CHAPTER 1: THE AUDITION
It was the summer of 2001 and I was nineteen years old. I had just completed my first year of university, found an “agent” and done my first ever professional “gig”. I had been accepted into the prestigious University College Drama Program (UCDP) at the University of Toronto and like most drama programs, had to audition to get in. Now for someone who only discovered drama in grade 12, I was quite surprised when I received my letter of acceptance! That spring, I went in for my first ever professional audition! It was for a music video for a small band called Youngstown. I was trying out for the role of one of the kung fu ninjas (yes I realize they are two completely different disciplines, but no one’s perfect!). I was so nervous! After all I’d never done anything like this before, but they put me in front of the camera and I showed them what I had! I got a call from my agent the next day telling me I got the job! I was so excited! So I was feeling quite good about myself and my future seemed to be on the up and up when it happened…
I came home one day to discover a note on my door which read, “JACKIE CHAN AUDITION, CALL THIS NUMBER!” Words cannot describe what I felt inside. It was mixture of shock, awe, happiness beyond belief, fear, nervousness, a sense of foreboding and so much more. The first thing I noticed was that it wasn’t my agent’s number. “Strange…?” I thought to myself. I swallowed hard, picked up the phone and dialed.
The number was to a local Tae Kwon Do master named Tommy Chang who had worked extensively in film and television as both a stuntman and an actor. He apparently got my name from my instructor at the Tae Kwon Do studio I trained at. He told me later on that he normally never goes outside of his own studio, but he needed an Asian who could do martial arts and had some acrobatic ability, so he ended up calling all of the Tae Kwon Do masters he knew until he reached mine. He wanted me to come to his studio and audition for him. So I drove down not knowing what to think, but giddy with a chance at the opportunity of a lifetime.
I finally got to the studio, removed my shoes, bowed in, and politely asked the nearest black belt where Master Chang (as I henceforth called him) was.
“Hello Allen! How are you? Nice to finally meet you!” his voice was not only gruff but it was strong and forceful and commanded attention, I was immediately taken aback.
“Good sir, thank you,” I responded nervously.
“Well, let’s see what you can do,”
Classes had just ended at the studio so there were a few students still practicing as well as a few of the instructors cleaning up. First he asked me to demonstrate a few kicks. Basics like roundhouse kicks, side kicks, spinning hook kicks, tornado kicks etc. He nodded – I wasn’t sure if he was impressed or not but he asked me to continue on with my acrobatic ability. At the time I couldn’t do anything close to what I can do now, but I remember performing an aerial cartwheel, a round off back handspring, and a round off back tuck. He asked if I could do a round off, back handspring, back tuck to which I responded a little ashamed, “Not yet sir, but I am working on it.” A simple, “Okay,” was his response.
He invited me into his office where we spoke at length about what he required.
“Alright, Jackie’s coming to town to film a movie called Tuxedo. He’s coming here in a few days first to check out our rigging ability, you understand?”
“Sorry sir, what’s ‘rigging’?” I was new to the business and had absolutely no idea about wire work or stunt work for film and tv and I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that JACKIE CHAN WAS COMING TO TORONTO and that somehow I would be involved!
“Wires, you know what those are right?”
“Anyway, we need a few people to go on the wires and demonstrate a few techniques for Jackie when he gets here. I already have a martial art guy and to be straight with you, his kicking ability is a lot better than yours,” I remember feeling discouraged at this point. I had come this far only to find out that I wasn’t good enough. “but your acrobatic ability is better than his. So I’m going to need you to come out to the studio Friday to rehearse a few things, can you make it?”