Facing The Sweet Dragon

Von  //  1. Oktober 2015  //  Tagged: , ,  //  Keine Kommentare

What if it all was above bored?
Perhaps our faith could be restored.
And then the healing would begin.
We’d get to feeling we could win.

Here I am…desperately in need of a haircut, but it seems like I might have almost made it. Almost – how much cruelty can be in a single word? The city is Munich. It’s a bright summer day in Germany, which means kind of a sticky heat under a cloudy 70% grey sky. I’m on my way to the Arthotel nearby the central train station. A proper address for picking up someone famous, I think. And because I’m a jerk without the slightest sense of orientation, I take a cab. As I sit down, the driver wants to get his money first. „Do you have 15 euros?“ he asks in a heavy Bavarian accent. Man, do I look that decayed that I’m not even trustworthy for 15 euros? Probably. Once he receives the money he starts driving. Fair enough. One mistake might make her angry – one certainly does not want to find out what happens if one makes Lady Dragon mad.

Seriously, since she’s known for being the kindest dragon you could ever imagine, I’m not afraid of facing Cynthia Rothrock. Even better…I can feel secure walking around the streets with someone who will beat up the bad guys if we run into any. She’s still undeniably the hottest butt-kicking babe ever to have appeared on the silver screen.

Thankfully I was „warned“ by current pictures that gave a pretty clear impression…this lady in her 50’s looks even more stunning than ever before. So I’m prepared NOT to lose voice, modesty, or the very last piece of professionalism. Half a year earlier, I would never have expected such a situation – imagine: a gloomy, confused-looking guy from a small German town, who had spent the – as they say – best years of his life in that suburbia, working a meaningless office job, watching a lot of movies, still living at home, stuck in a quarterlife-crisis…which will crumble in a few years right into the real deal: the midlife-crisis.

I am trying to collect myself from the hardest break-up I ever had to survive. Since then so much has happened in my life. Maybe it has to happen that way. I mean – through this, I made new friends who got me that date with the dragon! If only everyone could have a wingman like that! Now it’s up to me to restore myself. Prepare for the next battle. Whatever might come – face it laughing. In a way I’m pretty proud I made it here. Even a moron knows that pride is about much more than nationality. A plain and simple interview request to the cult-director-turned-into-luxury-car-designer Jim Glickenhaus led to an even more dreamlike project than I could have ever imagined. I guess it’s the same with our feelings as with everything: we have to express ourselves. What takes a long time to be built can be destroyed in a minute. And there’s always the fear that the parts of your soul you have had to kill and bury might never come back to life again. From Here To Eternity. Maybe it gave me the strength I never had in the moment of truth. Maybe you just need to pick the right musical.

Nobody in all of Oz
No wizard that there is or was
will ever gonna bring me down.

A dreamer has to dream, and I’m still defying gravity. Today I’m going for the belt. Maybe even below
her belt? Man!!! Get your shit together!!! Keep calm!!! – I leave the cab, and the first thing the receptionist obviously thinks, judging by her nervous behavior: „We clearly need security here. This scumbag is annoying our guests.“ I ask for Ms. Rothrock but no room is booked in her name. The receptionist’s trust problems are growing bigger and bigger while I sit down in the lobby, nervously trying to reach out to my interview-partner online, since I have no phone number to give her a call. Luckily she responds right away. Unfortunately, she’s wondering why we can’t find each other in this relatively small location. Strange, indeed. It takes a few more minutes before both of us realize we’re not in the same room, not even the same hotel. I’m already starting to hate myself. No matter how hard I try, at the end of the day I’m the one who fucks it up. Almost always. That seems to be my special talent.

Not this time! She apologizes for the misunderstanding; she wasn’t thinking about other Arthotels around here and confirmed the wrong adress by accident. Since I’m not from Munich I have no other choice than to grab another cab on the streets. The Ghanaian driver kindly warns me: It will be an extended ride. „There must be a reason for her choosing this hotel“. It’s extremely far from the city of Munich. Later she will tell me the cab driver was right. A sport school of a friend and colleague is based right there. While making our way through the busy streets of the city, the driver tells me it’s his first day after returning from a holiday, so he forgot his GPS. Sure – of all the cabs in this metropolis, I’ve picked the one guy without one. During a drive of almost 40 minutes (including two stops to ask directions) there is at least enough time to get chatty about the growing movie industry in Ghana with my new friend. I apologize for the lousy tip, and we separate our ways.

