THE NEXT ACTION HERO
The other characters who make up the team of fighters, Shou believes, are there as racial tokens. "It's an American film. You can't just have one Chinese guy. They need counter-weights for balance. New Line was skeptical about an Asian guy as the lead. [They thought] it's okay if it's Jason Scott Lee, but not some unknown."
The movie contains two white males in leading roles. One is Linden Ashby who plays Johnny Cage, a dashing movie-star-cum-martial artist. "Linden is a nice guy," says Shou. "He works hard, doesn't try to upstage anybody."
The other is Chris Lambert who plays Rayden, the Thunder God, a powerful figure who guides the fighters in saving earth from Shang Tsung.
"The adventure starts with me Linden and Bridgette. One of us is the chosen one but [Rayden] doesn't tell us who it is. As the story goes on you get a feeling that it's me. I was raised in a monastery. I'm one of the descendants of the Order of Light. It's just that I didn't believe it and Christopher Lambert is showing me the way. He's sort of like the supreme god of the universe. He's the person in charge of all these planets." As the movie ends, there is the distinct suggestion that the battle of evil is far from over.
After his experience on Mortal Kombat, Shou doesn't even consider returning to TV roles, even as the star of a series like Vanishing Son. "I like films too much to do TV," he says. "The scheduling is different." At this stage of his career he places a premium on his freedom to pursue a variety of projects.
Ultimately Shou wants to get married and have a family. Since returning from Hong Kong, however, he has had neither the time nor the desire for romance. "I just broke up with my girlfriend in Hong Kong because of the long distance," he says. "We're just too far apart. I know now I belong here. She's an actress too. So we have diferent worlds." He had met the actress during the shooting of a Hong Kong movie about gamblers. They had been seeing each other for a year and a half before he came to the U.S.
Another reason Shou has shied away from romance lately is the death of his mother last October, just as he was completing the initial filming of Mortal Kombat. The loss has affected him deeply, though he doesn't say so. Shou's subdued, almost withdrawn manners are explained once he starts talking about his mother.
"Right now I believe a lot in fate and destiny," he says. "I am Buddhist, because [my mother] believes in it." He speaks of her in the present tense, as though unwilling to accept that his time with her is now in the past. "I became a vegetarian after she died, because in Buddhism you don't eat anything killed. If I save a few lives, she can go to heaven. I do some good deeds for her.
"We are very close. She is like my lucky charm. Those nine years in Hong Kong, every time she came to HK I had a movie out. She never missed a premier. She didn't encourage me to become an actor but didn't try to change my mind. She always asks me, 'You eating okay? You have enough money?' Every time she watches these action moves, she says, 'Ouch, you okay? He hit you hard!'"
Shou isn't nearly so close to his father. "He's sort of like the Chinese father--hard, doesn't show emotions. My mother is different"
Shou's father, now retired, lives a short distance from the Monterey Park apartment Shou shares with a male roommate who sells title insurance. "I went out with his cousin 15 or 16 years ago, and we remained friends."
For now there is a beatific quietude to Shou's life. While awaiting the release of Mortal Kombat, he loses himself in the kinds of activities one doesn't associate with action heroes tough enough to save humankind from raw evil. Long solitary walks along Malibu beaches collecting seashells, are Shou's favorite pasttime. "You have to have a lot of time to find the really good ones, the big ones."
He has also taken up arts and crafts in a big way.
"I always wanted to be an artist," Shou says. "I take ceramic classes, painting, welding, night classes. I make anything into an art form. All these things really interest me--woodworking or anything to do with working with my hands. I'm becoming a pretty good potter. I make a lot of vases, a lot of pots. I've been doing it five months. I learn pretty quick.
"I do a lot of handbuilding of cermaics. If you throw something on a potter's wheel, everything is cylindrical. That's boring. Handbuilding, you can do anything you want. I'm making some pagodas and plates. I'm coming up with ideas, exercising my brain."
For the moment Robin Shou is intent on enjoying his solitude, as though he knows deep down that it's a luxury he won't long be able to afford. [END]