Above: Arman Darbo with “Kung Fu Man” producer, Keanu Reeves.
Although many may be looking forward to stuntman-turned-actor Tiger Chen’s (陳虎) slick fighting scenes in Kung Fu Man <功夫俠>, the film actually features more than one kung fu hero. Child actor Arman Darbo, who plays a kidnapped American boy rescued by Tiger’s character, is poised to become a rising young star. Kung Fu Man opened in mainland Chinese theaters on July 19, 2013.
The son of producer and actor Igor Darbo, Arman was born in Paris and raised in Beijing since he was two years old. Arman was only eight when he filmed Kung Fu Man. Now, at the age of eleven, and blessed with a culturally rich and diverse childhood, Arman is continuing to develop his acting career. This winter, he began professional training in Los Angeles, and was recently accepted to the Lee Strasberg Institute for Young Actors.
With Arman’s fluent Mandarin and knowledge of Shaolin wushu, which he was inspired to learn thanks to his friendship with Tiger, it is easy to see how he could make a name for himself by appearing in a few more Chinese action films. However, there is admittedly a dearth in roles in Chinese cinema for a boy of Western descent, which means Arman will likely be shifting his career focus to Hollywood and France.
Arman’s next project will be a Chinese-German co-production called The Dragon Angel. Helmed by French director Pitof and featuring Avatar star Stephen Lang, the film will star Arman as an American boy who moves to China with his architect father. Although his father wishes to build the world’s tallest building, the boy sees the beauty of traditional Chinese architecture and embarks on a quest to save it from destruction.
The Dragon Angel, which was voted “Film Project with the Best Commercial Potential” at the 2012 Shanghai International Film Festival, will begin filming in China at the end of the year. In the meantime, JayneStars caught up with Arman to learn more about his experiences as a budding young actor.
Arman: My favorite memories from Kung Fu Man were the moments when I was on wires, jumping and falling from rooftops or flying in the middle of really crazy kung fu fights. That was a lot of fun!
JayneStars: What is the most difficult challenge you have faced as a young actor?
Arman: Sometimes, you feel that you could say something more interesting or funny than the line written in the script, or do something different in the action, but the director has his own idea and, as an actor, I have to do my best to follow his idea.
JayneStars: What was the biggest challenge in filming Kung Fu Man?
Arman: The most difficult was to cry for real in a car that was heading off a cliff. We filmed it in the very first days of the shooting, and I had to cry at the same time as the other actress.
Arman: Tiger is cool; he doesn’t talk much and that’s how I am too. We got along well. He never loses his calm. He always helped me during difficult scenes and taught me some cool kung fu moves when we were just waiting. I also had the same diet as him during the shooting: boiled eggs and boiled white chicken meat. I hope we can shoot another film together one day.
JayneStars: Apart from Tiger, which actor would you most like to work with, and why?
Arman: In China, Jackie Chan, Stephen Chow, Huang Bo… In the West, I like Gerard Butler and Jean Dujardin.
JayneStars: What was it like meeting Jackie Chan, Keanu Reeves, and Yao Ming?
Arman: Jackie Chan invited me to a Chinese New Year banquet. He gave me a hongbao and advice on martial arts training. He said that I should work on my taekwondo skills first, then when I am older, move on to kung fu. He told me: “One day, you will be someone, young man.” Jackie showed me a character for his Chinese name which stands for “Dragon”. So after meeting Tiger, I met Dragon. Jackie rocks!!!
We met with Keanu Reeves because he produced Kung Fu Man. At first, I did not recognize him because he wore a beard and I had only seen him in The Matrix where he looked different. I showed him my shaolin wushu routine, then we were just joking around. It was super cool!
I participated in the shooting of a show organized by Coca Cola during the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. Yao Ming and I teamed up against LeBron [James] and a Chinese kid. Friendship won.
JayneStars: Tell us about your experience with learning Shaolin wushu.
Arman: On the Kung Fu Man [set], the stunt guys were doing crazy stuff even when we were not filming, just for fun, and they always took care of me, like I was part of their brotherhood. They were all former Shaolin monks. I was doing taekwondo already, but kung fu seemed even cooler. I started Shaolin wushu at a school and continued individual training with my master. I mostly learn “taolus”, the forms, and try to perform them the best I can. We also play some games of concentration and talk a lot with my master about the meaning of kung fu and how it can help me in my life.
JayneStars: One of your hobbies is manga. Can you tell us how you first became interested in manga?
Arman: I like comics a lot, especially funny ones like Calvin and Hobbes or The Simpsons. I came across mangas looking at my father’s DVD collection. There are some really cool French-Japanese mangas from the eighties that I enjoyed watching, for example Ulysses 31, it’s a science-fiction manga adaptation of Ulysses’ Odyssey. It would be very exciting to play Telemachus, the son of Ulysses.
JayneStars: You were born in Paris, raised in Beijing, and currently studying in Los Angeles. Which city do you like the best? Where do you want to live in the future?
Arman: It’s hard to say, they’re all very nice places; but because I spent all my childhood in Beijing, I have many friends there and I like the food and the culture. Beijing still feels more like home for me now.
JayneStars: Thanks Arman for speaking with JayneStars! We wish you great success ahead and look forward to your new films!
Arman’s Video Interview with JayneStars
[vsw id=”Z326L8IAVNU” source=”youtube” width=”500″ height=”375″ autoplay=”no”]
“Kung Fu Man” Film Trailer
[vsw id=”Jc87eY6ev4s” source=”youtube” width=”500″ height=”375″ autoplay=”no”]
This article is written by Joanna for JayneStars.com.