King Pow!

“An incredibly narrow in-joke targeted to the tiniest segment of an already obscure demographic.”

I am proud to say that I am that obscure demographic!

Here’s an exclusive interview with Steve Oedekerk (star, Director, Writer) from

Part One – Finding the film
Steve Oedekerk was busy fielding phone calls on the opening day of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, which he co-wrote and produced, when I called him to talk about Kung POW: Enter the Fist. As studio executives bombarded him with figures from theater chains across the country, Oedekerk took a break to talk about his spoof of Kung Fu movies. Kung POW is a unique kind of spoof. Oedekerk not only mimicked the style of ’70s martial arts film, he actually took a ’70s martial arts film and used its footage. More on that later. dragon of black pool - fort worth texas nathan stoutIn the film, Oedekerk plays The Chosen One, on a quest to defeat evil that involves a woman with one breast named Whoa (played by Jennifer Tung), a creature on his tongue and a Matrix-style fighting cow. Such a film is so complicated, it takes five pages to discuss.       How did you find the film you used? It was really just me starting to scout out libraries that for the most part were not in circulation, finding through foreign distributors like First Film in Hong Kong, that had a catalog of movies. Then it was really requesting screeners and VHS dubs of these things. The other larger library was we were looking at a lot of Media Asia [films]. They probably have the largest library. Then it was really going through these things at night. I probably looked at about 100 movies which, sadly, to my wife went from annoying to a normal part of our life. Every night I’d be scanning through three films. A lot of them were just they had no money to make these things. When I finally got this one, which I can’t even pronounce the original name, but it’s Tiger in Crane Fist in most English-speaking territories. It was starring and directed by Jimmy Wang Yu [right, above with Oedekerk replacing him below] who I’m a huge fan of. He was really the big thing before Bruce Lee. There were some really dynamic characters in there. Now, we didn’t dub the film. I wrote an original script. Half the movie is new, half the movie’s old and then we piecemealed the footage and the characters into my storyline. See, my problem is that as much as I love Hong Kong movies, anything made before 1980 I can’t even tell the difference You’re way friggin’ savvy. That could not be any more accurate. It’s great you know the world. Being that you know that point, trust me. I’m going through these things. I was watching movies where mid-movie, the characters changed for no reason. You figure they just must have run out of money and those same guys couldn’t make it when they were finishing it up, so it was just all new people. You’re right, there is this amazing similarity and that’s one of the things that’s a real compliment to Jimmy Wang Yu. In my opinion, most of the things he’s done – One-Armed Boxer and a lot of his other films – there was always some kind of a spark or something different and there’s this element in the movie that I really ran with that wasn’t capitalized on that much in the original. The evil villain who in my film is the Evil Betty, he has these pyramid shaped caps on his chest. It makes him undefeatable unless you pull them out to beat him, but if you reach for the caps, he can crush your chest. We took those caps and those caps are now like alien spacecraft. There’s this entire subtext of the evil council in the ongoing story. I did write it as a trilogy, so this is only installment one. You’re already planning two more? Yeah, to finish off the story it really does arc through two more movies. The first story, what’s driving the plot is really the chosen one getting revenge on the Evil Betty who killed his family when he was a baby. But there’s an overall quest of the chosen one and he has the mark of the chosen one. Was it hard to get the rights to the original film? I don’t know what to compare it to, so I’d say yes and no. It was hard in the sense that I was definitely going down a path that really hasn’t been gone down. I’m talking to people about purchasing a film from their library and they don’t get approached like that a lot. It ended up going very smoothly, but it was finding the right guy who knows the people in that territory, opening up the conversation. So, it took a while but it still felt like it went very well. Why not pick a Jackie Chan movie or somebody recognizable? I love that genre, and obviously there’s a lot of films that Bruce Lee is in and Jackie Chan is in that I love as well, but my goal in doing this was to have it feel just like an entirely original thing and not a specific parody of a specific movie or actor. I really wanted it to be like a comedy version of that genre. And honestly, even though I am kind of a technohead and I love meeting a challenge, probably the main reason I even did it this way was just that I love that genre. Even when they’re dramas, they’re so close to being comedies. I thought it would be so great to shoot a martial arts comedy but not have it be Hollywood looking, like a Beverly Hills Ninja or something, but have it really look like that style of film. And knowing what I know about film crews and talented people, I thought I’d never get anyone to really shoot something like that, even if I’m relentless. It’ll feel too much like everybody’s lowering their game. In those old films, it’s just a wonderful style of how they worked around not having money. No dolly moves, just those fast-rack zooms. Really no score to speak of, just those big, loud stings. I wanted that authentic style and that’s when it hit me. If I actually take old footage and it’s half the movie, then we’ll have to match it.
