Introducing…Danny Rand, aka Iron Fist!

Introducing…Danny Rand, aka Iron Fist!

CBM's Brent Sprecher makes a case for actor and real-life ninjutsu master, Eric Gable, to be Marvel's next costumed hero in the Iron Fist movie!

Feature Opinion
By bsprecher - Oct 11, 2010 02:10 AM EST
Filed Under: Iron Fist

I’m a comic book guy. I'm also a movie guy, which makes me an über-comic book movie guy. That means that I take the big screen adaptations of my favorite comic book characters veeerrry seriously.

Like many of you, I mourned the death of the Batman franchise following Joel Shumacher's travesty that is *shudder* Batman & Robin, and cheered its resurrection after seeing Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins for the first time—and no, I don't have a problem with Christian Bale's mouth-full-of-gravel Batman voice. I raised a quizzical eyebrow when Robert Downey, Jr. was first announced as Tony Stark in Iron Man and laughed openly when Jason Momoa was cast in the Conan reboot. I argued with friends ad nauseam about why Tobey Maguire's pelvic-thrusting disco dance in Spider-Man 3 was perfect—because it illustrates that Peter Parker is such a good person that even when he is infected by an evil entity all he does is dance in public—and argued with those same friends about why it wasn't necessary for Zack Snyder to include the "space squid" at the end of Watchmen.

In other words, I spend a lot of time thinking about, talking about and writing about comic book movies. There are many factors that go into making a good CBM—script, direction, score, special effects—but the one factor that is sure to spell the doom of any CBM is poor casting. I won't go through the long list of the ill-advised casting choices that have populated CBM's over the past 20 years—you know who they are—but what I aim to do is offer up an up-and-coming actor for your consideration.

The movie? Marvel Studios' planned Iron Fist movie. The role? The title character, Danny Rand, aka Iron Fist. The actor? Real-life ninjutsu master and actor Eric Gable.

Who's Iron Fist, you ask? Here's the database entry for the character to get you up to speed:

Daniel Rand is the son of Wendell Rand, who had, as a youth, visited the mystic city of K'un-Lun, which materialized in the Himalayas once a decade; founded roughly a million years ago by extraterrestrials, K'un-Lun was co-ruled by the aliens' descendants and powerful beings called the Dragon Kings, who were themselves subject to the godlike sorcerer Master Khan. At some point, Rand won ritual combat against Davos, son of K'un-Lun's greatest warrior, Lei Kung the Thunderer, which entitled him to claim the power of Shou-Lao the Undying, a man transformed into a mystic serpent over a thousand years ago by the Dragon King Chiantang; however, although great K'un-Lun warriors had periodically wielded Shou-Lao's power as the Iron Fist, Rand declined the power. When Daniel Rand was nine, at roughly the time K'un-Lun was scheduled to materialize, his father decided to bring him and Heather to K'un-Lun. Accompanied by Rand's business partner Harold Meachum, they traveled to the Himalayas, but Wendell fell from a mountain ledge; clutching the edge, he called to Meachum for help, but Meachum, hoping to control Rand's business shares, caused Wendell to plunge to his death. Shortly afterward, Heather sacrificed her life to protect Daniel from a wolf pack, and her spirit ascended to Feng-Tu. The denizens of K'un-Lun found Daniel and took him in, while a frostbite-crippled Meachum learned of Daniel's survival and spent the next decade preparing elaborate defenses against future attack. Vowing to avenge his parents, Daniel Rand studied martial arts under Lei Kung while growing up in K'un-Lun. His closest friends were Miranda Rand-K'ai, whom he did not know was his half-sister, and a K'un-Lun boy named Conal D'hu-Tsien. At nineteen, Rand requested and earned an opportunity to win the power of the Iron Fist by confronting Shou-Lao the Undying, whose power resided within a flaming brazier. Rand slew Shou-Lao, a feat no other warrior had ever accomplished, and plunged his hands into the brazier, imbuing himself with the mystic energy of the Iron Fist.

