35-year-old Tan received his own blows in Hollywood. The actor was even on career funk after losing two leading roles in a row before his fortunes suddenly changed with his career-changing “Mortal Kombat” showcase.
“I would get to the top of this mountain. And I would just kind of roll down the hill. I didn’t know what to do next,” says Tan. “But those moments of pressure, those moments of loss can turn into something really beautiful. They can make you great. Cole Young goes through that too. What we both went through is really phenomenal.”
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Now Tan is at the top of the world with his Mortal Kombat role as the deadly warrior. Director Simon McQuoid raves about his leading actor, who can stand out in an ensemble with martial arts actors Joe Taslim as the villain Sub-Zero.
“Lewis is a skilled martial artist. He has the physicality and the on-screen presence,” says McQuoid. “And he’s a pretty good looking guy.”
Tan’s trajectory seems almost as predestined as Cole’s. Tan was born the half-Chinese, half-British son of model Joanne Cassidy and Philip Tan, a martial arts expert stuntman. His father carried on his eager son in his career.
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“He opened many doors for me and opened my eyes to the world of filmmaking,” says Tan, whose first film role at the age of 2 was in “China Cry: A True Story” in the 1990s.
“I was literally a baby playing a baby, my best acting,” he says. “You paid me with toys.”
After decades of paying his dues in the business, Tan didn’t make a big breakthrough. He earned parts like the prison guard in “The Hangover Part III” and a command in “Olympus Has Fallen”. He initially thought taking on the role of the Marvel mutant superhero Shatterstar in 2018’s Deadpool 2 would be a big breakout.
“When I found out I was, this character has this crazy backstory. He’s great, this Mojoworld alien. He’s got that kind of gladiator-meets-Mad Max-Blade-runner vibe,” Tan says sold . “
Sold until he found out that all of Deadpool’s (Ryan Reynolds) X-Force teams – including Brad Pitt’s Vanisher – would suffer horrific, fun, and quick movie deaths. Shatterstar was ingloriously sucked into helicopter blades.
“It was very unfortunate to face a death like the one he met,” says Tan.
Career advancement continued until Tan was struck by the dreaded double denial of film roles. He retired to the Japanese mountain town of Hakone to meditate and to anchor himself again.
“I was very upset that I lost that part,” says Tan. “I thought I was going to just let the universe take control, not try to get my timing, and keep doing a good job.”
Two weeks later, the universe announced to Tan that he had been signed to star in “Mortal Kombat”.
“It was just a strange kind of synchronicity,” he says. “I thought, ‘Now is my time to prove myself.'”
During the Australian “Mortal Kombat” shoot, Tan believes he has had his best career with the bruises showing on the screen.
“As someone who struggled to do so at this level, with this caliber of actors, with this franchise, I’m very proud of it,” he says.
Tan closed the circle of his family and was able to fly his proud father to “Mortal Kombat” to watch him during the last week of shooting. “That was a wonderful moment,” he says.
Tan will next star in the Netflix martial arts film “Fistful of Vengeance” in December and has signed up as the Sino-American CIA officer in “Quantum Spy” on television. He also hopes to return to “Mortal Kombat” in a sequel that is teased at the end of the film.
Tan hasn’t given up on his Marvel character Shatterstar either.
“The Marvel Universe is like the Mortal Kombat world, there are many different timelines and many things can happen,” says Tan. “The Marvel Universe could easily bring (Shatterstar) back, or I could try another character. In the end, it was a good experience.”