"They call him Samurai" - An Interview with Mathew Karedas

Mathew Karedas was kind enough to spend some time talking with me about the new film after I posted my review of it last week. Be sure to follow the film's Facebook page to see if it's coming to your town and show some support for this little sequel that could. You can also pre-order the Blu-ray on Amazon, which is being released on February 2nd. I hope you enjoy my chat with the very cool and funny star of Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance, who only asks you to keep it warm for him...

CC- Mathew! How are you doing, sir?

MK- I'm very good, have you survived your traumatic experience of the Samurai Cop sequel?

CC- Absolutely! And I enjoyed the hell out of it.

MK- I just came back from New York and everybody I talked to, I was like, did you get it? I understand the content was fabulous, but the context is fucking out there. But that's for Greg Hatanaka to discuss with you.

CC- Yeah, I've already sent him some questions as well. It was crazy and weird and pretty much everything you could want or expect from a Samurai Cop sequel.

MK- Well good, that's what we were always wondering, or at least I was. I said I hope everybody gets what you're doing here, because I'm fucking confused as hell here, buddy. But you saw it in Texas, right?

CC- Yeah, I saw it in Austin at one of the Alamo Drafthouses. It was out there and I didn't understand most of the plot, but it didn't matter, it was a fun ride.

MK- (laughs) Well that's what I'm wondering. A lot of the same response from people when I talked to them, but I just don't know what you were hoping for a sequel, but for whatever it is, they liked it. It's just weird and that's why for Greg, it's a tough spot for him to be in because it was his distribution. What he ended up with, it wasn't exactly what he wanted to do, but that's what ended up being the finished product, because of money and time frame.

CC- Well, I think the main thing is that you seem to take it seriously. Which I think was the most important aspect of it. He didn't do it too tongue in cheek, too winking at the audience. There's a lot of silly stuff in it, but it seemed like he was just trying to make a good movie.

MK- Yeah and I think that's what helped him, being an absolute true fan of the first movie, aside from him being a distributor of other movies and loving this. He really was a fan of Samurai Cop, or really Amir Shervan's work, is what he really fell in love with.

CC- They also put out Killing American Style.

MK- Yeah and I guess you have the whole box set coming out at the first of the year, all four movies. He restored and made them look really good. I hadn't seen all of them, I'd seen parts of them. But really passionate about what he does. He's really a good filmmaker, but I wish one day he has, like every director, the means to do what you really want to from you vision and not have to compromise your artistic integrity.

CC- I am definitely going to get that box set. I was unaware of that.

MK- Yeah, it's coming. That's what he was working on.

CC- Also, just to put this out there, you are on the IMDb page for his next film Darling Nikki, which comes out next year.

MK- Yeah, he keeps wanting me to cameo in it. He started filming that already before we did Samurai Cop 2. And I'm just like, hold on, let me make sure people even want to see me do other shit. It was fun to come back and do this with Mark and I've had a lot of offers, which I'm still thankful and shocked came forth. With other filmmakers that just wanted to do pretty big budget, little action movies in that 2 million dollar range and I'm just like, this is just too crazy for me to comprehend. I hope to do something with Greg, but I just don't know. My range is very limited as far as talent.

CC- And I was going to talk a bit about the performance as well. Once you discovered that Samurai Cop had this fanbase and kind of reintroduced yourself to the world and found out about this sequel that was getting made. What made you want to want to come back to the character?

MK- First my daughter, who as we all knew was the one that kind of pushed me to respond to some of the comments that had been on IMDb from the past years, as far as me being dead. She kept saying you should let them know that you are alive and answer some of the questions they're all asking. They never really had any answers to those questions. Amir died and Mark, I don't think, would remember anything. I didn't really look at it like that, I thought it was just a few people out there. I had no idea of the magnitude of that fanbase until that day when I put that little video together and sent it to my daughter and said, alright if I'm going to start posting stuff is this how you'd want to me to introduce myself? And the minute she had that of course, out it went. And I was just like, fuck I look like an idiot! But I understand her point of view, she just thought, "I'll never get my dad to do this." Because she'd been bugging me for years and I kept putting it off. But within 3 hours emails just started blasting my iPhone, because I guess it was connected to that account she had on YouTube. I didn't realize and that's how Greg reached out and he said you've got to do a sequel to this, people really want to see it. And that's kind of why I did it after I talked to Mark, which is I guess the fans would think it'd be fun to see you and I together again after all this time. So, that was my initial motivation to get back into it.