Now, that's a comic book character heavily steeped in the myths and traditions of the Orient. While the abilities of most comic book characters can be created through the use of special effects, when you're talking about a martial arts master like Iron Fist, you can't really fake it—not the, you know, "iron fist" part, that's gotta be CGI, but the ass-kicking K'un-Lun warrior part. No, in order to compete in the increasingly saturated comic book movie market, the Iron Fist movie needs to be a cross between a modern superhero origin movie like Batman Begins and a kick-ass martial arts movie like Ong Bak, and for that you need a real martial artist. Gable may not have a long list of acting credits to his name (yet), but that's why he would be a perfect pick for the role—he's an unknown, an X-factor that will "wow" the audience with his skills. Like Danny Rand, Gable has spent much of his life training in various forms of martial arts and has travelled extensively in Asia, where he studied under six different masters. Gable has a black belt in ninjutsu, jiu-jitsu and tae kwon do. For years, he parlayed his talents into teaching others, from little kids right on up to military Special Forces and professional MMA fighters. Now, he's dedicated himself to acting and will soon be headlining a major martial arts movie in China with many of Asia's top talents.

After no small amount of effort, I was able to track down Mr. Gable. I told him that I had come across his demo reel and researched his background and asked if he was familiar with the character of Iron Fist and whether he ever thought about portraying a superhero on screen. Here's Gable's reply:

"First of all, I have to admit to being a huge fan of Iron Fist. I’ve followed many of the Marvel titles since I was a kid. It would be amazing to see a movie version come to life and, I won't lie, I've often thought about how I would bring his otherworldly martial arts style to life. A blend of legit martial arts with top notch effects would be truly awesome. His story is so rich that the possibilities are endless. Right now, I'm prepping for a film shoot with Peter Cornwell [director of The Haunting in Connecticut] in Asia. I can't release any more details yet, but the action is guaranteed to be unique... And awesome. After that, who knows? What I do know is that if an Iron Fist movie happens... I want in!"

Here's the action-packed demo reel that first prompted me to consider Eric for the role of Iron Fist in the first place:

What do you think, CBMers? Are you ready for a real martial artist to play Iron Fist on screen? Sound off below!

Follow me on Twitter! If you dare...

Eric Gable photograph by Ryan Rogers @
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bsprecher - 10/11/2010, 2:41 AM
Ninja Girl supports Eric Gable as Iron Fist!

NERO - 10/11/2010, 2:53 AM
Ninja! Give him the part or he'll [frick]in' kill ya!
LEEE777 - 10/11/2010, 2:57 AM
BRENT @ I just think you've found the PERFECT IRON FIST!!!

Kudos dude!!!

I've never really gelled with any picks that have ever been thought of and couldn't think of one that fitted myself, so hats off to you, excellent pick!

We need an actor like him thats a true bad ass on screen, we need to believe and damn Eric Gable is that man!
marvel72 - 10/11/2010, 2:58 AM
lets get this made.

i think it would work better as "heroes for hire luke cage & iron fist".
bsprecher - 10/11/2010, 3:04 AM
Right, guys? Eric is a REAL LIFE NINJA! One of the few Westerners to EVER achieve the rank of MASTER! Not only that, but he LOOKS like Danny Rand. I can't wait to hear what his big movie in Asia is going to be. It could really blow him up!
LEEE777 - 10/11/2010, 3:12 AM
Real life NINJA... [frick]ing A!!!

Damn I wonder IF Marvel does the movie or A 'Powerman & Iron-fist' first, then spins it off in his own TV series!?

Either way GABLE's perfect for both and would probably do it too, which a big name probably wouldn't!
KillerOfSaints - 10/11/2010, 3:13 AM
Ray Park (Darth Maul/Snake Eyes) always said he wanted to play Iron Fist if they made a movie
LEEE777 - 10/11/2010, 3:15 AM
KILLER @ We know, I like RAY (a lot) but he's getting on a bit as Danny Rand (this being a origin an all), Ray would make an AMAZING villain tho going up against GABLE maybe?!

Imagine that fight on screen!!
KillerOfSaints - 10/11/2010, 3:20 AM
good point. You guys are so smart ;P
Orphix - 10/11/2010, 3:23 AM

Don't wanna be rude about the guy BUT Iron Fist is a pretty iconic and surprisingly complex character.

Whoever gets the role really has to have the acting chops to pull if off. Not sure if this dude is the guy to play such a leading role and hold a whole film together.

