Simu Liu Admits He 'Exaggerated' His Martial-Arts Skills to Land 'Shang-Chi' : 'I Wanted the Job'

"I think I was more of a dancer than I ever was a martial artist," Simu Liu says, admitting he "exaggerated" skills to land the titular role in Shang-Chi

Simu Liu in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

Simu Liu wasn't quite up to scratch with his fighting skills before being cast in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

As part of Variety's Actors on Actors series, the 32-year-old Marvel star chatted with West Side Story's Ariana DeBose about how he "exaggerated" the skill that his titular character was trained in his entire life.

"When I got the part, they asked me about my martial-arts background and experience, which of course I exaggerated because I wanted the job really badly," said Liu.

While he "had done some work as an on-again, off-again stuntman," the actor admitted, "If we're honest, I think I was more of a dancer than I ever was a martial artist."

But he made up for it, as "Pretty much from the moment I was cast, I started working with trainers and learning how to move."

"I had such awful flexibility [before]," Liu said. "My groin and my tendons were just so stiff. A big part of that early process was just bending my body and trying to rip those legs apart."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human-interest stories.

Simu Liu in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). Jasin Boland/© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/© Marvel Studios/Courtesy Everett Collection

Liu also touched on working with Tony Leung (whom he calls "the GOAT") and Michelle Yeoh, who play Shang-Chi's father and aunt, respectively, in the superhero film.

According to Liu, Leung, 59, and Yeoh, 59, are "very different people, but" both possess "an aura of warmth and friendliness."

"Tony is famously shy, and very, very soft spoken. You would never know his stature and his fame just by looking at him, because he is just such a well-mannered individual. And then the camera rolls, and then you see the intensity in his eyes, and you're like, 'Holy crap. I'm literally watching mastery unfold,' " he shared.

"Tony is such a master of the art of stillness, of these tiny changes, that it almost doesn't even feel like he's doing anything," Liu continued. "But then you look at the monitor and you're like, 'Holy, this guy is breaking my heart.' "

RELATED VIDEO: How Shang-Chi Star Simu Liu Went from Unemployed Accountant to Marvel's First Asian Superhero

One thing that surprised Liu about Leung is how of "of an adrenaline junkie" he is: "Tony Leung loves snowboarding, loves water sports, slalom skiing, wakeboarding. He just loves it. And I kind of love that."

As for Yeoh, she "surprised" Liu "with how goofy she is."

"She plays these bad asses that don't take crap from anyone, they're very serious. But then you meet her, and — first of all, she's every bit as badass in real life. But she's also kind of a goofball," he said. "We'll be rolling camera, and then she'll just be like [waves hands at the camera] — she'll just make a funny face, or she'll be like, 'Boop, boop, boop, boop.' "

"It was her wonderful way of telling me to relax and just settle in and be every bit as free flowing and as goofy and just normal and natural as she was," Liu added.

Related Articles