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Henry Golding on Snake Eyes: The star tells our Backstage podcast why it was important to remove the mask

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After his breakout role in Crazy Rich Asians, a role he won after a global casting call, Henry Golding has established himself as a popular leading man.

But his new film sees him taking on a new type of character, the fan favourite Snake Eyes from the GI Joe universe.

The movie tells the origin story of the silent and masked agent, and sees Golding getting to grips with some serious combat moves.

Henry Golding plays Snake Eyes and Iko Uwais plays Hard Master in Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins. Pic: Paramount Pictures/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/ Skydance
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Golding stars alongside Iko Uwais as Hard Master

He told Sky News’ Backstage Podcast it meant learning a lot, very quickly.

“Combat – especially for screen and [using] choreography – it’s all about fluidity, and when you start on day one, you feel like a stick in mud,” he said.

“You’re kind of awkward, you don’t know what that rhythm is like, but after doing it day in, day out, you start having the sixth sense of moving, sliding, having your feet at the correct stance and being able to adjust on the fly as you’re competing against these combatants.

“So the contrast is particularly steep, but it was absolutely wonderful to be able to push myself to that limit.”

Golding said the training led to big changes in his body.

“It sheds off you just because you’re doing four or five hours [a day] of really high, intense cardio, working out these movements.

“So it would just go and shed and I was like, wow, there’s not going to be anything left of me! But it felt great, it did.”

The film is partly set in Japan with production also taking place in the country.

Samara Weaving plays Scarlett and Henry Golding plays Snake Eyes in Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins. Pic: Paramount Pictures/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/ Skydance
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Samara Weaving plays Scarlett in the film, which tells Snake Eyes’ origin story

Golding says that filming on location, rather than using sets, gives the film authenticity.

“Many films [use sets] because it’s easier, it’s cheaper, but truly Japan plays a character of its own,” he said. “It played such an integral role in creating the atmosphere and, I suppose, the feeling of the Arashikage – they are a clan that’s been in Japan for thousands of years and so if we were to just create polystyrene sets it just wouldn’t have that sort of gravitas.

“The producers and the Japanese government really worked together to lock in some of the most amazing locations. We were so fortunate to film at these ancient temples, these castles, these living castles. Not only that, we blocked off literally a whole city block of one of the busiest alleyways and streets in Osaka, or we’d film in Toho Studios – the iconic Kurosawa studios that all the Samurai films have been made at – so on the ground it lends itself to tell more of the story so much more authentically.”

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While fans of GI Joe know Snake Eyes as a man who never says a word after taking a vow of silence, and who is always hidden by a mask, this film explores how and why he became that person.

Golding says it was essential to have the character unmasked and speaking in order to give people a chance to connect with him.

“We need to understand his motivations, we need to understand his journey, his tribulations, his mistakes he’s made, the wrong turns down the very rocky path that he’s chosen and what he intends to do to make amends for that.

“So to be able to do that and to be able to at the same time endear the audience members to him, we needed to have some sort of like eye-to-eye, you need to see the eyes of that man and hear from his own voice, his pain, to truly understand. That was something that we felt so strongly about and was necessary to have in this first origin film.”

Snake Eyes is out in cinemas in the UK now – hear more from the interview in the latest episode of Backstage, the film and TV podcast from Sky News

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