Keith: Hey, Rewatchers! This week is a very special episode, with Swordmasters F. Braun McAsh and Anthony De Longis, we recorded while at the 30th Anniversary Gathering! Aside from the audio, we also filmed a video podcast of this amazing round-table discussion. Head on over to our Facebook page and look under our Video tab to see the full HD video! Thanks again for listening, and enjoy the show!
Stage: Keith sits on a chair on the right. Eamon in the next chair. F. Braun McAsh in next chair, left elbow braced on sofa, with a couple of feet to Kyle, and Anthony De Longis sitting on the sofa, head-and-shoulder lower than the others. Kyle and Eamon do not have microphones.
Keith: Hey, everybody! Welcome to this, uh, panel! This is a special live edition of our podcast, The Highlander Rewatched Podcast. I'm one of your Rewatchers, I'm Keith!
This is Eamon!
*Kyle waves right arm, holding a pen* I'm Kyle!
Keith: And that's Kyle, for our podcast listeners that uh--Kyle doesn't have a mike at the moment so he's a little hard to hear.
*Braun and Anthony promptly point their mikes at his mouth*
Kyle: Oh, now I've got two.
Keith: There we go!
Kyle: Dual wielding mikes.
Keith: There we go. So, has anyone here heard of the Highlander Rewatched Podcast? Alright! We got some listeners! Uh, if you haven't checked us out, we're available on all major podcast platforms, you can subscribe for free. We have, uh, episodes that come out every single week, and we look at the... series, mostly, in detail, episode by episode in uh... I guess... punishing detail; I should say.
*too quiet*Eamon: Yeah, punishing excruciating detail.
Keith: And if you're a fan of the movie, which of course we are, uh, we love the movie. We also did an eight-part retrospective on the movie. We couldn't believe we... got that many episodes out of it. But we had a lot to talk about, and it's really cool! Um, we really delve deep into trivia, we have interviews with all sorts of fine people from the show; like who's joining us today! *moment of silence*
* Anthony hands the mike to Kyle, Braun makes a show of looking behind him*
Anthony: You're on!
F. Braun: How am I doing? *They grin at each other*
* Kyle: Hahah! So..! So, our first guest is no stranger to Highlander fans! He's an actor of stage and screen, a choreographer, a true master of the blade, prease welcome... Mister F. Braun McAsh!
F. Braun: *breathes loudly into mike*
Keith: Let's get some applause out there!
F. Braun: And the crowd goes wild!
Kyle: Yeah yeah! *people applaud happily*
Anthony: Yay! Hooray!
Kyle: It's uproarious! *laughs*
F. Braun: Nothing like sympathy applause. Seriously. *mimes applause on own right knee*
Yeah, that's right.
Eamon: And we also have the, uh, sword-master to the stars, training the likes of Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, uh, he's crossed swords with the likes of Jet Li and Adrian Paul... So please join us, Master of the Super-sonic flexci... FLEXIBLE blade--
Kyle: You can do this!
Eamon: Sorry about that! ... Anthony De Longis! *gestures with left hand to him as Kyle passes the mike.*
Anthony: Hi, guys!
Eamon: Sorry I said "flexcible"!
Anthony: Get your money back for those elocution lessons.
Eamon: Yeah, I will! *Keith giggles* Not money well spent. *Kyle laughs*
Keith: *sans mike* So you two are... long friends, I suppose *takes mike from Eamon* right? How long have you two known each other?
F. Braun: Actually, we just met each other the other day. *laughter* I, well... I don't, uh--
Anthony: Nice thing about our age, you know, we're constantly making new friends.
F. Braun: Exactly! *amused, Anthony laughs* I only have three books. I just keep on re-reading them once every--*settles* Um, I--I didn't meet Tony until Highlander. Until his first episode of Highlander. And uh, after that I was very anxious to work with him again so the idea of... him coming back and doing Consone and Duende, and... *gestures expansively* collaborating on the choreography and whatnot was... was super, and then of course we've also worked on a series together called MythQuest, uh... where he was Sir Lancelot; I was King Maleager--
Anthony: We have pictures at my table over there!
F. Braun: We do! He does, actually! *gestures towards door* And also collaborated on the choreography for our big apocalyptic fight at the end of the episode and so on and so forth, so... Always up for working with Tony, man.
Anthony: Oh yeah. Anywhere, anytime.
Keith: Awesome! Could you both tell us maybe--uh, sorry! Could you both tell us maybe how you got involved in Highlander, to start?
F Braun: *breathes in* I was doing an MOW, the Movie of the Week, called The Return of Popeye Doyle... *questioning eyebrow to Eamon and Keith, who nod that they know the title* and we were shooting--
Anthony: The French Connection.
F. Braun: Yeah. Way the hell out in uh... *gestures helplessly* lord knows where in some environ of Vancouver, and I had a friend of mine who was also in this thing; I'd worked with him in Toronto, and uh, we'd done a lot of work together, and we were shooting in a house. It was an abandoned house, or a house that was up for sale, but it was completely empty, so we took it over, and one of the rooms was the Craft Service Room. The Craft Service Table in movies and television is where they keep the snacks and stuff like that. So, we were st--Eric, Eric Keenleyside and I, were in the Craft Service Room, ALONE. There were just the two of us. And we were talking, and he said, "Oh, uh, there's this series, Highlander? They're doing a TV series about the-the movie." I said "Yeah, it's being shot here." He said, "Oh! That's cool. Have you, uh, are you gonna do any of the sword-work in it?" And I said, "Well, no. They have a Fight Choreographer; the guy who did the first movie, Bob Anderson, is choreographing the fights. I sent in a resume and said well, you know, if Bob ever needs an assistant, but... more often you would kind of maybe want an experienced actor who HAS extensive sword-training... but I haven't heard anything back from them yet."
