Jude Poyer is a British Stuntman, Martial Artist, Stunt Coordinator and Fight Choreographer who has been making a name for himself in the movie industry since a young age. Appearing in many blockbuster movies in Asia and America, Jude has cemented himself in movie history forever. Starring in movies with legends such as Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Yuen Biao, Jean Clade Van Damme and many more over the years and i want to thank him for taking time to do this interview for Asian Movie Pulse.
I wont go over to much as Jude will explain about his life, movies and injuries he has substained making his dreams become reality, showing everyone if you believe in something then go for it and make it happen.
1.Hi Jude, firstly for anyone who doesn’t know much about your background,could you share how you first started off in movies and how difficult or easy was it taking that step?
Jude: I’m from London, England, and consider myself “a child of the VHS generation”, meaning I grew up watching movies on tape: “Jaws”, “Star Wars”, the Bond movies and so on. In 1986, aged 8, I saw my first martial arts film. Not long after, I started studying Karate. So through my childhood and teenage years I had a passion for movies and martial arts.
Growing up, I also enjoyed drama (school plays etc), and became interested in film making. I still remember watching TV shows about how effects or stunts were achieved for movies and commercials. I found those kinds of documentaries more interesting than a lot of the movies themselves!
So as I reached the end of my school days, I knew I wanted to pursue a future in filmmaking, and performing. I looked into going to drama school. I was offered a place on a Film & Drama degree course at a University, but instead I decided to give Hong Kong a try. I loved Hong Kong movies, and in my simplistic 18-year-old mind it made a lot more sense to learn about filmmaking on actual film sets from the best action movie makers in the world (and get paid for doing it), than attend another educational institution.
2.Growing up did you always know you wanted to get involved in movie making and if so, what did you parents and family think about it at the time?
Jude: Some people have said it was brave to go to Hong Kong at 18. Actually, at such a young age, I had nothing to lose really. Relocating across the world if you have a career, dependents, a mortgage etc. – that would have been a bigger step.
My mother was of course worried about her young son travelling across the globe alone, but she isn’t one to discourage her children from pursuing happiness. Quite the opposite. She encourages it.
3.Some of the stunts i have seen you do have been amazing. What are your personal favorites and what was the most serious injury you have substained?
Jude: You are too kind. I don’t think any of the stunts I’ve performed are amazing. I frequently see stunts performed, or work with performers who make me feel ashamed to call myself a stunt performer.
I’m quite happy with some of the fire stunts I’ve done, also the work I did on a movie called “New Town Killers” in Edinburgh in 2007. I doubled the lead actor and also rigged the wire stunts. One scene called for the hero (who is trying to escape capture by Dougray Scott) to jump from a second story window, hit the roof of a moving ambulance, then land in the street below. The action would have been pretty straightforward to execute in cuts, but I wanted it to play out in one continuous shot: from window ledge, to ambulance roof, to street. It wasn’t a big budget movie, so we had to achieve it with a small stunt crew and inexpensive equipment. It turned out pretty well under the circumstances I think.
The roof of the ambulance was supposed to be padded, but for whatever reason (miscommunication, budget, I’m not sure) that didn’t happen. On the first take I hit my heel pretty hard on the roof. The second take was OK tho.
Bruises and superficial cuts are to be expected in this business, but I’ve not suffered any serious injuries. I’d be lying tho if I said I don’t feel the “wear and tear” years of stuntwork have had on my body.
4.You starred with one of all time heroes, Yuen Biao. What was it like to work with him and even get to fight him in the movie A Man Called Hero?
Jude: He was one of my heroes! In fact he still is. When I went to cast for “Man Called Hero”, I was told it was a follow up to “Storm Riders”. To be honest, I wasn’t too keen on that film. But then it was mentioned Yuen Biao was in the movie, and if I got the role, I’d be fighting him. At that moment, I really wanted to get the job.
