When we saw Michael Jai White as Jax in the "Mortal Kombat: Rebirth"proof-of-concept film earlier this week, we weren't surprised. Known for being a badass, the Brooklyn-born actor and martial artist has played Mike Tyson, Spawn and more recently starred in the '70s throwback "Black Dynamite," a film he also co-wrote.
Asylum had the chance to speak to White this morning to get his thoughts on why "Mortal Kombat" needs a gritty, realistic reboot, whether or not Jax will have his signature metal arms, and what it's like being the world's toughest nerd.
Why Reboot "Mortal Kombat"? Michael Jai White: The reboot of this type of franchise is the type of thing people want to see. [Director] Kevin Tancharoen's view of it is great. That's why I jumped in. We wanted to do the things we'd like to see. This dark, gritty feel -- along with the action -- is a no-brainer. I think the smart money is on darker. When "Spider-Man" became darker, you saw what happened. When "Batman" became darker, you saw what happened.
Getting the Video Made
Oftentimes we don't get the chance to see the things that we really want to see. If we want to see that, sometimes we have to do it ourselves. Sometimes it's hard to sell an intangible; you have to just do it.
The Mood on Set
The mood there was one of camaraderie. We were all there for the same reason. Nobody was there for the money. We wanted to lend our talents to something that we all believed in, without any thoughts of it getting anywhere, so the mood was really positive. People rolled up their sleeves just to get this thing done.
Finally Getting the Chance to Play Jax I was connected to both previous "Mortal Kombat" films. I was supposed to play Jax, but had to pass because I was doing the Mike Tyson movie and "Spawn." They were shooting at the same time. My chance to finally walk in Jax's shoes in this really felt good. I'd love to do it as a movie.
Reinventing Jax for "Mortal Kombat: Rebirth" Our natural take on it is to make it gritty and dark. Jax is still a hell of a fighter. He's still a super-badass, but he's just restrained by the letter of the law. We played with some ideas of building that up between him and Scorpion. That you're seeing two very powerful fighters, only Jax's hands are bound by the fact that he's an officer. He can't do what Scorpion can do. We have it pretty fleshed out on how we would take it.
Jax's Metal Arms Jax still has his metal arms -- we just didn't show it there. We were playing with some ideas when my arm hits the table to have this reverberation effect.
There would be some great fights with Jax. There's so much I haven't had the chance to do. I've probably shown one-eighth of my martial arts ability on screen. I got the chance to do a little bit in "Undisputed II" and "Blood and Bone." But with something like Jax and fighting elite fighters, I'd get the chance to do a lot of things I haven't been able to do in other films. With Jax having his metal arms, I'd use a lot of Wing Chun because it relies heavily on the arms.
Will "Mortal Kombat: Rebirth" Become a Feature Film?
If Hollywood is cool enough to get on board. I think a movie of this type with a hard edge is what people want. I think this a reboot of the game itself. There was this fantasy world that people were used to, but now we're bringing it into another world. Just like how "Batman" was rebooted -- there was the fun, Joel Schumacher "Batman," and then there's the Christopher Nolan one. That same analogy works with "Mortal Kombat: Rebirth."
On Whether or Not He's the World's Toughest Nerd [Laughs] I think so. Folks that really know me know that deep down I'm kind of a nerd in a jock's body.
Could You Beat Up Everyone From "Street Fighter"? [Laughs] You mean, me the actor beating up the actors? I consider Jean-Claude [Van Damme, who played Guile in "Street Fighter"] a friend, so I would never fight a friend of mine. I do fight him in "Universal Soldier 2" and I let the viewer decide who would win. People can compare and contrast if they'd like. That's all I have to say to that.
His Favorite "Mortal Kombat" Character to Play As in the Game I was Shang Tsung most of the time. My son beat me a lot, he's way ahead of me. He just destroyed me.
His Promise to "Mortal Kombat: Rebirth" Fans
The same enthusiasm will be shown -- and more -- if we get the chance to step up to the plate for the film. I feel like we all represent them because we are them, and thank them for their support. Because of the fans we can enact change.
And just in case you have no idea what we're talking about, here's the video: