The Movie Waffler Mike's Strange Cinema Cavalcade - HENCHMAN: THE AL LEONG STORY | The Movie Waffler

Mike's Strange Cinema Cavalcade - HENCHMAN: THE AL LEONG STORY

Henchman: The Al Leong Story
Documentary shines a light on stuntman and actor Al Leong.

Review and interview by Mike Vaughn

Directed by: Vito Trabucco

Henchman: The Al Leong Story poster

Al Leong is a man that you’ve no doubt seen in films such as Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), Die Hard (1988) and Lethal Weapon (1987). He has over 70 screen credits in his resume but you might not know his name. Vito Trabucco wants to change all that with his documentary film Henchman: The Al Leong Story.

Henchman: The Al Leong Story

The subject, Al Leong, is incredibly captivating and you can’t help but hang onto every word he says. Every point of his career is tackled with great memories from his big budget movies like Die Hard to smaller films like Rapid Fire (1992) to his behind the scenes work on the likes of The Scorpion King (2002).

[ READ MORE: Mike's Strange Cinema Cavalcade - Danger God ]

Director Trabucco clearly has a great relationship with the legendary actor and the candid stories it produces are worth their weight in gold. When Leong isn't talking there are a host of interesting personalities that help open up the documentary's narrative. The highlights are the behind the scenes stories of Die Hard and Big Trouble in Little China. John Carpenter makes a rare appearance to offer some invaluable insights.

Henchman: The Al Leong Story

Henchman is incredibly rigid in its focus, giving its audience a highly interesting glimpse into the world of Hollywood kung-fu, stunt work from living legends like Leong and Jeff Imada. I hadn't heard a lot of these behind the scenes stories so I was glued to this from minute one. The film details Leong’s struggles and triumphs and what it takes to be a legendary stuntman and actor. Easily my favourite release this year! Henchman: The Al Leong Story will have you rooting for its subject from beginning to end.

Henchman: The Al Leong Story

Here's my interview with director Vito Trabucco...

Do you recall the very first Al Leong role you saw?

It was definitely the Hatchet Man in Big Trouble in Little China. I never forgot him after that. Then I would see him in everything.

Do you have a favourite of his films?

It's Big Trouble no doubt. Besides that I'd have to say Savage Beach by Andy Sidaris

When did the idea for this documentary first come about and roughly how long did it take to make it a reality?

My friend Matt Olivo was the original director. He brought me on as a producer at first. After a couple years he was just too busy to do it. Al and I talked, and decided I should take over and make it. After I took over as director, I hired Mark Bessenger as Editor/Producer, and we completed it in about two years or so.

Can you tell me about the first meeting you had with Al?

It was through Matt. He told me he met Al and was doing a doc on him. I thought it was really cool. I'm an '80s kid all the way. Al is obviously a big part of that. Even though I don't think he liked me much when I first met him. I have that effect on people.

Leong seems like a great guy and I'm sure is someone who has endless cool stories to tell.

He really is a great guy. I always enjoy hanging out with him. He has a vault full of awesome stories. We still have lunch almost every week and he's become one of my best friends. Now we talk about pretty much everything.

You were able to get some impressive people for the documentary. Who were some people you tried and were unable to get?

The main ones were Keanu Reeves and Kurt Russell. My original idea was for Keanu to narrate it. Maybe next time.   

John Carpenter was a very impressive get. Did you have much time to conduct that interview? And were you pleased with the overall outcome?

That was the first interview we did. Matt conducted it. We truly owe a lot to John. He's an amazing guy. I wish I could've done another interview with him. I wasn't that pleased with what we got and would have loved to have asked him some more questions. About a year after we sat with John, I got to interview his wife Sandy. I was very pleased with how that turned out.

Were there any stories that were great but you had to cut for time?

(Laughs) There were! I promised Al that I would keep those to myself. Sorry!

(Laughs) Fair enough! Would you say the narrative and flow of a documentary is planned out or does it really take shape when editing it?

I barely plan the features that I've done! I personally feel that the story should take place as you're filming. I never understand why people write scripts for a doc. Besides voice-overs and those types of things, nothing should be planned. Hitchcock had a great quote about that, "In feature films the director is God; in documentary films God is the director."

According to IMDB you are a busy guy. Tell me about some projects you are currently working on.

Right now I'm doing a movie with my friend Chris Staviski called Death By Midnight. It's going to be a strange one, I promise. Al will be in this as an actor as well as Jess Sonneborn, who was in my other features. We're currently filming so we're still casting some of it. There are a few other projects, but they're so early in development I'll just sound full of shit if I talk about them.

That sounds awesome. Do you foresee making any other documentaries in the future?

I'm helping on two other documentaries currently. Scott Bourquin's Surf Art and Craig Railsback is doing one on director Richard Rush. Both should be really great. Very happy to be a part of them both in any way I can.

Michael Vaughn is a rabid horror and cult fan who turned that love into a career. He is a writer, blogger and film historian and now author of 'The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema' which Shock Wave Podcast named their pick of the month, and Chris Alexander of Fangoria called “recommended reading.”

His other credits include Scream Magazine, Fangoria and websites like Films in Review and Bloody Flicks(UK). Please follow his Twitter @StrangeCinema65 and Instagram @castle_anger.