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Interview with Phil Tann

Stunt Coordinator for Wild Wild West

Stunt Rev: What is your training and background?

Phil Tann: I've been a stuntman for 20 years. I have worked all over the world. I started in Great Britain, and worked in and around Europe with the British, French, and Asian movie people for 10 years. When you work in Europe, you pretty much work with everybody. Then I moved to the U.S. and have been working over here for about 10 years. I am a fight coordinator, a stunt coordinator, an actor, and a 2nd Unit director. I also 1st Unit direct. I have done over 200 movies in last 20 years.

Phil Tann

SR: What about your martial arts experience?

Phil:  National champ Tae Kwon Do. I was national contender for Moi Thai boxing. I do Wing Chu, which is the fighting style made popular by Bruce Lee. Boxing, Kick Boxing, grappling, Ju-Jitsu -- just about a little bit of everything. I also trained with Benny the Jet.

SR: We understand that Robert Conrad who played TV's James West was concerned that Wild Wild West's fights would not be up to the standard set by the original shows. What did you do to make sure the fights would be as good or better than the original?

Phil: With the action we tried to combine a bit of Will Smith's style with Jackie Chan action and Matrix style aerial wire work. Put those together, and you have a really interesting style that's funny, kick-butt street, and futuristic.

SR: Did you find Will Smith easy to work with?

Phil: One of the easiest stars to work with, and he's one of the nicest stars I've ever worked with. Will has a wonderful attitude, and he's a very generous man. He's a really nice all around guy. He works harder than any other star I've seen. Almost every day he would work a twelve hour day and even though he didn't have to, he would stay two hours longer to work on a fight scene. He really wanted to do it.

SR: Did Will do his own stunts?

Phil: Yes. I would say almost all of them. Most actors only do about 2% of their stunts while their stunt doubles do 98% of the work. With Will it was the other way around. Will did 98% of his stunts. There were only a couple small stunts that we didn't need to have him do, so we just used the double. Will really worked hard. Audiences today are tired of actors who just sit around and do nothing. They see a stunt and say to themselves: "That was a double." In Wild Wild West, you can tell when there's a stunt that the actor is really doing it.

Wild Wild West

SR: What is your favorite scene in Wild Wild West?

Phil: My favorite scene I think is the end fight sequence. There is another scene where Will and Kevin are ratcheted together. Their characters are supposed to be wearing super-magnets around their necks. They get drug through mud and water which was very funny. There is a lot of wire work that Leavittation did. Lane Leavitt put Will Smith in the wire rigs which made it very special, not like Matrix, were the audience knew that the actors' stunt doubles were in the air.

SR: How has Hong Kong influenced Hollywood?

Phil: In a positive sense: utilizing the comedic and extreme stunts of Jackie Chan and Jet Lee. The problem with Hong Kong though, is that they usually lack a strong story line. American movies, on the other hand, usually have good stories but lack the intense action of Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, actors must do their own stunts. We're making the stunts safe for American actors. American audiences are bored. We need to make something that they will be glad pay $8.50 to see. Combine the Hong Kong style of action with the American Story line and you have magic on the screen.

SR: What is the next big action style that will impact the stunt industry? For example: there were movies like Connan, then Commando, and then True Lies.

Phil: The Matrix style of action. Like Super Man with a big martial arts style. Super heroic. For example a Bat Man type movie with lots of aerial kick-butt action. Lead actors flying and fighting in the air, and using cool weapons, like in Star Wars.


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