And finally, it happens.

The right hotel, a much nicer receptionist, and Cynthia Rothrock in the lobby. Casual outfit, jeans, very high platform shoes, pink wisps in her brunette hair. A pistol, if there ever was one. Months after my own Mrs. Robinson broke my heart, here she is – smokin‘ hot, smiling nicely. Maybe… – Dude!!!!! Concentrate!!! Basically she makes it very hard not to get a serious crush on her, but also very easy to be the interviewer. Although this sweaty German nerd starts to interview with a years old iphone and crappy English, we sit down on a couch in the lobby, and she delivers awesome stories from the early days of her ass-kicking career.

Starting with her Hong Kong action movies, she gives me an inside look – maybe not the one I would hope for but certainly an experienced comparision between the high-class action films made in Asia to the direct-to-video martial-arts-movies shot for the US market. Stories about sensational and high-risk stunts, co-operations with icons like Samo Hung, Corey Yuen, Michelle Yeoh, and Jackie Chan. About five years in Hong Kong, the hard first phase without friends and language skills, and about switching between film projects and sports competitions. Then her transformation to the American film industry („David Carradine once quoted to me that Quentin Tarantino declared, I should never have left Hong Kong.“) we come to our main topic: two films she starred in, both distributed by Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment. Ms. Rothrock is being interviewed by me because I’m trying to cover the background story of this mainly forgotten independent company which produced one of the finest libraries ever when it comes to big-budget exploitation schlockfilms. Cynthia remembers the chaotic shooting of NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER 2, which took place somewhere in Thailand’s solitude. Since the English-, Thai- and Cantonese-speaking crew members got lost in translation over and over, when a scene happened, no martial arts scripter could have done better. It would have taken just one more false move and the stunt crews from different countries would have started their own fight, and not for the camera.

Aside from her second SGE distributed film, TIGER CLAWS, and the experiences with Film One owner Jalal Merhi, we go off script often. For example, who would guess that someone who once directed Bruce Lee (Robert ENTER THE DRAGON Clouse) would turn out to be one of those directors who had no clue about action choreography or using the fighting actress in a proper way. Movies like CHINA O’BRIAN, or even three pretty poor Indonesian productions, Cynthia mentions thankfully – at least she received another nickname with „Lady Dragon“. And being the pathetic self-pitying guy as always, it makes a huge impression on me how someone like her talks frankly and graciously about unfinished or never realized projects. About bad luck situations, so bad when she had almost made it to the A-league. A story like these for example: why she narrowly missed getting the Sharon Stone part in Verhoeven‘s modern classic TOTAL RECALL – one of my many favorite movies. So, even if you are not a winner – Cynthia is one, for sure – and not a quitter. There are always dreams that cannot be. And storms we cannot weather. But like the forever young powerbabe Cynthia Rothrock, you can take that with dignity. Deeply true. Even crucial really.

After finishing the main part of our conversation, we take a break and take a walk, and even the German weather is a little more friendly then before. There’s a Jean-Eustache-moment for me when I realize once more, how enlighting it can be, walking around with a smart and sexy woman, talking and searching for a proper restaurant. She shares interesting thoughts about martial arts filmmaking, about the need for a director who has an artistic vision and physical knowledge in martial arts as well. Otherwise you’ll end up with lame action or – even worse – being paired with actors that are talent-free, who need to pin their dialogue text on Cynthia‘s forehead. Literally, you have to be brave to handle such a situation. Man, Ms. Rothrock could charge a good salary as a motivational coach, just for being the energetic and lovely woman she is. It’s early evening and no restaurant nearby seems to be open, so we sit down in a bakery which serves some dishes as well. I choose gratin bread with tuna and cheese as if to underline my bad eating habits in front of this wonder woman. She does the better deal by ordering a chicken salad. Looks way more tasty than mine. As always the grass is greener on the other side of the table.

