Six Degrees of Schwarzenegger Podcast – Big Trouble in Little China Ep. 2


Highlights from this section of BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA

  • Wang and Jack arrive at the airport for Miao Yin
  • Meet Gracie Law
  • Miao Yin kidnapped!
  • Jack and Wang chase the Lords of Death back to Chinatown
  • A Chinese standoff

Jeff Imada: a Hollywood fairytale

Even seasoned movie buffs and action movie aficionados might not be familiar with the name Jeff Imada, and certainly even fewer are aware of his incredible career in show business. Prior to breaking into film and television, Imada learned martial arts under the famous Dan Inosanto, a protégé of Bruce Lee, and Imada made himself a master in many styles.  In addition to his robust entertainment career, Imada has also trained law enforcement and military personnel ranging from FBI agents to Navy SEALs.

Imada’s career in show business began in the early 1980s doing a lot of stuntwork and minor acting roles playing parts such as “kung fu fighter,” “bodyguard,” and “Asian thug.”  This pattern continued until Imada forged a bond with John Carpenter while working on BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. 

Jeff Imada impressed Carpenter with his work eithic, attention to detail, and expertise when it came to stunt work, particularly fighting stunts.  Moving forward, Carpenter used Imada as stunt coordinator on eight of his films.  Imada also parlayed his talent and reputation into a bevy of other work, both as a stunt man and as a stunt coordinator for many major Hollywood films including THE CROW, BLADE, FIGHT CLUB, and FURIOUS 7.  Most impressive to this writer is that Imada was the fight stunt coordinator for THE BOURNE SUPREMACY and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, which feature some of the best and most realistic movie fights ever put on film.  Imada has to date amassed over 400 credits according to his biography on his website.

Jeff Imada is tremendously respected in the stuntwork world, where he has served on the board of the SAG Stunt & Safety Committee as well as the Taurus World Stunt Awards.  In 2007, Imada won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture for his work on The Bourne Ultimatum.


The real Tong Wars in San Francisco

The battle between the Chang Sing and the Wing Kong in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA may be spiced up for the silver screen and a little (or maybe more than a little) over the top, but the premise is grounded in the real life Tong Wars that played out in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  This Chinese immigrant community in America was subject to frequent racial harassment, and organized themselves into groups called tongs to support and protect each other.  Existing laws restricted the immigration of women, and as a result tongs got into the business of importing women for illicit purposes.  As the tongs increasingly became cover for criminal enterprises, violence between rival tongs also increased.

The tongs would battle for control over turf, control over criminal rackets, over women, and often over perceived disrespect.  The fights would often lead to serious injuries and even death for those involved.  During the height of the Tong Wars in San Francisco there were anywhere from twenty to thirty active tongs operating in Chinatown.  By the early 20th century, public opinion in the Chinese community had turned against the tongs.  That coupled with the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fires destroyed most of the brothels and gambling halls in Chinatown that served as the tongs’ strongholds.  After that the tongs in San Francisco were never able to return to their former dominance.


Further reading: An oral history of BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA