Interview with Gerald Okamura

geraldHow did your lifelong journey in martial arts begin?

I started in Judo at age 13. First couple of years was pretty regular, then with baseball I had to split my extra time between the two sports up and through high school graduation. I then enlisted in the Army right out of high school. During my three year enlistment I went to Korea on a 13 month tour of duty, and that’s where I trained in Taekwondo. After my discharge, I came to Los Angeles, California. I went to check out a Kung-Fu school near Los Angeles, in the small city of El Monte, that was being run by Jimmy H Woo. The art he was teaching was Kung-Fu San Soo. I instantly knew that this art was the martial arts discipline for me. I am a 5th Degree BlackBelt in Kung-Fu San Soo.

Looking at your IMDB profile, you have an impressive list of martial arts film credits going all the way back from 1975 to the present. What interested you in acting and how did you first get started in it?

Got into the TV / Movies accidently. Jimmy H Woo was called to do an episode on the TV series Kung Fu. He was unavavailble and sent me in his place. First TV Gig was the “Kung Fu” TV series, First Movie Gig was “The Killer Elite“. For over 35 years I have been doing TV, Movies, Commercials, Video Games, etc!

In addition to your acting credits, you are also known for creating unique weapons. What’s the story behind your weapon crafting?

Started as a hobby for me in designing weapons, but became an essential part of my arsenal in my training, movies, etc.

What exactly is the Okamura Hook Sword? Has it made any appearances in films?

The Okamura Hook Sword was designed with the point of the blade with the hook in the upper edge. I added the prong so I could spin the sword from a short to long sword and vice versa. It made an appearance in the film “Weapons of Death“. (See a YouTube clip of it here!)

What is it about martial arts that has had such a lasting appeal for you?

The Camaraderie amongst Martial Artists.

Big Trouble in Little China Questions

How did you first find out about John Carpenter and Big Trouble in Little China?

Big Cattle Call Interview looking for Martial Artists and Stuntmen for a Major Motion Picture.

What did John Carpenter (or any others) tell you about your role as the “Wing Kong Hatchet Man”?

At first nothing was relayed to me about my part or what I would be doing, just that I was one of many Wing Kong Hatchet Men.

Did you try out for any other roles in Big Trouble in Little China?

I did not, as the character for me was brainstormed by John Carpenter on the spot.

Did you pick out your character’s two golden guns?

No! Upon check-in the first morning, the prop shop had relayed that John Carpenter himself had picked out the weapons that I would use. To my surpise they were two Gold Plated Six Shooters along with a holster. In addition he relayed that John wanted me to have some BIG BULLETS! So then the prop master draped two Bandeleros across my body. The Bullets were big BIG BULLETS as they would fit a large rifle. The character was now Born !

Did you know Albert Leong prior to Big Trouble in Little China? What was it like working with him?

I had always ran into Albert at Martial Arts tournaments prior to filming Big Trouble. We had mutual respect for each other since we were both Martial Atists foremost that happened to turn into actors.

How was it like working with fight choreographer James Lew on Big Trouble in Little China?

Awesome! As with Albert I had always ran into James also at the many Martial Arts tournaments throughout California. The Camaraderie amongst all of us martial artists is very strong!

The Alley scene in Big Trouble in Little China is definitely a fan favorite. Can you describe your experiences in filming that scene?

The most memorable part was when John had told me to create a Kata, and then in addition relayed to me to kinda flicker my fingers by the guns (like the old western gunfighters would do before they drew the guns) and then begin firing at will!
This scene is a classic, with all my friends and fellow martial artists having fun and creating movie magic! Unforgetable! 

Did you get to talk much to any of the other lead actors (Kurt Russell, Dennis Dunn, James Hong, Kim Cattrall, or Victor Wong)? What did you guys talk about?

A liitle bit with Kurt Russell as he was an athlete, and appreciated the martials arts training. Chatted a tad about various sports!

What’s your best memory working on Big Trouble in Little China?

Working with a cast of the most skillful martial artists and stuntmen in the industry.

What was the toughest part about working on Big Trouble in Little China?

Having additional parts of the movie scrapped that I was in, since I was too recognizable in the shots I filmed in the alley scene.

Do you have any closing words for Big Trouble fans out there?

Thanks for making the movie “Big Trouble in Little China” a cult classic for years to come. 2011 – It’s currently the 25th anniversary of the film! – Send in your letters to John to create Part 2