Q. What are some of the recent projects that you've been working on?
A. Right now I am on a press tour for a movie called Dragonball: Evolution which really has been a favorite cartoon of mine for years. "Dragon Ball," Dragon Ball Z," "Dragon Ball GT" and my son introduced me to "Dragon Ball" when he was seven and he's thirteen now. I've seen almost every episode of the entire opus and I have to tell you it really opened a lot of good conversations with my young son about being an adult male and what that means. I really appreciate "Dragon Ball" fanatically and I was also frankly very entertained by the cartoon, it's just awesome in places. I find myself playing one of my favorite characters of all of this; Piccolo. Frankly it's a huge responsibility, but one that I am having a lot of fun with. We were in Durango for three months and we have a wonderful cast. Chow Yun Fat is in it and Justin Chatwin plays Goku, it's just a good group of people, and I got to showoff for my girlfriend for three months out in the desert. The director James Wong finally figured out what I was doing, he would have me do the most insane wire stunts, and I would just do it with a smile but I'd be looking at my girlfriend before the take. He kind of figured me out so by the end of the shoot I figured I just didn't need a stuntman. There was one all suited up and ready but he wasn't needed because I was like, "Did you see that Patricia? Did you see that Patricia?"
Q. What can you tell us about the premise for the film and about your character?
A. The story is about a baby alien who is a Saiyan and he comes from an evil race of Saiyans who make their living by finding planets and wiping out all intelligent life and selling the planet to the highest bidder. These Saiyans are super powered by the way, they can fly, they can shoot energy balls out of their fingertips, they are almost invulnerable and they are super strong. They look at us as being so weak that they send a baby to kill us all. Luckily for us the baby gets in a crash landing and hits its head and gets amnesia and forgets who he really is and what he's been told to do. He's been found by a kindly older Earthling and raised as his grandson. As the kid gets older other evil races find out that there is a Saiyan on Earth and they come by to recruit him, or destroy him, and he's forced to defend both himself, his friends, his family, and ultimately the world as well. That's the basic set up, and in "Dragon Ball," Goku starts out as a seven year old child and he fights midgets - the bad guys are all short so that the little seven year old can fight. We have not done that, we have taken the same thing, but we have made Goku just on his eighteenth birthday. We start him before he is the super hero that everyone is used to. He's not seven so that we can have a bit more muscular version of his character. On his eighteenth birthday I show up having just broken out of prison, I was in prison for two thousand years, and I break out of prison only to find that I am now old and decrepit. I have come to Earth to find Dragon Balls, there are seven of them on Earth hidden in secret locations. If I can find them all I can assemble them and call a mystic ethereal dragon who will come and grant me one wish. My wish would be eternal youth and once I get it I am going to kill everybody on Earth. I come to Earth and ruin Goku's birthday party and kill his grandfather and then he is set against me and ultimately kicks my butt.
Q. What is it about the role of Piccolo that you found challenging?
A. The thing is that Piccolo is not nice, he's not good, but he will never let you down because he's living by his own code of honor. He doesn't really care if you like him but he'll always be there for you. That's why I like the character of Piccolo, you notice that part of him after he has transformed and after he's been working with Goku for a while. That part of him is still there when he's acting in an evil way, which is what we're doing in this first film. It was trying to build a character that was behaving in a way that was completely evil, destructive on a world level, but that I understood that he was following a code of honor that he developed a long time ago. That kind of dichotomy I thought was very interesting, the two things don't normally fit together in my mind, but I was able to piece that together.