CC- And I mentioned in my review that you actually give a pretty damn good performance in the movie. You have your hammy scenes like everyone else, but you seem like you had something to prove after the original, which you maybe didn't take so seriously as it went on, or thought it would never see the light of day. So how did that affect your approach to it this time?

MK- Yeah, Mark and I both thought, or at least I do, that my acting was absolute shit in the first movie. And that should have been that apprenticeship movie where you learn and see what you're doing wrong, as far as the kooky eyes and that kind of shit where a director should say, hey you got to watch this. So on this one, I was just going to do the best acting I could possibly do, without any acting since then. But once we got started filming Greg would say cut and pull me aside and say, I think it would be good in this scene if you do your scowls and your eyes. I don't want to do that because that's shitty acting! He would go I know, but that's what they're expecting because regardless of what you think, that's the character. Even though that was Matt Hannon, bad acting, that's what they expect the Samurai Cop to do. He said you'll really let them down. So I kind of got his point, but then on the other hand the vanity in me, so I think I was able to in certain scenes. Hopefully people see this is me really trying to do some better work, not saying it's Leonardo DiCaprio. And then other times it's Greg's direction, as your director you follow whatever he wants to do, kind of like Amir. So I get it, that's why I say I'm very picky now if I'm going to do anything, even if I'm offered something. I'm lucky to have that, but just to really try to do some better stuff. But I appreciate the comments. A lot of people said, "What's it like to come back to acting?", and I say, well if that's what you consider acting! I know I could do it, because I've always had that ability, but here it is 25 years later and it's like really? Now's the time that everyone's coming around and my face looks like a 70 year old man's wrinkled ball sack! So I take it tongue in cheek, but I think in anything that I ever attempt in my life, I get better as I do it. So I think it would be fun, that's why I said maybe. Let's see what comes forth. But that was it, try to do a little bit better acting, yet follow the director's vision of how he wanted me to play that part.

CC- Well you certainly see the character from the original come through, but you didn't seem like you were half-assing it, you came off like you were really trying.

MK- Yeah absolutely, you have to do that, otherwise it's disrespectful. You don't want to be self-aware and you have to play it straight even though I'm going, what the fuck is this about? This doesn't make any sense! But I couldn't do what I did when I was younger with Amir and just start fucking around, because that's disrespectful. You're there to do a job and Greg paid me and we just do what we have to do.

CC- You're obviously the hero of the film, along with Mark, but you're also the emotional anchor. Mark gets to mug for the camera and be the cool guy, but you have to get people on board with the film. How much input did you have on the film and where Joe Marshall would be 25 years later?

MK- Well that's where Greg let me collaborate a lot with him. I have a producer credit on this and I did help a lot with story contributions. I think what we really wanted to show was that partnership between Frank and Joe. When we first come back together in that little cave scene with the chain and he shoots all the guys around me, it immediately in initial drafts cut to the plane. And I just thought, Greg I really feel we're missing something here. I really want to do a re-shoot with Mark, I'd like to write and add a scene. So that scene you see between Mark and I is what he and I wrote and we shot that 3 months later. You needed to have a reason for Joe to come out of exile, to go back to the world that he didn't want any part of and the only way to do that is that bond, that partnership between Mark and I. I think that's what really worked and I was thankful that Greg would allow me to contribute.

CC- You talked a bit about what it was like working with Greg as a director, but what it was like being back with the old cast and also all the new additions?

