“Video game movies suck!” Or at least that’s the reputation that they’ve earned. But 25 years ago, Mortal Kombat broke the so-called video game curse with a film that satisfied arcade fans and pulled in some impressive box office. Mortal Kombat was a legitimate hit, and that’s one of the reasons a big budget remake is coming to HBO Max and theaters next year.
Director Paul WS Anderson was the man who realized that Mortal Kombat had big screen potential. But to convince New Line to sign off on the project, Anderson had to stretch the truth a little.
“I was a huge Mortal Kombat fan,” recalled Anderson. “I came to L.A. and I thought ‘I’d really like to stay in America and see if I can get a studio movie to do off the back of this small independent European film.’ Mortal Kombat was going around. It wasn’t a script yet, it was just an outline. There weren’t a huge amount of directors competing for it, because most people looked down on video game adaptations.”
“Because I played the game, I knew there were great characters and great mythology,” added Anderson. “I had to go audition at New Line Studios several times, and lie to them, basically, about my ability with visual effects.”
Robin Shou led the movie as Liu Kang, the warrior monk and fan favorite hero. But it took some convincing for Shou to sign on.
“I was working in Hong Kong in the ’90s, and I’d done all of these Hong Kong action movies,” related Shou. “And then, a friend of mine was a talent agent, and he said ‘there’s this movie called Mortal Kombat.’ First of all, it sounded stupid to me. So I said ‘no, I don’t think so.’ And then he kind of pressed on saying ‘Robin, this is you. You should go in.’ And I eventually got the part.”
Linden Ashby also had a main role as Johnny Cage, a Hollywood star eager to prove that his martial arts skills were legitimate. But Ashby admitted that he too was unfamiliar with the game when he auditioned for the film.
“I didn’t know anything about the video game,” said Ashby. “I read the script, and I went and met with these guys. What was cool about it was that it was a movie that we all needed… we needed it to work. There was nobody who was there just going through the motions.”
For more Mortal Kombat memories from Anderson, Shou, and Ashby, test your might and check out SYFY WIRE Rewind!