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Lewis Tan was ‘devastated’ to lose the role of Shang-Chi

Lewis Tan Mortal Kombat
Lewis Tan as Cole Young in Mortal Kombat Pic credit: Lionsgate

If Lewis Tan had his way, he’d be starring in the MCU, not a video game movie.

The star of the upcoming Mortal Kombat reboot is sharing how it felt to lose out on the role of Shang-Chi but how it opened the door to be part of the Kombat world.

Who is Shang-Chi?

Debuting in 1973, Shang-Chi was created to take advantage of the martial arts craze sweeping America at the time. He was the son of the infamous criminal mastermind Fu Manchu who rebelled against his father to fight for justice. 

Over the decades, Shang-Chi has been an independent wanderer but also served with the Avengers and other super-teams and considered the greatest martial artist alive. 

The upcoming movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings stars Simu Liu in the role. He will clash with the Mandarin, the criminal mastermind who is a long-time foe of Iron Man in the comics. 

Iron Man 3 appeared to have Ben Kingsley playing the Mandarin as a conniving terrorist. It turned out he was Trevor Slattery, a drunken actor unaware he was being used by true villain Killian as a distraction. 

The Ten Rings refers not only to the terrorist group the Mandarin leads but also the rings on his fingers, remnants of an alien spacecraft, and each boasting a unique power.

Tan losing out

lewis Tan
Lewis Tan as Cole Young in Mortal Kombat Pic credit: Lionsgate

Fans had been pushing for Tan to take on the role of Shang-Chi thanks to his experience in martial arts. He starred in the AMC action drama Into the Badlands as well as the Netflix series Wu Assassins.

Tan is a familiar face for MCU fans as he played Zhoug Cheng on the Netflix Iron Fist series. He also had a brief role as the ill-fated Shatterstar in Deadpool 2. 

Tan himself seemed to think he was close to getting the role and shared to Entertainment Tonight how it felt to hear it was going to Liu instead.

“I just lost a crazy job — a really, really high-caliber level job — and I heard that news on a plane to Japan and I was, like, devastated.”

However, Tan was one of the first to openly tweet out congratulations to Liu and told ET, “He’s going to do a fantastic job.”

Kombat begins

As it happens, Tan will be getting a shot at stardom playing Cole Young in the new Mortal Kombat film. 

The reboot of the 1990s movie series adapts the iconic video game franchise with a group of warriors taking part in a supernatural fighting tournament. 

Tan’s role is notable as Cole is a brand-new character in the Kombat world. While some fans are upset about a newcomer introduced in the mythos, others speculate that Young will turn out to be fan-favorite character Johnny Cage. 

Tan is tight-lipped on that but did share the unique circumstances on how he landed the role of Cole. 

“I did this mediation course, and I came back and then I was on my way to Nashville, Tennessee, to race cars at NASCAR — I was like, ‘Maybe I’m the first Asian person to ever be in this place before!’ — and all of a sudden I get a phone call saying I got the role in [Mortal Kombat], I was supposed to drive a car that day and I ended up not doing it because I was like, ‘Uh oh! I need to be safe now because I’ve got an opportunity here. Everything happens at the right time [for] the right reason and looking back on everything that played out, I wouldn’t change it for an instant,”

While Tan may have lost out on being Shang-Chi, at least he’ll be showing his action chops on the big screen in an epic fighting film. 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings premieres in theaters September 3, 2021. Mortal Kombat debuts in theaters and HBO Max April 23.

Michael Weyer


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