How Rain trained for 'Ninja Assassin'

WELL-BEING - Mylene Mendoza-Dayrit () - December 1, 2009 - 12:00am

Korean superstar Rain finally gets the starring role in a major Hollywood movie, Warner Bros.’ Ninja Assassin.  Directed by James McTeigue (of V for Vendetta) and produced by Joel Silver, Larry Wachowski, and Andy Wachowski (of The Matrix trilogy), the film is promoted as a high-energy action thriller.

 At 27, Rain is a singer, dancer, model, actor, CEO, and designer. One can’t help but notice from the movie’s posters and trailers that Rain prepared his body well for this movie.  Rain did admit in a New York interview that since his character in the movie, Raizo, is very sexy, he had to be extremely fit. “I trained for eight months, five days a week, eight hours a day.  And I only ate chicken breast and vegetables.  You know, it was hard.  Second of all, I learned a lot of martial arts — taekwondo, kickboxing, tai chi, and karate.  I love it,” he enthuses.

 Warner Bros. shares with us some background story on why Rain was chosen.  “The day that Rain did his first scene in Speed Racer,” recalls Silver, “the Wachowski brothers called me and said, ‘This guy is unbelievable.  He’s a natural.  He is our dream come true.’  And we began to plan Ninja Assassin immediately.” McTeigue says, “Rain’s physical ability was so good that we thought if we could do an all-out Ninja movie, he would be the one to do it with.”

 “When we were working on Speed Racer, Larry and Andy approached me and asked if I would be interested in being a Ninja,” recalls Rain.  “How could I say no to that?  I told them, ‘Tell me when and where and I’ll be there.’”

 Ninja Assassin follows Raizo, one of the deadliest assassins in the world.  Taken from the streets as a child, he was transformed into a trained killer by the Ozunu Clan, a secret society whose very existence is considered a myth. But haunted by the merciless execution of his friend by the Clan, Raizo breaks free from them…and vanishes.  Now, he waits, preparing to exact his revenge.

 “Raizo is a great assassin, one of the best students Lord Ozunu has ever had,” says Rain.  “But the bloodshed gets to him, and he has to escape.  And by leaving, he must betray Ozunu, who will then stop at nothing to destroy Raizo.  So Raizo leads a quiet, anonymous life…knowing that one day, Ozunu will find him.” 

The role of Raizo called for an actor with a special intensity, who could convey a lot of emotion in a very subtle way.  “Rain is smart and instinctive and incredibly dedicated,” says McTeigue.

Silver adds, “Rain really is a magnetic personality.  You can’t take your eyes off of him, he commands the screen.”

Rigorous Training

Surrounded by some of the best of the best in the martial arts world as well as top form athletes hired as fight coordinators, Rain also needed to engage in an intense training regimen so he could appear to be a Ninja trained from childhood. His performance impressed them.

“Rain can mimic the action and then put a little emotion into it — he could act within the action,” notes stuntman Chad Stahelski.  “I think he picked things up faster than anybody we’ve ever worked with. He had good physical aptitude, but he also had a great mental capacity for the action, which I think is even more important.”

 “Rain has amazing discipline,” says McTeigue.  “You can show him something once, even very complicated choreography, and he remembers it almost immediately.  Show it to him a second time and then he’s able to add his own style to the choreography you showed him.  There were days when he had to learn 25 moves and shoot them in one shot.  His performance was well beyond what we even imagined.”

 Stahelski concurs.  “As he went through the training, Rain kept getting better, so we had to keep re-choreographing.  What we had designed originally, he outgrew by the time we were ready to shoot.  The more Rain’s abilities developed, the more our choreography had to evolve.”

 “I trained for six hours a day for six months,” recalls Rain.  “Five hours on martial arts and one hour on total body fitness.  Their system is amazing.  It’s not just about lifting weights and cutting out chocolate.  It combines a re-growth diet and a lot of core strength building.  It’s about the entire body, inside and out, not just single muscle building.  It was hard, but it was incredibly rewarding.”

The actor completely transformed himself.  “I’m absolutely sure people won’t believe that it’s his body on screen.  They’ll think we digitally altered him,” McTeigue laughs, adding that during filming, his star “joked about the idea that, on the day that we wrapped the movie, he would just eat noodles and drink beer and smoke cigars.”

Rain’s training regimen also included extensive weapons work.  “We worked chains, single and double swords, and shuriken, which are known as throwing stars,” the actor relates, “and I had to learn to use them with force, and while doing jumps and rolls.  Very difficult stuff, but I enjoyed it.”

The amount of training was necessary considering the beating Rain’s character, Raizo, would have to take.  Says stuntman David Leitch, “It’s hard to show everybody else suffer if you don’t show your hero suffer.  I think if you see the Ninjas, all the blood and the sheer visceral imagery that we put into it, when you see Raizo, you buy it a little bit more. They suffer, he suffers.  He doesn’t go through an entire 15-minute battle and come out with a fat lip.”

* * *

“Ninja Assassin,” now showing in theaters nationwide, is a Warner Bros. Pictures presentation in association with Legendary Pictures and Dark Castle Entertainment.

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