*Braun gestures as speaking a lot, towards his legs when he says pants, for example*
*breathes in* As I was saying this, this guy... with red pants... walked into the room. So, now there's only three of us, in the Craft Service Room. There's like seventy people on the crew, and there's like about fifteen people that day in the cast, and there's just the three of us, and I don't know who this guy is. But he's listening to us. And I thought, "Here! You wanna become part of the conversation? Come on over here." I didn't say that, but he came over and he said, "My name's Brent Karl Clacks(t)on." And I looked at him as in... and this... you expect this means something to me because...?
He says, "I am... *clears throat cough* the Line Producer on Highlander. And I've seen your resume. As a matter of fact I pulled it, and I was reading your resume last week." And of course, I'm smiling and, in the back of my head I'm going, "Heheheh of COURSE you did." But... he did! I mean, Brent is an extremely straight-forward guy. And he said, "Our choreographer is leaving. And we have had interim choreographers. As a matter of fact we've had SIX of them. Some of them only lasted ONE episode. *breaths in* So, when we start the season next year, we're gonna need a new Fight Director."
So I thought, "Okay. That's interesting." And he says, "Well no, seriously. I want you to come down. We'll organize a meeting with the executive producers from L.A. and the whole nine yards, and we'll see what... we can arrange. Maybe you can do this, maybe you can't. I dunno but let's see." So he said, "Can you show me your reel?" And I said, "Well I've done most of my work on stage. I've choreographed for film and television and whatnot, but very very little compared to my stage work." So I said, "I don't really HAVE a reel." He says "Well, can you throw together a few fights?" *coughs* So I said, "Yeah." *chuckles in background*
So I got a friend of mine, and I choreographed three different fights, two of them involving the katana, and medieval weapons, and rapier and dagger and the whole nine yards, and we rehearsed these things like seven bastards. And we came to the studio, and the two of us performed three separate fight scenes--with unarmed combat in the middle of them--with costume changes for every scenario! So I had three different period costumes--well, one modern and two period--and he said "Can you come back?" I said "Yes." And that's when the guys from L.A. came up. And on and on and on, and basically, the two of us did this FOUR times. And every time, there were more people watching us. And I was never introduced to most of them, and it turns out that one of them was the Prop Master for godsakes! I mean why is HE oh well, okay, he's gotta procure the swords, that makes sense.
So, eventually they put me on a show-to-show contract. And, it was all contingent of: *indistinct from Anthony* Okay, we like your work... Can you work with Adrian and can Adrian work with you? I mean that is... you know, it's an important component. You can't ignore it. If we didn't get along, it doesn't matter what I know or what I can do. So it turns out that we could, but... then.... This is the weird thing. I was talking to Brent, after, and he said: "You do understand, that in the entire shoot of... Popeye Doyle--The Return of Popeye Doyle--" and we're talking about an MOW, so we were shooting for the best part of a month--that was the only day he ever went to the Craft Service Table. *someone says "Wow."* Literally the only day; and he chose the day that two people were talking about Highlander, and one of them was me.
So I thought, "Well, maybe this was meant to be." I don't know, but it's... I don't believe in providence or anything like that, but sometimes coincidences just start to pile up and, this was one of the weirder ones in my career that just led to such amazing things as getting to work with people like Tony and Adrian, and whatnot, you know?
Anthony: Yeah, you actually made me think of a, kind of a funny story, but can I take a second to get there? *Keith and Eamon nod* Uh... to start with, I came in on Season Three, which was the um, Blackmail episode. Originally called Sex, Lies and Videotape, I think. *Kyle*****: Yeah.* Um... but, uh... what I was just delighted about was, you know, uh, when Braun and I met, it was as if we'd known each other for years because, you know, with our mutual body of knowledge. And then the fact that um, Braun celebrated, you know, the fact that he had someone there, uh, who was a kindred spirit. You know, that he... *chuckling* as you put it, "I don't have to do both parts!" You know, that uh, cuz we, we love to evolve choreography; where, we'll kind of go, "Well if I do this what would you do and..." And since I was playing the role, too, that uh, that was ideal, because you know, I think my character might do this or this or you know because.... We're very much in the vein of, um... everything that we do is based on a combali--combative reality, uh, but we're telling a story. And we are, um, we are portraying characters; uh, so that's who shows up for the fight. It's not that all of a sudden everybody's a Wushu master, you know it's like: Who is this guy? What do we know about him from the script? Um, how might that manifest itself visually in his fighting style, and also in the weapon that he uses? *chuckling* They uh, like, I did a little Watcher Chronicles thing with weapons, you know, where I said "Okay: Braun, you know, he purposefully chose each of these swords for these characters, you know, because they were a reflection of that particular character and you know, their... their ethos or, you know, whatever it was about them." Of course, all too often Braun was stuck with whatever it was that, you know, they happened to throw at him that week. You know. *laughing*
F. Braun: Well, I mean, when I started the, the people who were supplying the swords to the series was the company of Marto. Which is a Spanish company. *deep breath* They make wall-hangers. They're not intended to be used--
Anthony: "Wall hangers!"
