The panel was scheduled to start at 5:15PM on Saturday. Naturally, this means fans-and press-have to line up early to ensure the best seats available. Next thing we know, it’s 5:30 and Ray Park, perhaps best known as Darth Maul on the big screen, is nowhere to be seen.
The host of the panel assures us it won’t be much longer as he brings out his phone to make a desperate-looking phone call. “Five more minutes”, we’re told. The crowd is getting a bit antsy. 5:45 rolls around: no Ray Park. “10 more minutes” as the host begins to sweat and giving the crowd permission to roast him for his tardiness. Where is this guy? Finally, at 6pm, a full 45 minutes later (the length the panel is set to run), the host jokes that it’ll be another 20 minutes before Park finally emerges.
Now, I’m no veteran when it comes to these panels yet, but I must say, this was certainly a unique experience. I’m still convinced Park was tucked away in the building somewhere working out, due to his protein shake and him bringing up working out at the gym so many times. Even knowing it was Comiccon weekend, he asked how many of the Star Wars fans in the room hit the gym on that Saturday. Barely anyone raised their hands out of the few hundred in attendance. Fans proceeded to line up to ask their questions and while this is usually an easy back and forth, only four fans got to answer their questions cause Park seemed to get easily distracted and change the subject at the drop of a dime. I kid you not, he talked about his plumbing at home at one point and his panel remained at 45 minutes-delaying Michael Madsen next (a panel I would have loved to sit in on but exhaustion was kicking in).
Not that any of this was bad however, minus the tardiness, as Park knows how to tell stories and make them fun. He talked about being a young lad and seeing Star Wars for the first time; a double feature of the original film and the recently released sequel, Empire Strikes Back. Park stated it was this film, along with Monkey Magic, that got him into the mindset of training in martial arts especially thanks to the Yoda and Luke training scenes in the middle of the film.
This was a huge mental shift for him as the athletically inclined Park initially wanted to be a football player (read, soccer) and shifted his attention to gymnastics and martial arts with the objective of becoming a stuntman for film. He focused on Kung Fu, to the encouragement of his father-a Bruce Lee fan-because it was seen as flashier and more camera-friendly. He was told by peers in the industry to wait until he was 21, so he did competitions until he reached it. From there, the door opened for him to do stunt work on Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.
While we know that movie is, well, not very good, it did open the door for Park to become Darth Maul in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Park, indirectly referring to himself as crazy and maybe even reckless, said he was brought to Lucasfilm’s attention for his willingness to do bolder fight sequences and stunts. A demo led to approval from George Lucas himself. From the get-go, Park knew the character was going to be dubbed and was more than okay with it. When it came time for his return to the character in Solo, he intentionally acted off Sam Witwer’s voice in order to be more responsive to the performance. More interestingly, he provided the motion capture for the upcoming seventh season of The Clone Wars, expected on Disney+ this November Park stated. If Park is doing motion-capture, expect a pretty amazing fight scene to come-likely during the Siege of Mandalore.
Park also brought to light that he wanted Maul to use his horns in combat during the duel with Qui Gon, especially referencing when Maul hits the Jedi Master after a blocked parry. George Lucas, however, rejected the idea, saying it was too intense for a kids’ movie. This is coming from the guy who would “kill younglings” two movies later. Park still seems bummed that his idea was rejected.
While he couldn’t tell us even if he knew, there was no new information if Maul would return to the big screen but Park is hopeful for a return, citing he’s currently in the best shape of his life and wants to do more. That being said, he does want to do more and try new things but he’ll always come back to Maul and G.I. Joe’s Snake Eyes.
For more recaps from the Montreal Comiccon, why not read up on what Elijah Wood had to say and stay tuned for more to come!