I recently got the opportunity to talk to actor and director Mark Noyce about his new film ‘On The Ropes’. Here, Mark talks about how the idea originally came about, which three historical figures he would have dinner with and what his favourite films are…
Hey Mark. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. Of course, we‘re here to talk about your new film ‘On the Ropes’ which had its DVD premiere on 8th August 2011.
I suppose the first question is quite a generic one – how did the idea originally come about in the first place?
It’s actually a concept I started working on several years ago and it was originally planned as a short. I was involved with martial arts from a young age and was also a keen writer so I used to put together lots of short stories based on things I’d either been involved with or heard about. Over the years I collected so much material that I decided to put them all together and write a story. Several films have been made over the years which poke fun at martial arts but ‘On the Ropes’ is different; the difference being that this film actually involves real martial artists and is from a very different perspective.
You wrote, produced, directed and starred in the movie – how hard was it to juggle all these things together?
It was extremely hard and at times very challenging. Initially I was going to bring in a director but I spent about half a year working with a few different ones and even did some test scenes with them. The problem was I had a clear vision of what I wanted so the decision was finally made to bring me on as director. I was fortunate though, I had a good team who I trusted so although it was hard work there was never any tension on set. Steve Coleman who is a very good friend of mine was cast to play Shane Powers and I asked him if he would choreograph the fight scenes. This took an enormous amount of pressure off me and he really did have his work cut out. On one of the days he had 20 fighters to work with and choreograph all of their fights, then directly after that he had to fight Pele Reid for one of his scenes. Pele was a World WAKO kickboxing champion so that was definitely one of Steve’s harder days. He got his own back though; he choreographed the fight between me and Joe so Steve made sure I got thrown around a lot.
The film stars your good self, Joe Egan, Ben Shockley, Steve Perry and Raymond Griffiths – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
The cast and crew have all been fantastic and very hard-working. I’ve been friends with Joe for a while now and he is such a gentleman. It’s been a real privilege to have him involved and although it’s been hard work we’ve had some real laughs along the way. Joe has a long history in boxing (Irish boxing champion and sparring partner for Mike Tyson) so when I first sent him the script I wasn’t sure how he’d respond. When he got back to me, he said he wanted to be involved straight away and said that he could relate to the material.
Ben Shockley plays the character Mick Western which was initially a very small role with only a little dialogue. We filmed a test scene with him and Ben really brought the character to life. I scheduled a meeting the following week to discuss the scenes he was involved in and the decision was made to change the script and make his Mick Western a larger role. Some scenes were completely rewritten to include the character.
Who is your favourite boxer or martial artist – and why?
Is this where I’m supposed to say Joe Egan? My favourite boxer of all time would have to be Mike Tyson, and this is mostly due the excitement and buzz he brought to the sport. If I was to choose a modern fighter – I’d have to say Manny Pacquaio – he really is on the top of his game at the moment. I hope he gets his shot at Floyd Mayweather soon. As far as martial artists are concerned it’s a predictable answer but Bruce Lee stands above everyone as a martial arts icon. I began training after watching ‘Enter the Dragon’ with my father when I was 6 years old, he had way too much of an influence on me back then though. My father went mad after one of my early competitions, I spent the entire fight jumping around and making screaming noises. My first instructor was Nigel Thompson and he banned me from attending classes for a week because I kept doing cartwheels during sparring, I suppose I was always more interested in looking the part (laughs).
Let’s talk a bit about you Mark. What made you want to get into the producing, acting and directing chair in the first place?
When I retired from competing – I was 24 years old. I knew I’d peaked and was really struggling to motivate myself so it was definitely the right thing to do. The problem was I hadn’t taken into account how much of my life had been dedicated to it, so when it was gone I was completely lost. About a year after my retirement I auditioned for some theatre work as a stunt performer which I thoroughly enjoyed, this then led to acting classes, larger roles and then moving into film. The writing has always been something I’ve enjoyed so combining this with my love of performing just made sense.
What advice would you give to people wanting to pursue a career in any of them?
