Le-Van Kiet’s “The Princess” starring Joey King doesn’t give a damn about fairy tale reputations. The John Wick-inspired actioner sees the strong-willed titular princess (King) refusing to wed a cruel sociopath (Dominic Cooper) who is hellbent on becoming King at any cost. As a result she is kidnapped and locked in a remote tower. With her scorned, vindictive suitor intent on taking her father’s throne, the princess must protect her family and save the kingdom.
That’s It LA joined their fellow journalists to talk to Kiet, King, and Ngô Thanh Vân who also goes by Veronica Ngo about the action, fight choreography, and stunt work seen in “The Princess.” And as they will tell you, it was a physically demanding process. One of which that King appreciated because she did most of her stunt work as the rebellious princess who dare defied those who underestimated her or treated her as less than.
1 – Experience Is The Best Teacher
It had been a year since King film together with her fellow cast and crewmates. And the actor summed up the entire experience in one word: “Exhausting.”
All kidding aside, it was an experience she was proud to be a part of. It was absolutely incredible, though. I haven’t felt this proud of something in so long,” King said. “The way that I feel about this movie, the amount of work that went into it from everyone involved, and the amount of work that I put into it myself. It’s just like all of that knowledge going into it and then
seeing the final product, it blows my mind how amazing it turned out.”
2 – Chemistry
Another thing that turned out amazing was how well King and her fellow co-star Ngô Thanh Vân worked together. Their on screen chemistry and fight choreography made the characters’ sisterly relationship shine. “The work was done for me. But immediately we were excited, because Joey just consistently impressed me dramatically, but also physically,” Ngo said. And that was a real joy, because it made my job a lot easier, obviously. But it just melted into the movie. But exactly what Joey said. We just had so much fun, and it really oozes into the film. And luckily, our film is fun. So I totally agree with Joey.”
“The Princess” also marks the third time that Ngo worked with Kiet, but the first time that she’s worked with him on this kind of a production. “Because, from what I knew from him, he’s very dark and all the storytelling. When he called me and he said, “Okay, I’m gonna do a princess movie,” and I was like what?,” Ngo said. “And it’s just all so fantastic. I mean, it’s seeing Joey so badass in the movie, and the story is so fun. And this is for the first time ever you will see a princess story like this. I promise you, it’s gonna blow your mind off.”
Even King was impressed by Ngo’s experience as a fighter and action star. “Veronica is obviously extremely experienced in the action world, and she is just an unbelievable fighter. I mean, I knew I had so much to learn from her,” King said. “She is so clean with her fighting. She is so admirable. It is just, like, it’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful dance to watch her fight.”
King added that knowing all of that gave her the motivation she needed to give it her all for her performance and stunt work. “To even know that she’s a little impressed with me, or a lot impressed, it means so much,” she said.
“You’re the best student ever anyone could have,” Ngo replied.
3 – I Do All My Own Stunts
Everything Kiet and Ngo had to say isn’t just empty praise. A lot of the close up camera works shows that King was, in fact, doing all of her own stunt work. This made “The Princess” one of her most physically demanding roles to date. I think that it’s worth saying though that, like,
the only reason I felt like I could do these things is because Kiet and Veronica and the entire stunt team as well, they all lifted me up so much. No one made me feel like I couldn’t do anything,” King said. “Like my two stunt doubles, who became great friends of mine, they wanted me to do everything that I could. They wanted to train me to be the best that I could be.”
“But I think a lot of people don’t understand how dangerous it is for you to take that risk,” Kiet added. “And maybe you know better than everyone is how close it can get for you just to either have a black eye or a sprained ankle, right?”
“I think the thing that was, like, so helpful about, like, the training process too, it’s like you can’t just go in there and be like, oh, I trained for two weeks and I’m so good at this,” King said. “It’s more than just getting your form. It’s also about, like, ‘you get hurt while you’re training,’ and, like, ‘the training process helps you to not be head shy anymore when you get hurt.’”
And the training process proved to be helpful in knowing what not to do, how to avoid injury, or how to perform the stunts better. “The next take, you can’t be afraid of that and anticipate it,” she King said. “You just have to go full throttle. And that’s where the training really comes in handy. You’re learning these movements and you’re learning how to respect these movements, but you’re also learning how to not be scared.”
4 – Challenges of Fighting
Of course, when it comes to the physical demands of an action film like this, there will be challenging scenes to shoot. “We had a flashback sequence of us [referring to Ngo] fighting together. And the reason why that was the most challenging scene is ’cause I don’t think we actually stopped fighting for 12 hours. All the cameras were kind of already where they needed to be, and we would just kind of move them around us,” King said. “If I remember correctly, and, like, we wouldn’t cut sometimes. We’d just go right into another take and just keep fighting. And I was wearing leather pants.”
It was a sequence so physically demanding that King jokingly believes that she lost about five pounds of water weight. And while it was one of the hardest days of the production, she remembers it as one of the best days and loved learning and executing the fight choreography.
Still, being eager to do your own stunts and having the training doesn’t mean that you or oters aren’t prone to avoiding injuries. In fact, there were some unavoidable ones. “I hurt Veronica’s finger so bad that day. I accidentally, like, hit her super hard with the sword, and her finger just, like, was bleeding so bad,” King recalled. “She’s so amazing, she’s so professional. She wasn’t head shy the next time we went into it.”
“It was a hard day for many reasons, but also, like, some mistakes were made on my end. And, like, I wound up hurting her, and I felt so guilty. But she was amazing about it,” King added.
5 – Not Your Typical Princess Movie
We’ve all seen princess movies before. Where the damsel in distress has to be saved by the dashing young prince. Except, Kiet wanted to change that formula by adding a few twists to that outdate story. And with “The Princess” se get an independent young woman who is capable of thinking for herself and physically capable of fighting on her own.
“We knew Joey was the princess and we knew what kind of persona she had and all that. And part of the humor is part of Joey too. So, we made sure that the action was believable, in terms of character. It starts with that. And after that, there’s the design. And the action team that I work with “Furie,” and Veronica is very close with them,” Kiet said. “also have this style to her, instead of her fighting the same as a man.”
“With this ‘Sword and the Stone’ kind of movie, we were more towards, ‘okay, how can we do something that’s not boring, and how can we do something where Joey is fighting against something that she doesn’t really want to fight in every scene, but she just has to get through it,’” Kiet added. “And so there’s all these obstacles. There’s all these struggles, and I think that’s where Joey’s dramatic sense. She’s the best at it and it works really well for us, because she was consistently staying in this urgency and survival mode.”
Kiet also credits King’s eager attitude to learn the fight choreography and willingness to do her own stunts. “She earned all the styles and skills of a fight choreography so it didn’t make it boring,” he said. “But every film martial arts is different. It just has to meld into the character and then the world around it.”
“The Princess” is available to stream starting today exclusively on Hulu.