Exclusive REAL STEEL Karl Yune Interview

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I spoke with KARL YUNE about his new film with Hugh Jackman, REAL STEEL.  Karl plays Tak Mashido, “the reclusive genius of the robot design world.”  I really enjoyed my time on the phone with Karl and it was so nice of him to answer all of my fan girl questions about Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid.  He was such a good sport and an absolute gentleman.  I don’t really go to the movies but you can bet that I am not missing Karl Yune with Hugh Jackman in Real Steel.  Go out and see it and know that you are supporting a truly gifted cast.  I’m a huge Hugh Jackman fan and Karl has won me over in all of his previous films, so it’s going to be phenomenal to see him interact with Hugh in Real Steel.  I can’t wait!

Lena:  I saw you in the Real Steel preview while I was watching WWE Raw on USA Network.

Karl Yune:  Oh wow, that must have been cool seeing Hugh Jackman on WWE Raw.

Lena:  Did you watch it?  I was hoping that you were going to be there.

Karl Yune:  Oh man, that would have been cool but I couldn’t make it.

Lena:  Yes, Hugh even got into the ring with one of the wrestlers (Dolph Ziggler).  He got a punch in from the sidelines.  I’m ruining it for you, I know.

Karl Yune:  Oh, wow.  I’ll have to check it out.  How long have you been running your website?  Did you start it in school?

Lena:  No, not in school.  I’ve been running it for about five years.  I started it as a photography website and I had friends in bands that I was taking pictures of and I just started interviewing them (a story to go with the pictures).

Karl Yune:  Yes and take this as a compliment, you sound really young.  I’ve been interviewing a lot and you sound really young and hip.  That’s why I was wondering if you were still in school and I mean that in a good way.

Lena:  Haha, no.  That is just so funny that you would say that because I interviewed someone else from one of the movies that you were in and he said I sounded young, too.  I didn’t know what he meant by that (and we both laughed about it).  You are making me blush (laughing).

Lena:  You are in Real Steel, so what can you tell me about your character and the film.

Karl Yune:  Real Steel is a film with heart about reconciliation between a father, played by Hugh Jackman, and a son (played by Dakota Goyo), who he abandoned at birth.  Hugh Jackman’s character is a scrupulous ex-boxer in a world where boxing is obsolete.  What has become irrelevant as a sport has now become a huge mainstream obsession, robot boxing.  This is the world that these characters are navigating and along the way, Hugh’s character has to reconcile with his past failures and a potential relationship with his son that hates the father that he doesn’t even know.  I’m not just saying this because I’m in it but the film really gives you the full range of everything.  It will stimulate your emotions, your sense of competition, it’s got the underdog story, it will make you question your own sense of morality, it’s entertaining, it will surprise you, you’ll cry, laugh, and cheer.  You will truly experience a full range of entertainment in every quality while you watch the film.  Everyone will be pleasantly surprised.

Lena:  Your robot is Zeus?

Karl Yune:  Yes, my robot is Zeus, the reigning champion of what is called the WRB, World Robot Boxing League.  The character I get to play is Tak Mashido.  He’s the living legend of the sport and he’s a mysterious character.  He’s the reclusive genius of the robot design world and he’s responsible for unintentionally taking the sport form underground to a mainstream obsession.  It was a fun character to play.

Lena:  You are in amazing shape, so do you prefer more physically challenging roles that push your body as well as your mind?

Karl Yune:  Well, I think no matter what the role is, whether it’s overtly physical or mental there is always going to be a mind and body connection, so either way I am going to engage all senses whenever I play any character.  Yeah, it is always fun to keep things mixed up and fresh.  I love action and I’m working on a film right now that shoots in Mexico.  I’m playing a Japanese sword master.  The amount of choreography with the sword that I had to learn in a short time, it was so physically engaging that I didn’t work out for the entire eight days of training.   It was extremely physically engaging and at the same time I had to deliver the emotional content behind the physical.  I definitely enjoy it all.

