Meet ''Scorpion King'''s sexy sorceress. Kelly Hu, The Rock's leading lady, discusses her budding movie stardom

By Brian Hiatt
Updated April 26, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Kelly Hu: Luis Martinez/American Foto Features/Retna
  • Movie

Attention struggling actors: Start karate lessons immediately. That’s what former Miss Teen U.S.A. Kelly Hu did seven years ago — and her little hobby ended up providing the action chops she needed to fight alongside The Rock in box office champ ”The Scorpion King.”

Now, after stints on ”Nash Bridges” and ”Martial Law,” the 35-year-old Hawaiian actress finally seems to be riding a Rock-et to stardom, thanks to her performance as ”King”’s clothing-averse sorceress. Hu, who began her career with a less imposing leading man (she was Kirk Cameron’s vacation fling on ”Growing Pains”), tells how she kept a straight face with The Rock, wrestled on-set serpents, and enjoyed kicking bad-guy ass.

How does it feel to be Maxim’s first Asian-American cover model?
It was much more nerve-wracking to do the photo session than it was seeing myself on the cover, because then it’s done and over with. I show more [of my body] in the movie than in the photo shoot, anyway. There was one photo that they didn’t end up using, which is such a shame. I was just wearing a little brief and holding a cat. Maybe the reason they didn’t use it was because the cat’s paws were all dirty and it kept falling asleep. Plus, I was allergic to the cat, so I had teary eyes; actually, it probably wasn’t the best picture.

You seem to be working a lot with animals. How many of those snakes were real in ”Scorpion King”?
There were some that were CGI, but they also had live cobras with their venom and everything. The Humane Society doesn’t allow them to take out the venom. I don’t know if it’s because it hurts the snakes or they just want to see dead actors. They were like, ”Don’t worry, we have the anti-serum at the nurse’s station” — which was halfway across the lot! There was one assistant director who turned his back and the snake lunged out at him. The handler caught the snake by the tail just within inches of his back. Me, I tried to stay off the set as much as possible.

Given his persona, was The Rock equally hard to deal with?
He was so different than what I expected. The Rock character he does in the WWF is so over-the-top and conceited, but he’s not like that at all. He’s so modest and very down-to-earth and really quite soft-spoken. Or maybe just soft-spoken compared to me, because I’m so loud [laughs]. He’s the kind of guy who always remembers to open the door for you. I didn’t realize how famous he is until I went to one of these WWF tournaments after we finished filming. He had such a command of the audience — it was just mesmerizing. We had such a blast. I was screaming and cheering and laughing so much that I literally launched myself into an asthma attack.

The Scorpion King

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 94 minutes
  • Chuck Russell