Thursday, February 5, 2015

Actor Ernie Reyes Jr. talks with TV STORE ONLINE about the making of Red Sonja


Ernie Reyes Jr., Ernie Reyes Jr. Red Sonja (1985), Prince Tan Red Sonja
 Actor / Director and Martial Artist Ernie Reyes Jr. talks with TV STORE ONLINE about the making of RED SONJA.  

Brigette Nielsen Red Sonja, Paul Smith, Dino De Laurentiis
The cast of Dino De Laurentiis's RED SONJA (1985)
TV STORE ONLINE:   How did RED SONJA (1985) come to you?   You must have shot it following THE LAST DRAGON (1985), no?

REYES JR:   It was shot right after that, yes.   They were having auditions at the Beverly Hills Hotel and Dino [De Laurentiis] was there.  I was twelve-years-old.   I felt like I was in that classic Hollywood moment.  I went in to Dino's private bungalow to audition and I ended up coming back to audition for him  two or three times.  He liked that I studied martial arts and it may or may not have effected how the character was initially imagined in that ensemble.

TV STORE ONLINE:   What do you remember the most about the shooting of the film?

REYES JR:  Well, just that it was one of the best times of my life in the movie business.  We shot RED SONJA over in Italy and we were there shooting for five months.   We would ride horses everyday around the country hillside and the sets for Red SONJA were just incredible.   They actually built that castle as it appears in the film.     It was amazing.    I was, obviously a fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger already--because my dad was into fitness. 

 
TV STORE ONLINE:  You had been working and training--even though you were just twelve-years-old at the time of the shooting of the film--as a martial arts champion...But what people overlook, it seems, is just how great of a actor you are.  Especially in RED SONJA, "Prince Tan" is a little firecracker...

REYES JR:  (Laughing)  Thanks for saying that.   

Ernie Reye Jr. martial artist, Ernie Reyes
Ernie Reyes Jr. and Paul Smith
TV STORE ONLINE:  You have that interest in martial arts, but where do you think your interest in acting came from?

REYES JR:
  Everything goes back to Bruce Lee.    I never wanted to be a bad actor.   It goes back to the martial arts certainly, but also--in the performance of martial arts as well.    By that time--I had been performing live martial arts demonstrations with my dad all over the United States.  We would travel and do skits out in front of live audiences.  The skits were comedic.  That's a whole other reality from being on a television series or in a film...  I think that's where it comes from really.

TV STORE ONLINE:  No conversation about RED SONJA or Prince Tan would be complete without a mention of the great actor Paul Smith...

REYES JR:  Right.  It was a huge thing for me to be working side-by-side with him.  You thought, for sure, that you were in the presence of an "actor."    He was a booming presence.   As an young actor, and as a young kid--it was thrilling to be playing that part with him.    I felt the same way about [Director] Richard Fleischer as well.   He was such a presence too.

Richard Fleischer, Red Sonja Robert E. Howard
TV STORE ONLINE:  The banter between Prince Tan and Paul Smith's character Falcon is really fun.   Was that all scripted out or did the two of you do any improvisation together?

REYES JR:  Some of it was improvisation, but it was more him that it was anything I did.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  What do you remember about shooting that first scene with Prince Tan stuck atop that giant rotating hand...

REYES JR:   That was a actual set too.  It wasn't done with any CGI.  That hand was set up on these giant hydraulics and as a kid--it was like I was transported into a entire different world.  I felt like was in a Conan movie.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How about working with Brigitte Nielsen?     RED SONJA was her first film and her first foray into acting..

Brigitte Nielsen,Arnold Schwarzenegger Red Sonja
Brigitte Nielsen and Ernie Reyes Jr.
REYES JR:  She was great.   She was only like nineteen or twenty-years-old at the time.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How about that scene where Prince Tan hits on Red Sonja?  As a kid, were you aware of all that?

REYES JR:  (Laughing) Are you kidding?  Of course.  I got to have this six-foot model wrap her arms around me.  I thought it was the greatest scene ever.  She kissed me on the cheek.  I do remember that I asked her to be my queen (laughing).

TV STORE ONLINE:  RED SONJA has one of the greatest sex scenes of all time in it.  It has that five minute sword fight / foreplay battle between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Brigitte where they end up exhausted back-to-back.  Both looking like they could each use a cigarette after that...

REYES JR: (Laughing)  I know! I know!     I couldn't believe that when they were shooting it.   I just remember trying to jump up on his back and fight with him.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you spend much time with Arnold when the camera was off?

REYES JR:  Oh yeah.  My Dad and he would work out and we'd have dinner together.   I remember, one day he came up to my Dad and I and he handed us a VHS tape and he said that it was a copy of the movie he had just finished shooting before he came to Italy.  We took it back to the hotel and put it in the VCR and it was THE TERMINATOR (1984).   I watched that and I said, "Holy Shit! This is the coolest thing ever!"   So I got to see THE TERMINATOR before almost anyone else.

Ernie Reyes Sr., Ernie Reyes Jr. Red Sonja actorTV STORE ONLINE:  What do you remember about the shooting of that sequence where all of the characters have to fight against "Killing Machine," that giant Godzilla-like robot dinosaur monster in the mote!   What a awesome name for a monster....

REYES JR:  (Laughing)   I remember that the water was really warm.    The stage would fill up and it was literally like being in a little jacuzzi.  It was incredible to see that sort of movie-magic / practical special effects being done.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love Prince Tan's reaction to Killing Machine.  His draw drops about five feet down from his face...  Did Richard Fleischer tell you to react that way?

REYES JR:  (Laughing) What can I say?  I think that was just me (laughing).

TV STORE ONLINE:  The best part of that scene is how after five minutes of fighting with Killing Machine, Arnold comes up from underwater and says, "I can't kill it!  It's a machine!"

REYES JR:
(Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE:  How do you think the film has aged?  It's dated in a way--you can see the edges of the crude matte shots, in the end fight between Brigitte and Sandahl Bergman's character [Queen Gedren]--the castle walls are crumbling and rocks are falling from above but the hundreds of candles on the walls don't budge an inch.

REYES JR: (Laughing)  It's impossible to say.  Some people think it sucks and others, like you, love it.

sandahl bergman, brigitte arnold sword fight red sonja
The greatest sword fight /sex scene ever.
TV STORE ONLINE:  As a kid how did something like a bad review of a film you were in effect you, if at all?

REYES JR:  I'm sure it did at some point.  It's hard not to let that stuff  get to you.  But, at the time--I probably shrugged my shoulders.  I think I was upset that it didn't make a lot of money at the box office.  Because it bombed.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What are your top five favorite martial arts films?

REYES JR:  In no particular order:  ENTER THE DRAGON (1973), THE CHINESE CONNECTION (1972), GAME OF DEATH (1978), SUPERCOP (1992), and OPERATION CONDOR (1991).

TV STORE ONLINE:  What can we promote for you?

REYES JR:   I'll be on NCIS: Los Angeles in a few weeks on February 23rd on CBS at 10PM EST/9PM Central.  

TV STORE ONLINE: Great.  Thanks for your time Ernie.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung