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THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR

Swordplay and Martial Arts
It wouldn't be a Mummy movie without intricate fight sequences. Any sequence involving master martial artist Jet Li raises the bar, but add to the film Brendan Fraser's Krav Maga, Michelle Yeoh's swordplay, Isabella Leong's kung fu, Luke Ford's martial arts-inspired street fighting and Maria Bello's combination punches and you have a feast for fight fans.

Jet Li commends what was impressive about his director's grasp of staging an exciting fight: "Rob has a very good understanding of the timing and the fast pace that is so important in a fight sequence, and he uses very interesting angles.”

Key fights in the production include one set in the Foundation Chamber, the subterranean temple in which the Emperor attempts to raise his Terracotta Army. With ceilings formed from the bones of conquered enemies, the chamber is filled with flickering flames that line the walkway as the Emperor weaves his dark magic.

In the sequence, Rick O'Connell confronts the Emperor by throwing a knife into his back. The Emperor, only slightly inconvenienced, yanks it out and attacks O'Connell with a rage pent up over centuries of being cursed. O'Connell races at him, and an incredible hand-to-hand battle ensues.

Cohen came up with the idea that, in the years since we last met our hero, O'Connell had become skilled in the type of practical street fighting found in the short, sharp moves of Krav Maga. "It's a system of combat defense devised by the Czech Jews during the Second World War,” explains Fraser. "They started fighting back by using a system of body motions based on instinct. Basically, you go to the problem, rather than let it come to you. It's confidence building and, needless to say, great exercise.”

"Brendan is a fantastic action actor,” commends Vic Armstrong. "He's really been working out, and he is rock solid. He loves his action and knows what he is good at, so we catered to that in all fights we've done with him.”

Asian fight coordinator MIKE LAMBERT, who worked with Michelle Yeoh in her breakout role in Tomorrow Never Dies, was primarily responsible for training the actors and choreographing the fight sequences in conjunction with stunt coordinator MARK SOUTHWORTH. Lambert, who has lived in Hong Kong for years, knew many of the film's actors from having taught them in that country.

One sequence that fascinated the Chinese press was the sword fight between Jet Li and his longtime friend Michelle Yeoh. The fight takes place in the desolate beauty of Tian Mo desert and represents the first time Li and Yeoh have been on opposing sides of a film fight. "It's funny,” says Yeoh. "If you looked at our shooting schedule, it said, ‘The fight that the whole of Asia is waiting for.'”

Of the duo's fighting sequences and trainers, Yeoh offers, "Jet's fight coordinator, DE DE KU [affectionately known as Master De], is a longtime collaborator. He is so brilliant…we just stand there and let him weave his artistry around us. Jet and I understand each other. We are on the same beat and just doing the best we can.”

Jet Li agrees: "When you find a good player to fight with you, it's like having a good opponent at tennis. You have to be on the same level to play well. I very much enjoyed working with Michelle, and I hope to do so in the future.”

Other actors also had their fair share of the action. Maria Bello lived a childhood dream in a fantasy sword fight sequence—an homage to swashbucklers—as Evy. "Maria's character is a lot more refined,” explains Lambert. "She is a little more expert in martial arts, but she has also picked up Rick's street-fighting style. Alex is a bit of a stylist, but again with a little bit of his father's raw, street-fighting style mixed in.”

Luke Ford prepared for almost three months before production began. Necessary, as he would have t

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