We talk the whole time, and I’m unsure about being outrageous when recording all of this stuff. I decide to go with the flow, getting a personal connection, until she asks about the need for more stuff to be recorded. I honestly answer, I could add dozens of questions about her body of work, but since we are through with the main topic we just continue with a short add-on, covering some common questions. Asked about her fighting preferences, she explains how she always tries to give realistic performances and why she likes male opponents more then female ones. „Girls can be tough as well, but fighting a guy I’m always more confident he could take it.“ – Speaking about lots of colleagues from the business from Don „The Dragon“ Wilson to Arnold Schwarzenegger, we come to her contemporary career. Just like most of the male action heroes from my childhood (born and raised in the the golden age of VHS), she returned to the screen big time. There’s certainly a renaissance going on, the hard body stars aged and a generation of video store kids is taking over to become filmmakers themselves. Some interesting news and information about the upcoming all-star films THE MARTIAL ARTS KID and SHOWDOWN IN MANILA come up. We can start dreaming again, because everyone THE EXPENDABLES had overlooked for her crew is meeting in Manila. Their mission: re-invent the troops of yesterday. At the wheel: veteran Marc Dacascos, who lost a lot of weight during the stressful production process, according to Cynthia. Before it’s even released anywhere, the pre-production for part 2 already runs at full speed. And Cynthia is facing that without being stressed at all. That’s the spirit, like it was back in the Go-Go-80s, when everything seemed possible. Cynthia wisely presumes: „Obviously it will never again be as good as it was in that golden era, but it’s getting better as it was in the later days.“

Filmmaking changes, just like we do and everything around us. Only moving forward. That’s the only chance we have. On our way back to the Arthotel, we talk about Cynthia‘s daughter. Again, even in the life of a celebrity there are kids who get annoyed with you when they want to spend more time with friends than with family. There’s divorce and agreements, compromises and self-questioning. It’s always more difficult than it looks like in our imagination or memory. We share hugs and selfies (another thing I never expected: getting more than 200 facebook likes for a photo showing my face!), and talk about another meeting, where we can get into other aspects of her career. Can’t hardly wait for her to talk about PM Entertainment, for example. Back in Munich, falling into my bed, I could not be happier. Even if I made out with Lady Dragon. Well, at least that’s almost true. But, as happy as someone like me could be. Although looking like a zombie, I spent a day with a true icon. That deserves a high-five through the time tunnel, back to the 12-year-old me. If I could talk to this boy right now, I would give the only helpful advice that comes to my mind safe and secure: You have to be brave, but if you are, you’ll make it through the storm. There are not many second chances in life. So be sure to take yours right away. Don’t hesitate, it can all go away in the blink of an eye, buddy. But as they say, everything is possible. You can get it if you really want, but you must try. Try and try. You’ll find out.

Waking up, have to pee. Get used to it, time is nobody’s friend, I say to myself. Isn’t sickly the new sexy, I question while risking a look in the mirror. Anyway, sleep would be best for this weekend but I just can’t afford to rest very long. I got a ride in Pittsburgh tomorrow night. My competition‘s getting younger, tougher broncs you know I can’t recall. I’m much too young to feel this damn old.

After a few hours of sleep I wake up, have to leave Munich. Mission accomplished. Feeling wrecked and wasted just like before, but something has changed within me, at least for a moment. I lost the love of my life, true. There’s still a lot of work to do before it’s time to celebrate, also true. But after all, I handled Lady Dragon – and…even after spending around six hours with me, she’s made another meeting in Germany three months from now! Who would have guessed that last year? At least, we’re all made of broken parts – just like Cynthia said. No regrets, not even if you starred in a bad movie once in a while. We did what we did. And maybe it’s time to start with believing in myself. Maybe life isn’t a complex and thoughtful Bergman drama and not some laconic Nouvelle Vague elegance. Maybe the simplicity and fast forward tempo of a martial arts picture nails it way more. You have to be fast as fuck, and even then you can miss it. And despite the logic lacking in narration – if life punches you in the face, it also doesn’t need a reason for that. The winner takes all, and you better prepare for the best roundhouse kick you have. Love, Life, Regret. No retreat. No surrender.

[Note to myself: Get your ass up and start fitness tomorrow!]


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Über den Autor

Aufgewachsen inmitten der pulsierenden Film-Metropole Merkstein/Rheinland mit ihren schillernden Kino-Palästen, umgeben von hochkarätigen Stars, Regisseuren und Filmkritikern blieb Marco Siedelmann nicht viel anderes übrig, als selbst Filmjournalist zu werden. Er schreibt u. a. für critic.de, deadline und negativ.

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