Part Two – Spoofs and the overdone Matrix move
Steve Oedekerk (below), director/writer/star of Kung Pow: Enter the Fist: Were you influenced by any of the classic spoof movies? I’m not a gigantic parody fan but I do like them when they work. I remember as a kid I really loved Airplane. Here and there you see one that works great. Airplane started a genre that sort of tripped over itself after a while. Over time, there were more bad movies that were just doing the “throw all the jokes at the wall and see what sticks.” I think that burned out and then something like Scary Movie came back with a freshness because the Wayans brothers gave it a real edge. And then we have a slate of thumb parody films, [Thumb Wars]. So, I like parodies, but I like them when they’re different. I think there’s also a gray area with satire and parody, but in Kung Pow, there’s no real parody jokes from specific items or movies other than our Matrix cow shot. That’s the only one? Yeah, because it’s really more of a send-up of a genre. Did you ever see A Fistful of Yen in The Kentucky Fried Movie? Oh yeah, the Bruce Lee parody. Is there anything from that you’re avoiding copying? No, I wasn’t really referencing it in regards to this. I love the Zuckers. With the Matrix spoof, are you concerned that that’s been overdone now? Totally! This has tortured me! For a minute in time, I was going to pull it and I wouldn’t be living today. I would have been battered by everyone in the movie and at the studio to death if I took it out. It was so long ago that I wrote that and I just so loved it, and I thought it was hilarious because the cow’s jumping up and shooting milk and at the time Jeff Lew and I were really jazzed about doing it. Then over the course of making the movie, I would see a version of that type of joke being done in trailers and/or movies, Cats and Dogs, Scary Movie and then I was thinking, “Oh geez, let’s take it out.” And everybody’s going, “No, yours is the most unique! It’s the cow and shooting milk and everybody loves it, so don’t touch it.” So, that’s the story behind that. I still really love it. It’s a phenomenal visual, but at the time I wrote it, it was pre- seeing that happen.
Part Three – Real martial arts and special effects
Steve Oedekerk (below), director/writer/star of Kung Pow: Enter the Fist. Click on the links for video clips from the film!: What was the extent of your martial arts training? I learned what I needed to learn as somebody would phonetically learn lines of a language. That’s sort of what I wanted. I really wanted there to be like a goofy white guy in the middle of this other world. Did you get in shape? Yeah, I definitely had a Wu Shu trainer out here and learned how amazingly un-flexible I am, which was great. It’s always wonderful when you’re doing an exercise and you find you can’t get into the start position. So, we did that and I had to get to the Bruce Lee/ Jimmy Wang Yu worthy thinness, so I stepped on the Atkins train. That was fascinating, having cheese and bacon omelets and watching yourself lose tons of weight. It’s funny, because if you fluctuate three pounds, you’ll lose the six pack. So, during the film you’re literally charting the days where you go, “Okay, that’s the last day I take my shirt off. Where are the ding dongs?” You can really eat that kind of stuff and as long as there are no carbs, it’ll work? Unbelievable. All it was was a theory and something I heard other people say. I did it, was dropping weight like crazy and literally having sour cream omelets, meat and shrimp and all this. We were in Mexico, lobsters everywhere. We rebuilt the majority of the sets from the original film. The whole thing’s just an amazing puzzle. It’s like as you watch the film, if it’s angled on me, it’s me with a fake matching set behind me. If it’s shooting over me, it’s actually not me. You’re pretty much looking over the shoulder of Jimmy Wang Yu onto the other actor with the original set. Then there’s the even more confusing shots that help make it all a wonderful illusion where my head is stuck on his body or my entire body replaces his body within an old shot. What is your favorite straight martial arts movie? It’s so hard to answer that but if I just had to spit one out, I’d say Iron Monkey. That movie is frigging unbelievable. The reason I waffled is there’s some really unknown ones that I saw that I couldn’t even tell you what the title was, that I saw when I was researching this film, that blew me away and not surprisingly, a lot of times it tracked back to Yuen Woo-Ping. Some of the stuff he did even when the movie wasn’t great, he did some of the most unique shit I think I’ve ever seen in some of these movies that are off people’s radar. Is there wirework in Kung Pow? Budget-wise, we do a limited amount. Honestly, I would have loved to have gone further with it, but I did hit a certain amount of not only budget limitations but footage limitations. The film we were using was a little bit more character based than action based. How long does it take to match yourself into a preexisting fight? It’s really complicated and really fun. You literally have to split it up into its individual shots and you’re just spotting for angles. When is something from behind? We can use all the shots that are behind. Then you’re deciding how much of the set you need to build on the shots you are going to shoot. What angle are we shooting? Clearly we can’t build 360. It’s just like a puzzle and I think the most complicated scene we did wasn’t anything to do with the old movie. It was me fighting the cow. Clearly, there are no cows that stand and fight, so the whole thing had to be boarded out a piece at a time. Jeff Lew, a very talented animator, we hooked up over the phone and over the internet he was finishing a shot and he’d post it, I’d look at it and give notes. I really put the scene together initially with him and we ended up – I’ll definitely throw this thing on the DVD because it’s interesting – we ended up with a longer than the scene is animatic of a CG guy fighting the cow. Then I had to go in and piece that up into boards so that I could physically shoot the real guy parts. I just thought you got the cow from Twister. See? That’s why I need to have you around more. But is the matching like Forrest Gump type effects? Very much so, and we had to do it a lot. We had the extra challenge of our negative was completely trashed, so bringing literally just Chris Watts who was our visual effects supervisor, him and a company that restored our footage. We had to pull the negative back to life because it was almost unwatchable and labs wouldn’t run it through their cleaner, because they were worried it was going to get ripped to shreds. Once we got that back, now it had pulsating light in it, colors that are phasing in and out. Not only do you have to do the normal job of compositing someone into other footage, but we had all these challenges of the wavering of color that we had to match on the person who was put in because there were certain things we just couldn’t revive from the film and there were some things I didn’t want to revive because I still wanted it to have an older look.