I know Eric has all the skills and martial arts chops BUT does he have the ability to convey what Danny Rand is all about? Never seen this actor doing anything yet so can't really judge but I get the sense that he is a martial artist/stuntman type of guy first and actor second.

I'd rather that they cast someone who is regarded as an excellent actor. And then any actor worth his salt would get to work learning what he needs to to nail the martial arts stuff.

Remember whoever gets cast would be a 'leading' man.
bsprecher - 10/11/2010, 3:24 AM
@KillerOfSaints/LEEE: Yeah, I like Park a lot, too! I mean, he's Darth frickin' Maul, one of the few awesome additions to the Star Wars universe. But, as LEEE pointed out, he's getting a bit long in the tooth.
bsprecher - 10/11/2010, 3:25 AM
@Orphix: Totally valid point. He's just started his acting career, but the few things I've seen him in are solid.
GUNSMITH - 10/11/2010, 3:29 AM
Orphix - 10/11/2010, 3:30 AM
Brent @ Cool - he certainly looks the part but could do with some credits behind him before he goes 'blockbuster leading man'.

Do you know how old he is?
bsprecher - 10/11/2010, 3:34 AM
@Orphix: Early 30's? Not sure. I think he's ready to explode on the scene! Let's get him linked to Iron Fist now before he gets too big!
BoydeyMcNerd - 10/11/2010, 3:39 AM
Im sold, as long as he can act....theres plenty of guys who can fight but cant act...he knows who iron first is and looks the right age (books put him at Early 30's, orgin movie would have to be earlier?) to keep an eye on, even for the possible 'heroes for hire' tv show where acting chops arnt going to be as important...
USAgent - 10/11/2010, 3:54 AM
I would agree Gable needs to be Iron Fist and Park should play his villain. It would kick so much ass, I dare say it would be epic.
TheSkindo - 10/11/2010, 4:04 AM
I disagree. Sure he looks like him and i'm sure he can fight but Ninjustsu or Tae Kwon Do is NOT Kung Fu. Especially at the level at wich Iron Fist is supposed to fight. If he can adapt to that, fine...but looking at his Action Reel thats still a lot of work. I've been doing Martial Arts for the better part of my life, one art is NOT the same as the other.

On the other hand, I usually laugh my ass of at most action movies anyway.....
LEEE777 - 10/11/2010, 4:07 AM
USAgent @ Your not wrong dude, that would be epic!!!

Brent @ Coolios, btw do you think a Luke Cage small cameo in the 'Iron-fist' movie would work or just crossover if or when we get a 'Heroes For Hire' movie later?
bsprecher - 10/11/2010, 4:14 AM
@TheSkindo: Trud dat. I've studied Kung Fu (Shaolin Kempo Karate) for several years myself and they're different for sure, but both Kung Fu and Ninjutsu share many similar open-handed fighting techniques.

@LEEE: First of all, let me say that I am a HUGE fan of the cameo. Anything to help flesh out the world for all of us in-the-know comic book fans. I ate up every single little nod to Marvel continuity in Iron Man 2 and still say that that was one epic movie. That being said, I think a Luke Cage cameo in an Iron Fist movie would have to be kept until the very end, after Iron Fist's big K'un-Lu smackdown that cements him as the rightful heir to the Iron Fist title. Maybe he bumps into Cage when he arrives in the States. Or, perhaps we just save Cage for an after-credits scene.
LEEE777 - 10/11/2010, 5:19 AM
BRENT @ Hmmm yeah, I think the after-credits scene works and gives us the taste we need!

Cheers man, now lets just hope Marvel does more than just talks about these movies (Iron-Fist, Luke Cage)
ManThing - 10/11/2010, 5:55 AM
lol @ Ninjutsu
MarkCassidy - 10/11/2010, 6:15 AM
From a physical standpoint, sign him up! But like others, I would have to see him act first. Still, its cool that he likes the character and is interested in playing him.

Oh and I finally found one other person that didn't mind the emo dance in Spidey 3! haah, I actually thought it was pretty funny...
AlexDeLarge87 - 10/11/2010, 6:32 AM
Mmmh i dont know?:/... Still kinda prefer Charlie Hunnam, Scott Porter, Ryan Phillippe and Cam Gigandet.
ElBicho - 10/11/2010, 6:47 AM
Ray Park, definitely!

