The G.I. Joe film franchise returns in a big way with the Snake Eyes spin-off, which premieres on July 23. The origin story follows the mysterious ninja Snake Eyes (played by Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians renown) and includes other fan favorite characters like Scarlett, Storm Shadow, and The Baroness.
Golding spoke to Screen Rant about how he gets into his character’s headspace, what fans can expect from the film, and where he’d like the franchise to go in the future.
What were some of your inspirations for the character, and what kind of research did you do on Snake Eyes?
Henry Golding: The fascinating thing with starting a character at his origin is that we create the motivations, because we don’t have a history to fall back on. So, me reading about his time in the Vietnam War and [so forth] – for me, I needed to understand our universe’s creation of Snake Eyes, because we go from day one and see his faults. We see his, I suppose, wrong turns; his decisions that he made that weren’t the greatest decisions.
His motivations aren’t for the right causes when we first meet him, and we need to figure out how does he become a Joe? How does he become the Snake Eyes that we all know and love? Because there’s no building without the foundation. To have the luxury of going back and telling that story, and showing the struggle and the heartache and him at his most broken, allows us to be able to build him at his most strong.
A lot of people were like, “Look, there is a whole history of Snake Eyes.” But it’s not what this film is concentrating on. We need you to concentrate on this factor that drives him through this movie, which I can’t give away. But you need to understand why he’s doing everything, and what his motivations are.
It was a joy to work with Larry Hammer, because he’s executive producing this. Having conversations with him, he definitely was like, “I really would have loved to have taken these characters to this certain place. But with the responsibility I had with comics and the people I needed to answer to, there’s only so much that I can do as the comic book guy – as an illustrator and creator and storyteller.” So, I think having him on this film as EP gave us the artistic elasticity to tell the story we always wanted to tell.
Some of the coolest designs in any characters ever created have to be Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, and they start off as brothers in most iterations of their origins. Can you talk to me about where they are in this film, relationship-wise?
Henry Golding: We’re right at the beginning. We are at the stage where building that Brotherhood is the key to moving forward in this entire series.
How has that bond been so strong that they hate each other with a ferocity like no other, but at the same time later on, allow themselves to come together and fight for a cause? You know what I mean? They’re the most dynamic relationship ever: one minute they’re fighting with each other; next minute, they’re absolutely gunning for each other. The second they’re like, “Right, let’s call a peace treaty.”
You don’t know why that is unless you look back at what started it all, and that’s what we explore. We see the building of this lifelong friendship-slash-greatest nemesis ever created in comic books.
I can’t overlook the action in this film, because it looks phenomenal. We get to see you with a lot of swordplay and firearms. Can you talk to me about the training that went into Snake Eyes?
Henry Golding: Yeah. We had an amazing choreographer, Kenji Tanigaki, who does all the Rurôni Kenshin movies – which are the craziest swordsmanship you’ve ever seen in cinema. We had Kimani [Ray Smith], who is one of the best stunt choreographers from Canada, as well.
But having just a layman’s basis of boxing and Muay Thai really helped with understanding the movement and the muscle memory, but the katana work was all new. So, we had to learn from the basics for two months, up until the point where we could do these crazy ass [fight scens] on top of moving cars, and these highway scenes.
It was a challenge. But we worked with the best of the best to get to us to a point where, damn, it looks crazy! As you agree.
A lot of this film is shot in Japan, which I think is the perfect choice to start telling this story. Can you talk to me about the energy that Japan brought to the film?
Henry Golding: It brought authenticity. That’s what we wanted, and that was the whole goal of relaunching this franchise: to build this universe in reality. We’ve seen the worldbuilding of the superhero movies, but for GI Joe, that’s why fans have loved it for so long. It’s because you and I could be a Joe if we put our heads, minds and hearts into something so great and dedicate ourselves to a cause. That’s what these individuals do.
To be able to film in the heart and soul of the Arashikage, we had to go to Japan. Where else do you film it?
You can go blue in the face and say, “We’re representing the Asian aspect,” but to never go to film in an Asian country and a city which features so heavily in the story, it would be sacrilege. To be able to film in those 1000 year old temples, and the many generation year old castles that we were able to film in, was a godsend. And to be able just put this in our movie? I don’t know, man.
In a lot of the iterations of the Snake Eyes story, we get to see his relationship grow with Scarlett (Samara Weaving). What can you tell me about the relationship in this film?
Henry Golding: Yeah, we are introduced to Scarlett as the go-between between the Joes and the Arashikage. So, she is the agent that we come across that fills us in on some very important information. And, of course, in turn we work together to figure out what the hell is going on.
The relationship starts off, as any relationship in this movie, as the one right at the beginning; the initial meetings. Where that unfolds, we can blossom that into any way we can. But I’ll tell you, leaving the end of this movie, it’s just like, “Where’s the rest of it? I want more. Tell us everybody’s story the way that you told Snake Eyes.”
Another iconic G.I. Joe character that we see in this film is The Baroness. Is this before Cobra is really formed, and what can you tell me about The Baroness in this film?
Henry Golding: Without giving away too much spoilers… Cobra is very much an organization that is present in this movie, The Baroness being one of its agents.
How do I say this? I’m just trying to think about the pitfalls of where I can put my foot in my mouth. But no, the GI Joe is nothing without Cobra.
In the trailer, we do get to see the iconic Snake Eyes mask. The challenge of Snake Eyes is how you make an audience sympathize with a character that always has his mask on. How is this handled in the script and how do you approach it as a performer?
Henry Golding: I think it’s the building of his background and the building of his true origin. And understanding that to know a man is to know his past and the footprints he had to make to get to where he got.
It was so important to set the standard and set the basis of [him]. If we were to go the next 5 or 6 films with just his mask on, we all know who Snake Eyes is. And that was what was so important. People complaining that, “Ahh! We see his face!” Well, he didn’t come out of his mother’s belly with a mask on and whatnot. Who’s to say we won’t go the entire rest of the movies [like that]?
But behind the mask, he’s a guy. He’s a human; he has love interests, he has failures in life, he has mistakes that he’s made, and he has forgiveness in his heart for the things that perhaps he thought he’d never be able to forgive himself for. We need to be able to see that in his eyes and, wearing a mask, sometimes we just aren’t able to put that across.
Another character in the Snake Eyes realm is his dog Timber. Do we get to see Timber at all?
Henry Golding: This question comes up a lot. This timeline, as in this movie, is that [a small part] of this. Is there space for the magnificent Timber to be within that? 100%. That’s all I’m gonna say.
Next: Watch the Snake Eyes Movie Trailer
- Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (2021)Release date: Jul 23, 2021
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