In Skiptrace, fists and feet are flying in this explosive action-comedy starring Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville. For years, by-the-book Hong Kong detective Benny Chan (Jackie Chan) has tried to avenge his partner’s murder at the hands of a drug lord. When Benny learns that freewheeling American gambler Connor Watts (Knoxville) has the evidence he needs, he teams with Connor to get justice. The film co-stars Fan Bingbing and Eve Torres and is directed by Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Deep Blue Sea). Torres recently discussed how she went from USC honors student to Clipper dancer, WWE mega-star to Jackie Chan co-star.
I wanted to talk a little bit about your younger years because that always fascinates me. I saw that you grew up in Denver and went to USC on a scholarship. What drew you to USC besides the scholarship?
Torres: I had some family that lived in Los Angeles. It was my way of getting away from home but still being connected. When I visited USC, I actually fell in love with it. I always had a vision of being a part of the entertainment world and Los Angeles is the place to do that. I was thinking long term as Los Angeles as being the place I wanted to be.
You had entertainment aspirations, but you majored in engineering.
That’s my joke: ‘I majored in engineering so I could become a wrestler.’ Engineering was the choice I made for school because I didn’t want to combine the two. School was one thing and entertainment was something I was going to pursue after. That was pretty clear in my mind. I knew I didn’t want to dabble in entertainment at all when I was in college. I had seen it happen too many times when you’re in college and an opportunity comes up, you take it and you have to take time off and you never go back to school. It was a priority to finish my education first. Finishing my education is what gave me the courage to pursue entertainment. No matter what, I had something to fall back on if entertainment didn’t work out. Once I got that degree, I felt that I could give it all I got and go for anything. I was always math and science driven so engineering was a perfect fit in that way, but it wasn’t necessarily my calling.
I thought it was interesting that you founded a sorority while at USC.
The sorority, Omega Phi Beta, had already existed. It was created on the east coast in New York, but we were the first chapter to bring it to the west coast. It was a Latina oriented multi-cultural sorority. There weren’t many sororities that had the ideals that I believed in which was giving back to your community and supporting and empowering women. So we chartered a sorority in order to do that and it’s still at USC campus.
I also wanted to ask about the Clippers gig. I’ve known some women who’ve tried out or wanted to try out. What was that like to be on the dance team?
Dance was another part of my world and I loved dancing. I thought this would be a good way to start out. I’ve always liked the Clippers dancers better than the Lakers dancers. I auditioned and I made. I had never been to a professional basketball game ever. For my first one, I’m on the court. Now I can’t go to basketball games anymore if I don’t have courtside seats because I’m spoiled from being on the floor [laughs].
How did the whole WWE thing come about?
It came through a search they were doing at the time to find other women for its female division. I ended up winning the competition. It was something different from anything I had done, but it had all these elements of things I just loved: powerful women, travel, entertainment. I thought, ‘let me give this a shot’ and obviously it went all the way. I can say now it was a perfect combination of everything I loved. I was there for five years.
How did the WWE prepare you for the movie side of the entertainment world?
In the action film genre, which is my preference because it’s a lot of fun, you have fight scenes and I think this prepared me very well. In the WWE, as in movies, you have to find your character. It’s a lot different having a camera in your face instead of performing for thousands of people. I was willing to start over and take acting classes. I really wanted to challenge myself and get better.
You mentioned action scenes and now you’re in Skiptrace with Jackie Chan who might be the biggest action start in the world. How was it when you were first on set with him?
Doing that first fight scene with him, I was really anxious and nervous, but Jackie quickly got rid of that. The first time I met him, he was eating lunch. He gets up and starts making me a plate of food saying, ‘you want lunch? Here’s your lunch.’ It just showed that he’s so kind hearted and so giving. Seeing this right away made me think that he was going to be great to work with. And he was sure enough. He’s just a genius in his creativity and adding elements of comedy. And he’s really hands-on. He was so helpful to make sure we got the scene correct.
That’s good. We’ve all heard horror stories of actors not being so nice to their co-stars on set.
Oh yes. You hear of people who are going to work with their idols and it ends up not being a good experience. I was really lucky. Both him and Johnny Knoxville were really fun to work with. It made it a fun project to be a part of.
Speaking of Johnny, we know him from his movies and Jackass of course. Is he the big prankster on the set or is he more subdued that we might think?
He’s totally a prankster. He tried to get me to choke out our director. He set one of our producer’s shoe on fire. He’s constantly looking for mischief. He’s a lot of fun. It was really a good mix of people with him and Jackie and Renny – people laughing really hard and having fun while they’re doing it.
I wanted to change gears a bit, but if you had the power to make any movie you wanted, what kind of movie would it be and who would you want as your co-stars?
Wow, that’s a good question. It would be about what it would be like if women actually took over the world. If women became the source of dominance and power and could physically overpower men, how would the world change? Probably Angelina Jolie. We have Wonder Woman now, Gal Godot. There are a ton of female actresses who are strong but are also great actresses.
Let’s end the interview by telling people why they should see Skiptrace.
This is a film for anyone who loves Jackie Chan, and I don’t know anyone in the world who doesn’t. This is a film with Jackie doing what he does best which is action and comedy. Then you combine that with Johnny Knoxville. They were so funny in the film. Some people might only think of him from his Jackass days, but he was so funny and so brilliant. Then I come in as the muscle; as the villain. It’s just a great story. It’s really fun. It’s really funny. If you’re a fan of Jackie Chan films, you’re just going to love it.
Skiptrace opens in select theaters nationwide and VOD September 2nd.