However, if Gable can act, I'm sold...
Orphix - 10/11/2010, 6:47 AM
Rormachine @ Don't beat yaself up over the Spidey dance number - I am the only guy I know who actually speaks up in support of the poodle in The Hulk!

Loved it!!! Yay!
kirynthemighty - 10/11/2010, 6:55 AM
I would have to say that the demo reel was pretty weak. I am not saying hes not got talent I would just revist my video guy and make a better demo reel putting a lot more technique and cool interesting stuff in there.
jazzman - 10/11/2010, 7:06 AM
my top choice is still Ryan Phillippe as Iron Fist. Eric Gable is alright but his other demo reel aint that great showing his acting skills.

Marvelmaniac88 - 10/11/2010, 7:16 AM
Wow why did I even watch that. That was completely useless.
DarthSpireite - 10/11/2010, 7:49 AM
If anyone was going to play Iron Fist, it should definitely be someone with this sort of resume. Granted, most people won't know their martial arts well enough to really tell what's what and there's also a massive case for saying that proper old-school ninjutsu/ninjitsu doesn't even exist any more but it really does need to be someone that acts and moves like a martial artist and not an actor trying to be one. Even those who know nothing on the subject that know a bit about films would be able to tell it was forced and not natural. Iron Fist HAS to look natural, it's his thing. Without the martial arts he's just a bloke that can't wear a bandana properly.
jbender - 10/11/2010, 9:00 AM
Acting first, fighting skills can be faked onscreen. BlackBelts unnecessary
jbender - 10/11/2010, 9:04 AM
Ryan Phillippe or Jensen Ackles
Talontd - 10/11/2010, 9:12 AM
Sorry, not enough acting experience for me!

In my opinion, there is only one real choice for IRON FIST...

Excellent Actor...

Would LOVE to do a Martial Arts CBM...

Has studied Martial Arts since he was 8yrs old...

Ryan Phillippe IS Danny Rand/Iron Fist!!!

InTylerWeTrust - 10/11/2010, 9:16 AM
I know martial arts is a huge part of Iron Fist's character, but as others have said, the acting should be the top priority, same as almost any character (excluding ones like Rhino where the acting doesn't really matter). If the guy is a great actor and can pull off the moves this role calls for in a natural manner, then that's the cherry on top. But, if it came down to a great actor who can learn how to do those moves (with an appropriate stunt guy when the situation is right), and a martial arts master with very limited acting ability, I'd take the former. I'm not so sure this guy has the ability to convey Danny's character and carry a potential movie, those clips above where he's actually "acting" send off big red flags for me, no offense.

But it still boggles my mind when people still bring up Ray Park.
Rhys - 10/11/2010, 9:26 AM
Hm, as much as I love the idea of a martial artist playing Danny, this guy does seem right. And acting chops are just as important, and I don't think this guys got 'em. Some actors, like Cam Gigandet and Ryan Phillppe, would be good choices for Danny, the can act, and they are familiar with martial arts. But, with those two, the fights scenes wouldn't be AMAZING like the need to be in a Iron Fist movie. Scott Adkins, he looks the part as well, I think he could be a very good actor, and play the part of Danny excellently, and his show reel is much morre impressive than Gable. Sorry!

Scott Adkins, Cam Gigandet, and Zachary Levi are, IMHO, the three best choices for Iron Fist!
armagedom - 10/11/2010, 9:41 AM

scot adkins is the man i think it would be really interesting to see him a iron fist :)

armagedom - 10/11/2010, 9:42 AM
by the way erick gable looks really slow on that clip
Rhys - 10/11/2010, 9:52 AM

Hahahaha, everyone thinks that. And thats fine, I still personally think he'd be good.

Cam Gigandet, he's been in some movies, Pandorum(although I hated the movie, he was the best part, he gave a great performance) Never Back Down(in which he's definitely shown he can fight). So He could do it, he has a black belt in Krav Maga, and he is a pretty good actor.
juggy4711 - 10/11/2010, 9:53 AM
Who did he learn Ninjutsu from? You mean actual Ninjutsu or an American version?

If he can act the only problem I see is that he doesn't know Kung-fu. And of the three style he does know, none of them resemble Kung-fu closely. However if he is good enough he can learn the choreography.
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