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'Wings Over Everest' boasts of big action and a big international cast
Actor Babak Haley gives inside info on 'Wings Over Everest', a thrilling drama with twists and turns to please action film lovers across the globe.

While love may be the international language, the international language of the film is action and adventure. If you’re a movie fan you’ve probably noticed that the actors in films are more culturally diverse than ever before.

More than a move by Hollywood to be more ethnically sensitive, this is a product of the ever increasing global film community. Babak Haleky knows quite a bit about this. A highly successful actor in his home country of Canada (after his family moved there from Iran when he was a boy); when filmmakers from China were looking to LA for actors, they also turned their gaze towards Vancouver which is where they found Haleky and cast him as one of the leads in Wings Over Everest.

The excited anticipation of this film and its multicultural cast and crew is evidence that not only is the world becoming smaller but that the paramount currency is talent. Produced by Terrence Chang (Windtalkers, Paycheck, Bulletproof Monk), Wings Over Everest is action and intrigue presented in a manner that is universally appealing.

Team Wings is a group of mountain rescue specialists who risk their lives saving people on Mount Everest. When a plane crashes on top of Mount Everest with important documents aboard, two Indian government officials offer the team a lot of money to take them to the plane. Team Wings is led by Captain Jiang (Yakusho Koji), a fearless Japanese elder who will do anything to ensure the safety of his team members. Although Jiang’s instinct tells him not to get involved he gets pressured by the team’s agent Suya (played by Babak) to take the case as they’re short on funds and may lose the business without the money this case will bring. As the team begins to suspect the real identity and intent of those who hired them, the game ensues.

The diversity of the cast and the international appeal of the film was something which enticed Haleky. As Suya from Kathmandu, he is the eyes and ears of the team when they go out on rescue missions.  Suya also controls the purse string, in charge of paying the team, paying the bills, and keeping the business open. His focus on finances leads to questions during the course of events. Babak remarks, “It was very interesting acting alongside those from different countries, seeing their methods, and learning from them.  I had scenes where I spoke English with my costars and they would respond back in Mandarin or Japanese. Even with all of this, there was such a high level of professionalism and awareness. We all knew our characters and the scenes, completing them in one or two takes.”

Joining Babak in the cast is famed Japanese actor Yakusho Koji whose films include TampopoUnagi, Babel (starring Brad Pitt and two time Oscar Winner Cate Blanchett), and 2017’s ‘Oh Lucy!’ starring alongside Josh Hartnett and Megan Mullally. Perhaps best known for his role in Shall We Dance (Asia's biggest film export at the time of its release), Koji (as Jiang) is a living legend among high altitude mountain climbers. Known as “The Demon of the Himalayas” he has devoted his life to high altitude rescues since the death of his daughter. China’s Jingchu Zhang plays Xiaodaizi, climber and Team Wings member who early on becomes aware of the duplicitous nature of the men who have employed the team for this mission. Fans will recognize Zhang from her roles in Paramount Pictures Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and New Line Cinemas Rush Hour 3among others. Appearing as Victor Hawk is Victor Webster (of Touchstone Pictures film Surrogates with Bruce Willis). Victor and his brother Marcus grew up on the Himalayan border and became outsiders. This unhappy childhood has somewhat soured him.

While most of the shooting took place in studios at Huairou (near Beijing), the atmosphere of Everest was manifested for authenticity. The scenes shot during the cold months of February and March were particularly brutal. Also lending to the accuracy (and safety) of the cast were some of the most respected experts in the business in terms of production design and stunts. Production manager Mark Voyce (The Bourne Legacy) along with stunt coordinators Han Guahua (The Foreigner) and Dan Redfold (The Revenant) created the most realistic and yet nonlethal filming scenario for Wings Over Everest. Canadian VFX studio The Embassy (District 9, Iron Man) supplied the visual effects to augment this.

In spite of the momentary difficulties and frustrations of an international cast and crew, Babak Haleky is enthusiastic about the experience. He states, “There were absolutely difficult moments going into the shoot. The crew were all speaking Mandarin while setting up the scene and they would place me on the mark while the director yelled ‘Action.” I had to stop the shoot a few times and ask, “What exactly are we doing?” I had a good sense of humor about it and embraced the experience rather than letting it frustrate me. That’s such a small thing when you’re doing something you’ve always wanted to do like being flown to China to star in an international feature film. Of course, I took advantage of seeing amazing things like the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Shanghai, and Heaven’s Gate in Zhangjiajie while I was there…so what’s a little language barrier when you have all of that?”

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