Talks & Interviews — January 31, 2018 at 12:18 am

Don “Dragon” Wilson: I read scripts, negotiate film projects on a daily basis

By Tim Tal

The era of 90’s action and martial arts movies is long gone, but many of the era’s stars are still around, doing what they do best. Among them is Don “The Dragon” Wilson.

Wilson is an 11-time professional kickboxing world champion who scored 47 knockouts in four decades, a European Martial Arts Hall of Famer.

Today, Wilson combines starring in movies, as well as traveling and teaching martial arts seminars. Despite his busy schedule, he has agreed to do the interview with BZFilm about his career, future plans and so on.


You made several films in Kazakhstan, including “The Diamond Cartel”. What impression did this work left on you? What was it like shooting in Kazakhstan?

I have been traveling to Kazakhstan since the early 90’s and have always enjoyed my trips to that part of the world. Since I look very much like the local population, I believe my films have been successful because they think of me as “one of their own”. I was visiting Almaty to attend a film festival and while having dinner with Armand Assante he suggested I consider working there because he had found it to be an enjoyable experience.

At that time, it did not occur to me that I would soon be in a film starring him in Kazakhstan! It was fun to portray a “Chinese Mobster” and since I was going to be in the country doing a “charity” Demo, convenient as well. Last year, Cary Tagawa, Bai Ling, and I went to Almaty to discuss appearing together in a TV Series. The quality of their TV and Films is very high and, with the right budget, they could be sold Internationally and not just within their own country.

You starred in “The Martial Arts Kid”. There are plans to launch “The Martial Arts Kid 2: Payback”. How do you think the first one turned out, and what do you think of the sequel?

I expected “The Martial Arts Kid” to be a very high quality family film with, action, comedy, and a love story. I was still impressed with director-producer-writer Michael Baumgarten’s final product. Of course, he needed the support of the producers to “get his vision” on the screen but, ultimately, he was the Captain of the Ship and deserves most of the creative credit.

The producers seem to be taking the story into a more action oriented direction and, although, different than the family-oriented original. I expect it to have more than just action and perhaps some uplifting-inspirational themes similar to the original “The Martial Arts Kid”. I like that we are filming exclusively in Florida this time because there are some fantastic locations that have never been filmed and that can actually become like a “character” in the film-story.

Since the end of 90’s action films era, what was the most exciting film you did in the last 10 years, and why?

“The Last Sentinel” was a lot of fun because the director-writer Jesse Johnson was also a highly regarded Stunt Coordinator and treated the “action” part of the film with great respect. Some directors are more interested in covering the Drama and, in my films, that could be problematic. I specialize in Action and my fans expect a certain focus on the quality and type of action provided in each movie. The film was VERY successful and aired in the US as a SYFY Channel World Premiere.

How do you currently combine your filming schedule with martial arts? How much are you involved with martial arts at this point?

I travel all over the world teaching Dragon Fighting Seminars. Since I was a successful Pro Kickboxer for 28 years, I have a lot of knowledge regarding strikes and defense against strikes, that is valuable to martial artists. I do not teach them to become kickboxers but I show them the aspect of kickboxing that enhanced my abilities as a martial artist. Because I teach practical techniques and not theory, I feel they are gaining knowledge which could not be learned without fighting yourself or just taking my seminar.

Believe me, the secondary choice is MUCH easier and less time consuming. As far as filming, I read scripts, take meetings with producers, and negotiate domestic and international film projects on a daily basis. I’ve learned that one must “juggle” more than one potential project at a time because they are always subject to delays, postponements, and cancellations. So, one must always keep the doors as open as possible until the deal is “signed”.

Do you have any plans in the future to direct your own feature film? You have two credits as a writer with “Lion Strike” and “Out for Blood”, but nothing regarding directing…

I have no desire to direct and instead find it gratifying to find and work with talented directors to create a product better than I could have imagined myself. I suppose my “creative” desires focus on the acting and not in being “Captain of the Ship”. If I can make my characters sympathetic yet strong, the audience can respect and identify with them and be rooting for their success throughout the film. If they are too strong, like superheroes, I don’t think mainstream audiences will get emotionally committed to their success ie “Rocky”, “The Karate Kid”, etc.

It’s my job as the actor to balance the heroism with vulnerability that creates a multidimensional person with weaknesses as well as strengths. I want to choose talented people and manage their pluses and minuses in such a way that the final product is better than I had imagined myself. I love to be “proven wrong” if the final product is better than I planned.

Who was the toughest on-screen opponent you had to face in your films? Anyone particular who you admire as a martial artist?

“Toughest”??? Well, since the fights are just choreographed moves, none of them had to be “tough”. But, Maurice Smith, Rob Kaman, Brad Hefton, Ernest Simmons, Gokor, Judo Gene LeBell, Danny Lopez, Billy Blanks, and MANY others were Pro Fighters and Great Martial Artists so I wouldn’t have wanted to “face” any of them without my stunt-coordinator and choreographer!

Thanks for letting me speak to your audience and thanks to all my fans for giving me a “second career” after being a Pro Kickboxer!

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