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The One: Morgan and Wong Tell All
© Jason Myers

Millennium and X-Files vets Glen Morgan and James Wong dropped by the San Diego Comic Con to talk about their upcoming Jet Li sci-action flick, The One.

Glen Morgan: Hey, Jim, tell us what the movie is about.

James Wong: [Laughs] Thank you, Glen. It's sort of a sci-fi action movie starring Jet Li, who is the fastest human I've ever seen. And it's sort of set in several different universes. One place we spend the most time in is modern-day L.A., and the story relates to the idea that if there are parallel universes that you can travel to them, and that, if you existed in lots of universes… All the yous in those universes are all linked together, sort of, by an energy wave… that if one of you dies, the energy that dissipates gets redistributed amongst the survivors.

So, at the beginning of our movie, we find that this guy who's discovered this little quirk has started to kill everyone of himself in these universes. And we're getting down to the final two, and so he's basically traveling though all these universes, killing himself, and the person here on earth, Gabriel, doesn't quite understand what's happening to him, and finds himself facing this psychotic killer who's more powerful than anything he's seen.

GM: It also stars Delroy Lindo and Jason Statham, who's also in Ghosts of Mars, and they're two multiverse agents that are tracking… Yulaw. We call him "Bad Jet". There's "Bad Jet" and "Good Jet". And Carla Gugino, who was in Spy Kids, she plays Good Jet's wife. James Morrison from Space: Above and Beyond is in it, and Tucker Smallwood, and Steve Rankin, who played Ray Butts in that one episode of Space: Above and Beyond, and just a lot of people we've worked with before.

JW: When we started, the part was actually written for The Rock.

GM: The origin of this is that we have the same agency that Dwayne The Rock has, and our agent kept saying "Write a movie for this guy", and we'd go, "No". And, my brother and I started checking it out, and Jim and said, "Yeah, The Rock's pretty good." So we wrote this thing. And Jim said the best thing in a movie for the Rock to do is to see him fight himself. You can't see that on TV.

So we wrote this story and we pitched to the head of Revolution Studios. And you know, you pitch the story to The Rock and Vince McMahon. You know, Jim and I worked on a TV show called The Others, and we had to pitch our stories to Steven Spielberg, and when you're pitching stories to Steven Spielberg, in the back of you're head you're going "Wow, this guy made Close Encounters" And you get nervous. And when you're pitching to Vince McMahon, in the back of my head I go, "I've seen this guy hit with a trash can."

And so we turned the script in on a Friday, Revolution gave us the go-ahead on Tuesday, and, oddly enough, Vince McMahon wanted The Rock to do a different movie, which wasn't The Scorpion King, but ultimately he wanted to do The Scorpion King. And Revolution said, "We're going to Paris. We're going to get you Jet Li."

Li is perfect, because we wanted to see Jet fight himself.

JW: I always looked at what makes a hero strong is as much the villain as anybody else, and Jet being his own foil is probably the best foil.

GM: It oddly didn't change that much. The plot was the same.

JW: There's a lot of Eastern philosophy that Jet embodies that we incorporated into the movie.

On the movie Final Destination:

GM: New Line came to us with their existing treatment. Final Destination, the original story had, you know, like, Death, with a hood and sickle kind of thing coming after you. And I said, "What if we just do it without anybody? Without ever seeing the bad guy." So they went with that.

You know, I think if you look at everybody's fear of flying, it's not actually being in the air. It's getting on the plane, and all the weird kind of set-ups. The takeoff.

JW: We did that movie in Vancouver. So I had to fly back and forth a lot. I wasn't really afraid of anything until the very last flight. At the beginning of the movie, in the title sequence, there's a little skeleton that's hanging in the window. Well, my wife actually gave that to me for good luck at the beginning of the movie.

GM: So she says….

JW: So she says. So, at the end of the movie, they gave it back to me to bring home, and I thought, "This is it. The curse of Flight 180 is going to hit me now." Fortunately, nothing happened.

GM: I think I was on Millennium, and we were writing Final Destination, and I was in the airport at Vancouver, and over the intercom they start playing John Denver. So I go, "If the next song is Buddy Holly, I'm not getting on this plane."

On the origin of the dynamic duo of Glen Morgan and James Wong:

JW: We met, actually, in high school. And, so, we actually went to the same college, in L.A., at Loyola Marymount University, and we sort of came out of studying film at the same time, and we started working right after that together.

GM: We did 21 Jump Street. We did The Commish.

So, we were supposed to do a show called Moon Over Miami.

[Loud cheer from one audience member]

GM: Get out of here. Sorry, if you worked on it. We were supposed to go on that, and our agent said, "You've got to watch this pilot"- the X-Files pilot. So we went to this room, and we had already sort of committed to Moon Over Miami, and we sat there and watched the X-Files pilot, and we thought, "Wow, this is pretty good. But I'm sure Moon Over Miami will be great too." So we wrote for Moon Over Miami, and we had this idea for a stretchy serial killer. But, actually what happened is, we really liked the X-Files pilot, and we thought, "That would be a show that we could really do well." Because we sort of think in that way.

