How ‘John Wick’ Villain Daniel Bernhardt Added Martial Arts to Sci-Fi ‘Skylin3s’
Die hard martial arts fans have been following Daniel Bernhardt since the ’90s. Bernhardt was the star of the sequels to Bloodsport. He continues to work in martial arts movies, facing off against the stars of John Wick, Atomic Blonde and Barry. He even managed to fit a martial arts fight into Skylin3s, an alien invasion sci-fi movie.
Bernhardt spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet by phone about his role in Skylin3s. He shared what he, fight coordinator Cha-Lee Yoon and second unit director Can Aydin came up with for the climactic fight. Skylin3s is now available on VOD.
Daniel Bernhardt brought the ‘John Wick’ kicks to ‘Skylin3s’
In John Wick Bernhardt played Kirill, one of the many assassins out to get Wick (Keanu Reeves). In Skylin3s, Bernhardt plays Owens, the leader of Alpha Team taking the fight back to the alien homeworld. Most of the action is militaristic blasting of aliens, but you don’t hire Bernhardt and not let him kick.
“Liam [O’Donnell], who’s an amazing director to work with, was very smart,” Bernhardt said. “He brought in a second unit director who’s a good friend of mine and gave us all the freedom we needed to do the fight. He gave us kind of like a guideline what he was looking for and then we went at it, me and my buddy, Cha, who was the fight coordinator.”
The ‘Skylin3s’ fight wasn’t quite like a ‘John Wick’ fight
In John Wick, Reeves has to defeat Bernhardt’s hard kicks. Yoon had a different idea for the Skylin3s fight, which would see Owens battle Yoon himself.
“He started to choreograph the fight and Cha actually came up to me and he goes, ‘Hey Daniel, how do you feel about doing kind of like an homage to the Hong Kong Kung Fu movies? Let’s do like a trap and fight scene,’” Bernhardt said. “I was like, ‘Dude, I love it.’ I never get a chance to do that in my movies. Everyone wants me to punch and kick. Trapping, I love it. So we did it.”
The director of ‘Skylin3s’ left Daniel Bernhardt alone to fight
O’Donnell directed plenty of action in Skylin3s. When it came to Bernhardt’s fight, however, he let the experts do their work.
We take a lot of pride in our work. You know Liam, give him a lot of credit. He gave us enough time. It was always depending too on how much rehearsal time we have, how much shooting time you have. On Skylin3s, it was very important to him to have a good fighting. He didn’t want to rush us. So he gave it to second unit. We would send in footage over to show us what we were doing. He was like, ‘Guys, go ahead. It’s fantastic.’ My buddy, Can Aydin who was the second unit director, who did a fantastic job shooting, he actually shot it himself. He put the camera on his neck. He did it.Daniel Bernhardt, interview with Showbiz Cheat Sheet, 12/10/2020
Dealing with Daniel Bernhardt’s long kicks
Bernhardt fans love to see how far his long legs reach when he kicks. They were long enough to reach Reeves in John Wick but Bernhardt claims he’s never actually measured the length of his kick.
“I have not but I am tall,” Bernhardt laughed. “I’m almost 6’3”. That was always my gift, the long legs, kicking, spinning, but I have not measured my kick.”
For Skylin3s, Yoon adjusted the style of the fight to account for the disparity between himself and Bernhardt.
“He’s much shorter than me so we decided, instead of making it a kicking fight, let’s make it more of a choppy fight, Kung Fu fight which was a lot of fun,” Bernhardt said. “Then of course I kicked a little bit but it’s all practice. It’s rehearsal, good fight choreography, that’s what it’s about.”