Eric Jacobus is the founder of The Stunt People with Ben Brown and Chelsea Steffensen in 2001. He released his film ”Death Grip” in which he took on the role of Writer, Director, Lead/Stuntman, Choreographer and even Editor. He recently worked stunts in the upcoming “”A Good Day to Die Hard” and also took over the role of Stryker in “Mortal Kombat Legacy 2″. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Eric about his role in Mortal Kombat Legacy 2″ and what else he has planned next.
Mike Gencarelli: Give us some background about how you got started in martial arts?
Eric Jacobus: I was a late bloomer in martial arts. My small town of Redding, CA didn’t have many martial art schools, so I took to weightlifting. Martial arts may have helped with the bullies in school but I had a knack for talking my way out of everything, plus the weightlifting made me stronger than them anyway. I remember a kid was once pushing me around in the locker room, so I just grabbed his arms and pushed my foot against his chest and pulled until he dropped… Come to think of it I think that’s a Fatality move from Mortal Kombat. When I began producing action films in San Francisco around the age of 20, I wanted to exhibit the authenticity of a real martial artist, which made me seek out training. So I didn’t start training until I was 20. First I studied Tae Kwon Do under Andy Leung, and then Myung Jae Nam-style Hapkido under Dennis Ruel and Ray & Troy Carbonel. I’ve been doing Hapkido for eight years. Now the town I grew up in has either a mixed martial arts or trick martial arts school on every corner. Things have changed so much in just the last decade – everyone in America understands martial arts thanks to the widespread appeal of MMA, and you can see this paradigm shift influencing fight choreography in major Hollywood films.
MG: How did you end up replacing Tahmoh Penikett to play Stryker in “Mortal Kombat Legacy 2″?
EJ: I don’t know the logistics behind the change itself. It could have been a schedule issue, who knows? These kinds of things happen all the time. But the kind of character I’m known for playing in films is the underdog tough guy who is always looking for a way out of a fight, using his head for the most part but able to throw down when necessary. Some people have even called me the “white Jackie Chan.” Stryker is
a human in a supernatural world, a Jack Burton with handcuffs, and he brings real human emotions like fear, confusion, and humor. These are emotions I’m comfortable playing, so when the choreographer Larnell Stovall told me I should play Stryker I knew it was the perfect part for me. Hell, minus the cop part I play this character on a daily basis.
MG: How did you research to play such a well-known character as Stryker?
EJ: I played Mortal Kombat to the death as a kid at the local arcade. The funnier, underdog human characters like Stryker and Johnny Cage appealed the most to me because I could relate to them. Stryker’s also a riot cop. He protects the innocent, keeps the peace, and shoots to kill, a very black and white character (or black and blue). His gear is typical police equipment; gun, taser, mace, cuffs, and a baton, which I didn’t know how to use. This is where my stunt team The Stunt People comes into use. One of our members Yun Yang is a Kyokushin Karate practitioner, and he showed me how to use one. I also had a fair amount of on-set sidearm training with a firearms expert. But training in the art of police brutality itself was a non-issue – you could call that a personal character trait of mine. Protect the good guys, beat up the bad guys, no problem.
MG: What can you tell us about your episode this season?
EJ: This season I team up with Johnny Cage and we have some good scenes together, plus I have a badass fight scene. I get to be in more than one episode, too. Beyond that I can’t reveal much else. Did I mention I have a badass fight scene?
MG: Tell us about your stunt work on “A Good Day to Die Hard”?
EJ: I had just finished my martial arts action film Death Grip, and Chad Stahelski from 87Eleven Action Design took notice of the final knife fight from that film that I performed with Alvin Hsing. Chad brought me and Alvin to the 8711 gym where we choreographed a fight with J.J. Perry for A Good Day to Die Hard and filmed it, which is called a “pre-viz”. I got to pretend to be John McClane, toning down the flashy martial arts and playing more to his strengths, which again is the kind of character I’m most apt at playing. He’s vulnerable, faced with a superior opponent and always bringing the human element to the fight. He gets hurt, has to improvise, and avoids conflict whenever possible. It was a blast. Bruce Willis is another actor who inspired me to get into action film. If only I could’ve met the guy!
MG: Tell us about “Death Grip”, which you not only star but also direct, co-wrote, produce?
EJ: “Death Grip” is a martial arts thriller about a criminal who sets his life straight by assuming care for his estranged, autistic brother, but the brother inadvertently gets them wrapped up in the theft of a priceless artifact, and to clear their names they have to recover it from a Satanic Cult. Virgin sacrifices, killer monks, and a maniacal cult leader played by Power Rangers star Johnny Yong Bosch all stand in their way. I produced Death Grip with co-star Rebecca Ahn, who helped me pull together a sizable budget. It allowed me and my stunt team The Stunt People to go all out in the fight scenes: we destroy a bathroom, do a fight in the dark where the audience can what the characters can’t, and pit me against 15 other evil monks ala Armor of God. It’s pure, Hong Kong-style martial arts action mixed with American sentiment that you don’t typically get from mainstream action films. Whereas Hollywood films often rush the fight scenes and rely too much on fast editing, shaky camerawork, and stunt doubles, we do all our own stunts and have full control over the camera and editing. We don’t hide anything, and the audience can actually see what the hell is going on. People like that, especially since America now understands martial arts better than ever due to the popularity of MMA. I’m now producing a new martial art film called Marine Core, written by Steve Carolan. Imagine “Ninja Scroll” starring Rambo. Keep your eyes peeled for it!
MG: Where can people check out this action-packed film?
EJ: I’ll be at San Diego Comic-Con this year at Booth 4015 with other cast members, so stop by, get a Stryker autograph, and pick up Death Grip or any of my other films. You can always check out my YouTube channel, and you can always grab a copy of Death Grip on DVD or Blu Ray at our online store here.