Where do you get your ideas?

GM: A lot of times it depends on the situation. Like, on The One, they say, "Make a movie with The Rock." So, you kind of work backwards. You say, "Okay, I've got to get The Rock to fight himself in the last 20 minutes. So, you've gotta work backwards. I think Jim came up with the parallel universe idea.

I think on X-Files, our first show, we were supposed to write a monster show, and we're sitting around going "what are we going to do?", and we had this weird office that had this big air conditioning setup from like 1930, and we were there late at night, and we said, "Hey, what if a guy tried to come in here and eat our liver?" The liver wasn't the first part we thought of, but, you know….

JW: I don't remember that.

GM: So, you know, it's just what the show needs. "Beyond the Sea" was: Gillian [Anderson] was kind of getting short shrift, so we kind of wrote that for her.

JW: That was the beginning, at least that I knew, of Internet chat things about shows. After every Friday night when a show came on, we'd go to Internet chat sites and read about what people thought.

We had planned to make Gillian believe…. Change their roles toward the end of the season. I think by show seven, people were saying, "What a bitch. How come she doesn't understand anything?" So we realized that and wanted to do something earlier. That's why we wrote "Beyond the Sea", where Mulder became the disbeliever and Gillian became the believer in that sense. So, circumstances sort of force your hand sometimes.

Will you write any more X-Files episodes?

JW: No. We actually haven't written an episode since year four. We sort of separated from the Chris Carter company.

GM: They won't let us, 'cause I want to kill off the Lone Gunmen.

You guys wrote the second season of Millennium. Why didn't you do the third season of Millennium?

JW: Cause they kicked us off.

GM: Oh, you know why? Because we did a pilot at Fox that didn't get picked up. And we just thought it was time to move along.

You know, you read stuff, and people either really liked that second season, or they kinda rag on it. And we're really proud of that stuff.

Back to The One:

JW: Once Jet came on, all the action changed. Because his specialties and his skills are martial arts. When we first had The Rock in mind, none of the action was going to be martial arts. Once Jet came on, that changed, because that's his forte. And so, all the action was reconfigured.

I was helped a lot by Corey Yuen, who is a wonderful director. We sort of sat down, and started thinking about each of the action scenes. We talked about how the arc of the action scenes should go…. What kind of complications there should be, and then he would come up with the choreography, and show me, and show Jet, and we'd work it out from there.

GM: There's a fight in a factory, where Jet fights himself. Five/six weeks, for about ten minutes of film, and I think it came out pretty cool.

JW: There's two doubles that Jet works with. So, Jet and his team have worked together for a long long time. And so, Jet actually came into the movie with people who had already been trained in that way. Even so, when you watch the movie… or, hopefully, when you watch the movie, you won't notice this. But when we were making the movie…. Jet's double is a wonderful martial artist. Incredible. I think he doubled for Chow Yun-Fat on Crouching Tiger. But, when you see Jet do it, it's almost 30 to 40 percent faster than any of the stunt guys can do it.

GM: We had to go work on the script with Jet. He was doing Kiss of the Dragon in this hotel in Brooklyn. I'm a Hong Kong action fan, and you see it in a movie, and there's editing and all that stuff. He was in the hotel room, and he was trying to demonstrate….

In the movie, the bad guy was uses a technique which is just a straight line. It's all power. And the good guy uses [a technique], which is never a closed fist, and it's fighting in a circle. And he got up, in his hotel suite, which was big, but its not that big. Jet's under six feet. He's not a big guy. When he started… my eyes thought, "This is an optical illusion." When his feet hit the ground, the room shook. It's really pretty amazing, his physical capabilities and speed. And he's been doing it since he was a kid. You know, he performed on the White House lawn for Nixon.

How much of the fighting in The One is digitally enhanced?

JW: Well, since Jet has to fight himself, already the majority of the last sequence is digitally enhanced, because he's fighting a partner that doesn't actually exist. Unlike Kiss of the Dragon, which is a very hard martial arts movie, this is more fantastical.

GM: Jet really cares about his fans a lot. Kiss of the Dragon, the action was devised because of what people had written to him, saying, "I don't want to see wirework. I don't want to see your feet leave the ground." And so Kiss of the Dragon is pretty graphic, pretty violent. It's just Jet. Just Jet and his skills.

So Jet and his team, when they came aboard here, part of the attraction was to go bigger…. Now, we made choices. When you're filming ideas, you have to say "Don't Matrix it to death. Some of that camera stuff. We had speed ramps, but you avoid some of that stuff because it's somebody else's tool. But, you know, there is some wirework. I mean, this is a science fiction piece. It's a heightened reality in which there is an infinite number of universes and people can get stronger, and so there is that. But it's not just that. When he fights himself, he can fly 30 feet off of a catwalk onto the floor, and then, for the next two minutes, it's, you know, kind of beautiful, where he can move and fight himself. So, this movie has everything.

The One premieres nationwide November 2, 2001.

Jason Myers is Film/DVD Editor for RevolutionSF.

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