Hello Mr. Merhi,
Thank you for your time answering my questions.
Q-Let us start with your life, how have you grown up and where?
A-Born In Brazil and Moved to Lebanon at 6 years old, then to Canada at 19 Years old
Q-How you got involved with Martial Arts?
A-My Older Brother was doing it, at age 11, I started Taekwondo, then at 16 I Started Shotokan karate, at age 20 I started kung Fu.
Q-What ignited you with the wish to work in the movie business? Which movies fascinated you as a child?
A-I went to the Movie Big Boss with Bruce Lee, and that is what inspired me that may be I can.
Q-You founded your own production company: film one, what have driven your decision to do that? Have you tried to enter the business and it was too difficult or you always wanted to have control over multiple aspects of a production?
A-I studied Film making, and I liked directing, but after I won a grand Championship in a Tournament, and a Producer approached me to be in his movie as a bad guy, to make a long story short, I refused the roll after few months of training for that roll, because I did not want to be typecast, and since I am a businessman I hired that producer to work for me. I always liked being in control of my life.
Q-You produced, directed and starred in your own movies. Which part of that is A-the hardest and which one makes the most fun from your perspective?
I never enjoyed acting, I love Producing the most.
Q-The 80ies until the mid-90ies where the highpoint of the Action and Martial Arts movies. Now the movie industry has changed dramatically and is even changing rapidly with the rise of Netflix, prime and so on. Could you describe for us how difficult it is to produce a action movie these days and how the whole process changed?
A-It is very Difficult, to make full feature, and at the same time a lot easier to become your own youtube star, with the new 4K cheap Camera’s, everyone can make a short movie.
Q-Do you have some projects, action movies planned in the upcoming time?
A-Yes, but not sure if it is financially viable.
Q-You are maybe most known around the world for the tiger claws movies. The trilogy has still a lot of fans around the world. Why do you think they are still so beloved?
A-That move was raw, and it had pure martial Arts love in it, the way the Idea Started, My Student Steve the writer, was watching me working out in our original rough Gym and the light was low, with strips of sunset Light coming from the small high window, it made an impact on him.
Q-Of all the movies you worked on what was your favourite movie and why? And what was your favourite role?
A-I think Tiger Claws will be that movie
Q-On that you worked with two very famous and legendary Martial Artist: Cynthia Rothrock and Bolo Yeung. What can you tell us about working with Cynthia?
A-Cynthia is a great Martial Artist, and training in Hong Kong, made her a movie star Martial Artist, she knows what to do and how to make it great.
Q-Bolo of course is a legend, from enter the dragon, through Bloodsport he is world famous for his physique and power. You also worked with him not only on Tiger Claws but also on TC2000. What is special about him in your opinion?
A-Everything is Special about him on Screen, the Camera loves him, plus he comes with great history behind him, he knows how to make a simple scene a special moment.
Q-Next to Bolo one of your most frequent collaborators is Billy Blanks, who later gained fame with his Tae Bo programme. He was an extraordinary specimen. You worked with him quite a lot, how would you describe your working relationship?
A-I met Billy when both were 20 years old in Buffalo NY, in a competition, and when I started movies he was one of my first choices, he gives his heart and soul to his work
Q-Also with David Bradley you worked a lot in the late 90es. He was also always kind of a fan favourite, what do you think was his appeal to the general audience?
A-He is handsome, and a good actor, he is one of the few Martial Artist who can also Act.
Q-Are you befriended with some of your fellow martial artists?
A-I am friends with my Actual, Martial Artists friends, the once in the movies, are actors, I hire, and we built a relationship, but we do not hangout when we do not have a project. I am busy and so are they.
Q-As a director (next to Operation Golden Phoenix) you did a trilogy of movies with Oliver Gruner. Oliver is also a Martial Arts expert. As a director is it hard for you to give instructions to a fellow martial artist or do think it is easier because you have a similar background?
A-Olivier is a Great Martial Artist, I would not direct him or others when it comes to martial Arts I ask them what can you do, once they read the script, it is better if they do what works for them, I will deal with the story and drama.
Q-How would you describe your directorial style?
A-Simple, I work with Actors, but I am good in doing it on time and on budget, sometimes I wish I could take longer and do a better job, but do not have that luxury, Crises and Sometimes a hero were done in 11 days each others 3 weeks, Talons, TC2000 and Expect No Mercy were the largest budgets, 4 weeks.
Q-What is your favourite movie that you directed or which is the one you are most proud of and why?
A-I have not made my Favourite yet.
Q-You worked with the who is who of martial arts, we already talked about some but of course there are more names, so if you are fine with that I would give you some names and you can comment on them or tell us the first things that come to your mind, ok?
He is one of the best people to work with, he is a Gentle giant, I would love to have him in a movie anytime, and the crew loved him, specially female.
Loren is a very Hard working individual, who had an unfair bad reputation, that he is difficult to work with on set, I did not see that, I Liked working with Loren considered him a friend and employed him whenever I could even in smaller rolls, if he had the time.
James is a master, and a legend, he had dinned few days ago and talked about old time, he is still full of energy and dreams.
David is one of the most misunderstood people, He told me in the early 90’s when I used his ranch for the end Scene in Expect no mercy, he told me one of the main reasons he agreed to shoot Kung Fu in Toronto in the 90’s is when they Showed him Tiger Claws to prove Toronto has Chinese side to it, and in the first episode you see a lot of the Chinese kids from my movies, also my Kung Fu Master, Sifu Mo Chow was their Chinatown locations expert.
Few weeks before he died he told me over luck and a drink, after asking him how come he is back to drinking, that he is board, he is not getting the rolls he liked after the success of Kill Bill.
Q-Are there any people or martial artist out there you would like to work in the future with? Like Scott Adkins or somebody else?
A-Yes for Sure, but now I am busy producing for TV
Q-When thinking about Action movies or Martial Arts movies, what would you say are the most important ingredients?
A-Great Martial Arts, a good story and a lovable character.
Thank you for your time Mr. Merhi