F. Braun: --they're pretty... some of them... some of them are actually quite nice to look at, and they... a FEW of them actually have a certain degree of historical authenticity.... Now, we don't use the steel blades except for closeup shots; they're all aluminum blades so that wasn't really an issue, but the hilts--
F. Braun: --the hilts were heavy as hell--well, yes, YOU did.
Anthony: We'll get there. *laughter*
F. Braun: Yeah. Definitely we will. Sometimes we HAD to. Like, in Duende we can't use aluminum rapier blades; they bend too quickly. So we had to use steel. But Marto had a very very limited venue of designs! And after I had recycled--cosmetically recycled this ONE two-handed sword for the fourth time, I said "We have to change! We can't keep on doing this crap!" So I then went and switched to Museum Replica(s)--
Anthony: Oh yeah!
F. Braun: --which was a subsidiary of Atlanta Cutlery, and one of their things was: "All of our swords are historically authentic. Every sword we produce is in a museum somewhere in the world, and our swords are meant to be used, including the steel blades." This was when there was a guy who was their historical consultant, who actually was an extremely knowledgeable man. Uh... as soon as HE left, for whatever reason, they started going a little bit a-stream, but they also had historical designs all the way from the Roman Empire and the Greeks, right up to the present day, and I thought: "This is what we need! We've got to have this kind of range!" So sometimes the desi--the designs that I picked--yeah, I w--I am stuck with stuff that was established for the regular characters, but then I'm also looking at... Methos.
Methos was only supposed to be a ONE-episode character! So when I picked his sword, it wasn't with the idea that "Methos is gonna be around for the next four years and he's gonna be doin' dozens of fight scenes with this piece o' crap!" Uh... nobody knew until the fan reaction, and they started writing more and more scripts, *cough* But by that time we were stuck with the bloody sword! It was like: Richie's sword, I was stuck with it. And it would... literally explode like a hand grenade! *Anthony laughs*
Richie's Columbus Rapier (which was a Marto Sword) was being held together with white-glue! Because it was pot-metal, and it couldn't be sodered or welded! *breathes* And occasionally it would literally, like--there was this one scene where, you know, the evil MacLeod, and he hits the sword, and it literally went off like a BOMB and scattered bits all over Adrian, and-and Richie--
Anthony: Shrapnel everywhere. *chuckling*
F. Braun: --and, and me, and the camera... and that's when Adrian basically lost it and said, "This sword gets replaced. We're gonna write an episode where this sword is destroyed, and he gets a new sword! And it'll be a proper sword, goldarnit!" You know...
Anthony: Yeah, I saw that behind-the-scenes footage--
F. Braun: Yeah!
Anthony: --because, uh, was when I was writing that rot.. Like, uh.... To Braun's credit, you know, um, iewi... it was... the... the idea, story-wise, you know, you have a sword because it makes you feel *snortlaugh* immortal! Uh, invulnerable. That you feel so strong with this weapon, that you feel you cannot be defeated. Or it's been chosen for you by your teacher. So with that idea in mind, um, you know the... the way they fight with these weapons was an extension of their character, and that's what something that Braun always did, in his choreography, and I always admired that very much.
F. Braun: Well one of the things that I have to be aware of, when I'm choreographing anything, is the fact that I AM a professional actor. I've been a professional actor for forty-three years. *deep breath* So I approach a script more than just "What's the action?" I look at the script going, who are the people? Who are the characters? What do they stand for? What are their this, their that? How can I bring that into the fight? But then of course, with episodic television, and a lot of the times with movies, you've never met the actors. You've never worked with them; and you're not going to. The fights have to be choreographed so that they are done the day these people step onto the set. The choreography has to be set, cuz now they've got to start learning it! *deep breath* And I'm very aware that I am making artistic choices as an actor, that aren't necessarily THEIR choices as an actor, because I'm not the one playing the role, they are. But I'm the one stuck with doing the choreography. So I basically just gotta make my best guess, and there's a little bit of wiggle-room to say "Yes, this could change; that could change." But by and large, 80% of this fight is locked in stone. And so we're just gonna have to live with it, so...
Anthony: Oh, I... I often, you know, play that role as well. Sometimes I... my favorite are roles that I get to uh, do both verbal and physical dialogue or action, um, there are times when I'm coming in as, you know, as Braun has done so many times, so effectively as the Sword Master. And um, again there is... y-you, you talked about the um, the chemistry that you have to have with who you're working with, like... when I trained Dolph Lundgren for um... Masters of the Universe, you know I very quickly had to make him feel like, you know... "I'm here to help you look great. You know you're extraordinarily accomplished in all the things you already do, but, you know, my job is to teach you something about the sword so that we can..." You know, the crazy thing about that was I had a month to train him, and then I didn't see him for a month. And then I kept telling the coordinator, "When... when can I go see the location so I can put together some ideas for you?" And, ah, he said "Oh, we'll have lots of time, you know, yeah we'll be down there ***** quit bugging me, you know," so... we finally get to that location, where we were gonna be for six weeks, and what do you think was the first thing we shot? The fight. You know. I had him for about an hour, and I said, "Remember that stuff that I taught you when we were training? Well, now we're gonna throw this fight together." And that happens ALL the time.