MK- That was fun. I had initial resistance in the beginning just with the sex involved in the movie. I have nothing against any of the girls in the adult industry, especially Kayden [Cross], she is an amazing actress. Same with Nicole Bailey, that girl busted her ass every day in fight training, amazing talent and took it really serious. Lexi Belle, I didn't really have any scenes with her, but Lexi plays Lexi in the movie. Nobody's expecting Meryl Streep, but Lexi was there for her fans. So Greg's selection of cast and crew kind of mirrored what Amir did in his, which was to find people to fill in, and they have a look or like Tommy Wiseau, have a certain background that you bring. Each person on this giant canvas of a painting has a beautiful color and when they're all put together it's an amazing masterpiece. You can identify all the colors, but when you step back and look at the whole movie, it's like a Jackson Pollack painting. It's like what the fuck is this? It's beautiful, but I don't know what it is, and that's Greg. That's why it was a blast to work with him because he has such a history and knowledge of film. When you listen to his commentary on the Blu-ray, he did so many cliche lines that he gave Tommy or he put in the movie that are tips of the hat to his predecessors and people he idols like Cassavettes. And that's why I thought we were in good hands being with him. And it was a pleasure to work with Mark, our chemistry just picked right back up after 25 years. But it really worked out well and I just immensely enjoyed working with these people, Joe Estevez and Tommy Wiseau especially. I had no idea who Tommy was, but what a treat that was to work with him.

CC- And that scene where he just goes crazy and destroys a ROOM!

MK- I don't even know if it was written that way, but then Tommy just became Tommy and when that happens you just let the camera roll. Then Greg turned it in to what he did with the music and everything else. It's just crazy stuff that you're watching, but it's amazing. We never expected lightening in a bottle twice. It's kind of that but different. You didn't mock, this is something you never thought could happen. That's why I always said in previous interviews coming up to this release, I do believe we've unintentionally created the same nonsense that happened with the first. It's just kind of what happened. Eventually when the Blu-ray comes out, I'm sure when people will have a chance to go over with a fine toothed comb every scene. That's why I say it just keeps giving every time you watch it.

CC- I can't wait to see it again. Even when some of the actors or secondary characters seem to ham it up a bit too much or be a little too self aware, they seem to be having so much fun that it can't really bother you.

MK- Well that's it. The degrees of acting levels, like in the first movie, are prevalent here. Some people have very minimal talent, some are actual Kickstarter backers that paid to be in the movie, so you can kind of pick them out. Again, like I'm Shakespeare (laughs). But you can kind of tell from everybody's performance that they're really trying to do the best they can. Tommy is absolutely serious in what he's doing. He wasn't self-aware, he was Tommy being Tommy. I think people that know him will see that. Mel Novak, that's just his style. It wasn't intentional, that was just honest filmmaking and capturing those moments. That's why they are the kinds of movies that I think this genre of cult fans really want to see. Which is, don't try to make me look like I'm an idiot viewer. I'm very intelligent, I know what's what. I think Greg delivered that accidentally and in a brilliant manner. So that's why I think he's getting a lot of accolades.

CC- The fight scenes in this one were a lot more intense and fast paced than the original. What was the training and choreography like in filming those fight scenes?

MK- We really wanted to emphasize better fight scenes, so we did do a lot of prep before we started production around Christmas time. We had a great stunt team, Kevin [Barile] and Mario [Rocha]. They really worked with all of us, especially myself, they really wanted to bring more authenticity back and show a little more respect to the Japanese that were disrespected in the first inadvertently either by Amir's writing or some of the stuff that we did. This time we really wanted to show respect and obviously, Greg Hatanaka's background is Japanese too. I'd show up on set and my stunt guy will come up to me and go, Matt you have to learn about 40 moves and we only have 20 minutes. That's what angers me, because I'm such a perfectionist in my own life. Now all of a sudden here I am doing filmmaking without the control. So we did the best we could, but unfortunately sometimes you only have a couple takes and you messed up. Like that fight scene I do once I get to the complex, that was probably all shot in 3 takes, one master and a couple of close-ups. In some of the other scenes, I get dizzy, it's too frenetic, but he had to speed up or slow down the film in order to make it look better. I wish again that he could have had the time, fight scenes that we did in maybe two hours should have probably been a week's time to really do it right. I'm happy with what we did this time, but you still leave like goddamn, I really wish we could do this right. Do a movie from start to finish from what's on the page and put it on the screen, but sometimes that doesn't happen, even in the big budget movies.

