John Cho tore his ACL while making Cowboy Bebop, felt guilty for delay

Netflix has a live action adaptation of the classic futuristic western anime series, Cowboy Bebop. It’s out on November 19th. John Cho plays the titular role of Spike Spiegel, Mustafa Shakir is playing Jet Black and Alex Hassel is Vicious the villain. Filming had to go on hiatus for several months because John Cho tore his ACL during a night shoot. John was interviewed by Vulture. He discussed the pressure he felt to get the character of Spike right due to the cultural significance, and how he had to diet and exercise to get the correct body type for the film. He also talked about an injury he suffered which delayed filming. Below are a few more highlights from Vulture:

On his diet and workout for the role
The regimen was to become functionally athletic rather than show-horse athletic. But, yeah, I had to watch what I ate. I did have to take my shirt off in the first episode, which was really stressful.

On if it was the “most physically demanding role” he’s had
[Inhales.] Yeah. It was actually a cool lesson. As a nonathletic person, I was kind of a dick the other way. I didn’t give that kind of acting enough credit. I was a … nerd snob. For this role, everything came from training; my character decisions came from that. Training is also a more accurate parallel to how to get a good performance. When I was younger, I thought I could tap into some sort of muse and have the thing strike me. But it’s actually more banal and harder than that, which is you just drill it, drill it, drill it until it’s muscle memory. That’s something, when I was 19, that I wouldn’t have wanted to hear. I fancied myself an artiste — that if I could hear the right piece of music before a scene, I would get into character.

On production shutting down because of his knee injury
For some reason Netflix originally didn’t want to publicize what happened, but I [tore] my ACL.

It was real wonky. We had been shooting all night, and I was doing kind of an athletic move as the sun was coming up. It was probably a lack of sleep. Just a little move and [I was down]. So that was a low moment. It was 5:30 Saturday morning when I arrived at the emergency room and it was filled with people who had gotten super drunk on Friday night and then got in a fight or fell and cracked their heads open. Ironically a sobering experience. Then you have your surgery and you go into rehab. I’m at home doing these knee exercises, and coming off the drugs, I was thinking about Cowboy Bebop. Doing those knee exercises, I was like, I gotta put my focus into this. So I think that’s also fueling my fear. [Laughs.] This interview is all about me freaking out. But the amount of thought and worry and effort and number of days I’ve logged thinking about Spike is now equaling the fear I have about the reaction.

On his mindset during physical therapy
I wanted to shore up any deficiencies in my body. It’s really hard to tell what precipitates a freak injury like that, so I was determined to come back stronger. I felt very guilty that I had let the production down, and my cast, and the crew in New Zealand that had had a job, and then they didn’t the next day. And I didn’t feel that I could come back and half-ass this role. I had to take it deadly seriously. It was people’s livelihoods and I wanted every single person on the set to know that I was doing my best every single day. Which sounds Boy Scout-ish, but it was the truth. Maybe it was an apology that took a whole season for me to express. Because I felt so responsible for that upheaval in a whole crew’s lives.

[From Vulture]

I have not fallen down the anime hole yet, but I have a friend who is a huge Cowboy Bebop fan. My friend said that the original series soundtrack was the biggest draw and that she and her first husband played songs from it at their wedding. My friend also disliked the casting. She said that it is implied that Spike is biracial (Black & Asian) and Jet Black was not ethnically Black but more along the lines of a Jason Momoa and Taylor Lautner and that John Cho would have been a great Vicious. With that being said, I really like John Cho and I think he’ll be able to pull off the character. I would like to see more Asian action heroes on my screen. I felt John when he said that his fear has been building up around Spike and that he thinks about the character often. I hope that the actors do these characters justice. I also hope that the producers of the live action series take their cues from the original series’ soundtrack. As for John, the new series probably won’t hinge on his performance because he’ll have that in the bag, but on production and the other cast members.




Photos credit: Geoffrey Short for Netflix

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22 Responses to “John Cho tore his ACL while making Cowboy Bebop, felt guilty for delay”

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  1. Bryn says:

    I can’t wait for this. The original anime is so great. I personally love the casting, John Cho is much older than Spike but I think it will work well.

