When Michael Baumgarten perhaps best known - so far - for his work on the film "Smitty" was meeting with the brain trust of the upcoming "The Martial Arts Kid" film, he decided that a few roles were key.
One, of course, was the titular "Kid". Once Jansen Panettiere was tabbed for that role, Baumgarten could rest easy.
Then there were the people who would mentor the "Kid" and teach him martial arts. With martial arts/action-movie legends Cynthia Rothrock and Don "The Dragon" Wilson filling those roles, there was nothing to worry about there.
Which left the role of the bully. After all, if the film's antagonist was not formidable and/or convincing, it would affect how people viewed the "Kid", Robbie and the urgency the audience would feel for him to be trained and mentored.
Which is why Baumgrten and the rest of the brain trust felt that Matthew Ziff, an up-and-coming actor with ability, would need to "transform" a bit.
After all, Ziff's natural appearance isn't exactly fearsome, as shown below:
However, by the time filming started, Ziff had remarkably changed his appearance to be a truly formidable Bo Whitlaw, as seen below:
"He doesn't look like the same person", Baumgarten exclaimed. "Matthew Ziff's character transformation was the result of us looking at the actual Matthew Ziff and thinking he looked like too much of a handsome lad to play the bully."
"Beyond that, we didn’t want him to look the same as he had in other films", Baumgarten continued. "We wanted a unique Matthew Ziff role that would forever be attached to this movie. So Don Wilson, James Wilson, and I brainstormed a bit and thought he’d make a good “Florida bully” if he had a Marine cut and the goatee of Edward Norton in ‘American History X.’ And thus, the basic physical character of ‘Bo Whitlaw’ was brought to life."
Baumgarten says Ziff went above and beyond what everyone else expected from him to play the part.
"Matthew went beyond our expectations by packing on some ‘bully weight’ and playing ‘Bo’ as bit of a meathead… which is opposite the real Matthew Ziff who is a recent engineering grad", says Baumgarten. "Thanks to Matthew’s commitment, ‘Bo Whitlaw’ is a fuller character than written on the page."
"The Martial Arts Kid" is scheduled to hit theaters by the end of 2015.