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The Warrior’s Way – Director Sngmoo Lee and producer Barrie Osborne and their cross-cultural insights

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The Warrior's Way - Producer Barrie M Osborne and Director Sngmoo Lee
Producer Barrie M Osborne and Director Sngmoo Lee at the junket panel © 2010 Laundry Warrior Ltd

The East, writer/director Sngmoo Lee, and the West, producer Barrie M Osborne, have come together to make a unique action drama called The Warrior’s Way.

The movie spotlights Yang (Jang Dong Gun), the world’s greatest swordsman, who has abandoned his warrior clan to start a new life in the American Badlands. Killing all of his clan’s enemies, he is reluctant to murder the last one, a baby girl who he takes with him to America to raise as his own.

Yang settles in the town of Lode, making friends with Lynne (Kate Bosworth), a young knife-thrower-in-training, and Ron (Geoffrey Rush), a worn-out drunk. When the Colonel (Danny Huston), who murdered Lynne’s parents years before, rides into the town with his renegade gang, Yang unsheathes his sword, aware that it will reveal his location to his own murderous pack, leading the townspeople, armed only with improvised weapons, in an all-out battle.

What attracted you to this story?

The Warrior's Way - Director Sngmoo Lee and Jang Dong Gun
Director Sngmoo Lee and star Jang Dong Gun on the set © 2010 Laundry Warrior Ltd

Sngmoo Lee: My goal was to make an extremely cool action movie with some emotion and brain attached to it. I always appreciate some sadness in humor and some intelligence in the action, and vice versa. For me, the heyday of the cinema was in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, when they were making art films that were enjoyable and appealing to the mass audience.

This marks your feature film debut, why this film and why now?

Sngmoo: That’s a tough question. When I first had a chance to direct a film I wanted to do something new, I didn’t want to repeat what other people did. I’ve lived in American for seven years and I’ve always wanted to do a cross-cultural movie, it was always my prime interest. I wanted to combine these two worlds in a very different way so I decided to put two archetypal films, a martial arts film and western film together. Why now? I don’t know, I guess it’s my instinct or my urge to see something I’ve never seen on screen before.

What was it about this project that you liked, Barrie?

The Warrior's Way - Director Sngmoo Lee, actors Danny Huston, Kate Bosworth, Jang Dong-gun, Producers Barrie M Osborne, Michael Peyser, Visual Effects Supervisor Jason Piccioni and Producer Joo-Ick Lee
Director Sngmoo Lee, actors Danny Huston, Kate Bosworth, Jang Dong-gun, Producers Barrie M Osborne, Michael Peyser, Visual Effects Supervisor Jason Piccioni and Producer Joo-Ick Lee at "The Warrior's Way" junket panel held at the Landmark Theatre on November 18, 2010 in Los Angeles, California © 2010 Laundry Warrior Ltd, Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Relativity Media

Barrie Osborne: I liked the cross-cultural insights of The Warrior’s Way. Introducing Asian assassins into the Old West is a novel idea. The movie transports the audience to an imaginative world with a very Asian point-of-view. It’s a broad, action-packed adventure with a tragic love story at its heart.

How would you describe the style of this film?

Barrie: In a way the film is very stylized, an idealize version of both the east and the west and that’s why we did it with green screen, if that’s what you mean by style. When we were in preproduction we went to the art department and the visual effects department and asked them to create this world.

We explored filming the entire movie on location, but we ended up instead creating it via green screen. We were telling a fable and a hero myth, and we felt the best way to do that was to do it through green screen so that we had total control of time of day and total control of the exact environment we were in.

Does it take a certain ability to produce these big effects filled epics?

Barrie: If you’re going to be successful at doing these films I believe the way I am, I operate from a place of being calm about all the chaos that goes on so that I can deal with it, and most of the time I don’t lose my temper. I enjoy the challenge of putting those things together and seeing them through production and post-production.

What was your process in casting this film?

The Warrior's Way - Director Sngmoo Lee and Kate Bosworth
Director Sngmoo Lee and Lynne (Kate Bosworth) on the set © 2010 Laundry Warrior Ltd

Sngmoo: Jang Dong Gun I met for another project and when we were getting into production on this he was my first choice. Although this is a martial arts film, it has a very deep story and the character has to undergo big emotional changes without showing too much emotion on his face, so I really needed a good actor. Jang liked the script very much and I was very happy to get him.

Geoffrey Rush was the first one on board, and he was a big champion of this project. Then we went for the female role and we were lucky enough to get Kate (Bosworth), because we needed an actress who could do her own stunts, who was smart to understand and embrace the deeper part of (the cultural differences) and the chemistry between Jang and Kate was very important, so Kate was perfect for the role.

And Danny (Huston) came in at the last minute to play the complex villain we love to hate and with a half covered face delivered a perfect performance, so I’m very happy about all the cast members.

How hard was it to cast the baby in this?

The Warrior's Way - Director Sngmoo Lee and Kate Bosworth
Director Sngmoo Lee and star Kate Bosworth on the set © 2010 Laundry Warrior Ltd

Barrie: One of the things that Sngmoo did that really upset me as a producer was normally, if you’re going to have a role of a baby in film, you cast twins to extend the hours per day. But Sngmoo said, ‘No, I found this one baby that is perfect for the role.’ I said, ‘Come on, it’s a baby.’ But when we all saw the auditions we agreed with him, I’m ashamed to admit it. She is really good in the film.

The ads for the movie say, ‘From the producer of The Lord of the Rings. Have you been involved in the complicated production of The Hobbit?

Barrie: No, I’m not involved in The Hobbit at all, but I wish them luck. It’s a good follow up to what we did and the world we set up.