    • goofpuff says:

      I agree. I can’t wait for this! I love the casting myself. And I LOVE JOHN CHO

      • Calypso says:

        I am biased because I also absolutely LOOVE John Cho, but Spike being older makes way more sense. For someone so jaded and with such a long history, Spike always seemed older than 27 to me anyways. And overall I’m very happy with the casting (I don’t have many thoughts for the casting of Julia or Sid Vicious but I don’t hear people talk enough about the casting for Gren, which I’m thrilled about.)

  2. questions says:

    I like that description — “nerd snob.” I was probably like that when I was younger about some things (I’m not an actor, but I can relate to his description).

    Now I recognize the difficulty of certain things I used to look at critically.

  3. North of Boston says:

    This looks interesting!

    I’m going to have to think for a bit about the body type and training for role prep thing he mentions in the context of other recent discussions about acting and body types and training/physically transforming for a role and prosthetics such as Paulson’s “fat suit”. Like on some level I *feel* like there’s a difference between what Cho did vs what Zellweger did for BJD. But why is that, I wonder? Is it a value judgement about the kind of body types they each “trained” to achieve? Or something else?
    (The whole … well ‘fat is unhealthy so actor shouldn’t get fat for a role’ argument is turned on its head when RZ seems just fine and JC wound up in the hospital and out of commission for months )

    But in any case:

    Starring John Cho?

    I’m here for it.

  4. questions says:

  5. isabel says:

    The original composer, Yoko Kanno, is back for this series!!!

  6. StillInPJs says:

    I love love love bebop. Who is playing Faye? She has a lot of clothes on for that character, but maybe a fully dressed Faye will draw more attention to her character development.

    • Calypso says:

      Daniella Pineda, which I think is really good casting. Her outfit in the serious was beyond ridiculous to me, and didn’t obey, you know, the laws of physics. I wish her shorts were also yellow but I think they updated her outfit extremely well. The male gaze-y shots of Faye were always hard for me to watch anyways. (Don’t @ me about her being a femme fatale, there is a difference between her putting on a persona to disarm the mark, and the camera/show ogling her for the viewers pleasure.)

  7. Michelle says:

    I love John Cho so much and he looks amazing. Saw the top pic and said out loud, “Wooooow.”
    Interesting comment earlier about what actors go through for the body types in entertainment, and why some of it is more readily accepted and others not, and where that stems from.

  8. Maria says:

    I love the anime and the casting is great. John Cho is so fine!!!

  9. Digital Unicorn says:

    I will watch this – love him and he looks fit as f@@k in it.

  10. Desdenova says:

    I love John Cho, he looks great and i think his demeanor is great for the role.

  11. msmontclair says:

    I love John Cho. Will def watch this.

    I’ve met him and he was just the nicest fella. Such a dreamboat, too.

  12. Baela says:

    Spike is black &Asian? I don’t remember it being hinted at all.
    After Death Note live action, I have almost no hope that this will be good.

    • sally says:

      Yeah, tbf it’s been a while since I’ve watched the series, but I don’t remember that at all either. And I’m slightly more optimistic about this than you are. I feel Death Note partially failed because the anime is one of the things that just work best in the animated genre. It had all that DRAMA, ridiculousness and the gratuitousness that just don’t work in live action. Cowboy Bebop, on the other hand, always kinda straddled a lot of different genres story- and stylewise, so there is hope for the series!

  13. Zantasia says:

    Time to re-watch Cowboy Bebop! And I am just so glad it’s not “A Ghost in the Shell” casting decision situation.

  14. Anna says:

    Wow, yes, and if he needs a nurse to help him get back to full health [waves hand] 😛

  15. lucy2 says:

    I know nothing about the anime, but I love John Cho, and I’m glad to see him getting a big starring opportunity like this.

  16. Anon says:

    I have a lot of friends in the NZ film industry, and yeah it was a pretty big deal that the shoot got postponed due to injury (questions of: actors performing stunts that stuntmen should be doing)

    It must be huge pressure on Actors knowing that whole shoots/jobs for hundreds can lie on their shoulders in that regard

    Sounds like it all ended well at least, and there has been so much film work in NZ during pandemic that at least the rest of the crew would’ve found work to tide them over until things restarted

    Side note: apparently Amazon’s LOTR series has been the nightmare shoot, haven’t heard of anything but awful experiences on that one from cast & crew. Maybe a good thing it’s leaving NZ…