LOS ANGELES — We all remember the “Street Fighter” video games that ruled arcades and home systems throughout the ’90s. And we’d all like to forget the 1994 action clunker “Street Fighter” that had Jean-Claude Van Damme and Kylie Minogue delivering what felt like a finishing move on the franchise.
Now, Black Eyed Peas rapper/dancer Taboo is quick to remind us that the game series didn’t take off until “Street Fighter 2,” and as he spoke to us exclusively about his role in the now-filming “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li,” he insisted that the second movie will become every bit as classic.
“I’m the hit man,” he explained of his character, Vega, a boss in the original games. “Bison, who is the mob boss, hires me to kill Chun-Li.”
Directed by “Doom” filmmaker Andrzej Bartkowiak, the flick casts “Smallville” star Kristin Kreuk as lightning-kicking Chun-Li and “Walking Tall” actor Neal McDonough as would-be dictator M. Bison. Due in February, the flick also casts Chris Klein and Michael Clarke Duncan in the iconic roles of Nash and Balrog, respectively.
“Vega is a character that wore a mask and a claw in the video game, and he has a humongous cult following,” Taboo said. “I’m playing him a little edgier. In the video game, he’s like a matador from Spain. He has tights on, and he’s kind of flamboyant and androgynous. Not in this movie. Now, he’s hard-core and he’s bringing it. I feel like I’ve maximized my character, and I gave a great performance.”
In the original games, Vega was designed to model the Zipota and Savate fighting techniques, both used as a means of self-discipline and defense by Spanish noblemen. Taboo, however, has long incorporated martial-arts moves into his Black Eyed Peas dance routines and was eager to incorporate them in the film.
“I didn’t train for those specific styles; I trained for Muay Thai kickboxing. … I was previously trained since I was 12 years old for Tae Kwon Do, so I had formal training,” he explained. “I’ve never considered myself a full-fledged martial artist, but I incorporated that in my dancing, so people would always say, ’Oh, that’s the ninja dude! That’s the crazy martial-arts cat!’ So that’s what I’m known for.”
Although some online chatter has complained that Vega should be played by a Spaniard, Taboo is taking great pride in his Mexican heritage. “I’m the first Latino martial artist on the big screen,” the star, born Jaime Luis Gomez, insisted. “There’s none in the caliber of movie that ’Street Fighter’ is.”
Taking his involvement a step further, Taboo also plans to whip out some moves in the recording studio. “I’m doing the whole soundtrack,” he explained. “[Bartkowiak] approached me with the idea of doing the soundtrack. … When he comes back [to L.A.] on June 9th, we’re going to go into the studio. He’s going to show me a raw edit of the movie, and we’re gonna compile songs together.”
With Fergie appearing in flicks like “Grindhouse,” and Will.I.Am filming his movie debut opposite Hugh Jackman in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” the Peas are taking over Hollywood. To possibly tease Will, then, Taboo insisted that Vega could kick Wolverine’s ass any day of the week.
“I’ve gotta go with Vega,” he grinned, comparing clawed combatants. “Vega’s the sh–.”
Exploring the battle further, he threw out some clues that might make the spoiler-sensitive want to skip to the next paragraph: “The thing about it is, with Vega, you don’t know if he’s mortal or immortal. With Wolverine, you could shoot him and cut him, but he’s able to heal himself. Same thing with Vega: In the movie, Vega is down and out and you see him dangling — I don’t wanna give too much away — but you see him dangling, but then the cops come and he’s gone. So maybe the next time you see ’Street Fighter Part 2,’ or whatever it is, you’ll see Vega again. It’s hard to say, because they’re both kinda mysterious.”
Certainly, some fanboys would love to argue Taboo’s claim that Vega could put a smackdown on the “X-Men” star. But this much is clear: “The Legend of Chun-Li” will most definitely eclipse its Van Damme-fueled predecessor.
“Um … let’s just say this: ’Street Fighter’ kicks ass,” Taboo laughed. “I can’t really say anything about the last movie, because that wouldn’t be politically correct. But I have to say that this movie is great. For those ’Street Fighter’ fans that are doubting, please don’t doubt — because this will shock a lot of people.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.”
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