Although you might not recognize his face (since it’s usually under some kind of makeup, mask or prosthetic), chances are you’ve seen actor Ray Park in at least two or three blockbuster films over the last 15 years. In 1999’s “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” Park disguised himself behind red and black face paint to play the film’s main villain, Darth Maul. The following year, Park used an elongated tongue to fight mutants as Toad in the first “X-Men.” He then hid his entire face behind a sleek black mask to play Snake Eyes in 2009’s “G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra.” In “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” Park reprises a role for the first time in his career when he suits up as Snake Eyes again as rejoins his covert military unit.
During our interview, Park, 38, discussed the types of action figures he played with as a kid and admitted what role he initially wanted in “Phantom Menace.”
“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” was released on DVD and Blu-ray July 30.
What were your initial thoughts about returning to play Snake Eyes for this sequel especially since you’ve never reprised a character before?
Well, I was always training just in case I got that call to come back. I had been attached to other films that had more than a one-picture deal, but I was never brought back. So, when I got the call from the producers that they wanted me to come back as Snake Eyes, it was the best news ever.
Since this is the second time you play him, do you still have to pay special attention to the long history behind G.I. Joe and what fans of the brand will expect?
To me it was a continuation of what I had researched in the first movie. I grew up with G.I. Joe in the 80s. I wanted to be a ninja and a samurai, so I wanted to study martial arts. I did the research because I didn’t want to disappoint the fans. I had to do the same when I played Darth Maul. I had to live up to that character.
You were a kid when the G.I. Joe toy line hit store shelves in the 80s. Were those the dream toys you wanted to own?
Well, growing up in Scotland when I was about 3 or 4 I had something called Action Man. They came with these big plastic tanks. I remember sitting on top of them. It was like the British version of G.I. Joe. Then my brother got into another toy line called Action Force. The toys were a lot smaller. I remember I had Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow from G.I. Joe so we would play with all of them together. We had Star Wars toys and He-Man toys. I remember seeing some special forces on TV and thinking if I was going to be in the military I wanted to be one of those guys who was propelling down the building and crashing through the window. To me, that was the real deal.
Not many people get the chance to play a character they admired as a kid.
Yeah, I was a big fan. I was talking to my brother about the film and he was reminding me about stuff I used to do as a kid. I remember the two toys I always wanted to have as a kid were a Lightsabre and a ninja sword.
Yeah, why don’t kids play like that nowadays? Most kids I see are playing games on their iPhone or iPad. None of them are playing with toy swords and action figures.
A lot of kids don’t, but my son likes playing with all the G.I. Joe stuff and Star Wars stuff. I had been collecting some toys just in case I was ever to have kids and then that day came. So, they found the stash I had up in the loft. So, they’ll play with toys, but they’ll also go outside and play on the zipline and jump on the trampoline. It’s great to see them out playing and not on iPads or iPhones. Actually, I like to show my kids how to put the action figures in cool poses. The good action figures actually bend and do splits. Back in the day you couldn’t do that. When I was a kid, I would always try to get my toys to do the splits, but I would always pop a leg off.
So, you let your kids open all your collectibles? I thought you weren’t supposed to open those kind of action figures.
I’d buy one to play with and then one I can put away just in case I can score something later.
Do you consider your role as Darth Maul a turning point in your career?
To me, Darth Maul was my first acting job. I was always worried I didn’t look scary enough. Before my [contacts] were put in and my horns were put on, I thought I looked like a panda. Even looking at yourself in the mirror with the contact in, you still don’t really see it. When I see the movie now, sometimes I think, “I could have done this differently” but I was enjoying it in the moment. I was a big “Star Wars” fan. I didn’t want to play a bad guy. I wanted to be a Jedi. But I’m really glad I got to be the villain because I always get to fight different people. I’ve always been a physical person anyway.