Last April, World Film Geek had the pleasure of interviewing former bodybuilder turned actor and producer Alexander Nevsky on his directorial debut Black Rose. I am proud to announce that Nevsky is back, this time with the long-awaited Showdown in Manila, which features an action ensemble cast including Nevsky himself, Casper Van Dien, Tia Carrere, Olivier Gruner, Cynthia Rothrock, Matthias Hues, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, and Don “The Dragon” Wilson. The film will be coming to select theaters on January 19th from ITN Distribution followed by a Digital HD and VOD release on January 23rd.
World Film Geek had the opportunity to speak with Nevsky about the film and his inspiration to make the film.
Alexander, it’s great to be talking to you again, this time on behalf of Showdown in Manila. I got to see the film over the holiday and it is definitely a fun and wild action ride.
Thank you so much. I’m glad to hear. I didn’t direct this one. I think Mark Dacascos did a great job as a first time director.
How did the project come about as you helped come up with the story?
To be honest, I was inspired by the Expendables franchise. I know Sly [Stallone] personally and I was very inspired. I actually wanted to get all the guys who didn’t make it to the Expendables. I don’t know if you agree with me. I hope you will, but Mark Dacascos, Casper Van Dien, Olivier Gruner, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, for God’s sake. Tia Carrere, Cynthia Rothrock. I think they all should have been in The Expendables. Gary Daniels was in the first one. So, that was the inspiration.
When Craig Hamman wrote the script, I think he did a great because he had the drama and the comedy, but he also had a lot of action in the script in a way that we can present each character. Especially in the end when they all show up. You can still enjoy it. If you’re a fan of Olivier Gruner, you can see him doing all that crazy action. If you miss Cynthia Rothrock on the big screen, you will see her doing all that stuff. I was an amateur kickboxer and Don “The Dragon” Wilson was my idol! For me, to work with him, was a huge inspiration and thanks to Van Dien, we have all those comical moments.
I’m glad you enjoyed it because we had a theatrical release in Russia and it was actually pretty successful and it was sold internationally everywhere and in the U.S. and Canada, it will be released on January 19th in theaters and then January 23rd on Demand. For me, it’s a dream that continues to come true.
This marked the directorial debut of Mark Dacascos, who is definitely a favorite of mine. He truly has experience in films as an action film actor. What was the experience like under his direction?
Well, as you know I did my directorial debut with Black Rose, so I understood all the pressure. I think he did a great job because he knew all the people he worked with and the people he brought to the film. So he was able to do it all. And as you know, Al Dacascos, Mark’s father, was the fight choreographer of the film. Mark assisted in some of the choreography as well because you know Mark is a versatile guy.
He started as a fighter under Al and he’s also a great on-screen fighter. He’s done so many great movies and fights well on screen. On top of that, he’s also a great actor. He can do it all as an actor! So he put it all together and his part is small, because he wanted to focus on directing, so to work with him was unbelievably easy and it was a lot of fun. We actually shot the film in the Philippines, in Manila, outside Manila, and in an actual jungle. There were so many locations, but he handled it pretty well and I’m proud of him!
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Olivier Gruner, Casper Van Dien, Mark Dacascos, and Alexander Nevsky on the set of Showdown in Manila.
One of the film’s major positives is the ensemble cast. Mark has a cameo, but you have Casper Van Dien, Matthias Hues, Cynthia Rothrock, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Olivier Gruner, and Tia Carrere. How did this come about because everyone made the most of their roles in the film?
Well, here’s a few things. When you have Mark Dacascos as the director and Andrzej Bartrowiak, the director of Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave, as executive producer, it was pretty easy to get everyone involved. I knew many of the guys before. Don, Cynthia, and Mark actually had joined me in Russia several times when I was doing charity seminars and charity sports festivals for free. We would promote living a healthy lifestyle and promote martial arts and natural bodybuilding. So, I’ve known them before.
And Olivier Gruner. I’ve been a fan of his. He’s had great films like Nemesis and Savate. I was introduced to him by Matthias Hues, who is a longtime friend. We’ve done several movies together already. So it wasn’t that hard to get them and the idea of something along the lines of The Expendables with more comedy and martial arts action, they liked the idea. Mark called up Tia and she wanted to work with him. And Cary Tagawa, I’ve known him for a while and he’s also a great actor. So yeah, it wasn’t that hard to get everyone.
Mark’s father, martial arts legend Al Dacascos, served as the film’s fight choreographer. What did he bring to the table in terms of how to go about the action sequences?
I think what Al did was great because we didn’t have much time to prepare. I mean, it’s not a studio movie. When you have a studio movie like John Wick, which is Lionsgate, a smaller-level studio. They take several months to prepare all the stunts and fight scenes. We didn’t have the time because this was a fully independent production.
So what Al did was create a series of smaller fights that looked more real. They didn’t have to be long. I mean, there were long scenes in the end because we wanted to see more Olivier, Cynthia, and Don. But we did the smaller scenes especially for my character because Al told me that he didn’t want me to do something I wasn’t able to do, like Japanese martial arts. He wanted to make them more real and make the fights feel more real. And Mark is great because he knows so many styles of martial arts. And there’s another guy, Emmanuel Bettancourt, who is Mark Dacascos’ friend since childhood and Al also trained him. He’s a great guy! I got to fight him in the jungle. He played one of Tagawa’s bodyguards. He’s a great martial artist, a great guy. He also helped with the choreography.
So thank to Al, I think we made the fights more realistic.
That’s great. I do like the flashy martial arts stuff but sometimes I need that sense of realism when it comes to fight scenes and this delivers with that.
And that’s exactly why we made it. I understand that a lot of these big movies will have these unbelievable stunts and fight scenes, especially with martial arts. You also have films with Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron, I mean she was great in Atomic Blonde. She was unbelievable.
But, I think there are those who still want to see Mark Dacascos, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Olivier Gruner, and Cynthia Rothrock, those heroes from the old action days, where it was all more realistic. I hope that audience will be pleased as well.
Finally, what are your next projects? From our last conversation, you mentioned the possibility of a sequel to Black Rose. Is that still on the cards?
It is! I’m doing it step by step, but my next film is Maximum Impact, which is actually directed by Andrzej Bartrowiak and was written by Ross LaManna, who wrote the original Rush Hour. That film is ready and let me tell you, the first guy to actually see the finished film was my idol, Arnold Schwarzenegger! He went to the screening and he loved it! I mean, he was my inspiration when I first started in 1986 and here we are thirty years later, sitting with me in the screening room, it was so great! It was a dream come true!
And what’s great is that your site is for real geeks and I am one of them! (Laughs) But yeah, Kristanna and I have been talking about Black Rose 2, but my focus right now is Maximum Impact. This is my first real action-comedy and you’ll see a lot of stuff seen in Rush Hour since it is from the creator of that film with Andrzej directing it. I hope you will like it!
Showdown in Manila will be released in theaters on January 19 followed by a Digital HD and VOD release on January 23 and I think afterwards it will be on Netflix and Redbox. Anyone who loves throwback action will likely enjoy this film. Thank you again Alexander for talking about the film.
Well, thank you for all your support. And tell all the fans and readers that I may be 6’6” 300 pounds, but I am definitely a geek as well, a World Film Geek too! (Laughs).
A Special Thank You goes out to Katrina Wan PR and Alexander Nevsky, once again, for making this interview possible. If you wish to follow Alexander Nevsky and check out his upcoming films, go to his official Twitter page.