On July 1st, director Le-Van Kiet’s new film The Princess arrives on Hulu in the U.S. and as a Star Original on Disney+ internationally. To learn more about the movie, Vital Thrills got a chance to talk to the filmmaker and stars Joey King and Veronica Ngo.
An action-packed fight to the death set in a fairy tale world, The Princess stars Emmy Award nominee Joey King (The Act, The Kissing Booth) as a beautiful, strong-willed princess who refuses to wed the cruel sociopath to whom she is betrothed, and is kidnapped and locked in a remote tower of her father’s castle.
With her scorned, vindictive suitor intent on taking her father’s throne, the princess must protect her family and save the kingdom. The R-rated movie also stars Dominic Cooper (Preacher) and Olga Kurylenko (Black Widow).
When asked how it was to shoot, Joey King laughed and said: “Exhausting,” which makes sense as she’s fighting through the entire film. She continued, “It was absolutely incredible, though. I mean, this is something that I never… I haven’t felt this proud of something in so long.”
She said, “Like, truly, the way that I feel about this movie, the amount of work that went into it from everyone involved, and the amount of work that I put into it myself. It’s just like all of that knowledge going into it and then seeing the final product, it blows my mind how amazing it turned out. And it’s just like, I couldn’t be more proud or more excited for people to see this movie. I mean, everyone got a taste of it at the trailer. It is not what you expect.”
Le-Van Kiet said that Joey King was there before he was hired and that “the work was done for me. But immediately we were excited, because Joey just consistently impressed me dramatically, but also physically. And that was a real joy, because it made my job a lot easier, obviously. But it just melted into the movie. But exactly what Joey said. We just had so much fun, and it really oozes into the film.”
Veronica Ngo plays Lin, the Princess’ protector and teacher. She said of the film, “Well, it’s always fun for me to really coming out of Vietnam and join this kind of production. And this is my third time working with Kiet, but this is also the first time that I’m seeing a different side of him. Because, yeah, from what I knew from him, he’s very dark and, you know, all the storytelling.
“And when he called me and he say, ‘Okay, I’m gonna do a princess movie,’ and I was like what? [Laugh] You know, it’s more like a guy who is telling the story of, like, all this crazy, dark stories, killing, you know? Yeah, all this dark stuff that you could imagine of. And then he’s just coming, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna do a princess story.’ I’m like what are-what? Am I hearing you right?”
Ngo was praising King’s commitment to training, and King said of her compliments, “It is such an honor, because Veronica is obviously extremely experienced in the action world, and she is just an unbelievable fighter. I mean, I knew I had so much to learn from her. She is so clean with her fighting. She is so admirable. It is just, like, it’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful dance to watch her fight.
“And so to hear this, it is so nice. It is so lovely to hear. I really knew that I had so much to learn, and I still have so much to learn. But knowing that I really did give it my all and that I got to work with someone who knows their stuff like Veronica, and to know that she was, like, semi-impressed, even a little bit with me is so nice…”
Both Ngo and Kiet praised her for doing the most of the stunts and fighting since they’d planned for her not to be able to. King said, “I think that it’s worth saying though that, like, the only reason I felt like I could do these things is because Kiet and Veronica and the entire stunt team as well, they all lifted me up so much. No one made me feel like I couldn’t do anything.” She said her two stunt doubles trained her to do a lot of the stunts and that everyone believing in her was a big reason for her success.
She did get hurt a little. “So, like, there were a couple times I got kicked in the head and hurt my back,” she said. “And, like, but you have to know, like, the next take, you can’t be, like, afraid of that and anticipate it. You just have to go full throttle. And that’s where the training really comes in handy. It’s like, you’re learning these movements and you’re learning how to respect these movements, but you’re also learning how to, like, not be scared, you know?”
Of the most challenging scene to film, Joey King said, “It was actually a scene with Veronica. It was in the woods. We had a flashback sequence of us fighting together. And the reason why that was the most challenging scene is ’cause I don’t think we actually stopped fighting for 12 hours. All the cameras were kind of already where they needed to be, and we would just kind of move them around us. If I remember correctly, and, like, we wouldn’t cut sometimes.
“We’d just go right into another take and just keep fighting. And I was wearing leather pants. [Laughs]” She joked that she used a Theragun on her muscles and lost five pounds of water that day. She added, “It was also the hardest, but also the best day. I felt like I was… I mean, I loved our choreography, so it was like a joy to do it.”
Ngo said that scene was her biggest challenge as well. “Well, yeah, it’s actually the same scene. Joey already said it. I mean, for me, I am very concerned when I come into a fight scene with another actress, ’cause, you know, we need a lot of training. It’s better for me to fight with a stunt person. It’s easier, ’cause I know they can take a lot, and then I can really stretching on my movement and straighten them and do and kicks and punch as hard as I wouldn’t, you know? Fighting with another actress is giving me a lot of stress.
“But Joey, she came in, like I said already, with all that commitment and I saw her training and we trained together. We felt confident. And again, when you’re on set, the stress is there and the people and the camera and the actions go on. It’s a lot of stress to carry. But ‘m super proud of how we pulled it out, and the scene, it’s amazing. It looks really real. And for you to see that, you will see the two actresses, it’s fighting together, not like on one side or the other side, you know?”
Of whether or not she’d do an action film again, King said that she fell in love with the martial arts process and learning how to fight. She said, “I would definitely not shy away from another film that has some sort of action elements and getting my hands dirty. I felt like I unlocked a new confidence in myself that I didn’t know I had, ’cause I didn’t think I could pull something like this off, and then I did. And so I feel like that just made me feel really empowered. “
As far as tailoring the film to King, Kiet said, “We knew Joey was the princess and we knew what kind of persona she is and all that. And part of the humor is part of Joey too. So we made sure that the action was believable, in terms of character. And also have this style to her, instead of her fighting the same as a man.”
He added: “With this sword and the stone kind of movie, we were more towards, okay, how can we do something that’s not boring, and how can we do something where Joey is fighting against something that she doesn’t really want to fight in every scene, but she just has to get through it. And so there’s all these obstacles. There’s all these struggles, and I think that’s where Joey’s dramatic sense, and she’s the best at it, right, works really well for us, because she was consistently staying in this urgency and survival mode.
“But then she learned all the style and skills of a fight choreo, so it didn’t make it boring. And so we did some martial arts, but then we made sure that it was part of the sword, part of the medieval antiquity. But every film martial arts is different. It just has to meld into the character and then the world around it.”