F. Braun: I worked on... I work on this television series, Once Upon a Time.
Kyle and Eamon nod they know the show: Mmhm?
F. Braun: I'm an actor, and occasionally, I have to do choreography. We had this three episode arc of Brave... and all of the, all of the battle scenes... were put together... on. the. day. On. the. working. ssset! Which is just so much fun. It was the same thing when I doing uh, um, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. I was playing the lll... I was playing the Lanista, and... I have a training scene with some of the actors in Camp Half-blood, so I'm doing all of that; and then they said, "Oh, would you take somebody over there and just do some neat sword-stuff!" So I'm going oh, God. So Tom... I grabbed Tom Potter, who I know is a trained swordsman, and I said "Okay. Here's what we're gonna do," and we had two--two swords each. And literally on the day, on the spot, worked out, like... a twenty-five piece, *gestures sword-fight* dubdubdubdub like this, as a... essentially a training scene, it wasn't a fight between us, but it was a very complex training scene, for the benefit of the other students watching. So a lot of it is done onnn the day. You know, right then and there, and sometimes it's really insane, because battle scenes especially are incredibly dangerous things for ALL of the actors, for any number of a hundred reasons. So, you know...
Anthony: Yeah, no two alike. *Braun laughs yeah* Um... *breathes* Yeah, it uh, it's why I always tell actors, you know, "Take responsibility for your own training, cuz you have the skills you show up with, um, and you need to be able to take advantage of an opportunity. But it will always be: Don't say you can do something unless you can execute superior technique under horribly adverse conditions. Cuz they will always be horribly adverse."
Uh, even working, you know, with Braun, you know, when I got to come back in Duende, um, which was based on a backstory that I had suggested. That's... that's the only way I got back! To get back to the original question. *laughter* Uh, we did Blackmail, and, you know, Braun and I, you know, worked so well together and I didn't find out until I came back on Duende, that Adrian had apparently called the producer and said, "This guy's really good! Do we have to kill him?" And they said, "Well, yeah, he has to die," and ugh, so it went away. And I went... well, this was a delightful adventure, and you know and... uh, Braun... Braun and I were making stuff up though, when we-we... you know, we-we-we... we threw something together, and we-we... we came into the scene, uh... you know, at the mansion. With the uh... one of the glass--I don't know if you guys remember the blackmail sequence, but we're in... somebody's, some rich guy's house. And we've got these louvered, you know, etched glass windows, you know, and they're telling us: "These windows are about seventy-five thousand dollars apiece, don't hit them with the swords." You know, so we very quickly went from the living room, where, when I showed up on that day, Braun goes "Okay, well, really the only choreographic thing we're locked into is: This furniture must die." You know, because the special effects--
F. Braun: Yeah. We gotta kill that chair, we gotta kill that TV, we gotta kill that bookshelf-- *pointing around*
Anthony: --that bookcase. That's right. I remember it well.
F. Braun: --we gotta kill that tree.
Anthony: You know, and then I'll kick Adrian and run away, and then we'll get ourselves to the next--*Braun laughs*--to the next location. But, um... so literally, even at that point; but because Adrian trains all the time, I train all the time, Braun trains all the time, we can do that. But most people, if they don't have the skill-set, um... they're not going to succeed very well. When... when we did uh, when we did Duende, it was another case of... we... the night before we put together a fight that Adrian and I--that was the fight in the garden--I mean we, really w--we got half an hour of rehearsal because the camera truck broke down. So, that was the rehearsal we got. Then the... then the next one we did was in, you know uh, the little thing inside the school, *Mmhm!* with the slippery floor that we said "Please!" Braun several times said: "Please coat this floor; we're gonna be outdoors, you know, for our final Quickening." We get there: They haven't coated the floor, and it's raining! Well..! "But, but, but we asked you to coat the floor!" "Well, it was raining!" *wheezelaugh* *growly* "That's why we wanted you to coat the floor!"
F. Braun: And some of the chord lines? Are-are red electrical tape!
F. Braun: So they can grab your shoes..! On top of all this!
Anthony: It was very exciting. But we uh, that we... again, the night before, uh... Adrian had never seen the final choreography that Braun and I had just put together, and um... Adrian called a stop to it--cuz he can do that, he was the star of the show--he said "Okay, uh, we have to take a break. I've gotta see what this choreography is that we're gonna do tomorrow." You know, and so we did and then I went off and shot my back sss--you know, my Rico Suave scene in the back of the limousine, uh, which was lots of fun. And, uh... and we get there the next day, and... it's raining, and there's no cover set, so we can't rehearse! So what we've gone through once the night before, we're doing in front of camera, because there was... ehe... well that was it! *Braun laughs and coughs* And you have to be able to, you know, deal with... you gotta be able to hit the curve. Cuz you're gonna get a lot of 'em in our business.
F. Braun: I was... I was doing something, a couple of years ago, not to name-drop, but I was doing something with Halle Berry. And some of it involved her being... running through the s-running through the street to this one particular point, and cars are screeching to a halt, an-and driving around her and avoiding her and whatnot. And we're in downtown Vancouver and it's in the middle of winter, and... i... everything is glaze-ice! So just to give you an idea, with something like this, that it's absolutely peeing down rain 'n entire ponds are forming in the middle of this-of this set... *breathes* We're doing this scene where I'm chasing her through these cars and whatnot, and the cars are actually skidding..! where they should be stopping! And, in between takes, a half a dozen grips come running out with FLAME throwers, and blast the hell out of the street (Anthony laughs) with flame throwers--
Anthony: That's something you don't see every day.