Lena:  That is so great.  Do you train with your brother?  I know that Rick is accomplished (actor and martial artist) as well.

Karl Yune:  I’ve actually never trained with him.  You know, it’s funny with Rick and I, we have that age gap, that perfect age gap where we would always miss each other.  When he would leave elementary school, I would just be arriving and so on and so forth.  We were never really in the same place at the same time.  We’ve shared some tips about exercising but I’ve never actually trained with him.

Lena:  That is surprising.

Karl Yune:  Yeah, it kind of is.

Lena:  The concept for Real Steel is interesting, so what were your first thoughts when you heard about the film?

Karl Yune:  I actually just got the script and I read it and I was like, “damn, this is a well written script.”  John Gatins wrote the script and he did a really phenomenal job of delivering and artistically executing the story and delivering all the qualities that you seek in entertainment.  The guy has a really good sense of comedic timing and all and all, I knew that the team behind the film overall would be able to take the script to an even further level.  I wasn’t really focused on the concept but more on what everybody would bring to the table.

Lena:  What a cast, Hugh Jackman.   What was it like working with him?

Karl Yune:  Wow, well first of all, all the rumors are true, he is probably the most authentic person that I have come across and one of the most authentic people that I have come across just in general, in life.  He’s a deep dude that knows how to have fun when he’s working, so yeah, he was just awesome to work with.  When I was in scenes with him, it felt like we were just a bunch of kids having a good time.

Lena:  That’s what Hugh looked like in WWE Raw.  That is what was so great about it.  He was so into it, it was adorable.

Karl Yune:  (Laughing) Yeah, that is how he is.  He’s someone to model, if you are in the business of being an actor.  He is extremely professional and he doesn’t take anything too seriously but he delivers.

Lena:  I would love to see his show on Broadway.  His high kicks are fantastic.  I was hoping for some of that on WWE Raw (laughing).

Karl Yune:  (Laughing) Yeah, he can sing and dance his ass off.

Lena:  Real Steel is based on a short story Richard Matheson.  Were you familiar with the story?

Karl Yune:  I was not familiar with the short story until actually after I got the job.  It was a Twilight Zone episode as well.

Lena:  What was it like working with the director, Shawn Levy?

Karl Yune:  Shawn is a fun director who has a contagious level of enthusiasm and by default, just because of those qualities, he’s a true leader.  He fosters this atmosphere where you don’t even feel like you are working.  It just seems like it is all fun but behind all of that fun, he’s running an extremely tight ship.  I think that as a director, the amount that you have to give of yourself to a project and the duration of time that you have to spend with that project, you really have to be passionate about the material.  I’ve worked with a lot of directors who all shared this quality but Shawn’s enthusiasm will definitely rub off on you.  I found it very helpful to get me pumped up for the scenes.

Lena:  It was filmed in Michigan and Sugar Ray Leonard was an advisor for the motion capture technology of the robots.  Were you involved in any of that or did you at least get to watch it go down?

Karl Yune:  No, I wasn’t involved in any of the motion capture technology but Sugar Ray lives to this day, where I grew up and every now and then I would see him around town in Washington D.C. and I finally had a chance to sit down with him and just rap.  He’s a really cool dude.  The guy is a living icon in the sport of boxing and it was fascinating to have him on board.

Lena:  That’s fantastic.  I love how they are making it authentic and using his moves.

Karl Yune:  They pretty much choreographed all of the moves with the same real style of not just his boxing but the real technique of the sport, so when you watch the robots boxing, aside from a few fantastical moves, that are still in a sense very realistic, the bouts keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Lena:  I’m looking forward to seeing it.

Karl Yune:  Cool, I’m curious to know what you think because, as I said, everybody that I know who has had a chance to see the movie has basically said, “you were right, dude, I was more than surprised.”

