Last update 2/16/2012 12:34:15 PM (GMT+7)

Vietnamese American actor talks Thai film due for April release
As his newest international film project, the English speaking Thai action film “Angels”, is to be released in Vietnam in April, Vietnamese American actor Dustin Nguyen talks films and life with The Thao Van Hoa Newspaper.

In “Angels”, Dustin plays former CIA agent Johnny, who stages a comeback in order to get revenge for his murdered daughter.

Additionally, “Lua Phat,” a long overdue project, written and directed by Nguyen, will be produced this year. The actor plays a small role in the film expected to hit theatres nationwide in 2013.

* Professionally, what impressed you the most during the making of “Angels” in Thailand, in which you play Johnny, a retired CIA agent?

- Probably the logistics. They had a very efficient and scientific working schedule, which never exceeded 12 hours of work per day. When I finished reading the script, I thought with many complicated scenes and that the crew would have to move a lot, it would be really hard for them to film as their schedule. It turned out later that we even finished the filming a few days ahead of our schedule. That was really impressive.

I am saying this because organizing an efficient working schedule for a film production is not an easy job. Even in Hollywood or other countries where I used to work, many film crews were overloaded with work, especially the filming itself, which could take up to 17 hours a day. That the Thai people could do this was not because they had money or that they had a super talented staff. I think what is important is that every single staff member there was really responsible for their job and really respected the rules. The working atmosphere there was really good.

* You used to play many characters named Johnny like in the 2005 Australian movie Little Fish (starring opposite the well-known Cate Blanchett). Does there happen to be a reason for that, like you really like the name?

- Well I wouldn’t notice it if you had not pointed it out for me. I played a number of “Johnnys” but I don’t think there is a reason here. My way of working is that I normally read the script first, if I find it interesting I will consider the project. I hardly pay any attention to the characters’ names. Besides, when you are in a film, there is no “you” anymore. There will only be these “Johnnys” so whether I like the name or not does not matter at all.

In “Angels”, besides action scenes, my Johnny will have to express the depth of his feelings, of being torn between his wanting to get revenge for his dead daughter and just to let it go, of the pain of losing his daughter and killing someone. In recent years, I have preferred roles which have a certain depth. I don’t want to play purely action heroes anymore.

When I came back to Vietnam, it was also because of another Johnny – (the actor and producer Johnny Tri Nguyen) .

* Your film project “Lua phat” would have had been finished long ago, if you had not insisted that it had to be in Vietnamese. Now the project is underway in Vietnamese, why is it so important to you? Why don’t you want it to be in English, your first language?

- Because my dream is to direct a film in Vietnam and it has to be in Vietnamese, and as close to Vietnamese people as possible. Therefore my script was written for the domestic market and the characters were built having Vietnamese characteristics. If the film is made in English, many things need to be changed and I don’t want to make a half-hearted product like that.

I know I have prepared for this project for so long now, and want to see it in theatres soon, but it can’t be hurried just for this reason.

* You once wanted to quit acting after a tragic incident happened to your family, but you can’t. Is there anything that makes you regret doing this job?

- I act because it is my passion, and it is a career I want to pursue, not for its fame, or awards. Therefore I have never felt much pressure. I have been in this business for a long time now, and can’t say I am happy with everything but I don’t regret anything either.
When I was young in America, when I failed to get into the film school I had dreamt of, I was really lucky to be offered acting roles and started my career like that. When I came back to Vietnam, the audiences love my films, I feel really warm everywhere I go. How can I ask for more? To me, acting is the best job.

* What about other roles like producer, scriptwriter and director?

- Producers always have to bear much more pressure than other jobs in film production, so that is a job I sometimes have to do, not want to. Directing and scriptwriting is also much harder than acting, but I want to do it now, because this is a story I want to tell.

Dustin Nguyen (born September 17, 1962) is a Vietnamese-American actor, director, writer and martial artist.
Some of his best known roles include Harry Truman Ioki on American TV drama 21 Jump Street (1987-1990) and as Johnny Loh on V.I.P (1998-2002).
In 2005, he played heroin addict and boyfriend of Tracy Heart (played by Cate Blanchett) in Little Fish.
In March 2009 he won the Vietnamese Canh Dieu Vang (Golden Kite Award) for Best Actor, for his starring role in the Phuoc Sang Films “Huyen Thoai Bat Tu” (The Legend Is Alive)