F. Braun: --for ten minutes, before we redo the scene! And that's--that's the sort of stuff that you have to... that's the sort of stuff that you have to put up with. Or directors that get creative going: "Oh wait! I wanna do it this way now!" *moment of silence a Braun mimes a frustrated urge to throttle someone* *laughter*
Anthony: Mm. Uh, well, if you've--if you've heard Braun talk about uh, this before, you know uh, time is always the enemy. Uh, y' just... you just never have enough of it, especially in episodic television. And, you know, the Duende episode turned out so beautifully; God's a great art director. It was miserable to work in, but it looks fabulous, but... We were out there, we shot for an hour in the rain. The entire camera crew was huddled in the back of the camera truck; they looked like the tuna fleet! They're all in, you know, sou'westers 'n all this other stuff, and Adrian and I are out there in shirts and he's going, "Yeah, it's not raining." Uh, and we... but we went, "Okay, let's stop this." And we just waited until it got dark and then pumped light through it, and it looked absolutely fabulous!
F. Braun: But here's the kicker! Did you know that the rain was CGI'd in?
Anthony: Oh I know that they had to add it from one angle--One minute you can see it and one you can't.
F. Braun: Yeah. A couple of the camera shots, even though it's-it's-it's pissing down like you wouldn't believe, and the camera lens isn't picking it up! Now, obviously the hair's getting sodden, you know, 's just streaming down the face and the costumes are sticking to the skin and all that business, but the camera's not picking it up! So actually, several of the camera angles, the rain is computer-generated imaging!
Anthony: To go in and match what you could see with the light. This is very funny. But uh, but it-it actually doesn't change when I had a great opportunity to go off and do a picture called "Fearless" with Jet Li. You know, and they flew me to Shanghai to partner him for this opening sword sequence. And um, we... I was there for a week, waiting to work. Uh, the one thing I missed was a chance to work with the team; work with Yuen Woo-ping and his team. Um, but they were ov--they were a week behind, you know uh, in working with another actor who wasn't quite as good as they'd been led to believe, so they were having to work in very very short pieces. And uh, so I met Woo-ping, and... and Jet when I walked on the set, and we shook hands and he said ahhh, and I said uh... and I watched how they worked. They worked very fast cuz they'd worked together for many many years, so... and also they're working in Chinese, which I don't speak!
But, um... they uh... st-threw something together and Jet and I looked and as soon as they were happy, we got up and we walked it a couple of times, then we shot it at speed. There was no rehearsal. You know, and... then we did it all over again, and we did it repeatedly, and I... I realized very quickly what they were having me do was, they wanted me to attack quadrants so that Jet could do the, you know, the really cool stuff that he does so many times before. But I had to lea--had to totally commit to where he was going to be, even though he wasn't there yet. Um... but, we had no rehearsal. We didn't get to work like WE like to work where... we would evolve the choreography and pick up the rhythms of each other and do... you know, do all of that. They--they like a very staccato, you know, well and--but I was in their house, so I had to fit. But the funny thing was, Jet, with his thirty-plus years of training and my thirty-plus years of training, uh... Neither one of us knew the choreography, but he moved, I'd adjust. I moved, he'd adjust. *laughingly* So, we were basically uh, you know, taking care of each other and protecting ourselves at all times, but it was... it gave it a very um, well... it wasn't over-rehearsed, let me put it that way! *laughing*
F Braun: Had that lovely spontaneity that performances often lack. But t-the--Tony has said this, several times before, and I completely agree. He said that: We aren't training for the job we're-we're doing now. We're training for the job we're going to do, that we don't know what that IS, yet. So that's why people like Tony and myself are constantly--not only training, but training in NEW stuff and new systems and things like this. "Have you ever used this in a movie?" No! Not YET. But that's the whole thing; if you show up on a set after having sold yourself to a casting director or producer, whatever, "Oh yeah, I can do that!" And you show up on the set and you can't do that? If it's my set, that's the last set you'll be showing up on, E-ver. Because we just can't, you know, it's... it-it's not just highly unprofessional, it's DANgerous! It's dangerous to your fellow performer. And it also evinces a tremendous lack of respect: for your craft, your performer, the directors, and everybody else. But, yeah. it's just we--we're training for what we are... we hope to do, someday.
Anthony: Well, one of the nice things, too, I've been training in bladed weapons for forty-four years and counting, um... and the more I study... I--I do--I do all the European weapons; I do Filipino weapons; I trained with Dan Inosanto for over a decade. I do Japanese weapons, I train with Toshishiro Obata now. I'm actually, um, it was Kurosawa films and Katana swordplay that got me inspired to start doing choreography back in the Seventies, and now I'm actually learning the real thing, which is, you know, kind of... I feel like I've come full circle. But um, I--I really start to recognize there are fundamental concepts that connect the arts. Uh, there's weapon-specific adjustments that maximize the effectiveness of that tool, or that, you know, um... reference a particular culture, but what makes them combatively viable is almost universal! So, you're able to move from--I-I see things in certain arts that I learned, I learned in Kali, that are in German Longsword. Ki--cultures that, you know, never met, you know never crossed swords, but yet because, you know, the-the combative principles are true, they, they still work. And what that does is it allows all the things that Braun and I have studied... uh, we can make a weapon of opportunity out of pretty much anything! *laughing* You know--!
