Snake Eyes star Henry Golding points to samurai film influences on character-driven story
Henry Golding found himself back in a movie theater in August. The 300-seat screening room was on the Paramount Lot in Los Angeles, though he was one of maybe four people in attendance. That day's matinee? A cut of Snake Eyes, the new G.I. Joe spin-off centered on the masked ninja commando. "We had our own corners of the cinema because you need to go through the processes," Golding says. "You need to see it and test it and get a reaction and notes from everybody."
Golding's reaction? The actor, who stars in the title role, tweeted at the time, "Holy hell. This is the exact opposite of the cookie cutter, super people movies. Wow. You guys are in for something insane, I can't wait for you all to get your [mitts] on this beast. Yowzers!!!! Literally grinning from ear to ear."
Over the course of a phone conversation with EW about his upcoming film Monsoon, the actor elaborated. "I think the heart of the story really is who Snake is and his journey as a person, really. Understanding his motivations," he says. Compared to other hero-centric blockbusters we've seen, Golding adds, "I can't give away too much, but it really focuses on the one person instead of having 20 people on screen and understanding background. We start from the beginning. And, hopefully, this launches an amazing franchise."
Ray Park portrayed the G.I. Joe character in 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and 2013's G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Paramount hopes to start a new era of G.I. Joe movies with Snake Eyes, directed by Robert Schwentke. The commando's history and real name are classified information in the canon of G.I. Joe. In Snake Eyes, Golding's iteration unveils those origins in a movie shot in and inspired by Japan.
"Robert is a huge Japanese cinephile, everything from [Akira] Kurosawa to just the phenomenal Spaghetti Westerns of samurai movies," Golding comments. "He is so hooked into that history and we see some of those scenes. With some of the fight scenes there are some chimbara sequences." Meaning, Japanese sword-fighting. "A lot of attention to cultural detail was put into this movie. There are not a lot of movies that are allowed to film in Japan and we went to some amazing, amazing places. The authenticity is there."
Snake Eyes — also featuring Samara Weaving (Ready or Not), Iko Uwais (The Raid movies), Andrew Koji (Cinemax's Warrior), Úrsula Corberó (Netflix's Money Heist), Haruka Abe (47 Ronin), and Takehiro Hira (Girl/Haji) — was once set to release in theaters in October. That, obviously, didn't happen. Golding finished filming in February, mere weeks before the U.S. went into lockdown.
"It's always odd coming off of big productions," he reflects. "I was on Snake Eyes for like six months. We were in Vancouver previous to Japan. My wife [Liv Lo] comes out and she spends a long time with us wherever I am. Going from 100 miles an hour to a complete still, dead stop, it is pretty jarring. But we've actually really been enjoying exploring California."
Golding is still excited for people to see the film, which got the new release date of Oct. 22, 2021. "All the producers at Paramount really listened to my opinion, the opinion of others, and I think that's why it's going to be so special," he says. "It's definitely been a challenge in creating something fresh and new, but I think we definitely achieved it."
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