short that I’ve got coming up called the British Superman and a very good actor.
Kamikaze is what it is. The script was written in like a week (laughs). You know, it’s a low budget fun ride. It’s been sold and getting ready for distribution and will probably be on the American TV channels first. It went into a few film festivals and got selected for the Carmarthan Bay film festival. Just for it to be selected is great. These film makers now are just so much more sophisticated. Going back 5 years ago people were filming on 5Ds but people have got better cameras that are more accessible now and are filming really high quality stuff.
I’m not sure if we’ll be doing anything else. I mean, we will be doing the British Superman and a few other things. What I would like to do is film (action) but with a higher production value. Filming on a red camera, lighting, having a proper crew like I did with the British Superman. Kamikaze cost me 7K. The British Superman is 6K but is only thirty minutes long. I’d got producers to put money in to it and I had a proper crew, proper cameras, it was scheduled, everything. I would like to do more things like that but it just takes time.”
On projects in the pipeline;
“The British Superman. It’s not out yet but I will show you a sneak peak. I’m keeping this one is close to my chest.
I want to do it all. I’ve got another film coming up that I will be starring in. It’s a martial arts action filmed in Wales. A production company has come to me with a lot more money, bigger budget, so we’re hoping to start that one towards the end of this year to the beginning of next year. As far as cast is concerned, I don’t know who is going to be in it apart from myself of course. There is a working title, but I won’t mention it at the moment as it’s not me doing it, it’s a different company this time. I’ve been for meeting and reviewed the script. The script is very, very good but still under development. It’s been green lit, they are just waiting for a starting date. I am really looking forward to that. I can’t give the plot away. What I can tell you is there is going to be a lot of martial arts action! It will be filmed in Wales but I don’t think it will be set in Wales. It’s going to be a nice one I think, especially if I can get a good cast.
They don’t have a director yet. They hinted at me and I said, “Look guys, one or the other.’ I don’t mind doing either. I’m not precious about being on camera, but you let me know which, but they said that they want me on camera, so that’s what I’m doing.
There are a lot of people working in film who are martial artists and who you may not have heard of. Tin Man, I would love to get him over on it. There is a lot of good guys like that. Until it’s scheduled, I don’t know who is going to be on it. It’s not going to be a large cast but quite a few action guys.”
On what you would like to do in the future;
“The ultimate film, if I could make any film, would be a Dr Who action film but based on the time war but full-on space ships blasting each other. That would be cool. I would love to play Dr Who. That’s the thing, Dr Who can be anyone. For my acting style, I’m better at that type of thing. I would love to play him in an action movie. Or, like you said, an action movie but all the cast being stunt guys, with all of the cast in an all out brawl!”
On how to stay grounded;
“I’m a family man now. If my family didn’t keep me grounded then I would be away with the fairies. I would probably live in a caravan, never in one place. I would be like a hobo. I would be like some mad crazy hobo doing kung fu in a field! (laughs). I would be like Sam Seed off the drunken master! That would be me. I would be pissed all of the time, in a field, doing kung fu.”
Before I left, Marcus showed me into his very own Bat-cave, the only place that there was a glint of Hollywood. The walls were plastered with film posters that he has been in and stunt awards he had achieved.
On his computer, he proudly showed me a quick glimpse at the British Superman. My hidden geek side forgot himself and went into overdrive. I quite possibly dribbled over Marcus’ shoulder. He either didn’t notice or was too polite to mention it. The British Superman looks very good indeed. This film is definitely not something you’re going to expect but it looks awesome.
Screen shot of The Green Lantern character in Marcus Shakesheffs ‘British Superman’
I remarked on getting a Bat cave of my own. He replied, “Oh, this isn’t my Bat Cave. This is.” He showed me to his converted garage come gym. It pretty much housed every weapon you could think of. From the rafters dangled even more weapons and a variety of different medieval shields. I was half expecting a Bat-mobile to come out of the ground.
Eventually, it was time to leave and Marcus managed to jemmy my fingers from the door and escorted me to a safe distance away from his property. I left satisfied with his hospitality and happy he didn’t file for a restraining order.
I just want to give a big thank you to Marcus for letting me raid his home and I cannot wait for his projects to hit the screen.
Click here to visit his website
* All pictures are copy written to Marcus Shakesheff except the Batman game cover.