What Ever Happened To: Taimak

The Last Dragon introduced moviegoers to Taimak Guarriello. His memorable role as the kung fu wunderkind Bruce Leroy helped make the action film a cult classic. From acting to personal training, Taimak carved a path for himself that incorporated his love of performing and his martial arts expertise. The 49-year-old talks about his career, his inspirations and what’s next on his to-do list.

JET: Your first name is unique. What is its origin?

TAIMAK GUARRIELLO: I’m Black and Italian, but the name Taimak comes from the Aztec culture. “Teimoc” means striking eagle.

JET: When did you first start studying martial arts and which ones are you skilled in?

TG: I started in Japanese Goju karate when I was 6. I’ve since studied a number of styles including boxing, Tae Kwon Do, Shaolin Kung Fu, Chinese Goju and Brazilian jujitsu.

JET: How often do you train?

TG: Five days a week at Marcelo Garcia’s Academy in New York City. I start competing in Brazilian jujitsu in 2014.

JET: Are you more passionate about filmmaking or martial arts?

TG: It depends on the context. I love them both equally. Acting and directing can be natural and organic but it’s a business and can be political. With martial arts, what you put in is what you get out.

JET: There have been rumors for years about a possible sequel to The Last Dragon. How real is that rumor on a scale of 1 to 10?

TG: Five. I don’t own the rights to the movie, Sony does. Although I’ve spoken to Sony, it’s still up in the air. Actually, I believe the fans would be the best route to help bring that idea alive.

JET: Why do you think The Last Dragon has resonated with fans for all these years?

TG: It had several strong elements that make it so memorable: a good director (Michael Schultz) and producer (Berry Gordy); a simple story with a lot of heart; bigger-than-life characters; awesome bad guys Sho’nuff and Eddie Arcadian; and the underdog wins the girl and beats the bad guy. Plus, there are some great lines that fans love to repeat over and over like, “Who’s the master?”  “I am” or “Hey, my man, what it look like?”

JET: The Last Dragon is a quintessential 1980s flick. Aside from that film, what are your personal faves from that decade?

TG: There are too many to mention, but here are my top 10: Blade Runner; Scarface; Raging Bull; Raiders of the Lost Ark; The Terminator; The Shining; After Hours; Die Hard; The Untouchables; and Mad Max 2.

JET: Do you have a favorite memory from filming The Last Dragon?

TG: That’s like asking what your best moment in high school is; there were too many. Working with Denise Matthews, Julius Carry, Leo O’Brien and the rest of the cast… It was all a great experience.

JET: In 2011, you announced on the crowd funding site that you were working on bringing your screenplay I’ve Seen Things to the big screen. What was the inspiration for writing and directing this project?

TG: The film hasn’t been totally funded yet. It’s still in the process. We shot some of it as a short. I wanted to show people what I could do myself. The story is dramatic; it’s about a martial artist master who’s also a detective. I’ve written another screenplay about a superhero who is also a philosophy professor. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from my colleagues.

JET: Which film directors do you most admire?

TG: There are several. For example:  Michael Mann (Heat); Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run); Louis Malle (Damage); Adrian Lyne (Nine 1/2 Weeks); F. Gary Gray (Law Abiding Citizen); Quentin Tarantino and Alfred Hitchcock.

JET: In addition to your personal projects, which types of roles are you looking forward to taking on in the near future?

TG: Roles that inspire and excite fellow artists and fans. Roles that also challenge me to pull out my best performance. Of course, I like physical roles because of my martial arts skills, but I can enjoy roles that don’t have physical requirements. I recently had a part in a sci-fi short called Transporter, written and directed by Damon Colquhoun. Transporter made it into the finals of Ron Howard’s short film contest.

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JET: What has been your proudest moment to date?

TG: I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I regret nothing. My proudest moment was when I acknowledged to myself that I’ve been able to get through everything I’ve been through without regrets and being able to love myself. I never sacrificed my integrity.

JET: What did your parents teach you that has stuck with you?

TG: My father said, “Focus on you. Be responsible for yourself.” My mother told me, “Don’t say anything if you don’t have anything nice to say. Keep those thoughts to yourself. Keep good energy.”

JET: Can you share your relationship status?

TG: I am dating. I’ve matured, thank God. I’m very happy where I am. My future wife is out there for sure.

JET: What is your five-year plan?

TG: Have my first child and a flourishing film career, and be able to give back to young people through the roles that I play, whether on film or my life.

JET: Would you say that you’re a spiritual person?

TG: I am on my own personal journey to be the best person I can be for myself, my parents and God. My advice to others would be to respect yourself, respect others, aspire toward peace, love and harmony, and celebrate the human race.

JET: Any additional words of wisdom?

TG: If there is anything that you think is impossible, know that it is possible. Believe in yourself and get over it– even if people will think you’re crazy because it hasn’t been done before. There’s too much information out there to hold onto disbelief.

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