To celebrate the release of Skyscraper on Blu-Ray and Digital we chatted with Chin Han who stars as Zhao Long Ji, the architect of the titular behemoth building.
More about the film: Fueled with adrenaline and high impact verticality, Skyscraper is led by superstar Dwayne Johnson who plays former FBI Hostage Team leader, U.S. war veteran and amputee Will Sawyer.While on assignment in Hong Kong as an assessor for security in skyscrapers, he comes to find the tallest and safest building in the world suddenly ablaze, and he has been framed for it. Wanted and on the run, Will must find those responsible, clear his name and save his family who is trapped inside the building… above the fire line.
It stars Dwayne Johnson, Chin Han, Neve Campbell, Roland Møller, Pablo Schreiber and Hannah Quinlivan. Rawson Marshall Thurber directs.
DHK: What do you admire most about your character?
Chin: Well I love that he is, I actually love that he is as audacious as he is. I think he has a vision for a better world and he goes ahead and builds this vertical city in the sky which is kind of like a sentient being unto itself which has its own ecosystem and its own self generating power. So I liked the idea that he’s not only a visionary but also a man of action. I thought that to be quite compelling to play.
DHK: What was your reaction to his moral ambiguity?
Chin: I think as an actor that’s what you live for, you know, I think characters who are black or white tend to be less interesting. The moral ambiguity is actually what drew me to the role as well. When I read the script for the first time I wasn’t quite sure which side he was on. On the one hand he seems to be a friend and then he appears to be a foe and then there’s this great twist in the end that leads to this climax at the roof of the building which is to me one of the most striking scenes I’ve shot for that movie.
DHK: That’s probably one of the more logistically challenging ones, but emotionally what was the most challenging scenes to film?
Chin: I think trying to find the connections, the connections with the character that Dwayne plays. I mean Dwayne, Rawson and myself talked about how these two people who are seemingly so different are actually cut from the same cloth. I think you have someone like Dwayne’s character who loses a leg in the scene that begins the movie and him having to overcome that problem and then creating a life for himself. And then the character of Zhao who basically grew up in a fishing village and had his own challenges to overcome to become this billionaire too. In a way these are two characters who obstacles will not stop them from their objectives. And finding that core to that relationship was very important. Whatever you see in the film is what you see but you know you spend a lot of time creating that backstory for the two characters to ultimately reach the conclusion where both of them team up to fight Botha.
DHK: What real life disaster situation do you think you’d personally have the best odds of surviving? Something like trapped in a burning building, stranded on a desert island, earthquake?
Chin: (Laughs) Well that’s tough. I think my chances are pretty bad in all of them (laughs) you know living in, I’ve been living in Los Angeles for a while now and every time we hear rumblings…
DHK: Yep it’s always going to be the big one.
Chin: Yeah your heart skips a beat! And there’s basically nowhere to go. It’s just basically an entire tectonic plate that’s moving. Not to mention I would know better because I was also in the movie 2012 and I saw what that could do to a city. I don’t rate my chances any high in any of these disasters unfortunately. Possibly the Titanic only because I can swim, but then again I think maybe the hypothermia will get me. I don’t like the cold. There you go! None of these situations I would fare well in (Laughs).
DHK: Well if you were in an emergency situation, who would you trust more to get you out of it? Dwayne Johnson or Neve Campbell?
Chin: Wow I, Neve is so warm and caring and Dwayne is just Superman. I would love to have Dwayne rescue me and then have Neve waiting outside with a warm cup of cocoa (laughs) to comfort me. I mean Neve is an old friend of mine, I’ve known her for 20 years, so doing this film was just a great pleasure and she can kick ass too, I mean she really can. I’m just looking at the amount that Dwayne can bench press.
DHK: They both have their strengths in different fields.
Chin: They both have their strengths, yes!
DHK: So you recently joined The Academy’s voting body, congratulations! I think this summer, which of course included Skyscraper, proved that films featuring Asian and Asian-American talent in leading roles can be both critically and financially successful. So what shape would you like to see the industry in in 5 years and 10 years from now?
Chin: You know the success of these movies, especially recently with Crazy, Rich, Asians, and the other movie, Searching, these movies, the success of these movies is very heartening. I think in 5 years from now obviously I think you would see more robust representation, not only in terms of number of Asian actors finding their way into movies but also different kinds of genres of movies too and in different capacities. With more substantial characters and in a greater variety of genres as well.
DHK: How would you define personal success now and has that changed from earlier in your career?
Chin: No, I think personal success is such a strange beast. I think different people define it differently. For me it’s always the script firstly and then who I get to work with. I think in terms of directors or actors and writers, and even cinematographers. If a movie has any of those elements that are appealing to me I would consider that a successful experience. It’s not the size of the role really, it’s the project that you are a part of which you can contribute to.
DHK: This is a broader question but growing up who was your favorite fictional character?
Chin: Growing up my favorite fictional character I would say is Indiana Jones. Right off the top of my head he could do everything. He’s an intellectual, he’s a man of action, and yeah I love the fact that he’s an honorable fellow but roguish at the same time. I enjoyed him very much.
DHK: What inspires you?
Chin: I would say honesty and kindness inspires me.
DHK: On the flip side of that, what frustrates you?
Chin: What frustrates me? I am not a fan of whatever is the diet of the moment (laughs) you know when the Atkins diet was the diet of choice that frustrated me and I think the low-carb diet is very frustrating and Keto is almost manageable but that’s frustrating too.
DHK: Well to compliment that, do you have any guilty pleasures?
Chin: Oh absolutely, a well made brownie is always welcome in my meal.
DHK: Going back to Skyscraper, what surprised you the most in terms of audience reaction once the film came out?
Chin: What I loved about the film was the theme of family. I think the idea that a parent and the lengths which a parent would go through to save one’s child or to keep a family together, whether it is Dwayne or it is Neve with the kids. I think that aspect of the movie was very satisfying for me. Some of the screenings I’d gone to – obviously it’s wonderful when I hear gasps and people really responding to scenes where he’s climbing the building with all the height. I mean that’s very gratifying. But ultimately what was really satisfying to me was towards the end when the family’s reunited, I can hear sniffles in the crowd. I think that stuff was the most satisfying for me.
DHK: And if you could go back 10 years and give yourself a piece of advice what would it be?
Chin: It would be, wow your questions are so interesting, okay this will tie up with what I said earlier about what frustrates me. Okay if I could go back and give myself a piece of advice I would say forget all the diets, eat whatever you want!
DHK: Enjoy that brownie?
Chin: Enjoy that brownie!
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