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Interview: Director Simon McQuoid Talks ‘Mortal Kombat’ (2021), Breaking Rated R Trailer Record, The Diverse Cast & More

The highly anticipated Mortal Kombat film starring Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Mehcad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Chin Han, Joe Taslim, Hiroyuki Sanada, Sisi Stringer, and Max Huang is less than one month away. We here at GOC could not be more excited!

Earlier this week, press got the chance to watch the first 12 minutes of the movie. Following the screening, we sat down virtually with director Simon McQuoid to discuss all things Mortal Kombat.

Check out the discussion with Simon McQuoid below:


What was your initial reaction to see that the trailer has already broken records for the most-watched rated R trailer of all time? 

McQuoid: Relief! Relief that all the theoretical discussions, all the stuff that we talked about, Me yammering on to everyone saying, No guys, this little tiny thing here really, really matters. How that hat looks really, really matters. It’s why we did 10 prototypes of the thing; how Scorpion looks really matters. I’m really, really relieved and really pleased that everyone responded to the things that I was hoping people would respond to. It was wonderful! I was really, really happy. And most of those decisions were because of the fans.

I knew new audiences weren’t going to know what Kung Lao’s hat should look like, but I knew there were a lot of people out there who were Kung Lao fans who knew that that thing had to be right. I mean, that hat, it might work fine in a video game but when it’s in reality, it was tricky. But it was fun. It was great fun to do that stuff. There’s still this little sort of thing in me like, movie isn’t out yet. So, but I’m glad you guys saw the first 12 minutes. So I’m very proud of the way that’s come out. And, you know, the same respect has been given to everyone that comes into the story and hopefully that continues. 

This is your directorial debut. Can you talk about what that experience was like with such a big property like this?

McQuoid: It was amazing fun. I loved every single day of it. I’ve done several video game commercials, and I always want them to feel, not all of them. But I’d always wanted to have a scale to them that felt big and elegant, and sort of have a beauty within them, but have a sort of cinematic quality to them. And something that connects with with character, even if they’re quite outlandish, right. So I’ve a thing for PlayStation where there was lots of the beloved PlayStation characters. And that was a great experience, I love being able to have the opportunity to sort of bring really well known characters to life so that they feel real and connected to the audience. And this was just another version of that.

So I like things to be in camera, and real and authentic. And I don’t like too much green screen and all that stuff. Even though there was a bit of it in the film, some you’ll see some things just couldn’t, couldn’t avoid it. It didn’t feel I never felt overwhelmed by it, because it was like it felt right for what I what I want it to do. And so this, I felt very privileged to have this opportunity to sort of bring these beloved characters to, to life and respect the material and turn it into this big movie.

Can you talk about the efforts for having such an inclusive cast?

McQuoid: Well, it’s important because it’s just the right thing to do. I mean, it’s that simple. That’s it on a sort of first layer, but then, to make these the best versions of these characters, that’s what we needed to do. The thing about Mortal Kombat is it’s a rich textural mixture of really great things, many different cultures and so that’s an ingredient, that’s a really, really important ingredient as we analyze it. It didn’t cross anyone’s mind at any point that we were doing it any other way. It was easy, because that’s the right thing to do.

What was it about Lewis Tan that made you think that he could carry this film? And the central character? 

McQuoid: Lewis is an incredibly gifted martial arts fighter. Like we did with Joe and Max and Hiro, each character needs their own set of criteria that ‘s sort of built into them as we cast them. So we needed people who had the ability to fight when they needed to fight and have that martial arts skill that not everyone has. I mean, that’s something that comes from years of training. And so, Lewis had that great ability to him. And he also has a great presence on-camera that connected. And it was sort of the combination of those two things that made us feel like he’s the guy that can be the new character that takes us through it. I needed his fighting ability to feel really real and brutal. 

What we’ve seen so far really seems to lean into this very over the top violence. And I was curious if you could tell me more about that decision in that direction?

McQuoid: I just wanted to do the Mortal Kombat justice. So it was about studying and looking at what the fundamental ingredients are of Mortal Kombat; what are the key strands of DNA that make this what it is. So it’s been a lot of time thinking about that. So stylistically, it sort of ended up in the right place. And so one of those obviously, is kind of the brutality of it. And what, what I liked about the blood aspect of that, is that we can be authentic. We didn’t have to hold back on the fight. if there was a fight and someone got stabbed through the head, as you guys have seen, blood probably would burst out the back. And we could do that. New Line deserve a lot of credit for this because they always from before I was involved, they wanted to do it justice as well.

So when I came in and said to them, ‘Look, I want to elevate this material to this big cinematic experience. And if we only worry about the violence, then we fail.’ Because there needs to be the other ingredients that make this up, the characters, the music, you know, the law, there’s all this stuff. So that’s one ingredient. So it would be foolish of us to only think about that. And I think it’s really important that I felt comfortable with it because Mortal Kombat is known for that…So it allowed us to be authentic in a stylistic approach, and also just what’s right for the model.

McQuoid went on to talk about Joe Taslim’s SubZero and Lawson as Kano.

McQuoid: Each of the characters like, Joe Taslim as Sub-Zero, you know, he has amazing presence, incredible fighting ability, super handsome, but in a sort of dark way. Magical eyebrows that we’re gonna poke out from the mask. So, you know, they all had their own thing. Josh Lawson who plays Kano is an incredibly gifted comedic improv actor and he provides some laughs through the film.

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