CC- You mentioned you just got back from New York, where you did a two night screening. What have the screenings and press tour been like so far?

MK- For whatever reason we were contractually obligated to do theatrical release first. I would have loved to have gone digital download, Hulu, Netflix, and then into all the Walmarts with Blu-ray first to really get it out there to the world because it's immediate. Then I would have started with the selected city tours, whether it's midnight screenings or one time showings, because I really think everybody just wanted to see it as soon as possible. Then you build and Matt will be there or Tommy or somebody. You make it more of an event and I think we would have had even more turn out. The only people that really showed up outside of LA, where we sold out for the whole week, it's just very small handfuls. The theaters picked their select cities, like Denver, Seattle, Portland, etc. in 200 seat theaters or sometimes less. I don't know what the turnout was there, you're getting 10, 12, 15 people. To me, I don't care. If I screened it for one die hard fan, and most even in Virginia drove three hours just to see it, then it's worth it. I just wish we could have gotten it out to more people in their cities as soon as possible. I think that everybody that has seen it has really enjoyed it. We haven't come across anybody yet that's like, that's complete shit. Unless you're just completely not a fan of these types of movies, then of course you may look at it as a whole and go, I don't even know what the fuck that was! But it's still hard to say you don't like it because visually, it's really a beautifully shot movie. The scenes individually are unique to watch, but if you're going to see a story with a beginning, middle and end, this may not be it.

CC- The screening I saw in Austin, it was the first of two nights, Friday and Saturday midnight showings. I'd say the theater was probably about 2/3 full and everyone was having a blast. Laughing out loud, really enjoying it, it got a big applause at the end.

MK- At that hour, did you think most were Samurai Cop fans? A midnight screening is really tough, it's so late, to get that type of attendance, which is nice. I just wondered how many were, and that's what I've noticed, 50/50 as far as people that had never even seen the first that just came. And they still loved it.

CC- Well I think part of that is just the Alamo Drafthouse. There are a lot of people that just catch any weird screening they put on. I'm sure there were a lot of fans that just brought people along with them that hadn't seen it before, like I did. But there was a huge response to it. I didn't go see it the second night, but there were several people that I know that would've been interested that didn't know the screenings were happening.

MK- That's another thing. You wish you had enough money to do more advertising and billboards, but at this level you just really don't have it. The crowdfunding was great, we wanted 50 [thousand] and got 64 or whatever, but you really go through that quick. Greg ended up financing the rest himself with a little bit of private money. I don't even know the final total, but hundreds of thousands of dollars. For him as a filmmaker to accomplish what he did from the time of beginning filming last December to have it in theaters and be where we are today. He just never gave up and really had a drive. I'm glad everybody's digging all the hard work we put behind it. We'll hopefully have the digital downloads out to the backers a lot sooner. But there's certain timing with Hulu and Netflix, they want first option before we even put it out there to the masses. I feel bad, because I know in the Kickstarter we promised it out by a certain date and then just logistically it was impossible. The sooner we're able to get it out to those people that couldn't see it in theaters, the better off I'll feel. I truly feel that this was done for the fans and I don't want to let anybody down, but I don't have control over it. I understand it's the business part that Greg has to handle.

CC- Well most people that donate to Kickstarter on a regular basis understand that those dates are kind of flexible. If they had done digital downloads first that could have brought more people out to the screenings, but there's something kind of special about it just playing two nights in your town and if you're going to see it, you better get out there.