I’m a big fan of Jackie, Sammo and Yuen Biao. I’m not quite sure why, but in some ways Biao is my favourite. I think Sammo is the best action director and director, and Jackie probably made the best movies…but I love the combination of Biao’s on screen persona, his acrobatic movement, his kicking style…
It’s one thing to meet your idols. It’s another to work with them and discover that not only are they as talented as you thought, but also that they are a genuinely nice person. Now that I work predominantly in the west, I still get surprised when I work with an actor who is aloof or conceited, because generally the Hong Kong stars I worked with were humble and approachable. Some actors contrive to make themselves look the best. A performer like Biao works to make the best scene. If that meant adjusting his movement to help me, he did it.
I’m not making this up – I’ve seen Jackie Chan helping move equipment and tidy the set so that the new camera angle has a clear background. He does sweep the set. Recently a young martial arts performer asked me about Chiu Man-cheuk. When we filmed our second fight in “Fist Power”, Chiu completed all his shots before me, so he was allowed to go home. Instead he stuck around to hold a crash mat for me to land on. I hope working with people like Jackie, Biao and Chiu-cheuk taught me not just about how to film and perform action, but also how to behave.
5.You have been involved in some amazing fight scenes over the years and worked with the likes off Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Jean Clade Van Damme, Yuen Biao and many more. Which ones are your favorites and how did you find the choreography during filming?
Jude: I don’t think any of the fights I did were amazing, partly because I worked on movies where not that much time was given to filming the fights. I mean the whole movie “Fist Power” was shot in 13 days. I worked on movies filmed in 9, 7, 6 days! These were 35mm movies, shown in cinemas. They weren’t the best films, but they sure were educative. Working with action directors like Ma Yuk-seng, DOPs like Choi Sung-fai and directors like Aman Cheung. They shot for the edit, meaning they didn’t film lots of coverage which wouldn’t be used. Each angle, every camera movement had a purpose. They got it, then moved on .
Another reason why my fight scenes aren’t among the best is I’m not among the best performers. If you look at the period I was in Hong Kong, there were better skilled, more versatile guys doing fights. Look at folks like Mike Lambert, Scott Adkins or Brad Allan.
Hong Kong style action isn’t easy – I know some amazing stuntmen and martial artists who just seem incapable of adapting to it – whatever “it” is – the rhythm, the power, the flow, the flavour…. It took me some getting used to, but I guess I wasn’t completely useless because looking at my filmography, I worked with certain directors and action directors more than once, so I suppose they didn’t mind having me back.
I have happy memories from most, if not all my Hong Kong jobs. Remember I was (and am) a devoted fan of Hong Kong and martial arts movies. Within a year or two, I went from a bedroom in London with posters of Jet Li, Van Damme and Biao on the wall, to working with those same people. I’m very lucky, I did get to meet my idols, I did learn a lot about filmmaking, and I got paid. I also made some lifelong friends. I still keep in touch with many of the HK film and stunt people, as well as fellow “evil white guys” from that time.
6.What was your experience like working on the Tsui Hark movie Knock Off? The movie had a great cast and also Sammo Hung doing the action must have been amazing?
Jude: It was a long time ago, so I don’t think I’m being indiscreet, if I say the filming was actually chaotic. The schedule changed a lot. Filming went over. Tsui Hark is an artist and gets inspired. I’m not sure that western-style structured shooting suited him. I think the film was taken away from him during editing. The finished movie is a bit of a mess, but I still rate some of the action sequences, and love the visual flair Tsui and his DOP Arthur Wong brought to it.
I had a great time working on it. I was a 19 year old kid who knew nothing, in Hong Kong for the 1997 Handover, making a film with Tsui Hark, Sammo Hung, Yuen Bing and Van Damme! People like Mars and Benny Lai were part of the stunt crew. Van Damme was friendly, encouraging and cooperative. Not only did I see some great action being put together, but there were plenty of laughs shared as well with folks like Mike Miller, Tony Trimble, Tom Hudak and Kim Penn.
7.What advice would you give people trying to get involved in movie making?
Jude: If you mean aspiring action performers, action directors and so on, I would firstly advise them to learn about many areas of filmmaking. You needn’t be expert, but some knowledge helps. Filmmakers are creating an illusion. Each department, whether stunts, costume, Visual Effects, the editor – they are all working towards telling a story. A stuntguy who only knows how to crash a car, is not as valuable to a production as one who might be able to suggest which lenses will best capture that crash.