Although this sounds like a cliché – the best advice I would give is don’t give up. This industry is renowned for being hard to get involved with but perseverance and hard work can pay off. Unfortunately the chances are you will receive setbacks and rejection but if you have the character to keep going anything is possible.
What films and TV series have inspired you as an artist? Do you have any favourites?
So much of my time is spent watching films and I have so many I like – to pick a favourite is really difficult. Many have influenced me for one reason or another but I also like to just pop a DVD on and chill out without analyzing it too much or try to search for inspiration from it. Although I tend to lean towards horror and comedies because generally they are easy viewing I do enjoy most genres of film and television if it’s done well. ‘Tales From The Crypt’ would be my favourite TV series; I own every episode on DVD along with a considerable amount of memorabilia. I really should mention ‘My Name Is Earl’ too as it has some of the best writing and character performances I’ve seen, it makes me wonder what is happening to modern TV when a show like that gets cancelled – and companies just continue to churn out meaningless reality shows and talent competitions. On the film side I would give credit to Judd Apatow who consistently seems to produce films I enjoy. One of my most watched films surprises a lot of people – ‘The Girl Next Door’ with Elisha Cuthbert and Emile Hirsch. It’s regularly playing in my house and the soundtrack is just spot on.
If you could have a dinner party with three historical guests – living or dead – who would they be and why?
What a brilliant question, well the first name on my list is undoubtedly the late and great Benny Hill. I just love him, he’s a pure genius and definitely someone who was ahead of his time. Recently I purchased his whole collection of DVD’s – he’s just a genuine British icon and he is sadly missed. Secondly I would like to invite Thomas Lennon. Over the past few years I’ve increasingly become a fan of his. Initially I noticed him in the ‘Reno 911’ series – for anyone who hasn’t seen any of these I’d recommend you go out and grab yourself a copy. Thomas Lennon’s performance really impressed me but he is also a very talented writer. He wrote the screenplay for ‘Night At The Museum 1 & 2’ with fellow ‘Reno 911’ actor Robert Ben Garant. And last but by no means least, Ricky Gervais. Very few British comedians manage to make such an impact overseas as Ricky has, and deservedly so. When I first watched ‘The Office’ I was blown away so it’s great to see him receiving so much recognition and success.
What does a Mark Noyce day usually consist of?
Well if I’m not filming or writing my time is mostly spent with my wife and our dog Milo. I got married in June 2000 to Nikki and we introduced Milo to our home 2 days after, we actually cancelled our honeymoon to pick him up early so you could say he’s pretty spoilt. My Mum is even softer with him than we are though; she dunks his biscuits into a cup of tea for him. The problem is he refuses to eat them unless we do the same. We live in the countryside so it’s a relatively quiet lifestyle, spare time is usually spent watching films or playing video games. I’ve been into playing video games ever since my father brought ‘Pong’ and I’ve owned pretty much every console and computer for the last 30 years. I have some old classic arcade machines in my home and I regularly buy gaming magazines like Gamesmaster and Computer and Video Games. ‘Unreal Tournament’ is possibly my most played game competitively although I’m currently honing my ‘Street Fighter’ skills right now so I’m ready for when Steve Coleman comes round next. Our last battle didn’t really go in my favour.
What’s coming up for you in 2011/12?
It’s looking like a busy 18 months – obviously we have the release of ‘On the Ropes’ this year and we have just started pre-production on ‘Shaniqua’ which is another exciting project. Also, we are in the early stages of ‘The N00bs’ which I’m particularly excited about. This is the first time I’ve been able to openly talk about it but it stars Alex Vincent. Alex is very well-known for his role as Andy Barclay in the ‘Child’s Play’ films. It’s a comedy and follows the story of three guys (Mark Noyce, Alex Vincent and Steve Coleman) who decide to give up their day jobs to become professional video game competitors. Working with Alex is going to be a lot of fun, he has a brilliant sense of humour and it’s also a good excuse for me to play more games, I’ll say its research.
Thanks for the interview!