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Marko Zaror, Chilean Martial Arts Star, Shines in “John Wick: Chapter 4”

Anyone who has seen the fourth installment of the John Wick franchise will surely wonder who is the Latino actor playing Chidi, the henchman of the Marquis (Bill Skarsgård) with whom he faces death in front of the Arc de Triomphe and on the steps of the Sacre-Coeur basilica in Paris.

Fans of the martial arts genre know that it is Marko Zaror who is a leading man in his native Chile, in films such as Kiltro, Mirageman, Mandrill and Redeemer, all directed by Ernesto Díaz Espinosa. The actor and athlete’s credits in Hollywood productions include Machete Kills, Savage Dog, The Defenders, Alita: Battle Angel and the From Dusk Till Dawn series.

Those who want to see more of Zaror will see him very soon in US theaters as the protagonist of a new Díaz Espinosa film, El puño del condor (The Fist of the Condor) where he plays the two main roles. We talked to Zaror via Zoom.

Did your work on The Fist of the Condor have anything to do with you landing a role in John Wick: Chapter 4?

That’s how I interpret it. I really like to see the signs and try to follow them and not overwhelm my head too much because that is where all the prejudices and a lot of information that comes to us from all sides and without filters are stored.

I feel that intuition is wiser. When everything was closed due to the pandemic and somehow it was time to say that the cinema is over because they were no longer making movies, instead of thinking about how to continue, my connection with nature and the landscapes of Pichilemu where I was meditating and training inspired me to realize that I had to show and do something with all that. Even if it was the last thing in my career as a martial artist and actor.

That moment was a very important motivator and I did El puño del cóndor without any kind of expectation. I wanted to put in that camera what I would have liked to see when I was 15 years old.

This is how this project was born – as a love letter to the martial arts genre that existed in classic movies but with my vision of training and philosophy, also adding our Latino culture, with our landscapes and music.

When we finished filming it, I went to Los Angeles to participate in some meetings and then I sent the trailer to people in the industry. Among them was J.J. Perry, a great inspirer, who is a close friend of Chad Stahelski, the director of the John Wick trilogy.

That’s how I got in touch with Chad who told me that he had heard good things about me, that he had seen my work and that he wanted me to read a script because he had a character for me.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t followed my intuition and changed the path. That’s why I feel like everything is very connected. It was an incredible feeling that moment when the proposal to participate in John Wick: Chapter 4 came to me. I thought I was dreaming.

In the script they sent you, was Chidi Latino?

No, not at all. Chidi mutated a lot from the script to the final result. The character grew during filming. I put those words in Spanish into him and this half-bad seductive thing that he has. Chad told me that we had to get people to really want Chidi to die, for him to celebrate that moment and that’s where all that work began to create just that.

Luckily, I was able to make the character my own and they liked that so they began to add me in scenes that according to the original script, I should not have been in. It was amazing and I am very grateful.

How much of Keanu Reeves is there in these spectacular fights you have with him?

Keanu is truly admirable. It was one of the great surprises I had and at the same time an inspiration to see the technical level that he has. Everything he sees when he drives around and shoots, he does it for real.

When I played the first fight scenes with him, I thought you had to be careful not to hurt each other. I started soft and all of a sudden, he was telling me to hit him a little harder. He began to raise the adrenaline and we ended up in the last takes putting speed and impact.

It was really amazing to see how he enjoyed putting himself to the maximum. When you see him suffering in the movie, it’s because he’s really experiencing it. He’s demanding of himself. I saw him after those scenes trying to recover from all the energy he had expended and that’s what pushes the whole team to be on the same page.

How does the work you’ve previously done as a stuntman help you as an actor?

What I did the most in my career are movies as an actor. I only doubled on three projects. For example, with Will Smith in Gemini Man or with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in The Rundown. Now, the language of the cameras gives you a lot of knowledge of the processes, of the distances and the ability to understand the mechanics.

In fact, my great school was having been Dwayne’s double. I understood the dynamics of the cameras and the choreography. Everything that is behind the movies can be learned by being a stunt double. That’s how Chad Stahelski came to be and that’s really what puts him on another level from any director because he had that experience.

Chas knows the adrenaline that he feels and what it means to fight, fall and hit the ground. So, when it’s his turn to put the camera on and show it, he knows if that screen is communicating what it really has to communicate.

The big difference you have in acting when you know martial arts and have been a stuntman is that you don’t limit your director, who can film the scene as he wishes. For my work as an actor, that was fundamental.

El puño del cóndor is a film that does not have all the resources that are available in the John Wick saga. How difficult is it to be able to create good action scenes with a limited budget?

There are other languages and different challenges because El puño del cóndor, or rather, all the films I make, depend a lot on physical preparation and my ability because if I’m not at 100 percent to be able to fight for ten hours non-stop, it doesn’t matter if the final scene is going to have one minute or 20 seconds of screen time.

This requirement of smaller feature films can even be much higher than what exists in a movie with a much larger budget since you have more support. There is a tremendous team behind you that is rehearsing for you and taking care of you so that you save your energy only for a specific moment. The way of filming is the same.

Obviously, there’s a smaller number of people on set, fewer equipment and lights but the codes are the same all over the world. I have worked in India, in a Bollywood film with Salman Khan and I had no idea what was happening but I knew perfectly well how to understand the foot, the gesture, where it had to be and what it had to do.


When you made Kiltro, did you feel like you were a bit of a Quixote creating a cinema that didn’t exist in your country?

Of course, everything I learned with the teacher Andy Cheng in The Rundown was crazy for me to apply in Chile but without money. The concern was how to imitate the rehearsals, the choreography and the time with a budget that was not even one percent of what they had there.

There began that challenge and the connection with Ernesto Díaz, who is my partner, childhood friend and director of my films, and with whom we began, highly influenced by Robert Rodríguez, to go out and shoot without waiting for the perfect budget and just having ingenuity.

The important thing to do is the dream has to be connected with the action and that was also said a lot of times by Bruce Lee. Finally, it was not something impossible.

How important has Robert Rodríguez been in your career?

Very important. We did several things together, a music video, the movie Machete Kills, the From Dusk Till Dawn series, Alita: Battle Angel and a commercial with John Malkovich. I have a very good vibe with Robert.

What he did and his books inspired us to make our movies so it was a wonderful moment when I got a call from him to tell me that he had written a character called Zaror for the movie Machete Kills. Also, Robert likes training and nutrition so we connect a lot there, too.

How did he come to create a character for you in Machete Kills?

When I premiered the film Mandrill at Fantastic Fest, the critic Harry Knowles said something about me to Robert and he stuck with it. So, everything was born from my very low-budget films in Chile and what they generated is incredible.

They were not an economic success and we even had several rights problems and some entanglements that are not worth mentioning. But having been honest and daring, we brought extremely important things.

Which Hollywood actors, actresses or directors would you like to work with?

I would like to work with Quentin Tarantino because I love his movies, especially Kill Bill, which is wonderful. I would also love to do something fun with Dwayne Johnson again. It would be very nice to meet him again but now with me as an actor. He is a tremendous figure and he is also a great human being. He always had the best vibes so it makes me very happy to see the success he has.

Translated by Mario Amaya