How a Dubai martial arts trainer landed a role in Jackie Chan's 'Vanguard'

Tam Khan says the experience is now opening doors for other action roles

Tam Khan, a MMA trainer in Dubai, is making his acting debut with Jackie Chan's 'Vanguard', releasing October 8. Tam Khan
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This week is unlike any other for Tam Khan.

The mixed martial arts trainer, who has his own fitness brand and MMA Academy in Dubai's Media City, has just released his own smartphone app and is also awaiting the release of Jackie Chan's new film Vanguard, which he appears in.

The film, parts of which were filmed in Dubai, follows a covert security firm's globetrotting mission to rescue a hostage. It is the ninth collaboration between Chan and action director Stanley Tong.

The film was originally slated to come out on February 12, coinciding with Chinese New Year, but like many films its release was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. It releases in UAE theatres this Friday, October 8.

The National caught up with Khan ahead of the film's release...

How did you land the role?

I got a call out of the blue from the local team of Mr Tong's office. They wanted me to arrange two to three fighters for tiny bit roles for their action scenes, which I did, but they did not find my men to their liking. Then they asked if I could come for an audition for another role.

This was a bigger role. I play Marder, a womaniser and one of the villains chased down by the heroine Mi Ya (Miya Muqi).

When I went there, more experienced actors were taking four to six takes to get their lines. I had read the script the night before going so I just gave it one shot and I was in (shrugs shoulders).

How was the experience?

It was awesome. One thing from my MMA experience is that you are never short on confidence. So I was good with my lines. I knew there would be people on the set, but there were so many. And I am talking about the cast. The police had cordoned off an area from the public. We were shooting in April of 2019. It wasn't that hot for me, but they had those umbrellas over me. When I told them I was OK, they said it was because they did not want me to tan because they needed this exact level of skin shade ... there are so many things to look at.

What has the shoot led to? What feedback did you get?

I believe I did well because someone must have talked about my stuff to someone and word travelled to Hollywood. So these people from the office of (producer) Christine Peters contacted me for a TV show or series. I travelled to Los Angeles, had initial meetings and I liked the script. We were about to go this February, but the lockdown has put everything on hold.

Tam Khan, centre, in Jackie Chan's 'Vanguard', releasing October 8. Courtesy Tam Khan

I was very excited about this (project) because I am central to the whole plot. It is about me as a Muslim-Asian guy... a family man in the middle of things. The character is a new father, just like I am, so I can relate to that role. I am just waiting for the Covid situation to normalise. And I also have an MMA project coming up in Saudi Arabia, which will take me away for two to three months. We will see how I can handle all these.

How was working with the man himself, Jackie Chan?

I was overawed and of course I wanted a personal meeting, having grown up watching action movies with him, Bruce Lee and Jean-Claude Van Damme. But I am a professional and so is he. There is a line you have to respect.

I have been in the UAE since 2008 and brought famous WWE stars to my events like John Cena, Ryback Reeves, Dolph Ziggler. And many fans and friends pestered me to get close to them, but I have had to respect the privacy of the stars, so I could not be seen going overboard myself.

But we sat in one room, had lunch with the whole crew as a unit and had some moments in general, just like normal professionals.

Do you have stunts of your own in the movie?

Yes. I did most of the action scenes myself. I am part of a car chase (the gold cars in the trailer). I drove and did part of the scenes myself until the point it got dangerous. For the risky ones, they got a double for me, shaved head and all.