I’m not just interested in action and physical movement – I try to keep up to date with new developments in the camera world, in post production and so on. This definitely comes in use when I work as a stunt coordinator. On one recent film, we had to show a character who is riding a bicycle, get hit and killed by a 4×4 car. Now this was written as a murder, not an accident, so had to look deliberate and lethal – a stuntman rolling off the bonnet wasn’t going to do it. The movie also didn’t have a huge budget or generous schedule. By sitting down with the director, editor, DOP and the writer, we came up with a solution which worked dramatically, and economically. I don’t think I could have explored different possible approaches to the scene if I didn’t know a bit about cameras, editing, VFX, storytelling and so on. And in many ways I have my HK education to thank for that. In Hong Kong, the action director will often operate the camera. They will supervise the editing of the action. You are encouraged to learn about different aspects of filmmaking. Aman Cheung was once an editor – that helped him direct movies with tight schedules, because he “cut in his head”. Andrew Lau was a cameraman and DOP before directing.
It’s strange how separated things usually are here in the UK. I’ve seen nicely choreographed fights turn out poorly because the director insisted on calling the shots when it came to filming, the DOP shot it how they thought best, then the editor cut it how they thought best. Sometimes these people don’t have an eye for action, yet they don’t consult the choreographer or stunt coord, or worse their egos are too fragile to listen to them. In the past few years I’ve worked as action director for TV series in the Middle East, and a few Indian movies in the UK. They don’t mind my operating the camera, and they expect me to deliver guide edits of the sequences. It’s a different mentality, but I guess that brings me onto the subject of humility. If I had to give advice, it would be “be humble”. If I’m the fight choreographer or stunt coord on shoot I will consider any suggestion given to me, whether from an actor, a stuntie, the DOP. I won’t let my ego dismiss a suggestion without considering it. If the idea is good – if it’s better than what I’ve thought up, or serves the scene better, there’s a good chance i will use it.
Every day I spend on set, whether as a performer or coordinator, I try to soak things up, to never stop learning. i’m lucky that I often work with very talented and knowledgeable people.
8.Who’s his favourite & least favourite person you have worked with? By Tony Coates.
Jude: I don’t want to mention negative experiences with people. Of course there have been a few. The film industry has its share of egos and sharks. On the positive side, there are many people who working with has been pleasure. There’s too many to name just one, and if I did name many, it would read like name dropping.
9.So what’s next for Jude Poyer? Do you have any dream projects you would like to share?
Jude: I’m currently based in the UK, and work wherever it takes me. I’ve worked quite a bit in the Middle East in recent years. My work as a performer or choreographer covers films, TV, music videos, commercials and more. If people are interested, there’s more information on my website & Facebook page:
I’ve been fortunate to work on a couple of projects here in the UK where Brad Allan was Action/2nd Unit Director. In my mind he has the best approach – the Hong Kong creativity where every shot tells a story, every edit has a purpose, but suited to western budgets and schedules. I’m very happy working for people like him on big movies, and I’m happy action directing on smaller projects. I would like to action direct a British film and do the action justice. Sadly, on the lower end of the budget spectrum, it seems there are producers who want to make “action films”, but rarely devote the right time or resources to the scenes, or get the best people involved in making the key decisions. There is a bit of a British B-movie industry, but sadly most of the films seem to be football hooligan or gangster movies, sometimes made with little passion. Hopefully that will change.
10.Finally, do you have a message for the Asian Movie Pulse readers
and your fans around the world?
Jude: I don’t think I have fans! To Asian Movie Pulse readers, I think it’s great how we can share our appreciation for these movies. I remember when I first fell in love with Asian films, information was hard to come by, and you looked forward to the latest issue of “Combat” or “Eastern Heroes” magazine. The website is a great source of information and opinion. Let’s keep supporting the site and supporting Asian movies.
To anyone who reached the end of this interview without falling asleep , thank you for reading.
I would personally like to thank Jude for his time to make this happen and thank him for giving some amazing answers and knowledge, wish him all the very best.