From teaching the arts of Wing Chun to his students in real life, to displaying his martial arts prowess on the big screen as a leading man, MAAC sits down with Peter Pham to talk about his upcoming actioner The Foggy Mountain aka Đỉnh Mù Sương.
MAAC: Can you tell us a bit about your martial arts background and who inspired you to pursue a career as an action star?
Peter Pham: I learned Tae Kwon Do and Hung Gar at the age of 13. In 1993 I immigrated to the US and trained in kickboxing during my college years. Then in 1999 I started learning Ip Man’s Wing Chun and continue to train and teach the art until today.
MAAC: Being a real life Wing Chun practitioner, what are your thoughts on how Wing Chun is depicted in such films as the highly popular Ip Man franchise starring Donnie Yen?
Peter Pham: The Ip Man movie is great and it is just a movie to entertain people, but as a real life Wing Chun practitioner I have to warn the practitioner and martial artists to differentiate between movies and real life martial arts. It is not as pretty as you might see it in Ip Man. In fact, it’s very brutal and ugly. As a practitioner, I trained to better myself, to improve myself to be better than the way I was yesterday and ultimately to defeat myself because you are your worst enemy.
MAAC: How did your upcoming film The Foggy Mountain come about? Is this a passion project of yours?
Peter Pham: This is a project of my dream and passion for years. I once traveled back from Asia during hurricane Harvey that destroyed most of Texas and I was touched by a real story of a man who left to go to work that day and when he returned, mother nature had wiped out his home and he lost his wife and daughter. The man is a martial artist himself. He decided to leave everything behind and returned back to his family home land in Vietnam, which is close to the mountain areas. On his way home he encounter a group of organized criminals who kidnapped women and children for human trafficking.
MAAC: Was it your idea to bring on Muay Thai specialist Simon Kook (Ip Man 3) and WBA Asia Boxing Champion Truong Dinh Hoang for the project? It is great to see REAL martial artists in an action film like this.
Peter Pham: Simon Kook and I have been friends for a long time. He is a Muay Thai specialist. His fighting skill is exceptional. When we wrote the script the writer and director had thought about Dustin Nguyen (The Rebel) to play this role, but after thinking about it thoroughly we believed that Simon Kook looks closer to the tribe people that lives close to the mountain areas in Vietnam.
About Truong Dinh Hoang, the boxing champion, he is the Mike Tyson of Vietnam. We wanted to have an opening fight that looks real and brutal so we decided to cast him and luckily he accepted the role. His performance is so real that the fight scene looks amazing.
MAAC: Did you guys sustain any injuries during the intense fight scenes?
Peter Pham: Yes, we did have several injuries during filming. The fight between me and Simon Kook in the jungle, I kick the knife off his hand and it flew back and poked straight to his left eye. Luckily that everything was okay and we finished filming the scene.
The fight between me and the boxing champion, while we were filming, the floor was slippery and I tripped and fell into the left hand of Truong Dinh Hoang. He almost knocked me out! My right jaw was hurting for a while.
MAAC: Along with starring in the film, did you also choreograph the action? How long did it take for you guys to train and put together the fight scenes for the film?
Peter Pham: I choreographed everything for the movie and it took us 2 months to prepare and 36 days to film the whole movie.
MAAC: We reported a while back that you were supposed to collaborate with martial arts star Cung Le and producer Ngo Thanh Van on a film called The Target. Is that project still happening?
Peter Pham: The project with brother Cung Le and Veronica Ngo were put on hold due to disagreement on filming locations between Vietnam and USA along with some other issues. But He and I are planning to make it happen next year.
MAAC: Can you share with us what other upcoming projects that you have in stores?
Peter Pham: Currently The Foggy Mountain is set to premiere in theaters across the country of Vietnam on July 17, 2020. I just finished directing all the action for a Vietnamese version of The Karate Kid which is set to be released later this year. I also have an action thriller in the pipe that is in pre-production now.
MAAC: Thank you so much for your time Peter! We want to wish you the best of luck with The Foggy Mountain and your future projects! Continue representing Vietnamese action cinema!
Peter Pham: Thank you so much brother for the love and support!