F. Braun: There actually is a Japanese art form of found weapons. It's called Hoda Korosu. Naked Kill. Um, *cough* but that's the thing. I was--when I was outside just recently, uh... like, recently being about an hour and half ago, two hours ago, I was showing this couple the guard positions of the German school of the Longsword; the Langschwert. And, I was saying okay, here are the guard positions. Tadum tadum tadum. *hand bops left to right* Now, here are the guard positions of the classic Miyamoto Musashi school, the Kamei. Dum dum dum dum. *hand weaves up to down* Says, "You notice anything strange?" Says, "Yeah, they're almost identical!" They're almost identical.
Anthony: We could, the two of us, I could do Japanese Kamae, and he could do, you know, German Longsword, side-by-side, and you'd swear we--you were looking at a mirror image.
F. Braun: There are only certain ways... it's a human body, wielding a bladed weapon against another human body with a bladed weapon! There are only so many ways that actually work! And if the things that you're teaching your students DON'T work, you're not gonna be teaching long! These things survived all of these centuries, being handed down and handed down, even when the weapon itself was no longer used for battle. I mean, Joachim Meyer was teaching the German Longsword in the late 1600s and the early 17th, because, he said, "The technique: I know we don't use it in war anymore, but the basis of all good swordsmanship is found in the technique of the Longsword." So, yeah! Why not?
Anthony: One of the things that um, one of the things I'm very proud of, um, I... I've created something new with the bullwhip. That's... it's a tool that's 5,000 years old. It dates to 3,000 B.C. in both the Egyptian and Chinese cultures that we know of. Every culture that ever domesticated animals has had some variation of the whip. Um... it is... it is always historically correct! *laughing* Which is kind of cool! But I looked at it, and the way most people do it... traditionally it's um, they--they over-muscle it. You know they use one small muscle-group, the arm and shoulder, and they make a big noise. Well, that's nice, um, but... you know, combatively what else do you have? I think the whip is one of the most... um, versatile flexible weapons in the world. And of all the flexible weapons in the world, only the whip is super-sonic! Uh, the--not to scare you away, the first thing you--those of you who come to my class tomorrow--um, I will teach you how to never ever hit yourself in five minutes. Doesn't mean you won't, but I can teach you how never to do it! Uh, but the tip of the whip goes 768 miles per hour. It--they--you know, it goes up to 1400 feet per second. A 45 caliber bullet's only 900 feet per second. It's literally faster than a speeding bullet. But what I do is I utilize the same structure. I... I-I looked at it and I went, "What these other people are doing; this is not efficient!" Um, you know, how do I... how do I... how do I do the martial arts principle of, you know, minimum effort for maximum return? And so I get all the parts of my body to line up and work together, and that wa--that was because of my sword work with my fencing maestro Ralph Faulkner, and then the... the angled work that I learned from Dan Inosanto, which is what... you know, which is what got me inspired to come and talk to Braun about doing the Mysterious Circle, because at that time, there wasn't any GOOD information; just a bunch of other people talking trash about it. You know, so that was kind of fun.
But it's um.... But when I'm teaching things I try to simplify things. And, in every bladed weapon system in the world, there's eight angles of attack. It's like an asterisk. Verticals. Horizontals. Descending and ascending diagonals. Your footwork is linear, forward and backward. Lateral, side-to-side. Ascending diagonals, DEscending diagonals, the same asterisk, and a circle. That's all there is. Everything else is some element of that. So when you can see the big picture, it's a lot easier to absorb the information cuz you're not getting... *exasperated breath* You're not getting lost in the um... in the miniscule aspects of it. You see the big picture and you go, "Oh I understand!" And then you know where--you know where to put your focus and your energy.
F. Braun: Well, it's also, in terms of not fighting the weapon. *Anthony laughs and grabs his bottle of water to drink* One of the things that--one of things that I say, when I am teaching the German Longsword or any large medieval weapon, 's just... Make sure you have all the space you need around you, close your eyes, and very slowly... start moving the weapon in space... and change direction with the weapon. Turn with the weapon. Don't look. LISTEN. Listen with your entire body... to the weapon. The weapon will tell you when you're doing it wrong, because it will resist, because of the laws of physics; of momentum; inertia; conservation of energy and so on and so forth. Uh, the weapon will never lie to you. You have to teach your body to listen to the weapon, and you have to listen with your entire body. Because cuts in certain weapons--in most weapons--start from the feet... and go through the entire body. And how does the muscular system, and how does the skeletal system, support a blow! And how much, and how little do you need? What muscles are you actually using to do something, and what muscles do you not need to exert, doing a particular move, because now you are creating muscular tension, and you're essentially fighting your own body..! to do this move. Which is totally antithetical to doing it efficiently.
