It’s surprising just how many Australians are helping bring Mortal Kombat to life, both from behind the screen and in front of it. One of those faces is Sisi Stringer, a Brisbane-based actress in her first major role. Taking on a fan favourite like Mileena is a massive endeavour, and in a chat with Kotaku Australia, Stringer revealed just how intense the experience has been.
In a chat before the coronavirus pandemic began, Stringer identified with Mortal Kombat‘s Mileena fandom, particularly those who are sick of Mileena always copping the raw end of the stick in the games. “The thing I love about [Mileena] the most is her rich emotional life that only gets tapped into occasionally, but that’s one thing about the crazy Milenna fans, of which I am now one,” Stringer told Kotaku Australia.
“They often talk about it, they message me being like, ‘Oh I hope [Mileena] doesn’t die, cause we love her and she always gets the raw end of the stick in games and you know she never ends up winning ever,'” Stringer said. “Not just in the games but like in all the dialogue and in the later games … there’s actually a lot going on for her emotionally due to the circumstances, a lot of hardship there when your created in an image of a beautiful princess but then you have this hideous mouth.”
“So there’s a lot to unpack there in that one. So yeah that’s my favourite thing about her. Daddy issues a little bit.”
While Stringer has a background in dancing, the physicality of martial arts is a different experience altogether. The Queenslander trained for five months at a martial arts gym — adding that someone stole her jumper — to get ready for the role.
“I’ve been training for five months for something. I trained for about three months when I was home in Brisbane, yeah so I worked with these fabulous people who are apart of the same martial arts academy international,” Stringer said. “I had a matching jumper but someone stole it in the gym, [I’m] devastated because this is all I wear when I’m on set. So I used to have a matching outfit and now I don’t so thanks to that person who stole my jumper from the gym! But yeah it’s a fantastic academy.”
Something Stringer praised was Mortal Kombat‘s environment, particularly the freedom given to actors to speak their mind about what characters might or might not say. Todd Garner already spoke about the benefits of recruiting more authentic faces instead of having to rely on big-name movie stars, and that agency has carried through on set.
“It’s just wonderful and it’s very freeing,” Stringer explained. “[It’s a] very wonderful environment for an actor to be in because you want to feel like your heart and you want to be able to say ‘maybe my character wouldn’t do this’. Or because you know you’re bringing this person to life, particularly when the characters are already based on such iconic characters who are so well known and well loved, and there is just so much space to feel it out and collaborate and consider what our characters would and wouldn’t do.”
The movie is taking more of the “Xena Princess Warrior” approach to Mileena’s character, which fits with the darker, grittier approach of the rebooted film. Mileena’s prosthetics were also improved over the course of filming, and by the end of shooting they were a better fit and more comfortable.
“They’ve developed a lot and they kind of fit my face better towards the end of the shoot which was absolutely fantastic,” Stringer said. “That’s what [director Simon McQuoid] wanted, he wanted it to be it’s fantasy but its deep and dark and heavy and intensive and real and stuff like that rather than it just being like — I don’t want to talk shit about Marvel but they are very fun, upbeat kind of [cartoon] characters in a way it’s like humour and bright colours and fantastic costumes.”
“This would be like the Batman equivalent of Dark Knight as opposed to Batman when Jack Nicholson was The Joker,” she explained.
Apart from the physicality, Stringer looked at “everything” when preparing for the role. “I just researched everything I could and the fans sent me material, someone sent me a 2000 word essay and I was like “Thanks babe, appreciate it’,” she said.
“The fans really helped with the research, Google’s really helped with the research, Wikipedia really helped with the research, and you sort of find more sources through when you go down the rabbit hole. But it’s fun because one of the most iconic characters, and I’ve watched a compilation of every kill and she ever has, like every combo and every fatality.”
Unfortunately, we won’t get to see Stringer’s favourite fatality in the movie. The actress picked Mileena’s death at the hands of D’Vorah as her favourite, the one from Mortal Kombat X‘s cutscene.
“When D’Vorah she kisses her and then all the little crazy disgusting bugs come out of D’Vorah through her mouth and eat Mileena’s face from the inside out, it’s disgusting and its amazing, I’m obsessed with that one,” Stringer said.
“Sorry Mileena! I don’t want to enjoy you being killed, I don’t want to enjoy us being killed. But that is gruesome and absolutely twisted and its fantastic.”