Snake Eyes Henry Golding GI Joe Interview: Research, Wood

Henry Golding in a crop of the Snake Eyes poster, with his back to the camera and face turned, and carrying a sword.

Henry Golding is Snake Eyes.
Photo: Primordial

Snake Eyes has always been one of the most recognizable and popular characters in the GI Joe franchise, and now we’re going to find out how it got there. The brand new movie Snake Eyes: Origins of GI Joe hits theaters on July 23, and io9 had the chance to speak to the man behind the mask, Henry Golding, about the mystique of the character, costume, background research materials and more.

Although 2009 GI Joe: The Rise of the Cobra and 2013 GI Joe: Retaliation feel relatively recent, Snake-eyes is a new take and restart from the popular Hasbro franchise. Here, Robert Schwentke’s director takes up “Real American Heroes” and brings the franchise to Japan. It was there that a warrior named Tommy (Andrew Koji, warrior) takes on another mysterious young warrior (Golding, Crazy Rich Asians) under his wing to become a member of his Arashikage clan of ninjas – both will become Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes, respectiveley. In the first trailer, who debuted at the MTV Movie Awards, you’ve seen it all with other GI Joe favorites: The Baroness (Úrsula Corberó), Scarlett (Samara Weaving), and a very, very recognizable mask at the end. But, you probably still have questions about what the movie is about. io9 sat down for a video chat earlier this week with the man who can provide answers – Snake Eyes himself, Henry Golding.

Germain Lussier, io9: Snake Eyes has always been iconic because of its mystique. He was just a quiet tough guy and the backstory didn’t come until later. Now from the trailer it’s obvious that this movie is going to demystify that in a very definite way. Were there concerns about losing some of this mystique and how does the film use the mystique?

Henry Golding: Absolutely not. I think him, as a character, is so complex that by taking the layers off you can only go that far until you hit the Snake Eyes genre wall. He is so mysterious in his ways. We catch up with him at the start of this movie where he’s motivated by things that are so self-defeating that we have to figure them out to see why he’s so mysterious, and to see why he’s so closed in a way that we can do it. Don’t explain. So being able to find a balance was the real goal. And so to give the audience enough, to give the fans enough to empathize with the decisions he has to make in this movie, to realize that the mistakes he makes, the choices he brings to the table , the lessons he learns, really affects the man behind the mask. So for us it was so important that we could kind of peel off at least a few layers because we can’t just have an inexplicable character. You know the mystique is fantastic, but it only gets you so far because the questions will always be there. But does it reveal more questions? The answers lead to more questions. That’s what I learned from all of this is that there will never be enough answers to demystify this guy. It is so complex.

Yo Joe!

Yo Joe!
Photo: Primordial

io9: So how much does the film draw from sources like the 80s comics and how much is that its own thing?

Gilding: Well we got larry [Hama] on board like [executive producer]. The legendary Larry Hama has been a great guide in being able to tell his story. And thus create a backstory not only pre-existing GI Joe fans and life GI Joe fans to appreciate, but also a whole new generation of fans around the world. You must understand, GI Joe was really popular in America, but now we are looking globally. How to make it accessible to small children on the playground in Indonesia or Vietnam or elsewhere? We had to make it accessible and understandable and not have to go back to read Silent interlude to understand like, “Snake Eyes was like that because of that” “No. We needed, of course, to have a starting point. Is that the definitive starting point, to all questions answered? Definitely not . We cannot do that. But of course, we are initiated into the tradition of GI Joe and its guidelines, namely “What is GI Joe without COBRA?” I mean, sure, COBRA plays a huge role in all of this – and the players we’re introduced to: Scarlett, Baroness, Tommy, Hard Master, Blind Master, Akiko is one of our new characters. It’s not too much to complicate things, but it’s enough to make you hungry for more. It was the goal.

io9: Did you have some sort of go-to for yourself and your character research? Was it just talking to Larry or was it something else?

Gilding: It was a bit of both, really. It was talking to Larry, understanding what he wanted to create, not what he had created for someone else. This is what he wanted to create as an artist and the reasons he made the decisions he made. I think it was important that I myself, as an actor, focused on what I know as the character at this point, because if I think of things that never happened in my reality, they don’t help me at all. But I know we’re trying to get there by the end of the movie. So what happens between these two points? Where is it going? Everyone’s guessing. But what I need to understand is what are his motivations at the moment? Where have the decisions of his past taken him and why?


Andrew Koji is Tommy, aka Storm Shadow.
Photo: Primordial

io9: One thing the trailer shows leads to is the costume. I mean, obviously we want to see your face like the star, but it’s Snake Eyes. Her mask is also a star, so what can you tell me about the costume?

Gilding: [It was made by] Iron Head Studios. They pretty much make all the great costumes. And they, along with our amazing wardrobe team, created the all new Snake Eyes costume[[[[Hold the toy up to the camera]. It’s fantastic. The first time I put on the mask, it was like, “Holy cow, it fits like a glove.” And so it’s a modern take on the costume. But I think the joy in the movie is to see the inspiration of the Arashikage– you see Snake’s costume throughout the movie changing very slowly and slightly – but you see those inspirations reflected in the final costume.

io9: It’s kind of a Paramount reboot of the GI Joe franchise and obviously we don’t know what will happen until this movie is released. But what do you already know tentatively about what could happen?

Gilding: I’m in the dark as much as you are. I know for a fact that they are already under construction. Talk to Lorenzo [DiBonaventura], our producer, they are already thinking, because we can take it anywhere – but depending on how Snake-eyes Telling specific stories will tell us where we want to go and how to expand the universe. ‘Cause if we just jump in a huge GI Joe universe and introduce 12 characters, people are going to be like, “Oh well yeah. Okay, this guy is cool. This guy does this thing. But they don’t know nothing about them. So being able to build the characters. from day one, I think, is the real gift.


Samara Weaving is Scarlett.
Photo: Primordial

io9: What was your GI Joe Is IQ in this movie? What did you do to dive?

Gilding: It hit every blog, hit every fan site, every Wikipedia page, the GI Joe Wiki Pages. [The website] Whistling tank, I would listen to these guys. Fortunately, I got my hands on two copies of Silent interlude and it has become sort of bedtime reading for a long time just to really understand who he is becoming. But my real focus was, again, I can’t think beyond that. As we were filming, I was like, “He has such specific motivations at the start of this movie before he became the man we know, that we have to focus on those.” A lot of people think you can water down your character’s thinking process or focus on exactly what we’re trying to achieve here. So that’s kind of what I did, but I can’t help but sneak in [some history]. It’s so rich.

io9: Last thing, are we going to have wood in this movie or not?

Gilding: This is everyone’s last question! I’ll put it that way. This is GI Joe. [holds arms out wide] This is Snake-eyes’ movie [holds up single finger]. This is the trip that we are going to take [gestures to all the remaining space]. Is Timber here? Let’s hope so. There is no reason to exclude it. And I think, you know, Snake Eyes [with] her faithful companion, I think it would be a special and special time. So we’ll see.

Here’s another special moment, an awesome new featurette from Snake Eyes: Origins of GI Joe.

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