guest post: the "don scene"

I'm on vacation! Taking a much-needed break. But don't worry. While I'm away, I've enlisted some great guest bloggers to keep things going around here. Here's Parry Shen on Ken Leung's infamous "Don Scene."

There are some movies in my collection that never fail to raise an eyebrow whenever guests come over to the house. Below are a few such examples and along with them, my impassioned and often nonsensical justifications I blurt out for each:

THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997) - "Are you kidding me?! Milla Zovovich is adorable as the vulnerable yet ass-kicking savior of the world! One of Luc Besson's best female characters ever -- 'Multee-Pass'!!"

FREQUENCY (2000) - "Oh, come on! James Caviezel prevents his Dad's death by communicating to him from the future but in doing so, gets his mom murdered! He needs to help his Dad stop it from happening while being 30 years in the future -- imagine doing what Marty McFly had to do but without the DeLorean!!"

THE CUTTING EDGE (1992) - "What's not to like about an ex-hockey player pairing up with a feisty, figure skater!? This odd couple is perfect for each other but they just can't see it! They even attempt the never been done, death-defying, Pamchenko Twist to win the nationals (do you even know how dangerous that is?!) 'TOEPICK'!!"

BOUNCE (2000) - "Not mine... my wife's."

And then there's KEEPING THE FAITH (2000) -- a film starring Ben Stiller and Edward Norton (respectively as a Rabbi and Priest) who both fall in love with their childhood gal pal (Jenna Elfman).

Overall, there's nothing remarkable about the movie. But the sole reason I proudly own this disc is what occurs at the 1:07 mark: The "DON SCENE."

Arguably the best scene in the entire movie with Ken Leung (Lost) as 'DON' the Karaoke salesperson.

Check it out here:

Ken's switcheroo that turned a stereotypical, Asian archetype on its head, has been emulated in various incarnations ever since -- from Michelle Krusiec's role in Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (2003) to even my own character in Hatchet (2007).

But here's the best part.

Switch over to the audio commentary and the director, who happens to be Norton, goes on to explain that the 'DON SCENE' by all means should have been left on the cutting room floor. Basically because the scene doesn't really add anything to the narrative. We learn nothing new about the main characters and it's basically fluff that can be trimmed to keep the pace moving along.

However Norton mentions that because Ken did such a great job (amongst adding his own details like the heart falling on the floor, handcuffing his arms) -- it was unfathomable to excise one of the funniest parts in the movie.

But wait, there's more.

Once the 'DON SCENE' ends, there's an establishing shot of a cab driving across a bridge (presumably with Stiller and Elfman in it).

According to Norton, because the test audiences continued to laugh and clap so loudly after the 'DON SCENE', they needed to add that bridge shot as a buffer until the ruckus subsided so that audiences could hear Stiller and Elfman's dialogue upon exiting the cab (the scene below took place immediately after the 'DON SCENE' in the original cut).

It's this very reason why I show the 'DON SCENE' whenever I teach an acting class as it contains one of the best lessons for any thespian.

Here was an actor who made the most of his tiny part by doing such a fantastic job -- so much so in fact, that he made his scene impossible to be cut out and also forced the director to restructure/re-edit the movie. Plus the 'DON' character was then peppered throughout the remainder of the film as he'd become an established favorite.

In a business where actors are always deemed as being replaceable, Ken proved himself to be anything but.

I also think there's an underlying takeaway for non-actors as well; especially applicable in this current economic climate: To be so good at what you do, that you essentially become "un-fireable." Nobody's gonna layoff their best and most indispensable people.

And that's why Ken will always remain one of my personal acting heroes and also concludes this really long explanation as to why I own Keeping the Faith.

Now why I own, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (totally mine... not my wife's), is for another entry.

Parry Shen can be seen in Hatchet 2 opening in AMC Theaters everywhere on Oct 1st and recurring on NCIS: Los Angeles. He is also underway on Volume II of Secret Identities: The Asian American Comic Anthology with co-editors: Jeff Yang, Keith Chow and Jerry Ma.

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