Having spent 45 days with Jackie Chan in a remote desert in Gansu, Eddie Owgan will finally be on the silver screen in Chan’s new movie ‘Dragon Blade,’ due to be released next spring. It’s his first big feature film, a monument for his acting career.
Owgan, from South Africa, has been living in Shenzhen for seven years. Before coming to China, he participated in a number of auditions for television shows and commercials in South Africa. However, he didn’t find much opportunity because the local industry was “fiercely competitive and connections mattered.”
Therefore, Owgan made a decision to come to China to tap the market for foreign actors.
“I basically came and started teaching here with the intent of trying to get into the acting market. I’m good at what I do (teaching), but at the end of the day, it’s not my dream to be a teacher for my entire life,” he said. “Doing movies is my dream.”
Owgan, 30, became interested in acting when he was a little boy.
“I remember telling my aunts and uncles ‘I want to be an actor’ when they asked ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” he said.
He has been following his dream for years. Although he has never attended any drama classes, he learned by spending lots of time in front of the mirror.
He gradually came to understand which muscles on his face control different expressions, which he credits for helping him finally get callbacks after many auditions.
However, the path to realizing one’s dream is not always smooth. During his stay in China, Owgan met a lot of people who made big promises, but broke their words in the end.
“It took me a long time to meet the right people,” he said.
He said this time in ‘Dragon Blade’ he did four scenes in front of the screen, all fight scenes. There are even a couple of scenes where he is in focus. Most of the time, however, the audience will not be able to see him because he is in the background.
The difficulty in getting this kind of opportunity seems to be one of the reasons why Owgan places such a great emphasis on work ethic.
“I started as an extra, but I worked my way in the space of 45 days into being a featured extra, and also become part of the stunt work, which means with hard work and a good work ethic, you can move forward,” said Owgan.
The shooting was really hard work and a lot of people were complaining about the 13-hour-long shooting day in the hot desert, but this was not the case for Owgan.
“I knew this was going to be hard, but this is my passion. A lot of guys did ‘Dragon Blade’ because they wanted either fame or money, or to get a photo with Jackie Chan. My reason is not about money, not about the picture — this is my passion,” he explained.
During shooting, he also had some direct contact with his role model, Jackie Chan, who is described as a “legend” by Owgan for his strong work ethic and lifelong passion for movies.
“The first day that I met him, he saw me picking rubbish up and throwing it into a dustbin. I didn’t notice that he was sitting there, but then he came up and said, ‘You are the first person I’ve seen doing this,’” recalled Owgan. “He gave me a high-five and 20 minutes of his time.”
That wasn’t their only chat:“I spoke to him a few other times after that,” he said.
By the end of the shoot, Jackie Chan was able to call Owgan by his Chinese name. He has given Owgan a special recommendation for his new movie, ‘Skiptrace,’ as well.
When it comes to the next step, Owgan becomes excited again. He is planning to cast for a new Stephen Chow movie this month, but right now he is still waiting for the script to come out.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m hoping if I can get a speaking role and I can’t wait actually,” he said.