21 Jan Q&A WITH ROGER FAN, CAST OF ANNAPOLIS
Justin Lin’s latest film, “Annapolis,” hits theaters nationwide on January 27. With a $35 million budget and an all-star cast, “Annapolis” is a far cry from “Better Luck Tomorrow,” Lin’s mostly self-financed indie feature that garnered critical acclaim at Sundance and opened doors for Asian American cinema and actors.
That includes Roger Fan, who starred in “Better Luck Tomorrow.” Lin fought to cast Fan in “Annapolis” and won the battle to diversify the cast. The tall (6’2″) actor is a big fan of the SDAFF and has attended our festival twice, including just a few months ago when he whooped it up on our “Asians in Hollywood” panel. Starting January 27, we can see Fan in action on the big screen with James Franco, Tyrese Gibson, and Donnie Wahlberg.
Lee Ann Kim: Congratulations on being cast in a studio film, as one of the leading men, no less! How would you rate this acting experience compared to previous gigs?
Roger Fan: Thank you very much! Working on “Annapolis” rates very high up on my list of experiences, mainly because I had a meaty role that I could be creative with and also because I got to learn how to box. But I must confess, the best experience I’ve ever had was “Better Luck Tomorrow.” I wish the cast and crew of BLT were there. But “Annapolis” is definitely a close second.
Kim: Your character was not written for an Asian American, but director Justin Lin pushed to diversify the cast, which gave birth to your character, Loo. Do you have any stories about casting and the choice for your name, Loo (as opposed to David, Sam, or Wayne), and can I call you Lookie Loo?
Fan: The original name of my character in the script was Forrester (obviously not Asian American). If Hollywood had done it’s traditional thing, I do not believe “Annapolis” would be as diverse of a film as it is. I remember when Justin told the studio that he wanted me for the role, I was told that the room was silent for quite a while. I think everyone in the room had a mild brain hiccup because it probably wasn’t in their realm of possibility that Forrester could be an Asian American.
It takes progressive and courageous people like Justin who think differently to bridge the gap between the marginalized and the mainstream and bring them closer together. I could have kept the original name Forrester…didn’t bother me at all. I actually thought it would be cool. But then again, Justin and I had a good laugh. What if Daric from BLT got away with murder and went on to study at…(oh crap, I promised Justin I would not tell…).
Kim: You worked with Justin on “Better Luck Tomorrow.” How was it working with him this time?
Fan: It sucked. Just kidding! It was amazing. I got quite emotional when I got to the set on day one. It’s so cool to see your friends grow and succeed. And seeing Justin there on the first day, directing a $35 million feature, it was too much. Especially when just 3 years prior we were doing BLT for no money. He directed the film and treated the people on “Annapolis” just like he did on BLT. There was a great sense of trust and respect on the set (which is usually never the case on a Hollywood movie). Good times and great memories!
Kim: This was a very physical role. How did you prepare for it? I assume a low-carb diet and lots of crunches and push-ups.
Fan: Don’t try this at home. It was very painful. I trained in boxing for almost four months, went to boot camp to learn the finer points of Naval torture, and took the South Beach Diet to a whole new level of stupidity. The upside of all of this physical hardship was that my role/character just popped out from it. That and the fact that Donnie Wahlberg and I knocked each other out simultaneously in the boxing ring.
Kim: You recently watched the final cut of “Annapolis” and you were fired up, and seemed almost surprised by what you saw. What touched you and made you feel so optimistic?
Fan: First, it was a good film. But on a personal level, it was probably one of the first times I have ever seen an American movie with an Asian American character that didn’t have to explain why it had an Asian American person on screen. You know, it was not the Chinatown episode, a martial arts theme, I wasn’t Jet Li’s younger brother…you know what I mean. My character was just up there being a great naval officer who just happens to be able to throw in the boxing ring. The whole thing was just so powerful in a very subtle way.
Kim: If “Annapolis” does well at the box office, do you think Hollywood will credit the Asian American audience for its success?
Fan: Hmmm…good question. I still think Hollywood doesn’t really know what to make of the Asian American audience. Mainly because their buying patterns are virtually identical to the Caucasian demographic. However, if the AA population comes out in very large numbers to watch “Annapolis” on its opening weekend [January 27], it will continue to build on the momentum that we created with “Better Luck Tomorrow.” The beginnings of a trend may become apparent. Then, if AA’s show up in mass again when Justin’s next movie, “The Fast and the Furious 3” comes out, Hollywood will have significant data that suggests that AA’s support and want to see films made by and starring people from their own community. If Hollywood gets that message, look out! The landscape could quickly change…AA flava, baby. This would be great for everybody.
Kim: Give us your best short pitch on why we should see “Annapolis.”
Fan: Because I make love to a chipmunk in the film. Just kidding. It’s a good movie and I’m proud of it. It’s a boxing film set at the US Naval Academy. That means lots of sweaty, shirtless young men working out their inner frustrations in the ring. What more can you ask for? A chipmunk you say?
Kim: Finally, we’re hard up to see part two of your short mockumentary, “Quest For Length.” Are you working on a sequel?
Fan: I personally would love to do one. However, the true star of the film, my Peter Fan, is asking for wayyy too much money for the sequel. I can’t believe he has such a big head from just one movie. : )
Roger Fan made his feature film debut in “Rush Hour” and co-starred as Chris Kattan’s FBI partner in the Disney/Touchstone comedy “Corky Romano.” Fan completed a role in “D.E.B.S.” starring Jordana Brewster, and also appeared in the Farrelly Bros.’ film, “Stuck on You.” Among his numerous television credits are roles on “ER,” “Frasier,” “Party of Five,” “News Radio,” and “Arli$$.” He also performed with the San Diego Asian American Repertory Theatre.
Lee Ann is the former Director of the San Diego Asian Film Foundation (now Pacific Arts Movement)