MK- Then I wish it would hit all 50 states, because I don't know where these fans are, there are pockets. Greg and I talked about Vegas and there was nobody there. I thought it would be fine if you had an event there and just showed it once and people could say, I'll take a trip to Vegas and then we'll all go do that. That's when it becomes, kind of like Tommy's movie The Room. I think eventually Samurai Cop could become a midnight double feature where they'll show one and two or a lot of theater chains are saying we want to show a double feature of the first one and The Room and then Saturday we'll show both of you together in Samurai Cop 2. That's kind of what the genre is. Once everyone gets to see it they'll dissect it and make fun of it on YouTube again and make fun of me again (laughs). I don't mind that at all. That's what I really love is everybody's reaction good or bad, because I get it. I'm totally in on the joke. That's what made it fun for me to be doing this 25 years later.

CC- It's an experience in the same way going to see a midnight showing of The Room is and fans are all over the place, like when you did the Red Letter Media stuff, those guys are in Wisconsin.

MK- I can't wait to go back to them, but they haven't seen it. Once the Blu-ray is out and they have a chance to see it and do their review of it, then maybe they'll have me come in. Which is fine, I love their sense of humor and I love their fans. So I think just to hear them going, what the fuck was happening there and then be able to give them all the details. But like I said, Greg is even more the person to go to because it was his direction and he has a lot of answers. I don't like to take from him, through what my impression was, it's his and he'll give you those answers. He's the one that's been dealing with this daily for 9 months.

CC- It was actually Red Letter Media where I discovered Samurai Cop, when they did their Half in the Bag episode on it. Then I got the DVD from Greg's distribution company [Cinema Epoch]. So in going back to the film, it ends openly to where there could be a third film. Would you be interested in doing a third film or where would you like to see the next one go if it was to get made?

MK- I think for a third it's really up to the fans or they could just go, we just wanted to see you and Mark, thanks, fuck off! It's a better sequel than Birdemic and all these movies that we've been compared to. I really think Greg did a better job. I don't think people will say, another shit sequel to a good/bad movie. There is interest and some money already set aside from some high level B-actors that found out about this movie and go, I'd love to jump on that! But I think the natural progression would have to be a big budget, a million and a half to two is what Greg thinks would be plenty to do a good movie. I don't know because the first one Amir shot for 30 grand and now we've done the second, which was kind of a time to do a little better than the first, so where do you naturally go for the third? It's really tough, I don't know. I understand the money that's being offered to me and that's all great, but I'd really like to honor the fans and maybe get more input from them, if they wanted one and what they would like to see. Do they want to see me in a version of the movie that Amir probably wanted to do in the beginning, a good action movie? If you do that, then it just ends up like every other Blu-ray on the shelf in the video store or in Redbox. That's why these cult movies are a cut above, because it's a different genre of film and it has legs. It's a special thing, so it's hard. So I can't really answer that, I'd love to with the names involved, but it's just that crossover from cult into mainstream. As you know with Tommy Wiseau's The Room, it's now being shot over at Warner Brothers, the making of with Seth Rogan and James Franco. They're doing a movie about The Room, based off the book written by Greg Sestero [The Disaster Artist], the co-star with Tommy.

CC- A great book, by the way.

MK- Right. That's where I think you're going to cross over. That's where Tommy goes from being known in the cult world to, if that's ever done and gets out, the mainstream. That's where maybe there would be a crossover with Samurai Cop, even though I know The Room is way far and above us. Tommy, that's an amazing anomaly. I get why they wanted to make that movie, but it took Seth Rogan, James Franco going to one of the midnight screenings and going, oh my god this is fucking nuts! Then they have the ability to bring to fruition a movie about that. Same thing with Samurai Cop, because of our recent LA premier, people became aware of it and went, this is crazy. They found out what it was and got a bug up their ass, going I would love to jump into this franchise and that's how all of that has been manifesting since. I would really love to do it, but I think it's really up to the fans. I don't want to do sequel after sequel, just to do them. That's why I'd want Greg to do it. You have to have a fan that really loves the first and make it stay true to the tone of what it should be as a sequel. I just don't know if people would dig it. My original version for what I wanted to do with Samurai Cop 2 was completely different than Greg's. I wanted more farcical, like Starsky & Hutch kind of self-aware, mocking the way I was in the first one, because I'm a comedian anyway. Greg was like, no I'm making this seriously.