Part Four – Musical numbers and miscellaneous issues
Steve Oedekerk (below), director/writer/star of Kung Pow: Enter the Fist. Click on the links for video clips from the film!: How did you develop your hair style? We had a lot of hair problems because first off, I had to match the hair of Jimmy Wang Yu because there’s so many times in the film when you’re looking at me it’s really him. So, I had to match his hair, but then we were in Mexico, we had a couple wigs, it was really hot, so one of them went brown instantly, from black. Another one got all frizzy, so if I’m not mistaken, my hair is changing scene by scene the whole movie. It was a big emergency, but it was really all about making sure that I was a basic body match and hair match to Jimmy Wang Yu. How many musical numbers are in the film Well, we had one and I cut it out for pacing and people have been punishing me for this ever since. Don’t you have a fight scene set to Baby got Back? Oh, well there’s a few of those. There’s definitely some really cool funny fights to music. What’s driving that, story-wise, is that in our film, the Evil Betty only likes to fight to music, so we created an actor named Nasty Ness who’s a great guy, we brought in. He’s basically the boom box henchman of Betty. Before he fights, he’ll yell, “Hit it” and bang, Nasty pops out of the bushes wherever he’s at, hits the thing and the best one is definitely the Baby Got Back fight. Was it hard to get the song rights? In our case it was really difficult. The whole music issue was hard. I’ve done a lot of films and had some really nice budgets. On this one, it was such a unique and different premise that I think the only way I got it made was by making it cost-effective. We were a lower budget film and everything was difficult, so Jeff Carson and Franky Pine who are my music supervisors, they were just doing overtime in terms of dealing with new artists. We have Jeff Speachly, a talented songwriter from England who does a couple tracks. He does the great track to the cow fight. So, a lot of times we were working with new talent. Then the few cases [of popular songs], we had a few licensed songs that people helped us out and gave us a break on. What was the singing number that you cut? There was a big sort of more of a Broadway play kind of song in the film before The Chosen One went out to take down the Evil Betty. Everybody loved it but I had a problem with the pacing. I’m a big one on movie flow and I was getting bumped by it where it was in the film. We’ll definitely stick it on the DVD. Do you have outtakes of fights gone wrong? Sure, I got the crap knocked out of me all the time. I mean, there’s nothing worse than being the doof – it works great for the movie because it can be funny – but in real life when you’re shooting, there’s nothing worse than being around all these stunt guys. They’re frigging amazing, so you’re really like their idiot brother. They’re pulling stuff to not clock you. So, nothing bad but I’d always do something overzealous and sort of clock myself. Even a fake nunchuck hurts, trust me. Even a gopher-chuck hurts if you watch yourself right between the eyes or in the nuts with it. dragon of black pool - fort worth texas nathan stout Will you show the outtakes at the end of the movie like Jackie Chan does?We definitely have outtakes at the end of the movie because our outtakes are both unique and it was fun fabricating some of them. Because again, I’m able to dub everybody so it was nice having the older characters be able to have outtakes too. So, it’s sort of a mixture of actual outtakes that took place and ones that were created with the Cow and Tonguey, the tongue character. Jackie, I love. We’ll see in terms of what actually happens but one of my dreams in the sequel of this would be to have Jackie fight himself from when he was really young, which is entirely doable, especially after I’ve been through all this. I think that would just be such a blast.