Lena:  Boxing has made a huge comeback over the years.  Did you watch the FX show, Lights Out?  (Unfortunately) It was cancelled.

Karl Yune:  No, I didn’t get a chance to catch that.  How many seasons did it have?  Did you like it?

Lena:  Only one but it was so good and the actors were amazing.

Lena:  I loved you in Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid.  I bought a copy of the film.

Karl Yune:  Oh wow, (laughing) you actually bought a copy.

Lena:  Yes, oh yes, I did (and I’m proud of it).

Karl Yune:  That is so awesome and you know I actually run into a lot of people who have told me that they’ve actually went out and bought a copy of the DVD.

Lena:  I really liked it and I thought it was a lot better than the first one.

Karl Yune:  Yeah, it’s an entertaining movie.  It’s a popcorn film and there seems to be a cult fan base for the Anacondas movies.  I’m glad to hear that.

Lena:  Was that your first big movie?

Karl Yune:  That was my first big movie.

Lena:  Did they let you keep the phone that you carved?

Karl Yune:  I actually have it.  I’ll take a picture of it and send it to you.

Lena:  That is so awesome.

Karl Yune:  Yeah, I still have it.  It’s not like they were going to give it to me.  I had to tell them that I wanted the carving.  I want that phone (laughing) and the knife.

Lena:  (Laughing) I’m so happy.  You also starred with another one of my favorite actors in that film, Nicholas Gonzalez.  Have you remained friends with him?

Karl Yune:  I actually see him around from time to time.

Lena:  That is so cool.  I interviewed him earlier in the year and he was such a nice guy.

Karl Yune:  Yeah, Nicholas is a great guy.

Lena:  I actually had to laugh because when I watched the movie and I heard him saying stupid stuff (in the water), I knew he was going to be the first one to die…aww (laughing).

Karl Yune:  (Laughing) Yeah…the sarcastic guy always gets it.

Lena:  That must stink when you are an actor and you are given a script and you read those lines and you know instantly that it’s over for you.

Karl Yune:  Yeah, exactly.  You’re like, oh my character is definitely going to die in that scene.

Lena:  Your character (Tran Wu) almost made it to the end.

Karl Yune:  Yes, he did.  The guy who is always helping everyone out also has to go.  You have to leave the group with no help what so ever.  You have to eliminate the doctor and the only guy who knows the land.  You have to really make them vulnerable.

Lena:  That’s true.  I loved the underwater scenes that you shot.  It had to be crazy to film that.

Karl Yune:  Yeah, that was really challenging.  Actually, a couple of times I thought there was a chance that I was going to drown because the way I was pulled down underneath into the water, they had me hooked up to a ratchet, which is a piece of stunt equipment that literally is like a slingshot.  They strap you into a harness and they hook you up to a wire cable and so, I’m sitting there not knowing when I’m going to get ratcheted down and acting out the scene where I am trying to find an opening to escape the underground cave and all of a sudden they would pull it and I would get sucked down.  A couple of times that happened and I didn’t get a good breath in and I was like, “oh shit,” I have got to get back up fast.

Lena:  I was wondering how you did that.  It must be so hard to film underwater because you really can’t control your body and your face as easily, so it has to be challenging.

Karl Yune:  Yeah, I’m a good doggy paddler, so that part was easy.  I’m a good doggy paddler but getting ratcheted down and going back up to the surface from twenty five feet below, that was tough.

Lena:  That is pretty much the only thing I can do in the water, doggy paddle.  I’m not a swimmer.

Karl Yune:  (Laughing) Yeah, I’m not much of a swimmer, either.  I respect the ocean.   I’m a freshwater person and that’s why I like the Northeast and that whole area where you are at.

Lena:  Where did you film Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid?

Karl Yune:  In Fiji.

Lena:  That must have been nice.

Karl Yune:  It was beautiful and it was probably one of the most pristine areas of the Pacific Ocean.  Jacque Cousteau, who has dove, all over the world, well that is one of his favorite parts of the ocean.  It was extremely beautiful.  The whole island is very pristine.

