With Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Simu Liu went from an obscure working actor to a big enough star to host SNL. He even holds a major first: He’s the first Asian star of an MCU romp. And it may not have happened had Liu done something any ambitious careerist does to get ahead: embellish one’s qualifications to get a big job.
As caught by Entertainment Weekly, Liu participated in Variety’s “Actors on Actors” showcase, speaking with West Side Story break-out (and fellow SNL Season 47 host) Ariana DeBose. And he confessed that his martial arts skills may not have been as robust as he claimed at the time.
“When I got the part, they asked me about my martial arts background and experience, which of course I exaggerated because I wanted the job really badly,” Liu confessed. “I had done some work as an on-again, off-again stuntman, but if we’re honest, I think I was more of a dancer than I ever was a martial artist.”
When he got the job, Liu realized he had to do some catching up. “Pretty much from the moment I was cast, I started working with trainers and learning how to move. I had such awful flexibility,” he told DeBose. “A big part of that early process was just bending my body and trying to rip those legs apart.”
To make things worse, he was supposed to do martial arts opposite two biggies of the genre: Tony Leung (alum of John Woo movies and the Jet Li starrer Hero) and Michelle Yeoh (whose martial arts CV is legion). Luckily they were very understanding.
“Very different people, but an aura of warmth and friendliness,” Liu explained. He said Leung was “famously shy, and very, very soft spoken. You would never know his stature and his fame just by looking at him.” Yeoh, meanwhile, was a “goofball” on top of a “badass,” and she had a “wonderful way of telling me to relax and just settle in.”
So if you wind up exaggerating your way into a martial arts blockbuster with the stars of the 1993 wuxia classic Butterfly and Sword, they may have your back.