Part Five – The sequels
Steve Oedekerk (below), director/writer/star of Kung Pow: Enter the Fist: Will the sequels you have planned be quicker to make since you know how to do it now? Very much so. Almost everything that we did is now a proven pipeline, where at the time it was a very aggressive theory. Just the effects alone on this movie would have cost four to five times the budget if I had gone to a house to do them rather than setting up the effects myself. An interesting little sidebar, we ended up having more effects shot than any film in history, including Star Wars: Episode 1, with an altered goal than these other movies. Ours are mostly to make it look like an old crappy movie. Good job, we did it. But every single shot in the film had to go digital. We were up-res’ing, down-res’ing and then on top of that we had another 600 regular effects shot for the fighting baby, fighting cow, stuff like that. Do you have Hong Kong films picked for parts two and three? I do. I’ve gone through so many movies, and as you so accurately cited, of the ones I went through where the entire film didn’t really work, there were some dynamic characters. So, I have sort of a grab bag of stuff that could work. I’m in the process right now of basically honing the story and piecing together what films or film would be the best bet. Can you tell me which ones? I can’t. I could have before, but now this is officially Fox. I started out as an independent film, but now it’s 20th Century Fox. If you can’t get Jackie Chan, would you still use one of his movies? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t really use an old movie with a really known popular star in it without that person’s participation and/or approval, because the goal of this was never to exploit something to get people to come see the movie. That’s in a way what that would be doing. Let me put it this way. To me, that’s only cool if I got the guy present day in there with himself. And it fits my storyline like a glove because as you’ll see when you see the end of the movie, it just gets into this – and this isn’t giving anything away in this movie, because it’s so whacked – but one of the first images I loved was that authentic genre with a spaceship in the air. So, it goes into this wonderful area where I can do anything I want. How will you go further and top this in sequels? The nice thing about comedy is you’re either fresh and you’re working and you’re making people laugh or not. So you don’t want to try and do too much What’s Up Tiger Lilying which is just having people say something they obviously weren’t saying and that’s the only joke. You get a few of those, but in general, the burden that would be on the sequel which is a great, fun challenge, is the gimmick will be taken care of in the first movie. Then it’s really just about how funny are your set pieces, how funny are your jokes? What I love about this formula and what was so fun about making the movie is you really get to hit it on many, many levels. In a sense, you’re redubbing some old footage, but you’re also able to create anything you want and you can turn a scene into anything. How well does this have to do for you to be allowed to make the sequels? That’s a good question. When I first started, the reason I wrote it as a trilogy at the time and felt so great about doing that was it was an independent film. I had raised the money independently, I was going to make it independently, I was going to own the movie so I knew at that time that there was going to be two more because I was going to make two more. Now, you’re right, now I’m a part of an official studio system as I have been on other films, which means the film will have to deliver in order to get the approval for a sequel. Unfortunately, I can’t answer the question any better than that because ultimately that becomes a 20th Century Fox decision. What’s been cool, even with them, is they’ve been allowing me the terrain of setting this path up down to even there’s a teaser for Tongue of Fury at the end of Kung Pow. If, God forbid, it doesn’t perform, would you be willing to go direct to video? Again, I personally can’t answer that question because I’m not going to be the one that’s literally giving the ting of approval for the sequel nods. All I know is I have a tendency to finish what I start. Yes, my goal will be to bully into existence if need be – yeah, I think every story should have its conclusion. What is the story of the sequels? There are intriguing characters that come up that don’t have closure of a character arc, and they’re being planted for down the road. There’s definitely a big good vs. evil battle going on between the evil council, who Evil Betty is really just a pawn in the world of the evil council. And the evil council is the behind the scenes very dark overlords. So it’s really Chosen One finding out who they are with the help of the character Whoa and other characters that have yet to be introduced. I know of them but they’re not out there yet. He has to find the evil council, find out what their plan is and somehow thwart it and take them down. There’s definitely Star Warsian mythology going on throughout this as bizarre as that may seem. And speaking of sequels, what was your reaction to some of the backlash against Ace Ventura 2? I think movies are there for people. If somebody wants to rip something to sh*t, great. If they say they love it, great. That’s what a movie’s for. They’re hopefully for people to enjoy, but it’s their business. A lot of people will say the first movie’s better. A lot of people will really, really pitch for the second movie big time, and I think I know what the dynamic of that is. Jim and I, being very young in our film careers, had a conversation at the beginning of Ace 2. And we said, “Okay, we’re either doing a normal sequel which means it’s going to be a similar character Ace in a similar environment with similar characters or the same character, but this time it’s not a dolphin, it’s a monkey.” We both thought that would be really depressing to the point where we’d want to blow our brains out. So, we decided to make him James Bond and we knew when we were doing it this isn’t the correct sequel formula that people do, because we’re walking away from him being a struggling pet detective that needs to get money to feed his pets in his apartment. We’re turning him into James Bond, the super animal savior. Then we ran with it. We just tried to make everything very big and very bombastic and had a blast doing it and were very thrilled with the way it turned out. But people who were really married to the formula of the first one, granted, we pulled the rug out from under them.