Lena:  The toilet on your ship (in the movie) was a bit scary, though.

Karl Yune:  Yeah, the toilet on my ship, the constantly flushing toilet.

Lena:  I never asked Nicholas about Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, (so I stuck poor Karl with my fan girl questions but he was a good sport).  Nicholas is definitely an underrated actor.

Karl Yune:  Totally.

Lena:  His show, Off the Map got cancelled.

Karl Yune:  Oh man, I’m sure he will get a new one.

Lena:  Are you planning on taking on any television roles?

Karl Yune:  You know what, I’m actually open to doing TV.  The writing in TV has, just the caliber of writing in TV today is pretty amazing and yeah, there are some really amazing shows on TV that have caused me to actually be inspired.

Lena:  Oh yeah, Sons of Anarchy, do you watch that show?

Karl Yune:  Yeah, I love that show.  I’m not really much of a sitcom person but the show that I’m really into right now is called Raising Hope. 

Lena:  Yes, I love that show.

Karl Yune:  Yes, that show is great.

Lena:  Yes, I love Garret (Dillahunt).  They do a great job with that show.  (Season 2 premiered last week.)

Karl Yune:  I will be watching it.

Lena:  It’s so cool that you like that show.  (I already thought Karl was cool but his taste in television shows has sold me completely.)  What a great cast and did you see the season finale with the alpaca that was spitting on Burt?

Karl Yune:  I’m pretty sure it’s on my Tivo so I will be able to watch it.  All those characters are great, Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman), she’s awesome.

Lena:  Memoirs of a Geisha, the cinematography and the costumes were so beautiful in that film.

Karl Yune:  Yes, they did a really great job at capturing the beauty of the natural landscapes and creating that period’s look.

Lena:  Can you talk about your time on the set of that film?

Karl Yune:  Like Real Steel, you are working with people who are at the top of their game.  When you are working with people like that, there is really just an instant rapport and chemistry that happens with everyone because there is no insecurity or guardedness and they are in the moment.  They are in the moment of enjoying what they are doing which is executing their art form.  Working with the actors, the director, a production fostered by Steven Spielberg, this is my second time working on a Steven Spielberg project, a really cohesive atmosphere to just enjoy what you do.

Lena:  That is such a great film.  I like a bit of everything.

Karl Yune:  Yeah, and I like playing a bit of everything, too.

Lena:  That has to be great, as an actor, to be able to be diverse and take on different projects.

Karl Yune:  Yeah, and I feel really lucky that I’ve been able to do that with the projects that I’ve been involved with.  It’s been a blessing.

Lena:  What else do you have coming up besides Real Steel?

Karl Yune:  I’m working on a independent film called, Little Boy and it is set just after World War II.  Again, it’s another story, in a different kind of motif, about a boy reconciling with his father.  It’s a period piece, a period drama.

Lena:  Who do you play?

Karl Yune:  I’m playing a Japanese sword master.

Lena:  Oh, yes.  That’s a nice action filled role for you.

Karl Yune:  Yes, it’s one of the chances that I get to be involved in a film that is physically engaging.

Lena:  Do you have a twitter or facebook account?

Karl Yune:  I have to admit, I don’t really have an online presence.  The way people can keep up with what I am up to is by visiting my IMDB page.  I have to get with today’s way of communicating, I know.  I’m going to be setting up an online presence very soon and you will be one of the first people to hear about it.

Lena:  Oh, that’s good.  I always try to find facebook or twitter pages of the people I am interviewing, so I can get a bit of a background and check out if they have puppy pictures.  I love animal photos.

Karl Yune:  Sure and I am sitting on a bunch of photos, so it will be cool to share them.

Lena:  I’m looking forward to your movie.

Karl Yune:  Awesome and I can’t wait for you to see it and I’d love to hear what you think.

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