Q. You mentioned doing your own stunt work, how hard and how long was the stunt training?
A. The stunt crew that did the film was 87 Eleven who is the crew behind 300 and the Bourne movies and Spider Man and at least half of the cool movies that were ever made. They have a whole complex in Culver City and they got the cast down there and started running us through the paces. I had done stunts before so they were very happy about that. There was a lot of stretching but also a lot of cardiovascular build up because they knew they were going to take us up to a high elevation to film. There was just a lot of lung training, and thank God for it, because when we got up to Durango it's a seventeen hundred foot elevation which is just a few hundred feet just below Mexico City. I am here to say there is a reason why they don't hold the Olympics in Mexico City, it's not just the smog, it's the elevation! I got to Mexico and I was fit, I was in the best shape I had been in in years, and they knew I was fit and they started pressing me the very first day and we were just working out and I just fainted. I just saw stars and fell over and I woke up and Danny's (Hernandez) over my face just laughing. After about four days your hemoglobin responds and you don't feel it so much anymore. A lot of stretching, because a lot of power comes from a lot of stretching actually. I gotta say though, once we started filming, it was just filming, the training came on the day. You prepare as much as you can and then it's kind of madness and you just gotta be ready.
Q. Where were you able to draw from for your portrayal of Piccolo?
A. I just kept coming back to the theme of the whole "Dragon Ball" opus as I see it, and it's a theme that I try to pass on to my son, which is there is a difference between true men and overgrown boys. Overgrown boys can be forty years old but they will create chaos in order to prove themselves. Whereas a real man can be fourteen years old and what he will do is try to enforce peace. If everything is peaceful and cool, a real man will just be relaxed, he'll be chasing butterflies with his children in the backyard giggling and being goofy. God help you though if you attack his home. He will then enforce peace with radical violence if necessary, not to prove himself, but just to get back to a peaceful world. I try in my character to be an overgrown boy, not yet a man, one who wanted to create great chaos in order to reclaim my power. "Dragon Ball" is full of these kind of characters, The Cheetah is the best example, he's not in our film but I am hoping he will be in the next. He's a wonderful overgrown boy, and in fact, he's shorter than Goku and he's always trying to prove how tough he is. That was kind of what helped me be so evil in this film, knowing I could be the same person and be good in the next just to say well I am not grown up yet. I might be two thousand and something years old but I haven't discovered this truth and it's going to be Goku as an example that shows me.
Q. Did the chemistry with the cast come naturally or did it take some time to develop?
A. It came very naturally, everyone was good people and also game to get dirty and scraped and not worry about it. At one point it really became like climbing a tall mountain. Everybody was cold and scraped up and some of us were bleeding but we were all cracking jokes and all happy to be on the mountain and we all knew it would be hard. We're up here because we can take it and it was really wonderful and beautiful. We have Chow Yun Fat and he's one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. He could have come in like a big movie star but he came in very humble, gracious, and friendly and ready to go. Justin, who is our lead, the leads always kind of cast the environment, and he came in just like Chow being humble, not complaining, and being clear eyed. It just kind of filters down from there.
Q. What is it about the film that you think would draw viewers in?
A. I think the story of Goku, where he begins and where he ends, the creation of a hero is always a good story to show someone who realizes who they truly are. I think it has a really good supporting cast, I think that it has wonderful special effects, and it has a plot that drives forward. "Dragon Ball" is a very complex mythology but one of the things that I am very happy about the film is that it lays out the mythology for you but it does not sacrifice the forward propulsion that a ninety minute film needs. It's always on the balls of its feet and it's always propelled forward and I think that the acting is good. It needs to be a little bit goofy, it needs to be in some places a little bit over the top if you're going to be "Dragon Ball." The thing about "Dragon Ball" is that there are these really over the top super serious moments but there are also moments of great levity and goofiness. If you really want to get that "Dragon Ball" flavor you gotta go for both of those flavors. I think we did that well, certainly not my character, my character was just serious. The other supporting cast and Justin playing Goku were not afraid of those moments and if we hadn't included them than it just wouldn't be "Dragon Ball." It's just a great ride, I got out of my seat after seeing it and was like, "I'm energized, I want to go for a jog, let's go play action figures or something!"
Q. What would you like to say to your fans and supporters?
A. To have people who are interested in what I attempt through different kinds of roles is the best kind of feeling for me. I always wanted to be able to do a lot of different kind of roles, and to have people follow the actor, is just the greatest kind of compliment really. It's certainly what I think every actor would like and it's just been amazing to me that it's happened for me. I still feel like I have to deserve that attention every time I get a new role. Sometimes I think I better really do this right because there are a lot of people who actually kind of know what I am capable of so I better do it right.