About Features Reviews Community Screenings Archives Studios Home
September 2005
THE LAST DRAGON - 20th ANNIVERSARY : An Interview with Taimak

THE LAST DRAGON - 20th ANNIVERSARY : An Interview with Taimak

By Wilson Morales

A few weeks ago I attended the premiere of a movie and low and behold I saw a face I hadn't seen in years. Though it took some minutes to place a name with the face, I finally got it. It was Taimak. Yes, the guy who was the star of "The Last Dragon". If you don't remember, the film, which came out in 1985, was about a young man known as Bruce Leroy (Taimak) who searches for the "master" to obtain the final level of martial arts mastery known as the glow. Along the way he must fight an evil martial arts expert, Sho-Nuff, and rescue a beautiful singer (Vanity) from an obsessed music promoter. The film was an instant hit with many filmgoers and the soundtrack received a Golden Globe nomination for Debarge's Rhythm of The Night. After the release of the film, Taimak was never heard of again, at least on the big screen. Over the years, his name would pop up on some "Where are they now" trivia and no answer would be given. It's amazing that after all these years, folks still know who he is and still remember the film as if came out yesterday. Well, after some email exchanges, I finally caught up with Taimak and he spoke about his long absence from the film business and what else has happened in his life.

What does your name mean?

Taimak: It means striking eagle. It's an Aztec name that was derived from a god that lived in the forest and helped oppressed people in the ancient Aztecs.

Did you ever ask your parents why they chose that name for you?

Taimak: Yeah. My father used to take care of a kid when he moved away from New York and he started traveling and he had a special place in his heart for the kid and named me after him.

It's been 20 years since "The Last Dragon" and fans of the film still remember it as if it came out yesterday. Why do you think that film became such a cult classic?

Taimak: Well, there are a couple of reasons. The film was very unique and that hasn't been anything like it. That's one reason, but actually it was also a lot of fun and it was a film that you are just never going to see. A film that would be close to this would be something like "Batman" or something like that. It was a film with African American characters, white characters, and it was a "Benetton" of individuals. It was a universal film with a universal appeal and that's very unique and you don't see that very often.

What was the fondest thing you remember from the film?

Taimak: My fondest memory was getting the part. I have a lot of great memories; working with Chazz Palminteri and the crew, the Italian guys, the Chinese guys, Vanity of course. She's now Denise Matthews and ShoNuf. There are so many memories that it's hard to choose one.

Prior to "The Last Dragon", what did you do?

Taimak: I was a New York City kickboxing champion. I was deciding what school I was going to go to because I took a year off after high school and was kickboxing and was really inundated with martial arts. I didn't know which direction I was going to go and then this film showed up. It showed me which way I was going to go as an actor.

Have you kept in touch with any of the cast members of the film?

Taimak: For a little while, I was in touch with Denise Matthews, then known as Vanity, and then I was in LA but then I moved and a lot of the actors from the film were doing the same so I didn't really keep in touch with most of them. I would just hear things about them and wished them well.

When I think about the film and see how much of a cult classic it is today, I wondered about your career. With its success, did you receive a lot of film offers after its release?

Taimak: Well, the film did very well. It went up as high as the #2 film in the country behind "Mask" with Cher and after that, I was sort of owned by Motown and then I broke free about 1 - 2 years and just started getting involved with theater and some modeling and commercials and teaching martial arts and just learning about myself, so I spent a lot of time just learning. I did get a lot of offers but I didn't find anything that I was comfortable in doing. It wasn't a time that they were having people of color starring in major motion pictures, especially as the hero character. I just knew that I wanted to come back at a time when the field was a little more even and open to a character like myself; so I just prepared myself for this moment right now and I think it's the right time for me to be back in the film world.

When you said you were owned by Motown, do you mean record deal?

Taimak: No, film contract.

You couldn't do any other film unless it was through them?

Taimak: Right. It was a transition. It was a transition they were going through that created a lot of dilemma and the procrastination when they going through the sale of Motown.

Do you still keep up with the kickboxing?

Taimak: I just train myself. I just train with other martial artists. My partner and I have a studio here in Manhattan Fitness Concepts, 200 E. 23rd St. I'm not competing anymore. I'm just focused on my acting career.

Page 1 | Page 2


Terms of Use | Privacy Policy