Gary Daniels is used to fighting tough odds. To begin with, the British actor rose from a land of soccer players to become a World Light Heavyweight Kickboxing champion. And in his movies, he almost always battles a crowd. ”We counted 41 guys,” he says of one scene in the new-to-tape Fist of the North Star. ”There were 12 actors, but we kept doubling them up, changing their costumes, and having them coming at me.” Riot, Daniels’ other current video action flick, finds the actor single-handedly pulverizing a gang of Rollerblading hockey players in looter-ravaged L.A.
With 20 movies in 10 years, Daniels, 33, has become thoroughly skilled at gracefully — and literally — kicking ass on screen. Since seeing Enter the Dragon as an 8-year-old in West London, that’s all he’s ever wanted to do. ”In England Bruce Lee’s movies are X-rated, so my dad bought the tickets while I hid in the bathroom,” says Daniels, who immediately enrolled in kung fu classes and filled his room with posters of the martial-arts legend.
At 20, Daniels took the advice of his British fight promoter and moved to Florida, where he taught karate and enrolled in acting classes, eventually landing a role as a stripper on Miami Vice. In 1986 he moved to low-budget-movie mecca the Philippines and made two chopsocky films he calls ”awful.” ”Hopefully, you get all your mistakes out of the way in these movies, which not many people are going to see,” says Daniels, who returned Stateside when he felt ready to pummel the pavement in L.A. Lately, he’s had no lack of offers. ”He’s accessible. He feels like someone you know,” says Fist director Tony Randel. ”And he’s got that action-star presence.”
Off screen, Daniels, wife Maricyn, and their three children (Shane Lee, 10, Mailee, 9, and Kenshiro, 22 months) live in Orange County, Calif., where he says he’s very happy playing dad and changing diapers between films. Currently, he’s resting up for a Fist of the North Star sequel, which begins filming early next year, and hoping to move his career over to the big screen. ”I’m trying to hold out for better movies, to get away from the same old punching and kicking, but it’s very hard to break into the next level,” he says, adding that he’d rather not keep hearing that casting-agent refrain ”That’s a really good reading. For a martial-arts guy.”