November 5, 2017

Luke LaFontaine Chats Savage Dog (Exclusive)

With the U.S. release of Savage Dog on Netflix now and the DVD & Blu-Ray retail release on November 21st, Luke LaFontaine breaks down the action on the film and working with director Jesse V. Johnson, Scott Adkins, and the other actors. Luke has a wealth of action experience, and offers his wisdom and ideas, about being a fight and stunt coordinator. Sit back, enjoy the action, and of course, stay savage.

DT: I know you have worked with Jesse on many projects, must have been exciting when he asked you to be a part of Savage Dog, chat about the initial discussion you had with him about it.

LL: Jesse and I spoke at length about the action for Savage Dog  We both agreed it would be gritty and real. When Jesse said he wanted me to coordinate and do the fights I got even more determined to give him the brutal, gritty, real action we’d been talking about. Martin Tillman would be a tactician who cut you down and left you with a punishing reminder of why you shouldn’t have fought him.

DT: Chat about crafting the fights and action to relate to the late 1950s more of a raw, what I call non beautiful style action.

LL: The fights and action had to fit within the real world of 1959 Indochina. I did a lot of research on bare knuckle boxing, travel fights,dirty boxing, Muay Thai, muay barong, savate and military weapons and tactics of the french foreign legion. Scott couldn’t throw  720s in this film, this was a very different character compared to say Boyka who’s every move is an epic acrobatic fight ender. I wanted there to be a clear thru-line to the fights. A progressing story to show an escalation. Brute force being countered by technique and timing.

DT: I know Savage Dog was a real passion project for Jesse, chat about the cast on set, really seemed like a cool film to work on, even though not a big budget, it had some heart and soul.

LL: Everyone was onboard to make a genuine heart and soul film. Jesse’s determination and drive rubbed off in everyone. He knew every aspect of the film he was making. All the actors Scott, Keith ,Marko, Cung,Vladimir, JuJu all gave 200% and got along super. It was a very professional, fun set.

DT: Chat about working with Cung Le, and breakdown the fight he had with Scot Adkins, how do you adapt the action for Cung’s strengths and the close quarter fighting?

LL: Cung Le is an awesome guy. Hes nice as can be,cooperative, professional all while not breaking you in half like you knew he could. I wanted the fight between Scott and,Cung to be epic, it was the first time these two would fight on film. The choreo for this fight came easier, Cung’s character was the first to match Martins. Martin had no raw motivation to fight Boon so it had to build into no one standing in the way of Martins revenge. Scott and Cung both have amazing control. They worked flawlessly together.

DT: Marko Zaror is an amazing fighter and action guy. Chat about the massive fight he has with Marko at the climax, the weapon ideas and the action.

LL: Marko is great. Hes a gentleman and a talented martial artist. The final fight took two weeks to finalize. The previz took 6 hours to shoot with changes to accentuate the drama in the fight. We added 3 phrases of choreo.

The knife was Jesse written story point. He wanted a Spanish Navaja to be Marko’s tool for the executioner. I added real Navaja knife fighting techniques into the already complicated choreography. We decided Marko would be a Savate fighter to utilize his great kicks. Scott and Marko worked great together, they were unstoppable machines fighting for over 12 hours. One of my all time favorite fights. Proud of this one.

DT: Chat about fighting and filming in mud and water in Savage Dog, and how it changes the dynamics of the action.

LL: Honestly fighting in the the mud and water is a huge pain in the ass! It looks great on film but is NOT easy to do. Scott was a real trooper. His feet would sink 8 inches into the mud every time he kicked. Very difficult, but it got done.

DT: I saw you are fight director in the new Blindsided 2 film, chat about that shoot and tease a bit about the action, and working with Michelle Lee and Eric Jacobus and his team.

LL: Blindsided 2 was a pleasure to work on. I’ve know Clayton Barber for almost 2 decades hes my stunt brother and hes an intelligent, driven creator.  Getting to work w Eric Jacobus was a delight and an honor, we got along like long lost brothers. We actually call each other big and little brother now.

They really trusted my sword knowledge, we came up with..well Ill just say you’re in for an eye opening treat!! I didn’t get to work w Michelle Lee on this BUT.. I have worked with her and hired her on other films and video games etc… over the years. Shes a talented powerhouse action performer, and a fine actress. Blindsided 2 has got fun and surprises in store.

Above Photo: Luke and Robin Williams in Hook

DT: In Savage Dog, due to the settings and such the ladies in the film JuJu Chan and Sheena Chou did not do any fighting, curious on your thoughts on the upward swing of women in prominent roles in action films?

LL: JuJu Chan and Sheena Chou are both very fine actresses and super people. I am loving the upward swing in female action roles. I recently got to choreograph sword action for Amy Johnston in her flashback sequence in ACCIDENT MAN. Great time, Amy is amazingly talented and a super nice person. Looking forward to more strong action roles for women in films.

DT: I loved The Beautiful Ones, chat about working on the action in that film. It is a really raw gangster style mob film. – 9A I know the film was shot in Black and White, chat about making the action look stylish without the benefit of color film?

LL: The Beautiful Ones was a great film to craft action for. The knife fight is over 3 minutes of solid fighting. Jesse and I talked a lot about the real and sometimes awkward situations that happen in real fights. There are some great bizarre moments in the gun battles that show how things can really go sideways.  Black and white is beautiful. You have to deal in contrast, different imagery which makes things come across raw and unflinching.

Above Photo: Luke and Stanley Tong on Martial Law TV Series

DT: With so many projects under your belt, have you every thought about taking Jesse’s route and directing a feature film?

LL: Directing is a very different animal. I’ve done a lot of 2nd unit directing, and directed 2 shorts. I have a lot of projects I’ve developed that Id like to do one day. Perhaps down the line. Directing is nowhere near as easy as everyone seems to think it is.

DT: I like your open ideas to take on smaller and bigger film and TV projects, I think it makes you more well rounded in action, do you have advice for up and coming stunt performers and newer coordinators, seems many of them are looking for that perfect situation when it is not out there?

LL: Big and small projects have their different challenges. Small projects give you more leeway to create and problem solve. Big projects hone your organizational skills, bigger responsibility and results with Zero excuses.. I’ll quote Buster Keaton, “Think Slow, Act Fast.” Listening is important. The answers are there. You can and must learn from every experience.

Thanks Luke for sharing your action techniques with our readers, as always, keep action alive.

About the Author

Dan Templegod
Dan Templegod

I have written for more than a half dozen movie and music magazines. Zazz, Jam, The Wild Rag, Revelations, Sirens Of Cinema, Tampa Bay Spike, and Vengeance. All have ceased to exist, welcome to the age of the internet!! I currently write for Dan’s Movie Report



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