CC- Where can people find you online and do you have any upcoming projects or appearances you'd like to promote? I know you mentioned comedy and I read that you've done some stand-up, is that correct?

MK- Yeah, I've said that loosely meaning I've done comedy performances. Andrew Dice Clay was a very good friend of mine. I met him when I worked for Stallone as a bodyguard. I got to hang out with him and I'd go do my stand-up routines at the Comedy Store and the Laugh Factory here in LA. But I did it in the capacity that I would go down there, I put together a 20 minute routine and go do it once, then that was it and I'd come up with something else. I just really enjoyed doing that and I'd have really good sets and everyone would enjoy the material, because I've been the class clown since 4th grade. But I never classically went on the road like most comics from city to city saying the same routine over and over. I just never dug that, I just liked going down there. So being a friend of Andrew's, it allowed me to go in any time with him without the scrutiny of the club manager going, no you have to wait your turn or I have a friend I want to put on before you. There's a lot of politics in that, but I did enjoy comedy.

CC- Have you ever thought about improv, or getting into anything like that?

MK- Well yeah, but like I said I'm 51 and I've already moved on. I'm doing my 9 to 5 job. If I can make extra money to do this kind of stuff, I'd love to do it. That's where you just wait and see. My daughter set up my Twitter account, which is @Mkaredas. I think there's a Facebook page, but I don't really go on any of that. I know Greg keeps wanting me to fly around to these appearances here in the US, but it's just so costly for the theater owners to fly me around, so I don't know if I'll keep doing that because I miss my regular 9 to 5 work too. But the Cutrecon festival in Madrid, Spain has invited me over and that's at the end of January. It's a big convention and it's their 5th annual. It's basically a convention geared towards good/bad movies. They screened Samurai Cop two years ago, when everybody thought I was dead and it was a huge hit over there, everyone loved it. Then when they found out I was alive a year ago and that we did the sequel, they really went out of their way to fly me over there First Class, put me up in a Villa, host the entire festival, and make Samurai Cop 2 the premier screening of the festival. Then I think do a screening the next night of the first, have a panel and Q&A, but it's just amazing what's come out of this movie. I never thought in a million years that I would be traveling to Madrid. I know they're still trying to have us over at the Prince Charles Cinema for the UK premiere. There's a ton of fans over there, but we're still waiting for the UK distributor, that Greg is dealing with, to take control of that and set it up. I'd love to be able to go to London. That's probably the only thing next that I have coming up. Other than that, I'll wait and see if Greg and I can work out whatever he has planned for me to do in Darling Nikki, if it's something that I even think is in my range as a horrible actor (laughs). I'd rather just say, Ok I got lucky and 2 did somewhat good, but unless I feel comfortable, I don't know if I would continue. Even with Samurai Cop 3, it would have to be something that I think the fans would want to see me do and not, ah fuck, here comes Matt again! You know, let's just leave well enough alone. Those are the most updated appearances and everybody can reach me on Twitter. I get a lot of people that reach out and I think there's two unofficial Facebook pages where the guy that runs them lets me know if someone has a question about an interview or something. Mine's the one my daughter put up, which I think is just Mathew Karedas.

CC- Well it all seems to have worked out well. Congrats on that and thank you very much for talking to me, this has been fun. If you ever make it out to Austin for a screening or anything, hit me up!

MK- Absolutely. I do think eventually in 6 months or 8 months, once this all comes out, there will be another round of going back to these theaters, because the theater owners will see this did get a good response and it will give people more of a chance to come out. We'll have events where we can just pack everybody in, bring Tommy with me, he's fucking hilarious, and just have fun with it. That's kind of the way these things go. But I do appreciate you taking the time and the interest and I'm glad you had a fun experience watching the sequel and letting me know that Greg didn't drop the ball and at least delivered.

November 30th, 2015