'The Foreigner's' Rory Fleck Byrne Takes On Jackie Chan With No Fighting Experience

The Foreigner Rory Fleck Byrne

Irish actor Rory Fleck Byrne (HARLOTS, THE QUIET ONES) has no martial arts or fighting experience, but he was tasked with taking on Jackie Chan in a fight scene for the action thriller, THE FOREIGNER. The Irish lad spoke to CineMovie about the experience acting opposite Chan and costar Pierce Brosnan.

In THE FOREIGNER, Jackie Chan is Quan, an aging businessman living in London with his teenage daughter when a terrorist bomb kills innocent people including his only child.  Chan kicks into high gear to find the terrorists responsible for the attack. Quan stalks an Irishman working for the British government (Brosnan) hoping he’ll lead him to the killers.

Rory Fleck Byrne plays Brosnan’s nephew, Sean Morrison, an ex British royal navy officer with a special set of skills. The role of Morrison was originally intended for an older actor in their late 30’s but director Martin Campbell (CASINO ROYALE, THE MASK OF ZORRO) went in a different direction with someone like Byrne who is not a towering or the menacing type that we are accustomed to watching in action movies. Byrne initially went in for a role of one of the terrorists but he was called back to audition for an unspecified role.  Once he was informed he was playing Sean Morrison, he was happy the director picked the unusual suspect.

“This director is interesting. He’s thinking about something interesting. He’s got something else in mind,” he said of Campbell. “We need to continue to break these stereotypes, to broaden our horizons. People come in all shapes and sizes, and what’s on the inside doesn’t necessarily match what’s on the outside.”

The Foreigner Jackie Chan Rory Fleck Byrne

Starring in THE FOREIGNER was a great opportunity for the up-and-coming actor. Before he received the casting news, he had a “gut feeling” after the second round of auditions he would be cast in THE FOREIGNER. A good omen also confirmed his suspicion. On that day he received the good news, he was “chilling out”  with his mother cycling and spending time at the beach in the southeast of Ireland. His day got even better after that.

“I walked into the shop and there was a magazine rack and there was Pierce Brosnan’s face staring at me and I just felt, sh** this is going to happen.”

Half an hour later he arrived to his hotel. He had a message to call his agent and it was good news. He gave “mum” the biggest hug of his life when he announced he would be acting opposite Pierce Brosnan and Jackie Chan.  

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Byrne had most of his scenes with Brosnan which he shot first.  He later joined Jackie Chan for their mano-a-mano fight. With no martial arts or fighting skills to pull from, he started from scratch with Chan’s team. Chan travels around the world with his own team of stunt coordinators, revealed the 30-year-old actor. Byrne worked with Chan’s team for a three week training period.  “I was incredibly prepared thanks to them.”

Luckily for Byrne, director Martin Campbell asked Chan to slow down his moves because Quan is an older man. At a press conference, Chan joked the director made him look  “so old” and the usually lightning fast actor and stuntman kept having to adjust his speed during the fight scenes.  (Watch Interview)

CineMovie asked Byrne whether he saw Chan’s frustration in having to change his usual style of fighting.

“Not at all. No, he’s a pro man. I was learning from him the whole time. He deals with all of these changes so expertly like it’s habitual for him. It’s in his body and blood… in his DNA. He’s a phenomenal man.”

The Foreigner Jackie Chan Rory Fleck Byrne2

Director Martin Campbell also asked Byrne to slow down his own movements. According to the Irish actor, Campbell wanted to shoot at different angles and the slower action allowed them to get the camera between the two combatants.

The timing of THE FOREIGNER comes at a dire time in the world when terrorist acts and negative attitudes towards the foreigner are on the rise. CineMovie talked to Rory Fleck Byrne a few days after the Las Vegas massacre. He believes THE FOREIGNER is ultimately a form of entertainment and escapism, but the movie does trigger thoughts about the current climate.  

“It’s very sad what’s happening in the world right now. Vegas is such a sensitive topic, I’m still very shaken and I’m still processing that,” Byrne admits. “ It’s just very sad that especially with Trump and things that we’re being brought up to believe in borders between people and keeping people isolated. I guess this movie is called THE FOREIGNER so yeah, you know, isolation…  I’m hoping we can wake up, all of us, and see that what we need to develop within ourselves is compassion for the outsider, for someone who has a different background to us, give ourselves the opportunity to understand something that is foreign to us and move forward. And I think that’s very much what the world needs right now. Stop and listen and be compassionate instead of being stuck on their phones.. just a bit of reconnecting to humanity.”

At the end of the day, it’s an action film, but Rory Fleck Byrne hopes THE FOREIGNER will speak to viewers on a much deeper level.

THE FOREIGNER is now playing in movie theaters.

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