Impact talks to Pete Malota about his career and long association with Jean Claude Van Damme… leading to their latest team-up, Kill ‘Em All (with Malota directing)…
Most of us were first introduced to Peter Malota with a flash of steel and a slick spinning kick in the classic Double Impact, which saw him working both in-front and behind the camera. Malota brings more than 40 years Taekwondo experience into play as a fighter and choreographer and his film credits include everything from LA Streetfighters, Double Impact, Universal Soldier 1 & 2, The Quest, Honor, and Steven Seagal’s The Perfect Weapon. He makes his directorial debut with the upcoming release of Kill ‘Em All which reunites him with longtime friend Jean-Claude Van Damme.
We caught up with Malota for the following interview…
Impact: Peter, you’ve known Jean-Claude for a long time, how did the two of you first meet and did you have any idea when you met that the friendship would last so long and see you guys travel the world?
Peter Malota: We met for the first time in 1982 at a movie audition in Hollywood. The next time our paths crossed was in August of 1990, this time it was in Paris, France. I was there for ten days as a guest teacher for some martial arts classes and he happened to be there promoting Lionheart/AWOL. We reconnected and he offered me one of the lead bad guy roles and asked if I could be the fight coordinator for his next project. Five months later we were in Hong Kong filming Double Impact.
Now you’d already made a few movies… including Furious and LA Streetfighters with the Rhee Brothers… but it was Double Impact that really introduced you to the world of martial arts movie fans as the super-kicking baddie with spurs. How did you find the experience of shooting the movie and being in Hong Kong?
Peter: Working on Double Impact was a fantastic experience. We shot in Hong Kong for over two months, followed by another month of filming in Los Angeles when we got back. The cast and crew for this movie were exceptional: in Hong Kong we had Jean-Claude, Bolo Yeung and Phillip Chan. The stunt and action team for the film were the best in the business at that time, Vic (pictured opposite) and Andy Armstrong from the West and John Cheung from Dragon the Bruce Lee Story from the East. We filmed the movie at the legendary Shaw Brothers Studios in Hong Kong, it was a very special time for all of us.
How easy was it for you to adapt from real martial arts to reel cinematic martial arts? I don’t think people realize how many of Jean-Claude’s movies you’ve actually worked on both in front and behind the scenes.
Peter: At this point I already had extensive martial arts experience and was a big martial arts film fan. It came fairly natural for me to transition from martial arts to fight choreography and co-ordinating. They are two different things… doing martial arts training or being a teacher, and then when you adapt martial arts for film fighting, you need to find a balance between technique and entertainment.
Over the last 27 years I have worked with JCVD on ten films in total. On nine of these films I was involved in the fight co-ordination, for the tenth one, Kill’Em All, I am the director!
For The Quest – which saw Jean-Claude make his directorial debut – you were not only the martial arts choreographer but you also played the flamboyant Spanish fighter, tell us a little about the making of the film…
Peter: The Quest was another great experience. We filmed all over Thailand for three months. It’s a film based on a martial arts tournament with sixteen different fighters from sixteen different countries, all with their own style of fighting. So we tried to showcase each style to the best of our ability. We had over 20 big fights and a great cast including the late Roger Moore. I have very fond memories from this movie and made some great lifelong friends among the cast.
Each of the fighters brought their best to the project. I think they all appreciated the opportunity to work on a project of this magnitude with JCVD. As you know Jean-Claude was not only the star for this movie, but also the director. At the end of the day, all of us were working hard to make his vision a reality and we were all very happy to be able to accomplish this.
How would you describe your relationship with Jean-Claude? You’ve seen all the different sides of him, what would you say is the element of his personality, his character that you feel is his best?
Peter : I’ve known Jean-Claude Van Damme for 27 years, and after all these years and working together on so many projects, we have built a brotherly relationship. For me his respect and loyalty to me, personally and professionally, is excellent. Some things that make JCVD special is his work ethic, his physical and martial arts ability, his love and passion for movies. He always wants to do his best.
Kill ‘Em All,’s story sees a wounded man (Van Damme) brought to a hospital emergency room for immediate treatment. A young nurse (Autumn Reeser from Entourage) is assigned to take care of him, but the arrival of a brutal hit-team, whose members include 8711 regular & Bloodsport 2 hero Daniel Bernhardt and Krisz Van Damme, forces her to join ther patient as they battle to evade the bad guys who intend to ‘kill’em all!” Peter Stormare from Prison Break & Maria Conchita Alonso (Extreme Prejudice) also co-star. Peter… you’ve been fight coordinating and stunt coordinating on a lot of different projects, but Kill Em All sees you making your full Directorial Debut, how did Jean-Claude get involved and how did you feel about directing him?
Peter: Kill’ Em All was offered to me as a director, and then the producers approached JCVD to star in it. Now Jean-Claude not only agreed to star in it, but also for me to direct. He had trust and faith in me to make my directorial debut with this project. I was very humbled by JCVD giving me the chance to direct him in this movie. I had one goal for the project… and that was that I would deliver a film that we would both be very happy and proud of. And I think I accomplished that. Directing Jean-Claude was very natural, because of our long working relationship, he trusted me 100% and believed in me and that made my job easier and enjoyable. JC was a great support/team player for this film, lending an ear to the younger cast members and sharing his extensive action film experience. He helped them to do their best.
We really hope the audience enjoys the movie as much as we enjoyed making it. Everyone from JCVD onward got along and supported each other, it was a real team effort. We tried to balance the story and action, to make them compliment each-other and make it entertaining for all the fans…