Anthony: Well this is one of the reasons we get along so well together, because you know I just keep going, "Yeah, yeah. All of that." *audience chuckling* Um, what he started to talk about with uh, when I'm working with people I say, "Uh, okay, look. You have... this is a tool. *holds up Kyle's pen to illustrate* Be it a sword, a knife, a whip, whatever it is, it's an inanimate object. It's a dead thing. Until you pick it up. NOW it's an extension of your will, and your skill. Okay? And you have to make an ally out of this, not an adversary." And most people have this adversarial relationship with their tool. Um... I like the whip *chuckling* huh, because I wanna have a super-sonic ally! I don't wanna have an adversary! When I ride horses, I want an 1,100 pound ally, not an adversary! Because slaves always revolt, and always at the worst possible time. You know, and what Braun's talking about with the weapon is, uh for example, you know with what you guys were doing with The Sword Experience, we'll do again tomorrow... the heavier the weapon, the more you've gotta make gravity an ally! And you can do that just with--if you drop your hand, the tip of your weapon will lift. If you lip y--lift your hand, the tip of your weapon will drop. Which gives you your two defenses in the low line, and in the high line. So you are util-utilizing gravity to help you, instead of constantly battling graya-gravity, like it's an adversary. And these--that's-that's what you get when you use the entire body, which Braun's talking about, which is of course: When you're telling a story too; your whole body HAS to be telling that story, or it's a disservice to the project, it's a disservice to the audience, it's a disservice to your character, and people won't believe you. You know, and in film you get away with BS because they, they shoot you way too close, but we both come from theater! Where, you know, you tell your story with your whole body. So then our... our film and television work is that much more effective! *utters an evil chuckle*
F. Braun: It's part of your instrument. Why wouldn't you use your whole instrument? It's like a... it's like a... a violinist who decides "This is a string I will never touch. This is a string I will never bow." Why? I mean, they make fun of Bill Shatner, but he's one of the few actors who actually knows how to use his whole body, and of course HE started on stage, too. At the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, just like me! THAT'S where you learn how to use your whole body because, on the Stratford stage, in the stage, the-the theater is massive! It seats thousands! No matter where you are on that stage, you have your BACK to five or six hundred people! So you gotta learn to act with your back! And it sounds silly but, it can be done, and it has to be done. And it's the same thing with weapons-work. You have to use the entire body, even if it's a small weapon! When we do knife, it's the same thing. Bl--you know, the entire body is being used. Maybe it's being isolated to just the thumb and the forefinger and a little bit of the wrist... but the power is coming from everything. So... yeah. You just, you know, for acting and telling the story of the fight, and the physical characterization of the fight, why wouldn't you use it all? It would be like saying, you know, "Okay, these are the words we're gonna eliminate from the script." "But the sentence doesn't make sense anymore." "Yeah but...*gestures dismissively* you can make it work." 38:32 *****You know and everything. No!
Anthony: It's funny um... he talked about the Stratford uh... it's one of the great Shakespeare festivals... in the world. Um, I stood on that stage in the 9th grade and said "Someday I will be here." I grew up in Canada. I was born in L.A. but I grew up in Canada. And uh, I started my career at The Old Globe Theater in San Diego, which was um... where I learn--where I learned MY craft. Uh, I think it just helped so much, you know, an actor to uh, work in as many of the mediums as possible. But, you know, uh, and of course, you got a pretty good author with Bill Shakespeare! *laughing*
F. Braun: And yes, he did write the shows, because nobody would go to the Royal Bacon Festival! *Audience laughter* Alright. Well, maybe some Canadians would. Um 39:15 ***** the round stuff. No, it's... it's, uh, it's true. You've got--you've got everything in your body to work with: your voice, your face, your body... why wouldn--why wouldn't you use it? *breath* It doesn't make any sense. *silence, he looks around*
Keith: Cool! Yeah, it's interesting to hear you talk about, like... it seems like less that you were... interested in studying martial arts, but it's--it's more of an extension of theater, first. That it--that was the, maybe, the--the first intention.
Anthony: Well, knowledge is power. You know, uh, the more you know, the more choices you have. And your art is in your choices. Whether, you know, you're a performer doing, you know, playing the role yourself, or where, you know, you're performing the function, like Braun and I often do, of helping other people look great. Of helping a director, and an author, and a performer, you know, maximize their uh... story-telling and character opportunities.... Everything we do, because--and I, and it's because of our background--comes from character and story. If we're not driving story and articulating character, you know, then it's ultimately not emotionally evocative, and it's not nearly as effective for an audience. Um... so I... I know that's how I approach it, and I know that's how Braun approaches the work, too. Whichever part of it we're doing.
Keith: Wow. Uh, we just got the notice that we've just got a couple of minutes left here, so I was wondering again *laughing* uh... I only asked one question! So this is pretty good! *Kyle laughs* Which was "How did you get into Highlander?" So....
Anthony: I--I--I didn't finish the story of Duende?! *laughter* Th-th--Oh, just real quick--
Keith: Yeah yeah!
Anthony: The only way to get back, cuz, you know we did Season Three, and uh, and I kept bugging the office and going, "Well, I had a great time, you know, and y'know and hey, I can--any chance of coming back?" and he says, "Oh, you were so distinctive, you know and--" "I'm an actor! I can BE DIFFERENT!" So, uh... *Kyle chuckling* So, uh, you know, David Abramowitz said, "Well, if you can come up with a backstory..." You know, and I went, "Oh okay." So I brought in like, you know, at that point they were in their fifth season. You know, they'd done almost a hundred episodes! And, so I came in and I pitched, like, three and they, "Oh, well no, we did that one in season two. No, no, we did that one in season four. Dadada." And I finally came up with the idea of "the debt that can never be repaid". And they went "Oh... that." And the funny thing was, uh, well then... and they, they said that was pretty good. So I didn't hear anything. And then I went off and I uh, um, uh... Robert Rodriguez was supposed to do Zorro. And I had been looking at, you know, uh, you know this Mysterious Circle thing. You know, that's really exciting cuz you're always at sword's point, and, you know, it's never been seen before, and I see all these elements, and this could be really cool! So I got to go in and um, um, demo for Robert Rodriguez, who was gonna do Zorro. And I said "You should--you should do this!" And three days later he left the project, and Martin Campbell came in and he brought in Bob Anderson, buuut... Highlander called and said "Do you want to go to Paris? We've written this episode called 'The Mysterious Circle' (later called Duende)."
F. Braun: And by the way, that diagram that they're fighting on? That's real. That comes from The Academy of the Sword, of 1598. From Thibault d'Anvers. So that is an actual Destreza Training Circle. That is an ob--absolutely authentic, to the last line, training circle from that period of time. And every one of those lines means something.
Anthony: Well, the interesting thing is th-the-the essence of the Mysterious Circle is subtle elusive footwork to create superior leverage. Which is a fundamental martial arts concept in ALL of the martial arts! Are the Wing Chun guys here? *looks at audience* Okay. Well, it's... it's in Wing Chun! Actually, when I was doing um, uh, Fearless with Jet Li, the DP came over and started talking to me, and he used to be a performer before he was the DP, and Jet Li was kind of going: "He never talks to anybody!" And, he could see what I was doing! He could see, you know I was trying to utilize the lines and the angles, you know, with both my weapon and my body, you know, and he was referencing his own Wing Chun experience. So you're just kind of going: The truth is the truth is the truth. And it was really nice!
Keith: Wow, so, uh... for everyone out there: Both of you are offering classes. So if you're interested in, kind of learning from these guys, which is--This has been such a treat right now! *Eamon nods* Uh, I would definitely recommend taking your classes. When are your... both of your classes?
Anthony: Uh, I am teaching um... the uh... Hahah. The--I'm teaching a bullwhip class, which is the Supersonic Flexible Blade, because I... I view the whip as a sword. I'm teaching from 11 until 2. And then, Braun is teaching his knife class...?
F. Braun: Uh, from 4 until 6, apparently. And it's Combat Knife. And it's REAL. This is the stuff I teach soldiers, and cops, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and stuff like this. But it's also what I use in film and television and stage, because that's about taking things that are real...*slow gesture* slowing them down; broadening them out; and making very specific choices as to what moves you can use, and what moves are not safe to use, or are not appropriate to the character or whatever. So everything that we're gonna do in the knife class, is actually real and... by that I mean: I will not teach something unless I know it works. And that doesn't mean it worked once. If it doesn't work ten times in a row, it doesn't work. So everything that we've done--and will do in the knife class that I teach.... Whether it's unarmed against knife, or knife against knife, my partner and I... she and I have practiced these techniques at full speed, with sharp weapons, with no protection. NONE. *beat* Not even gloves. *beat* And we've never been cut. *pause, breath* So, that's what we're gonna do. *snickers*
Anthony: *laughs wickedly* Well, well I--
F. Braun: Muahahahaahah!
Anthony: I'm only mildly intimidated. I'M gonna go! Uh, this is a rare opportunity to work with Braun and I. I only teach this whip class once a year outside of training at my ranch. If you ever get a chance to go up to Vancouver and train with Braun, or, people come from all over the world to train with us at our ranch, uh, we have ranch fliers out there on all the things that we do. Uh, also we've got a bunch of instructional DVDs on the things that I teach. Come by and see us and come by and talk about it but, tomorrow, try to come to the whip class, and try to come to this knife class. It's a great opportunity.
F. Braun: And if you wanna take a look at my school website, my school is The Ring of Steel, theringofsteel.com is our school website. And it's not about schmoozing the school. This website is nothing but scholarly essays that I have written on the art of bladed weapons combat. Literally from the Roman Empire to modern 20th Century/21st Century Knife Combat. All cultures. But it's--we are Western European based. I don't teach the Katana. I teach Classic Musashi Katana as a completely separate entity, but it's not part of The Ring of Steel. And the other thing that we do in The Ring of Steel... is we teach Falconry! *moment of silence* *happily* We own birds! *moment* Falcons, hawks, and we're getting a Golden Eagle pretty soon!
Keith: That's amazing!
F. Braun: Yeah!
F. Braun: No no!
46:21 Kyle: Sorry, we're getting the full-stop here--
*Braun mimes cutting his own throat a few time. Or getting dragged off-stage*
Anthony: The HOOK! *cackles*
Kyle: Yeah, exactly.
Anthony: Is that the Hook! *Braun makes like right hand fingers snapping closed*
Kyle: But thank you everyone, so much for coming out! Thank you so much for our amazing guests, F. Braun McAsh--
Keith: Yeah, give these guys a round of applause! *applause rings out*
Kyle: --Anthony De Longis, whup, got the double-mikes..! They--er, you can see them out in the Exhibitors Hall, you can find us at our podcasting table, come talk to us! We'll rap about Highlander! Thanks so much!
Keith: Yeah, thank you!
Anthony: Thanks guys!
Kyle: Take care!